For Your Previewing Pleasure

For Your Previewing Pleasure

Y ou can’t always tell that spring began two weeks ago. But when the International Festival of Arts & Ideas appears, there’s no doubt summer has arrived.

A harbinger of balmier times to come, the festival announced its official line-up last night at a shindig held at The Study at Yale.

How does the 2013 slate differ from the festival’s previous 17 cultural smorgasbords? There are more theater offerings than there have been in a while, though some of them are extremely intimate. New classically based music—from some revered Yale composers in particular—have overtaken actual classics. Shakespeare and circuses are secure. Large ensemble dance concerts are scarcer. Lectures on the Ideas side of things speak to such topical and local concerns as race relations, innovative ideas for industry, the plays of Shakespeare and what makes a good mayor.

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Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

Three events had been announced earlier as teasers: the Handspring Puppet Company from England (the nimble fingers responsible for the international stage hit The War Horse) premieres a Bristol Old Vic production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream June 15-23; Indian dancer Shantala Shivalingappa (pictured above) has a new autobiographical work, June 26-28; and neoclassical trendsetters The Kronos Quartet play for free on New Haven Green June 22 with Wu Man, the renowned pipa player.

Now the new info. The opening event of A&I 2013 will be soul/R&B titan Aaron Neville, whose free concert on New Haven Green (June 15, 7 p.m.) will coincide with the presentation of the Governor’s Arts Awards, annually given to noteworthy Connecticut-based artists.

Besides Kronos and Neville, other free concerts by nationally known bands on the Green are Calexico and Susana Baca June 16, Funkadesi on June 23, and the Ethiopian groups Debo Band and Fendika June 29.

David Dmitri’s one-man circus L’Homme Cirque (which indeed is French for “one-man circus”) performs in a special tent on the Green June 15-29. (It’s a ticketed event, not free, though some pay-what-you-can tix are available.) Another circus theater experience with a French title, Sequence 8 with its show Les 7 doigts de la main (“the seven fingers of the hand”), is at the Shubert June 27-29.

Spike Lee and his collaborator on several documentary films, Sam Pollard, will attend separate Q&A sessions following screenings of their work (such as the Hurricane Katrina doc If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise) June 14-16.

Ant Hampton and Tim Etchell perform their literature-fueled theater piece The Quiet Volume hourly, for audiences of two people at a time, June 18-28.

A new classical work, My Friend’s Story, by a Yale-based team of composer Martin Bresnick, director David Chambers and poet J.D. McClatchy, plays June 19 & 20 at Yale’s Iseman Theater.

A returning Arts & Ideas tradition, the readings of new works workshopped at the Yale Institute of Music Theatre, is bolstered this year by the presentation of a successful alumnus of the program. This year’s readings are of The Last Queen of Canaan and Mrs. Hughes. A work which debuted in the YIMT series three summers ago—the immigrant odyssey Stuck Elevator, by New Haven-based playwright Aaron Jafferis and composer Byron Au Yong—returns to Arts & Ideas in a full production directed by Chay Yew, June 20-29 at the Long Wharf Theatre.

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Hopkins School
Other local theater artists contributing to the International festival include A Broken Umbrella Theatre with its new bicycle-themed show Freewheelers June 15-29.

Jazz bassist Christian McBride and his band Inside Straight give a concert at Yale’s Sprague Hall June 20. Traditional Italian sounds emanate from Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino June 24 at the Yale University Theatre.

The young Brazilian hip-hop dance troupe Compagnie Kafig rocks the Shubert June 21 & 22. Yale Choral Artists sing at St. Mary’s Church on Hillhouse Avenue, also on June 21. On June 23, it’s Le Train Bleu chirping John Luther Adams’ composition songbirdsongs in the well-chosen environs of Marsh Botanical Garden.

There’s the usual profusion of tours—of historic neighborhoods, of restaurants, of art galleries—for pedestrians and bike pedalers alike. There are concerts by local musicians and other family-friendly activities on New Haven Green weekdays (except Mondays—even arts extravaganzas like this need to sleep sometime). There are master classes to take, led by some of the choreographers and circus artists and other talent at the festival.

There’s so much Arts that you have to remember to remember the Ideas. Sometimes the arts and ideas intersect, as when Roseanne Cash, a featured performer at last year’s festival, returns to give a talk on “Inspiration, Song Sense and Lineage” June 29. Performers in this year’s line-up who are also involved in lectures or discussions range from Shantala Shivalingappa to Kronos Quartet co-founder David Harrington to Aaron Neville.

Other talkers and topics: Richard Sennett on “The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation” (June 16), Maria Nestle on the politics of food, Benjamin Barber on our (likely improved) prospects “If Mayors Ran the World,” a tag team of philosopher and psychoanalyst reinterpreting Hamlet and other Shakespeare plays, and panel discussions on “The Changing Face of Race in America,” “Global Innovators” and “Demographics and the U.S. Workforce.”

If you look at it a certain alliterative way, the 2013 Arts & Ideas Festival is a swarm of “B”s: Baca! Bresnick! McBride! The bard! Botanical garden! Byron Au Yong! Brazilian hip-hop! Broken Umbrella! Bicycles! Benjamin Barber!

“B” there or be square.

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas
June 15-29, 2013
Venues include New Haven Green and theaters and concert halls throughout the city.

Written by Christopher Arnott.

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Christopher Arnott has written about arts and culture in Connecticut for over 25 years. His journalism has won local, regional and national awards, and he has been honored with an Arts Award from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. He posts daily at his own sites and New Haven Theater Jerk (

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