E: convos@purdue.edu | T: 765.494.9712


904b6a5476ba11e29dbc22000a1f9e59_7The Life In Color outdoor concertThe LIFE IN COLOR tour UNLEASH featuring Adventure Club, David Solano, Machine Gun Kelly, Cash Cash, Spyder Logic and White Vinyl Sky

The concert, sponsored by the Purdue Student Concert Committee to celebrate Grand Prix week, will take place Sunday from 7 p.m.-11 p.m. at the Purdue Band Practice Field (Hull Field) just west of the Purdue fire house near Third Street and Martin Jischke Drive in West Lafayette. will make a stop at Purdue University’s –Recreational Sports Parking Lot at 6 p.m. on April 25. The rain date for the performance will be April 27 at 6 p.m.


Due to heightened nationwide security considerations, the following information applies:
* This is an 18+ show, and IDs will be checked upon arrival.
* No food, beverages or alcohol will be permitted (water will be available for purchase).
* Please be prepared for a visual search upon arrival.
* No bags, purses or backpacks.
* Visibly intoxicated individuals will be refused admission.
* Purdue is a tobacco-free/smoke-free campus.

This is a four-hour dance party, so don’t weigh down your experience by bringing unnecessary items with you.
* Consider putting your cell phone, ID and essential valuables in a plastic bag that can fit in your pocket.

* Life in Color will provide a “Survivor Station” if you wish to check your cell phone, ID and other valuables in a secure location. For a $5 fee, Life in Color will tag your items and hold during the show. Your items can be collected immediately after the show.

Please be responsible campus citizens. Do not sit on furniture with wet clothing or body paint. Please clean up showers or washing machines after use.
For questions and the most up-to-date information, please contact Purdue Convocations Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or visithttp://www.convocations.org
Tickets are available at the Elliott Hall and Stewart Center box offices at (765)494-3933, 800-914-SHOW, or online at http://www.convocations.org andhttp://www.ticketmaster.com

SXSW Review: BORN TO FLY features STREB

sxsw2014_borntofly__spanBy John Gholson

Late in the documentary Born to Fly, “pop action” choreographer Elizabeth Streb mentions wanting to expand the brand name recognition of her dance company. This film should certainly help. I’d never heard of Streb before this (not that I keep an eye on what’s happening in the avant-garde dance scene), and now I can’t stop thinking of Streb’s troupe. Streb dancers are perfect specimen daredevils, hurling themselves through glass, dodging spinning I-beams, and performing aerial ballet on the suspension wires of sky-high Ferris wheels for their art. In a world where Stomp, Blue Man Group, and Cirque du Soleil can sell out venues worldwide, you can see the commercial potential in Streb’s work as well as she does.

“Pop action” is the term Streb applies to her dancers’ abilities to land on any part of their body as it fits the piece. This kind of extreme physicality for entertainment’s sake is rarely seen outside of the world of pro wrestling. The dancers, all skilled gymnasts and from the impression given here, all interesting people in their own right, fling their bodies hard against unforgiving mats from impossible, spinning heights. There’s an artful precision to it, but ouch. It’s a career path that requires a disregard for your own personal pain threshold if you’re going to make it at all. Streb’s own feet look like ginger roots with toenails. One dancer accidentally scalps herself while flailing in a coffin-sized box suspended 20 feet in the air. This stuff takes a level of fortitude that many of us don’t have.

Born to Fly skillfully showcases Streb’s art, but also gives us some real insight into who she is and how she approaches movement with a nearly scientific fascination concerning spatial relationships between human bodies and the air around them. Director Catherine Gund’s film reveals Streb to be a compulsive and compassionate creator, surprisingly free of the kind of pretense you might expect from someone inventing new ways to dance. She’s not asking anyone to do anything she wouldn’t do (or hasn’t done) herself, and that inspires a kind of devotion that means that even when things go horribly wrong (as it does in the case of one former Streb dancer), the art still takes priority over the limits of the human body.

It’s extreme and it’s crazy and absolutely beautiful to watch. Gund has a great eye for this type of quick portrait, balancing all of the elements that are part of Streb’s story (her life, her company, the performances themselves) into a whole that is really exemplary documentary filmmaking. You find yourself invested and in the finale, when Streb walks down the glass dome of London’s City Hall herself, it’s as suspenseful as most narrative thrillers. In 82 too-quick minutes, I went from completely ignorant of Streb and her “action heroes” (the name she applies to her dancers) to becoming a big fan. Born to Fly is a must.

