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Northeastern’s homegrown talent highlights arts season

On Sept. 27, music professor Leonard Brown, a longtime co-founder of The John Coltrane Memorial Concert, brought “A Tribute to Trane’ ” again to Blackman Theater’s stage. The program featured Guru’s Jazzmatazz and Superproducer Solar (Guru and Solar are pictured above at left and right, respectively) to create a performance tribute to the musical and spiritual legacy of the artist.

October 1, 2008 via The Northeastern Voice

From the small and large campus stages, to the basement library room where authors come, to performance venues where musicians harmonize and electrify, the spotlight of this year’s Center for the Arts season shines more fully on Northeastern’s homegrown artistic talent.

When the curtain opens on two plays this season — “The Day The Bird Flu Came” (Oct. 14-18) and “Facing Future” (Nov. 12-15 and 18-22), both in Studio Theater — it will be to a flourish of brilliance, as theater chair Janet Bobcean describes it. Students and faculty have created scripts, developed original work, and hunkered down with New York playwright Jonathan Yukich to hone acting and design skills.

Working with Yukich, theater majors will unveil the world-premier production of “The Day The Bird Flu Came,” which was written by Yukich to explore the modern day fear of pandemic.

In the production “Facing Future,” Bobcean said students and faculty collaborated to “build a play from the ground up.” Exploring the concept of personal responsibility to the planet, and sustainability, participants created a script and developed an original new piece of theater through a special topics class.

Both plays, Bobcean said, are unique opportunities for the theater department. “They’re different from our typical fare and offer new opportunity and sets of challenges for our students,” she said.

The plays also indicate a change to the larger campus arts scene. It’s a change that more fully illuminates and nurtures the many talents of the university’s artistic community, said Del Lewis, director of the Center for the Arts.

“This year’s season is about continuing the progression we’ve been making to foster more creative research that is generated by Northeastern University arts faculty, or by those with a direct connection to our faculty,” Lewis said. “The center is evolving into that mode of operation.”
In the play “Facing Future,” original music by music chair Tony De Ritis will be featured, along with the work of adjunct faculty member Apostolos Paraskevas, he noted.

“Our ultimate goal is to foster something that we hope will become the nucleus of an alumni theater company,” Lewis added. “This is really where our center needs to be, not just in presenting great outside talent, which we’re still doing; we’re bringing in the great Stephen Sondheim. But we also need to foster on-campus research, and promote the university to the community.”

The theme of on-campus talent runs through this year’s Northeastern University Libraries’ Meet the Author Series, said Maria Carpenter, director of advancement, marketing, and communications for Northeastern libraries.

“What makes the Meet the Authors fall season so special this year is the wide variety of what we’re bringing to Northeastern this year,” Carpenter said. “We just have a nice mix, with authors talking about anything from career advice, to acting. This last is being done through a partnership with the theater department.”

She noted, “We are also excited that some of the bookings are with Northeastern professors … to showcase the important work our own scholars are doing.” For example:

• Matthews professor of modern languages Harlow Robinson will speak Oct. 8 about his book “Russians in Hollywood, Hollywood’s Russia;” and

• Political science professor William Miles will speak Dec. 3 about his book “My African Horse Problem.”

The author series is also partnering with the Center for Community Service to present author Stephen Wallace on Oct. 23. He will discuss his book “Reality Gap: What Parents Don’t Know and Teens Aren’t Telling.”

These and other lectures represent what Carpenter terms a “really nice collaboration between the library and other departments on campus.”

Ed Andrews, chair of Art + Design said two exciting lectures are on tap for the coming months. Photographer David Hilliard will speak Oct. 21 at 6 p.m., in a location to be announced. The locally known photographer focuses on the personal, the familiar and the simply ordinary, according to his web site.

In addition, on Nov. 18, Cyrus Highsmith, a font graphic designer, will speak in the Raytheon Amphitheater from 6-8 p.m.

And of course, no arts season would be complete without the concerts of well-known Northeastern music professors:

• Associate academic specialist Allen Feinstein will present a staged reading Nov. 19, noon, at the Fenway Center, 77 St. Stephen St.

• Music professor Susan Asai hosts “Music of the West African Kora” Oct. 22, noon, at the Fenway Center, 77 St. Stephen St.

• Visiting music professor Mark Kroll performs on harpsichord Nov. 12, noon, the Fenway Center, 77 St. Stephen St.

Northeastern’s choral society will perform at the Fenway Center at 7:30 p.m., at 77 St. Stephen St., on Oct. 26 and the Northeastern Band and Wind Ensemble will give its fall concert Nov. 23, 4 p.m., at 77 St. Stephen St.
For a complete listing of the Center for the Arts season, please visit

One of the university’s longest standing artistic traditions, the annual tribute to jazz legend John Coltrane, is another example of how the talents of Northeastern faculty meld into the creative calendar offered by the Center for the Arts.

On Sept. 27, music professor Leonard Brown, a longtime co-founder of The John Coltrane Memorial Concert, brought “A Tribute to Trane’ ” again to Blackman Theater’s stage. Produced with African American Studies Chair Emmett Price, the program featured Guru’s Jazzmatazz and Superproducer Solar to create a performance tribute to the musical and spiritual legacy of the artist.

This year’s vision sought to recognize that rap/hip hop is the most contemporary manifestation of the continuum of Black American music culture, according to Price, in a press release.