Flourishing this fall: UCI arts
Upcoming performance season includes such bold and ambitious programs as a modern take on ‘Romeo and Juliet’
After a two-year break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCI once again hosted its popular New Swan Shakespeare Festival on campus this summer. With the curtain now closed on that, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts is announcing its fall 2022 season, which includes some of its boldest and most ambitious programs yet.
Starting on Oct. 1 and lasting until Jan. 23, 2023, the fall season features everything from contemporary choreography and a heady jazz and classical music lineup to a robust series of dramas including an updated “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare’s tragic tale of tribal rivalry and doomed romance.
Since its establishment in 1965, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts – which was renamed in 2000 – has proven itself to be a national leader in training emerging artists and performers.
The fall season starts with the unveiling of “Leaves for Burning,” an art exhibit that comprises three solo projects by Cognate Collective, Bassem Saad and Artur Zmijewski. This collaborative artistic inquiry into biopolitics was curated by Heather M. O’Brien and UCI’s Juli Carson and takes its title from Peter Weiss’ 1964 play “Marat/Sade,” a thought experiment about the reciprocity of the Reign of Terror and the French Revolution, a legacy that democracies continue to grapple with in 2022. Hours for the free exhibit, at the Contemporary Arts Center Gallery, will be from noon to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays, with an opening reception from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1. “Leaves for Burning” runs through Saturday, Dec. 10.
From Oct. 13 to 16, the 25th anniversary African American Art Song Alliance Conference will take place at UCI. Founded in 1997 by Darryl Taylor, UCI professor of music, the alliance is one of the nation’s leading advocacy organizations, representing Black composers of Western classical art songs. Conference registration is free, and events are open to the public.
The Claire Trevor School of the Arts’ classical music schedule begins on Nov. 4 with “Dr. Sharon Mann: Piano Master Class.” A professor of piano and chamber music at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Mann is a respected soloist and ensemblist who is widely regarded for her penetrating interpretations of Bach’s keyboard music, including her recent rerelease of Bach’s “Six Partitas.” This free performance is at 1 p.m. at UCI’s Winifred Smith Hall. It’s followed on Nov. 5 by an 8 p.m. concert at the same place by UCI lecturer and internationally acclaimed violist Jerzy Kosmala.
UCI’s fall jazz series includes performances on Nov. 9 by the UCI undergraduate jazz program’s Small Jazz Groups and on Nov. 16 by the UCI Jazz Orchestra, both at 8 p.m. at Winifred Smith Hall. The venue will also host “What I Did During the COVID Lockdown,” an experimental work by UCI dance professor and pianist Alan Terricciano mixing live piano with digital playback, at 8 p.m. on Nov. 19.
Continuing the classical music lineup on Nov. 22 is the UCI Symphony Orchestra’s annual Thanksgiving concert at 8 p.m. at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, featuring orchestral classics conducted by Geoffrey Pope that will be announced in October. That will be followed on Nov. 28 by a free performance of traditional and contemporary works by the UCI Wind Ensemble at 8 p.m. at Winifred Smith Hall.
On Nov. 30, as part of the Gassman Electronic Music Series, guitarist-composer-producer Rafiq Bhatia will present a set of solo improvised music alongside new material created through a project with UCI’s Rajna Swaminathan, assistant professor of music, who will join on mridangam, piano and voice. The music season culminates with performances in late November and early December by UCI’s Guitar Ensemble and Chamber Singers, as well as a chamber music concert. In addition, December brings “New Slate 2022,” a three-day showcase of original choreography by M.F.A. candidates in dance at the Claire Trevor Theatre.
Plays to emphasize healing
This year, UCI’s fall drama season is themed “How We Heal” and features both traditional and contemporary tales exploring how humanity grapples with traumas old and new, from the lingering effects of racism and hate to global pandemics. One standout will be a modern take on Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by Andrew Borba, the outgoing artistic director of the Chautauqua Theater Company, which will be staged at the Irvine Barclay Theatre from Nov. 10 to 13.
“The production explores the seeds of racism and the conquering and healing power of love,” says Don Hill, chair of UCI’s Department of Drama. “It asks what the lessons learned from that story are so we can heal our divides and how we forgive ourselves for having these judgments that we were taught to have by those who brought us up.”
Also highlighting the drama season is “The Biddy Mason Story,” a play told in the style of Homer’s “Odyssey” and based on a short story by Dana Johnson, associate professor of English at the University of Southern California.
Biddy Mason is a real person who was born into slavery and walked from Mississippi to California to gain her freedom. She worked as a midwife during the treacherous trek and later became a landowner and humanitarian in Los Angeles, where she was known as “Mama” Mason.
“We are very excited to be able to create this and focus on the history of a brilliant African American and her journey and story that many people may not know about,” Hill says. “It will be shown in an experimental theater with two projection screens that are constantly moving, with actors playing characters who turn into a horse or tree so that the human body is seen pushing the limits in a visceral way.”
On a lighter note, the winter play “Airness” explores the history of air guitars and is directed by UCI’s Eli Simon, Chancellor’s Professor of drama and artistic director of the New Swan Shakespeare Festival. It’s followed by “Men on Boats,” which – despite its title – has nothing to do with men but instead features female, female-identifying and gender-vague characters directed by Juliet Carrillo, UCI associate professor of directing.
Spring 2023 will bring “The Sweetheart Deal,” directed by Sarah Guerrero, a Santa Ana-based writer, director and producer, which tells the story of immigrant Mexican laborers in the early 20th century, as well as “Rent,” directed by Telly Leung, who acted in the original Broadway musical production.
Boasting an acclaimed, international faculty who work across a wide variety of disciplines and partner with others across campus, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts includes four theaters; a concert hall; three art galleries; the Beall Center for Art + Technology; electronic music studios; cutting-edge costume, lighting and scenic design studios; a stage production shop; digital arts labs; and a video production studio. For more information on the school’s 2022-23 schedule, visit www.arts.uci.edu.
If you want to learn more about supporting this or other activities at UCI, please visit the Brilliant Future website at https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu. Publicly launched on Oct. 4, 2019, the Brilliant Future campaign aims to raise awareness and support for UCI. By engaging 75,000 alumni and garnering $2 billion in philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to reach new heights of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. The Claire Trevor School of the Arts plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Learn more by visiting https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/claire-trevor-school-of-the-arts.