Review was originally featured here on badassdigest.com. 

Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Everybody Dies.


Want more Shakespeare? See HAMLET on March 29 at Loeb Playhouse!

The Acting Company: Where Are They Now?

By Nick Rogers


Rainn Wilson in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Performed at Purdue in 1991.

Founded in 1972 as a troupe for Juilliard-trained actors, the Acting Company has since become a fertile proving ground for household names and familiar faces.

Among its Oscar®, Tony® and Golden Globe® award-winning alums are Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Frances Conroy, and Harriet Sansom Harris. Meanwhile, such versatile character actors as Jesse L. Martin, Keith David, and David Ogden Stiers have carved out careers of note on stage and screens large and small. But did you know two of The Acting Company’s most famous alumni appeared at Purdue on November 7, 1991?

Rainn Wilson is best known as irascible egomaniac Dwight Schrute on NBC’s sitcom The Office, which recently ended its run of nine seasons and 200-plus episodes. And Jeffrey Wright has won an Emmy®, Tony®, and Golden Globe® over a long career in which he’s played Muddy Waters, Colin Powell, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Well before they were stars, Wilson and Wright shared the stage in the Acting Company’s touring productions of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters.

In Dream, Wilson played star-crossed lover Demetrius, while, in Sisters, he played Tusenbach, a Russian army lieutenant spoken of as “not at all good-looking.” Before his three Emmy® nominations for The Office, Wilson applied his distinctive touch on inveterate crime shows (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) and alongside fellow Acting Company alum Conroy (Six Feet Under).

Wilson has also contributed to a variety of films, encompassing offbeat independent endeavors (Super and Hesher), Oscar® winners (Almost Famous and Juno), and action blockbusters (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Monsters vs. Aliens).

Jeffrey Wright

Jeffrey Wright

Wright, meanwhile, played Puck, “that merry wanderer of the night” who sets Dream asunder, and Rode, a sub-lieutenant, in Sisters.

Just three years later, Wright was on Broadway in Tony Kushner’s magnum opus, Angels in America, as Belize—a role he recreated in an HBO miniseries and for which he won the three aforementioned awards.

Wright has also appeared in a plethora of prestigious films—from supporting turns in such Oscar® nominees and winners as Syriana, The Ides of March, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to playing James Bond’s CIA counterpart, Felix Leiter, in Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace. He’ll next be seen as Beetee in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

With the Acting Company’s track record, odds are good you’ll see another star-in-the-making in Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead—one whom you can say you saw when!

PROGRAM NOTES: Simone Dinnerstein, piano


Simone Dinnerstein Feb 27 / 7:30 PM
Loeb Playhouse

This is a program that explores time and counterpoint.

Bach’s 15 Two Part Inventions are pieces that he wrote in 1723 as a guide for keyboard players.  It shows how to play counterpoint, beginning with two voices, one in each hand.  The first note played is middle C and from that note on, Bach introduces us to techniques such as one voice imitating the other, or inverting what the other voice just played (essentially playing it upside down), or harmonizing in parallel motion.  He shows what types of musical ideas best suit different treatments, how a melody can be broken into fragments and built up again.  And in his preface he wrote that one of the most important lessons was for the keyboard player to learn how to play in a cantabile style, which means to make the machine of the keyboard sound like a human voice.  How does the keyboard player do this?  Amongst many ways, by feeling a physical distance between the notes, the way one feels when one reaches for a note to sing.  By feeling the rhythm as being flexible, never fully rooted on the downbeat, but dancing agogically, giving a rhythmic shape as well as a melodic one, the player can achieve a cantabile sound.

In Eine Kleine Mitternachtmusik, George Crumb takes keyboard counterpoint to another level and creates a small ensemble in the piano, requiring the pianist to manipulate multiple lines, each with a different keyboard technique.  His use of the extended piano opens our ears to sounds that we may not have realized lay dormant in the instrument.  There is a repeated rhythmic motive that is played by a mallet striking the crossbars.  There are glissandi (like a harp) across the strings, and melodies plucked by the finger tip and the finger nail.  There is even a part for the pianist to shout, while playing on the keys, creating harmonics within the piano and playing glissandi on the strings.  Additionally, Crumb frequently writes sequences of motivic ideas, much in the same way that Bach did in his Inventions.

