Quick Center for the Arts gears up for strong season

Nobulumko Mngxekeza as Lady Macbeth and Owen Metsileng as Macbeth — Photo by Nicky Newman
Nobulumko Mngxekeza as Lady Macbeth and Owen Metsileng as Macbeth — Photo by Nicky Newman

With 45 performances covering theater, jazz, dance, the organ and more, Fairfield University’s Quick Center for the Arts has something for everyone this season.

Peter Van Heerden, executive director, said that there’s a number of factors that go into creating a winning season.

“One is looking at what you’ve done in the past, and being a higher-education institution, we look at the intellectual quality of the work that we put on the stage and how those works can stimulate conversation or open up new conversations about things that may be happening within the context of higher education,” he said. “Obviously, entertainment is also a big one. For me personally, it’s also about selecting work that will challenge people’s perspectives about what good art is and look for new and exciting work.”

Lori Jones, director of programming and audience development for the Quick Center, said the range and variety of a season should appeal to both its core customers and new audiences.

“There’s never really a time when we’re considering artists or speakers when we’re not thinking about both sides of the coin,” she said. “They are both important. Our core is always happy to share what’s important to them, but we want to continue to build our audiences and being on the University campus, we want to think about what our students would be interested in to become art patrons as well.”

The season begins on Sept. 9 with two unique performances (5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.) by modern dance company Bandaloop, which will reimagine the laws of physics with vertical performances on the outside walls of Fairfield University’s science building

“Their work is spectacular, invigorating and really exciting,” Van Heerden said. “It’s the first week that the students are back and there will be a lot of action happening, and we thought it would be a great opportunity to bring a new experience to campus.”

The performance takes place on the walls with the audience standing on the grassy knoll to watch. And the group will be on campus all week, running workshops for students and community members, so expect lots of people hanging off buildings on the campus then.

Amelia Rudolph, Bandaloop’s artistic director, doesn’t like to think of the dance troupe as acrobats, but more as a group that takes dance into a new realm of public space.

“We’ll be doing several pieces of signature choreography and audiences will get a taste of what we do as a company, which is bring dance in a way that they haven’t seen it before,” she says. “Our dance is in a different space and a different location and has a different relationship to gravity.”

Van Heerden noted that the performance is just one of two this season where a group is breaking down the fourth wall of the Quick Center and taking art into the community.

“We are also bringing in Theatre For One (March 22-24) this spring, and they create this cubicle and you go in and have a three-minute one-on-one theatrical experience,” he said. “It’s all about breaking down the conventions and the rules of theater and bringing work out into to public and community.”

On Sept. 16 and 17, the Quick will present the U.S. premiere of the South African opera adaptation of Verdi’s Macbeth, staged by Third World Bunfight, under the direction of Brett Bailey.

“I’ve known Brett for a number of years and I think he’s a visionary theater maker, and we’ve been negotiating for a year and a half to bring him out to the States and we had the opportunity to bring Macbeth this season,” Van Heerden said. “It’s 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare so it’s a great time to take this work to stage.”

Ten musicians from the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Orchestra will be taking part in Macbeth, which has a unique spin on the Bard’s classic story. This version is set in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa, where a Congolese warlord and his ambitious wife murder their leader and unleash atrocities on the crumbling African province that they seize.

“The show still resonates because it’s things we don’t want to accept, things we’re scared of facing, and knowing reality we tend to fix situations in our heads and pretend as though things aren’t the way they are whereas they are,” said Nobulumko Mngxekeza, who plays Lady Macbeth. “There are some places people are still scared of practicing their own human rights. The show gives the reality of situations in an indirect way.”

Also in September, the American Music Series curated by Brian Torff begins on Sept. 20, with a focus on American music. Each session (Also Oct. 13, Dec. 13, Dec. 16) will include an expert in a specific genre, and there will be a performance element, as well as wine and cheese served.

“The American Music Series is part of a new program started last year and it’s our way of being able to work both with faculty members on campus and the experts in the field on a broader level,” Jones said. “Brian is a faculty member and an acclaimed bass player who has toured with many artists over the years. This is a way to learn more about jazz and American music.”

Next, political satirist P.J. O’Rourke hits the stage on Sept. 22, no doubt ready to tackle the upcoming election.

“It’s going to be pretty fabulous to have him on stage. I think there’s no better person to really navigate this conversation at this moment and time,” Jones said. “He has such a wonderful sense of wit and humor but also takes the content very seriously and knows how to help an audience think a little more broadly about what it is they’re looking for and what’s going on in our country.”

Overall, the Quick Center will present 45 events through May. Other noteworthy productions include the Israeli-based Vertigo Dance Company on Nov. 4; Grammy winner Rosanne Cash on Dec. 7; and virtuoso organist Cameron Carpenter on Jan. 28.

“Not all music is an ecstatic vehicle, and much of the music I love occupies other psychological territory, but ecstasy is my motivation as a performer,” Carpenter said. “It may be in the deep yearning of Rachmaninoff or Debussy, or my own naïvely triumphant extemporization of Bach’s cello preludes, but the drive is the same. And it of course is best experienced live. Only live performance still confronts the listener with the element of risk, and risk-taking is part of what makes music exciting.”

For a complete list of performances, visit quickcenter.fairfield.edu/16-17-season.