National Sawdust Hosts The Future Is… Festival and Creative Forum

The festival runs from June 7th through June 16th.

By: Apr. 07, 2022
National Sawdust Hosts The Future Is… Festival and Creative Forum

Both before and throughout the pandemic, National Sawdust's mission has been to provide artists with financial and creative opportunities, audiences with access to groundbreaking work presented in remarkably high fidelity, and to support young creators by means of a rigorous mentorship network. These three goals serve as the inspirations for The Future Is... Festival, which takes place June 7 through June 16, features work by 6 composers and choreographers developing new work through residencies co-produced with the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU, and funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. This is the first major program from National Sawdust's new Director of Artistic Operations, Ana de Archuleta, working in collaboration with National Sawdust Ideas Zone Editor and Artist-in-Residence, Lynne Procope; Director of Programming, Nicole Merritt Chari; National Sawdust Board Member, Karen Wong; and composer, National Sawdust Co-Founder, and Artistic Director, Paola Prestini.

The opening night of the Festival on June 7 is a gala evening House Party: Forro Forever featuring Mauro Refosco, the Music Director for David Byrne's American Utopia with Davi Vieira on percussion and Felipe Hostins on accordion. Additional performances include a duet between composer Molly Joyce and choreographer/dancer Jerron Herman (6/9); two nights with New York ChamberQUEER, featuring Mazz Swift, Melissa Wimbish, Jessie Montgomery, and Andrew Yee (6/10 and 6/12); Moor Mother's avant-jazz ensemble Irreversible Entanglements (6/11); acclaimed operatic soprano Karen Slack (6/16); and The Future Is... Creative Forum, featuring conversations and inventive brainstorming with Miriam Parker, Brianna Mims, Alice Sheppard, Nona Hendryx, and many others (6/14 and 6/15). Over the course of two weeks, through not only thrilling concerts but also by way of the Creative Forum's interactive conversations, guided mindful listening, and digital presentations, the festival will enable a home for memorable performances, deeply engaged sharing, and an open-to-the-public sound installation that will double as a moment for community-building. The Future Is... will also prove an opportunity in action to show the multivalent impact of National Sawdust's mentorship work with composers, choreographers, and multidisciplinary artists.

The concept for the festival originated with Lynne Procope as a meditation on the organization's forward-thinking ethos of diversity, inclusion, sensitivity, experimentation, and excellence. Procope says, "With the pandemic, we've all had this impossible shared experience and now we have the opportunity to finally come together again and talk about what we've learned. In that way, The Future Is.. Festival is a gift from all of us to all of us. I think we've earned it."

Ana De Archuleta, notes that "The Future Is... Festival's genre-diverse booking and innovative conceptual programs are reflective of the listening and consumptive patterns of modern audiences. We're not attempting to signal what we expect out of an arts organization; we are simply creating the future that we see coming. It is programming that could only spring from an artist-founded and artist-run stage like ourselves. The goal is to remove the idea of National Sawdust as a gatekeeper; our job is to build a platform so that artists can sculpt a more permeable and organically-driven direction. We want everyone to come with their own ideas and leave with more than they came with."

Composer, Kris Sebastian & Alberto Cribiore Artistic Director Chair, and Co-Founder of National Sawdust, Paola Prestini notes that "The Future Is... Festival's desire for collaboration carries through in the way that we are working with our partner institutions on this program. The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation and NYU's Center for Ballet and the Arts connect us with vital communities and fresh energy. One of the key intentions of this festival is to invite those communities and our own local community into our space in a more open and transparent way. We want to present them with a roster of thoughtfully curated, topically driven, socially engaged multidisciplinary events. The concerns of The Future Is... are deeply meaningful to our staff, our artists and our audiences and they represent what the future of National Sawdust will be."

"During the pandemic, many of our artists had to learn to access different ways to creatively engage with work that wasn't necessarily naturally available before," says Nicole Merritt Chari, "Live streaming and independent program creation wasn't necessarily the way everyone created up until now. Through our Digital Discovery program, which acted as an online creative space for many of the performers in this festival, we fought to provide resources to open up those processes and show that there were other ways to present beyond the live experience. Our changing reality means that artists now have the opportunity to bring the lessons they learned online into a concert hall. The Future Is... Festival is our first opportunity to show off that artistic growth in a thoughtful and organized way."

National Sawdust's 2022 The Future Is... Festival Programming

Tuesday, June 7

National Sawdust Gala Series

House Party: Forró Forever with

Mauro Refosco, Musical Director for David Byrne's American Utopia

Featuring Davi Vieira (percussion) and Felipe Hostins (accordion)

Cocktails at 6:30 pm; Performance, dancing and dinner buffet from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm

Tickets: $250, $500, $1,000


Celebrate the National Sawdust belief that artistic and musical expression helps us all create a more joyful and just world. This intimate evening of music, dance, food, and community is curated by Karen Wong and celebrates the Brazilian music and dance genre of forró. For tickets, contact Brian Berkopec or Kim Chan at to arrange your participation or click on this link.