Nico Muhly based You Can’t Get There From Here on fragments from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, which is a collection of music by early English composers written two generations before Bach.  Muhly’s music is very much about motives that are repeated and evolve, changing harmonic shape and rhythmic emphasis.  Sometimes the music breaks away from meter entirely, allowing the performer free rein to play with the fragments.  Counterpoint is explored in a section Muhly labels a “three part exercise” midway through the work.

Beethoven’s last piano sonata returns to Bach in its contrapuntal writing and the chorale-like arietta of the second movement.  But the irregularity that is implicit in Bach’s music is in plain view in Beethoven’s.  It is music that is moving beyond the constraints of tonality and rhythm.  The tempo shifts constantly, eluding easy mathematical certainty, and the pulse of the variations mysteriously expands and contracts.  It seems as though the music loses its center, trying to hang on to its Bachian formality but not able to confine itself to the rules of meter and counterpoint.

The sonata ends with strangely beautiful layers of sound created by a continuous trill surrounded by a melody and ostinato.  Tonight I hear this as a counterpoint to the entire program – the multiple lines shown to us by Bach, the eerie trilling and layering reminiscent of Crumb, the repetitive ostinato within a three voice texture reminiscent of Muhly.  It spins off into the distance and then manages to find a way home, back to C.

 Program notes by Simone Dinnerstein


PROGRAM NOTES: St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra

streetteam_stpetersburgPROGRAM NOTES

As young men, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Piotr Tchaikovsky (born four years apart) represented opposite tendencies in Russian music.  The former started his professional life as a naval officer, largely self-taught in music who, together with his colleagues in the Mighty Handful (also known as the ‟Russian Five”), regarded with a great deal of suspicion the newly-founded St. Petersburg Conservatory which they perceived as having an overly Western orientation.  Piotr Tchaikovsky, one of the first graduates of the Conservatory, was steeped in the European classics and therefore seen by the ‟Five” as lacking authenticity as a Russian composer. 

This was in the 1860s.  Thirty years later, the situation was quite different:  of the members of ‟Five,” Mussorgsky and Borodin had died, Balakirev had largely withdrawn from the musical scene, and Cui, never an important composer to begin with, was increasingly marginalized.  Rimsky-Korsakov alone made the transition from talented amateur to consummate professional, and became the leading professor of composition at the very conservatory which he and his friends had previously disparaged.  In the 1880s and ‛90s, he and Tchaikovksy entertained cordial relations, even though not untouched by professional jealousy.  After Tchaikovsky’s death in 1893, Rimsky-Korsakov, now the undisputed dean of Russian composers, always cherished his colleague’s memory.  By that time, whatever aesthetic differences had existed before between these two masters had receded into the past. 

Together, they represent a classical tradition which is an inalienable part of the background of subsequent generations of composers from what used to be the Soviet Union—no matter how much those generations may have departed from the tradition or even rebelled against it.

Suite from Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya (1903-05)

by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Tikhvin, Russia, 1844 – Lyubensk, 1908)


  • The First Russian Revolution.  War between Russia and Japan.
  • Albert Einstein’s annus mirabilis with five publications that revolutionized physics.
  • Debussy’s La Mer and Strauss’s Salomé first performed.
  • Edith Wharton publishes The House of Mirth.
  • Henri Rousseau paints The Hungry Lion Throws Himself on the Antelope.

When it first became known in the West (which was not that long ago), Rimsky-Korsakov’s penultimate opera, Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya, was dubbed as ‟the Russian Parsifal,” perhaps to give an indication of the importance of this long-neglected operatic gem.  True, the opera has many Wagnerian parallels, and not only with Parsifal:  the opening, for instance, is unmistakably modelled on the ‟Forest Murmurs” from Siegfried.  The entire opera combines nature images, religion  and, in particular, the motif of redemption in a way that inevitably evokes associations with Wagner.  Yet there is also a strong Russian and Oriental folk element present, and the style on the whole can hardly be called Wagnerian.  Through the marriage of the holy maiden Fevroniya, a child of nature, to Prince Vsevolod, the son of a ruler embattled by the invading Tartars, an unspoiled world of legends meets human society.  The central event of the opera is when Fevroniya, by the power of her prayers, makes the city of Kitezh invisible so that the Tartars cannot find it.  In the end, the two protagonists find safe haven in this invisible city, a place no longer of this earth, where they can reign in heavenly peace forever after.

