Many stages, many programs
It’s not hard to lose yourself, or get lost, while trying to sort out all of the offerings at the Fine Arts Center of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
This season’s offerings — including recent concerts by Chick Corea and Gary Burton, and also the Warsaw Philharmonic, or upcoming appearances by Dr. John, Natalie MacMaster, Jane Monheit, Ladysmith Black Mombazo and dance performances by Kidd Pivot and the Joffrey Ballet — are just part of the array of offerings under different umbrellas and in different venues.
Like the Asian Arts and Culture series, the Center Series presents talent from around the world, primarily at the massive 1975 Fine Arts Center complex, although some concerts are also staged at Bowker Auditorium in Stockbridge Hall near the center of the campus.
The 1,900-seat concert hall in the reinforced-concrete structure proves to be too gargantuan for some acts, so there’s a new “chamber seating” configuration with drapes to close off the mezzanine and balcony levels and reduce seating to 1,100 for more intimate theater, jazz, classical and dance events.
The Center Series, which will feature Dr. John & The Blind Boys of Alabama on Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the concert hall, tries to accommodate the large audience in the Pioneeer Valley for theater, dance and music, says center spokeswoman Shawn Farley.
“There’s a lot of coordination in how we balance the season,” Farley said. “There’s a big dance audience in the valley, so we want to make sure we have at least two or three dance performances. And there aren’t a lot of organizations in this area that present world music. We have all these colleges in the area, with a very diverse population in the valley.”
The coordination isn’t only among the individual groups: The center series, the Asian arts and culture series, the jazz series and the theater, music and dance department together with the visual arts and film studies programs. It also involves what’s being planned for Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Hampshire colleges, as well as at the Jorgenson Auditorium at the University of Connecticut, the Hanover Center in Worcester and the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College — plus other venues in Berkshire County.
“These are our touring partners many times,” Farley said.
Coordinated booking at several of the campuses help attract performances by touring companies.
The performers are also scheduled to discuss their work in related classes at UMass and at “community engagement sessions” at other campuses, such as the talk at Smith College when “Voice of Afghanistan” musicians discussed the impact of politics on their work and why they were forced to live in exile in California.
And there’s collaboration with other venues, such as the films that will be shown at Amherst Cinema in conjunction with the March 14 Joffrey Ballet appearance.
There’s also a separate “Magic Triangle / Solos and Duos” jazz series that will present Mark Feldman and Sylvie Courvoisier tonight at 8 p.m. in the center’s Bezanon Recital Hall. Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone will be there Nov. 27 and larger jazz ensembles will perform beginning Feb. 21. (See calendar on the website below.)
And lots more
But there’s more, since the UMass theater, music and dance departments have their own performances, like the Magnet Theatre of South Africa’s special performance of “Every Day I Am Walking” Jan. 29 to Feb. 2 at the Curtain Theatre, which coincidentally coincides with a performance by the South African singing group Ladysmith Black Mombazo on Jan. 30 in the concert hall.
The theater department’s season opens at the Curtain Theater Nov. 1 to 3 and Nov. 6 to 10 with Sophie Treadwell’s “Machinal,” which is being presented as a special tribute to theater department founder Doris Abramson of New Salem, who presented it as her final directing project before retiring.
“What happens when we worship a machine?” asks the description of the play about our industrialized world. “In the mechanized world of ‘Machinal,’ everyone and everything is a cog in the function of the machine: simple, elegant, terrible. A young woman is trapped in a world without empathy, and the clock is ticking.”
Not far from the Fine Arts Center is the Augusta Savage Gallery, where “Form Follows Function” opens Oct. 30, with furniture and vessels by Richard Hardie and Keith Cox. The gallery space also provides an intimate performance space for solo musicians as well as poetry readings, such as one recently by Martin Espada.
In nearby Hampden Galley, artist Linda Griggs has an exhibition of her works titled “I Shouldn’t be Telling You This” beginning Oct. 28.
And an exhibit of sculpture by Turners Falls artist Tim deChrisopher, “Stories Set in Stone,” will open this Sunday with a reception this Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and run through Nov. 29.
Inside the center itself is the University Museum of Contemporary Art , where, through Dec. 2, there’s a solo exhibition of work by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot, a French artist whose innovative work merges the realms of the musical and the visual.
“There’s so much going on,” said Farley. The multiple layers of offerings, which might appear overwhelming from the outside, is meant to engage with the audience — and with the community — on a deeper level, with each level deepening its understanding of the culture.
Tickets for all of the offerings are coordinated through the Fine Arts Center Box office, often with discounts available to students from other institutions, including Greenfield Community College.
On the Web:
— RICHIE DAVIS