With another academic year comes another year packed with artistry, performance and entertainment.
The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State has announced its 2016-17 season, which features 27 touring Broadway shows, classical and world music, contemporary circus, dance and jazz shows from September through April.
Planning each season is not a simple task.
“The artistic quality has to be extremely high — that’s paramount. We’re also looking for balance, not only within a season but from one season to the next,” CPA Director George Trudeau said. “We strive for a mix of what I would say is the familiar and the new, because we think that it’s important that our audiences are introduced to new artists, new projects, and have a gradually broader sense of what the greater performing arts world is up to.”
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As the largest theater between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the 2,500-seat Eisenhower Auditorium provides world-class amenities and “can literally do anything on stage,” Trudeau said. While two-thirds of the CPA shows are held in Eisenhower Auditorium, the remaining smaller ensembles benefit from the intimacy and acoustics of Schwab Auditorium.
This season, audiences will experience performances that the CPA has presented in the past, such as internationally renowned jazz artist Ramsey Lewis and Broadway classics “Rent” and “Annie,” and they will also have the opportunity to see tours visiting Penn State for the first time, like the musical “Once.”
The CPA keeps in mind that about every four years, there’s a new group of students who they want to provide with as many and differing performances as possible, even though an artist or show might have performed here before.
“Within the students’ time here at Penn State, we think that it’s important to have a broad range of opportunities to engage with the performing arts,” Trudeau said. “What we do allows our students to either continue or to start their journey in the performing arts.”
He said he often has students tell him they went to a performance for a class and didn’t expect to enjoy it, but left wanting to come back in the future — “That’s like changing lives; to me it’s just a privilege to have the opportunity to do that kind of work.”
Scheduling is an ongoing process for the CPA staff, often starting years in advance. Trudeau said they not only have to find balance between the academic semesters and spacing out varying genres of shows, but they also have the challenge of communicating with the artists and tours to figure out when their schedules coincide.
A lot of research goes into the planning of each season. Part of Trudeau’s job includes traveling around the world looking for new artists to bring to the CPA stage.
“I’m doing a lot of scouting — usually it’s a pleasurable experience, sometimes it’s not, but that’s important too,” Trudeau said. “If you’ve done your research well, it’s mostly going to be a reaffirming and exciting experience then to think, ‘Wow, how great is it going to be to bring this program, this artist, this project to Penn State.’ ”
Ultimately Trudeau makes the final decisions when it comes to each season’s schedule, but he said it’s very much a collaborative effort with the senior CPA management staff, along with the support of the community, to bring artists to the stage.
But the CPA isn’t just about what happens on stage. Trudeau said it’s about engaging the artists with the community and students, on campus or in the classroom.
“We sit in this beautiful bucolic, rural central Pennsylvania, which just happens to have a world class university here... Our community hosts a lot of performing arts, it all complements itself very well,” Trudeau said. “What would the world be like without the arts?”
On the web
For a complete schedule and more information, visit http://www.cpa.psu.edu
- Cirque Éloize: “Saloon, A Musical Acrobatic Adventure”
- Sphinx Virtuosi: “Latin Voyages: Viajes Latinos”
- “Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Nat King Cole Tribute” featuring Ramsey Lewis and John Pizzarelli
- Pilobolus: “Shadowland”
- “Odd Squad Live!”
- Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
- Straight No Chaser: “I’ll Have Another ... 20th Anniversary World Tour”
- Roomful of Teeth
- Bria Skonberg Quintet
- “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live!”
- “42nd Street”
- Inon Barnatan, piano; Anthony McGill, clarinet; Alisa Weilerstein, cello
- Circus Oz: “Straight Up”
- Balé Folclórico da Bahia: “Bahia of All Colors”
- Wu Han, piano; Philip Setzer, violin; David Finckel, cello
- “Brooklyn Babylon”
- Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra: “J. S. Bach: The Circle of Creation”
- En Garde Arts presents “Wilderness”
- “A Year with Frog and Toad”
- Fred Hersch Trio with special guest Anat Cohen
- Bang on a Can All-Stars with Penn State Concert Choir
- Jessica Lang Dance