The suite drawn from Kitezh touches upon all the different realms the opera inhabits.  It opens with Fevroniya’s magical forest, complete with birdsong and a simple Russian melody to represent the idyll.  With the colorfully orchestrated Bridal Procession, we meet Prince Vsevolod’s people; but the festivities are soon, and very audibly, interrupted by the attack of the Tartars.  The agitated section that follows depicts the Battle of Kershenetz, in which the Russians defeat their enemy amidst glorious military fanfares.  A moment of introspection follows the victory, before we take the final step into the otherwordly realm.  The ‟forest murmurs” of the opening section return; the sounds of the vibraphone and celesta, together with a beguiling oboe solo, introduce the heavenly city where Fevroniya ascends with her prince.  Gentle and lyrical at first, the music gradually becomes more ecstatic as we move from ‟Forest Murmurs” to a section that recalls the Magic Fire music from the closing scene of Die Walküre.  The ending, however, is solemn and grandiose—a true ‟apotheosis,” or elevation to a divine state.

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23 (1874-75, rev. 1879, 1888)

by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Kamsko-Votkinsk, Russia, 1840 – St. Petersburg, 1893)

THE WORLD IN 1874-75 

  • Bizet’s Carmen first performed (1875)
  • The Civil Rights Act is signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant, guaranteeing certain rights for African-Americans (the law was, however, declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1883)
  • Pierre-Auguste Renoir paints his Rowers’ Lunch (1875)
  • Mussorgsky composes Pictures at an Exhibition.
  • Brahms completes his Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 60.

Russia’s First Great Piano Concerto

With Tchaikovsky’s arrival on the musical scene, Russia had finally produced a composer who had it all: brilliant technique, outstanding melodic gifts, and a strong Russian national identity.  Before Tchaikovsky, the history of the Russian concerto consisted largely of four concertos by his teacher Anton Rubinstein (he added a fifth in 1874/75, concurrently with his former student’s First)—plus two unfinished works by Balakirev (the second of which was completed by Sergei Liapunov many years later). It was left to the young Tchaikovsky to turn the form of the concerto, which had been perceived as German in both style and origin, into something authentically Russian.   Rubinstein’s combination of muscular technique and effusive lyricism was a great influence on the young composer, but Tchaikovsky had to find his own solution to the problem of form.  In his monumental Tchaikovsky biography, musicologist David Brown noted:  “Thematic development, which came so readily to the German symphonic composer, was thoroughly alien to Russian creative thought.”  Brown describes that thought as “reflective rather than evolutionary.” This means, musically speaking, that the Russian composer can “conceive self-contained [and] often magnificently broad themes,” but encounters “problems when he wishes to evolve to the next stage of the piece.”

A Disastrous First Run-through

This “reflective” quality resulted in charges of formlessness against the concerto.  Even some of Tchaikovsky’s closest friends found fault with its structure: on Christmas Eve 1874, Nikolai Rubinstein lashed out at Tchaikovsky in particularly harsh terms.  Anton Rubinstein’s younger brother was himself a noted pianist, composer, conductor, and conservatory director who had invited Tchaikovsky to join the faculty of the Moscow school he had founded. Tchaikovsky related the incident (at which two other colleagues were also present) to his benefactress and confidante-by-correspondence, Mme von Meck:

I played the first movement. Not a single word, not a single comment!  If only you could have known how foolish, how intolerable is the position of a man when he offers his friend food he has prepared, and his friend eats it and says nothing.  Say something, if only to tear it to pieces with constructive criticism—but for God’s sake, just one kind word, even if not of praise! … Rubinstein’s eloquent silence had tremendous significance. It was as though he was saying to me:  “My friend, can I talk about details when the very essence of the thing disgusts me?”  I fortified my patience, and played on to the end. Again silence. I got up and asked, “Well?” It was then that there began to flow from Nikolay Grigoryevich’s mouth a stream of words, quiet at first, but subsequently assuming more and more the tone of Jove the Thunderer. It appeared that my concerto was worthless, that it was unplayable, that passages were trite, awkward, and so clumsy that it was impossible to put them right, that as composition it was bad and tawdry, that I had filched this bit from here and that bit from there, that there were only two or three pages that could be retained, and that the rest would have to be scrapped or completely revised. “Take this, for instance—whatever is it?” (at this he plays the passage concerned, caricaturing it).  “And this?  Is this really possible?”—and so on, and so on.  I can’t convey to you the most significant thing—that is, the tone in which all this was delivered. In a word, any outsider who chanced to come into the room might have thought that I was an imbecile, an untalented scribbler who understood nothing, who had come to an eminent musician to pester him with his rubbish…

I was not only stunned, I was mortified by the whole scene….I left the room silently and went upstairs. I could say nothing because of my agitation and anger. Rubinstein soon appeared and, noticing my distraught state, drew me aside into a distant room. There he told me again that the concerto was impossible, and after pointing out to me a lot of places that required radical change, he said that if by such-and-such a date I would revise the concerto in accordance with his demands, then he would bestow upon me the honor of playing my piece in a concert of his. “I won’t change a single note,” I replied, “and I’ll publish it just as it is now!”  And so I did!

Not So Bad After All? 

Tchaikovsky had more immediate luck with his concerto outside Russia. It was taken on by no less an artist than Hans von Bülow, who, throughout his long career, had been closely associated with some of the greatest composers of the time, such as Liszt, Wagner, and Brahms.  Bülow, who went on an American tour in 1875, gave the world premiere of the concerto in Boston in October of that year.

As far as revisions to the concerto were concerned, Tchaikovsky did not remain as adamant as he was at the beginning.  Although he rejected  Nikolai Rubinstein’s criticism, he later heeded the advice of Edward Dannreuther (who played the solo at the English premiere) and made emendations to the solo part in 1879.  He revised the work again in 1889, and it was then that the opening D-flat major chords received the shape in which they became famous.

It is not clear what factors had been responsible for Rubinstein’s violent outburst at Christmas 1874.  In any event, less than a year later, he conducted the Moscow premiere of the concerto, with Tchaikovsky’s student, the 18-year-old Sergei Taneyev at the piano. Rubinstein eventually recanted his earlier judgement completely, learned the solo part himself, and became one of the concerto’s most celebrated interpreters.  He remained a staunch champion and friend of Tchaikovsky’s until his untimely death in 1881.

Secret Messages, Folksongs and Romantic Passions

At first hearing, this concerto did possess a few features that could perturb a professor of music in 1874.  It opens with a lengthy passage outside the main key, in a 3/4 meter that will soon be replaced by 4/4, never to return.  But David Brown has discovered some secret motivic links that connect this introduction to the main section of the first movement, and argued for the presence of a strong organic unity between the movement’s themes.  Brown has also speculated that two of the motifs are ciphers for Tchaikovsky himself and Désirée Artôt, a Paris-born singer of international reputation, to whom the composer had once proposed marriage. (In fact, the second theme begins with the notes D-flat – A [in German "Des" - "A"], and that could very well stand for DESirée Artôt.  If Brown’s hypothesis is true, Tchaikovsky’s procedure was similar to Schumann’s in his “Abegg” variations or in the “Lettres dansantes” movement of his Carnival.)

Each of the concerto’s three movements incorporates a folksong. The first movement includes a melody that Tchaikovsky had taken down at Kamenka, where his sister and her family had an estate, apparently from a Ukrainian kobzar, one of many blind itinerant singer-musicians. In the “Prestissimo” middle section of the second movement, we hear a French “chansonette,” “Il faut s’amuser and rire” [Let's have fun and laugh] that was popular in Russia at the time (Brown writes: “It is said to have been a favourite in Artôt’s repertoire.”).  Finally, the last movement begins with another Ukrainian tune. In different ways, all three movements are based on the contrast between these playful folk themes and the lyrical materials that surround them. It is perhaps this mixture of styles—now light, now sentimental, now “pathétique”—that is the most unique feature of the concerto.  Although it may have seemed “disconcerting” at first (no pun intended), this very diversity, and the boldness with which Tchaikovsky leaps from one mood to the next, help make this work sound fresh and youthful, even after thousands and thousands of performances around the world.

Program notes written by Peter Laki, courtesy of UMS of the University of Michigan.


The legacy of world-renowned orchestras at Purdue


Convocations “old school” archives

Several weeks ago, the Journal and Courier wrote a feature article about Purdue Convocations and its history. Going through the performance archives was definitely a trip down memory lane!

Since 1902, Purdue Convocations has presented some of the world’s top orchestras, including:

archive cards

Click for a closer look at the Convocations archive cards


> Poster from the sold-out Elliott Hall performance of the London Symphony in 1973.

Berlin Philharmonic
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
English Chamber Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
Munich Chamber Orchestra
New York Philharmonic
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Vienna Symphony Orchestra

And on February 21, the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra will join the list of world-renowned orchestras to have performed at Purdue University!

The regal history or the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra began in 1882, but its legacy continues to this day with one of the most enviable recorded catalogs in existence. Don’t miss a chance to be a part of the legacy!

Lucky Plush faces reality in “Cinderbox 2.0″

Reality shows are ubiquitous on television and in pop culture these days. But though we view them with a more knowing and wary gaze than we did when The Real World and Survivor took over the airwaves, our attention hasn’t waned. It was her own fascination with reality TV that led Julia Rhoads, artistic director of Lucky Plush, to create the work that morphed into Cinderbox 2.0, the dance theatre piece that the company will perform on Friday at Purdue.

Glued to her TV, she noticed some patterns in how these shows played out. “I was interested in the formulaic constructs of these shows, like how they package expert opinions, about what is virtuosic and when people fail. I was also interested in the tension between what is scripted and what is improvised or really happening —the reality of it all,” says Rhoads.

But she suspected that what made reality shows really compelling to watch is how invested we get in the people featured in them. “I was so interested in how people at home feel like they get to know the people [on the shows], and you’re really rooting for them because of their back stories, whether they’re actually true or not,” she explains. Often, each person becomes a character of sorts, with personality traits packaged in a marketable way, to hook a certain segment of the audience.

It’s these constructed situations and personalities that still leave us wondering how much is real and how much is fake—and who is watching whom? Are we the audience? Or are the audience members the other people on the show? Rhoads realized that the “tension between what is personal and what is presentational” had parallels in the dance world.

She’d also been thinking about authenticity (a loaded word, she admits) in dance, and she saw some parallels in both genres. “Dance is traditionally very presentational,” she says. “The dancers learn where they’re supposed to be, what the movement and the lines are, and what the shape is—and it’s usually on certain counts. If they’re meant to have some kind of emotional arc, it’s usually indicated, not really experienced. So I was interested in provoking ways that the performers were actually experiencing what was happening on the stage in the moment.”

To do that, she introduced new methods in the rehearsal process for Cinderbox 18 (created in 2007 and revisited now to create Cinderbox 2.0 for more extensive touring). She’d hand a dancer a slip of paper with a task to accomplish during the rehearsal. She might instruct one dancer to move another dancer’s position as often as possible, or to sing a certain song at a random place in the performance. Each dancer knew only his or her assignment, because she wanted the dancers to surprise each other, forcing them to interact in the moment in unexpected ways. This allowed her to see how the dancers would react to each task and how these surprises might change the work. It also prevented the dancers from settling into the choreography and the score, allowing them to experience something, rather than just perform it. Though the movement of the final piece is tightly scripted, as are the overarching scenes and much of the dialogue, the rehearsal process has encouraged the dancers to notice something different about every single run-through as they respond to each other during a live performance.

Rhoads says this is part of what people love about Lucky Plush. After a performance, people often tell her, “I couldn’t tell what was improvised and what was scripted.” Audiences love that tension, she says,
“because they feel that the performers they’re watching are actually having experiences on stage.”

But audiences also love the show because it’s fun—and funny. The dancers of Lucky Plush “are incredible dance technicians, and they’re great actors,” she says. Their technical expertise is augmented by curiosity and a strong desire to collaborate, working together to devise new works. Rhoads knows that modern/contemporary dance is often viewed as inaccessible, and says she’s seen shows like that—performances that simply didn’t reach her. She’s confident, however, that contemporary dance can be incredibly accessible, but also smart and layered. Audience members don’t need to be spoon-fed entertainment; a piece can challenge viewers to make connections, and she finds that they do.

“That’s what I love about his work,” she says. “It doesn’t seem like an obvious ‘We’re doing a reality TV show’ piece, but it seems to be very evocative of that world and environment—of the values and tropes. Ultimately, we want it to have a very subtle and sophisticated way of communicating these ideas.”

Stacey Mickelbart, guest contributor

A small dinner with a big impact


If you’re reading this in an email or blog post from Convocations, chances are you’re the sort of person who needs your art fix. Convocations delivers it, with over 30 shows each year in multiple genres—and the Friends of Convocations help make that happen with their donations.

But maybe your curiosity is sometimes so great that you wish you knew a little more about an artist on the season. What inspires her? How does he develop, write, or compose a new piece? Who’s been influential in her work? Every artist’s methods are different, and it’s always exciting to find out how and why.

Each year, a small group of Friends of Convocations has that opportunity at the Convocations Soiree, which includes dinner with an artist or group of artists and a private performance. Members of the Martha Redbone Roots Project joined Friends for dinner at Duncan Hall this fall, spread out among the tables and ready to share a meal and conversation.

“Normally, interacting with an artist means talking to their public persona – they have on a sort of mask. But at dinner, I learned about her personal life, which is a conversation I never would have had otherwise. It was like sitting down to eat with a new friend,” said guest Barrett Caldwell, who had the pleasure of sitting with Martha herself.

Staff and students from the Native American Education and Cultural Center, which partnered with Convocations for the performance,  also joined us to host the band at dinner.

Martha 2The meal was specially created by Jane’s Gourmet Deli and Catering. After dinner, Redbone and her band took the stage at Duncan Hall to share songs from her latest album, The Garden of Love – The Songs of William Blake. Redbone described her reading of the Romantic poet and the process of setting his words to music. She shared her Cherokee, Choctaw, and African American roots, and the musical influences of her childhood in Tennessee—including folk, bluegrass, and rhythm and blues. She also covered a moving Peter La Farge song called “Drums” – lamenting Native American children removed from their tribes and sent to boarding schools.

Listening to Redbone and her band in this intimate setting was a gift from the artist, but that gift rippled through our community, as well. Convocations and the NAECC shared the gift of Redbone’s music and Native American culture not only at Loeb Hall, but also with children in local schools, when Redbone performed at Woodland Elementary and Sunnyside Middle School. And Convocations couldn’t make these gifts possible without the generous support of Friends, show partners, and local businesses.

In this season of gift giving, we enjoy sharing Convos shows with those we love. When you join the Friends of Convocations, you have the opportunity to multiply that gift across the community—and who wouldn’t want to do that?

Stacey Mickelbart, guest contributor / Photos by ISPhotographic

Sun Studio: The Birthplace of Rock ‘n’ Roll

million-dollar-quartetIt was on a tiny corner in Memphis, Tennessee, that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis came together for a legendary impromptu jam on December 4, 1956, at Sun Studio.

When owner Sam Phillips called the media, the iconic photo and nickname that inspired the musical were born.

But Sun Studio gave birth to something bigger: rock ‘n’ roll. Phillips, a radio engineer, opened this postage stamp-sized studio in 1950. Just one year later, “Rocket 88,” considered the first-ever rock ‘n’ roll song, was recorded there. It’s also where Presley cut his first-ever recording (“My Happiness”).

After Phillips sold the studio in 1969, no recordings were made there until 1985, when Perkins, Cash, and Lewis reunited along with Roy Orbison for their Class of ’55 album. Reopened as Sun Studio in 1987 and now a National Historic Landmark, it’s open both to the public for tours and artists for recording.

Artists and acts such as Ringo Starr, Def Leppard, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Petty, Beck, John Fogerty, Matchbox 20, and Maroon 5 have recorded there.

U2 recorded three songs for Rattle and Hum there, including radio hits “Angel of Harlem” and “When Love Comes to Town”—cramming the band, a horn section,background vocalists, and a film crew into the small studio.

John Mellencamp cut a majority of his most recent studio album, No Better Than This, at Sun, praising the acoustical aptitude literally marked by Phillips’s X’s on the floor.

In 2011, Chris Isaak recorded covers of Sun Studio classics there for Beyond the Sun—includ­ing “Ring of Fire,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “It’s Now or Never,” “Oh, Pretty Woman,” and more.

Plus, the PBS broadcast Sun Studio Sessions features intimate studio footage of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Jakob Dylan, Justin Townes Earle, the Walk­men, Ryan Bingham, and more.

Before or after Million Dollar Quartet, be sure to make a pilgrimage to this musical mecca—a day’s drive down the road from West Lafayette—and walk the same floor as these legends!

Nick Rogers, contributor