Thursday, June 9

Jerron Herman and Molly Joyce: Left and Right

Featuring contributions from Brandon Kazen-Maddox, Max Greyson and Austin Regan

Special opening performance by

Val-Inc aka Val Jeanty (2022 Toulmin Fellow at National Sawdust and Center for Ballet and the Arts) and Jean Appolon: Pozesyon

Doors at 6:30 pm, Show at 7:30 pm

Tickets: $20 advance, $25 at door

Left and Right is a collaboration between composer/performer Molly Joyce (2021 Toulmin Fellow), choreographer/dancer Jerron Herman, writer/audio describer Max Greyson, and director Austin Regan that examines historical myths of the traditionally cursed and dark left (sinister) side of the body and its relationship to the right-hand side, which was considered healing and beneficent. The piece unites and confronts universal, contemporary, and personal perspectives on dualism and asymmetry through the disparate yet synergic disciplines of dance, music, and poetic audio description. Left and Right was previously presented by National Sawdust as part of our quarantine-era Digital Discovery program in collaboration with the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU with support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Pozesyon, a Creole word meaning "possession," is a new collaborative work-in-progress by the Haitian Afro-Electronica composer and the 2022 Artist-in-Residency Val-Inc aka Val Jeanty, made in collaboration with the Haitian choreographer Jean Appolon. The work, built out of structured movement and sound improvisation, is centered around healing through the art of surrendering. Jeanty's residency is a collaboration with the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU made possible by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Friday, June 10 - Doors at 6:00 pm, Show at 7:00 pm

Sunday, June 12 - Doors at 5:00 pm, Show at 6:00 pm

ChamberQUEER Pride Festival

Tickets: $25 advance, $29 at door

ChamberQUEER is a multifaceted organization with the mission of highlighting historically underrepresented queer figures in western classical music and providing an intersectionally inclusive space within classical music for artists and audience. ChamberQUEER 2022 opens their two-show engagement at National Sawdust on June 10 by drawing centuries of music into conversation - juxtaposing boundary-breaking Renaissance nuns with the voices of three fantastic emerging composers drawn from our 2020 Call for Scores: Connor D'Netto, Alexis Lamb, and Rosśa Crean. The concert weaves these musical worlds together through reflective improvisations that converse with multifaceted experiences of queerness across the centuries. Confirmed performers for June 10 include violinist Mazz Swift and baritone vocalist Lucas Bouk alongside the core ChamberQUEER ensemble of Jules Biber, Danielle Buonaiuto, Brian Mummert and Andrew Yee.

The June 12 performance highlights Gay Guerrilla by iconoclastic queer composer Julius Eastman, in a new arrangement for string septet by Jessie Montgomery, and featuring the arranger on violin. Curated in partnership with Eastman scholar Isaac Jean-François, the event paints an image of Eastman's New York City, both with a new film by Ashanti Soldier and Kham Owens, and through works of Eastman's colleagues and contemporaries, including Tania León and Talib Rasul Hakim. The program traces lines to queer modernism of the earlier 20th century, including Benjamin Britten's Les Illuminations, to the poetry of the visionary Arthur Rimbaud. Confirmed performers for June 12 include violinist Jessie Montgomery and soprano vocalist Melissa Wimbish alongside the core ChamberQUEER ensemble of Biber, Buonaiuto, Mummert and Yee.

Saturday, June 11

Chris Grymes and Open G Records present

Music in The Constellation: An In-Person Immersive Audio Experience

Doors at 1:30 pm, Event at 2:00 pm

Tickets: Free with RSVP

Open G Records presents Music in The Constellation: An In-Person Immersive Audio Experience, an invitation to our community to engage with National Sawdust's performance space and to explore the possibilities and nuance of our state-of-the-art sound technology. Composer Greg Wilder and our Director of Sound and Technical Design Garth MacAleavey have curated a guided tour of contemporary electronic music using the full array of speakers that make up National Sawdust's Meyer Sound Constellation. From works written for a single moving speaker to music exploiting the full 102-speaker Constellation, visitors will be able to experience the depth and profundity of true Spatial Sound. This free audio tour includes the world premiere of a new 360-degree realization of Karlheinz Stockhausen's 1955 work "Gesang der Jünglinge" and a new stereophonic immersive audio track, built from the original tape transfers, from the great composer and rock artist Frank Zappa. Join us to experience the entirety of the Meyer Sound Constellation and its revolutionary Spacemap sound design.

Saturday, June 11

Irreversible Entanglements

Doors at 8:00pm, Show at 9:00 pm

Tickets: $20 advance, $25 at door

Irreversible Entanglements cultivate the liberation technologies of jazz and associated Black music in root, stem, and branch. The band's uncompromising artistic vision emerges from the experience of its five acclaimed members: poet Camae Ayewa, a/k/a Moor Mother, is a globally leading light of Afrofuturist music, art, and community activism. Bassist Luke Stewart boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of the music from which he draws with focused and thunderous intensity. Saxophonist Keir Neuringer's prodigious avant garde technique is matched by an urgency in his tone and fierce socio-political determination. Trumpeter Aquiles Navarro and drummer Tcheser Holmes joined the band as an already long-standing duo, bringing with them uncontainable energy and inventiveness grounded in classic jazz and Latin and Afro-Caribbean streams. The band's third album, 2021's double LP Open The Gates, displayed an expanded sonic palette and increased the group's emotional breadth. Open the Gates is a co-release on the International Anthem and Don Giovanni labels, highlighting Irreversible Entanglements' ability to make adventurous music beyond genre, both honoring and defying tradition, speaking to the present while insisting on the future.

Thursday, June 16

Karen Slack: Of Thee I Sing

Doors at 6:30 pm at 7:30PM

Tickets: $35 advance, $40 at door

Celebrated American soprano Karen Slack's dynamic opera and recital performances combined with her passionate advocacy for racial justice and women composers make her a sought-after artist on many fronts. For her performance at National Sawdust, Slack performs Of Thee I Sing, her moving program conceived during the turmoil in the summer of 2020, when the country was forced into a long-overdue racial awakening. After witnessing the murder of George Floyd on national television - as many did while confined to their homes during the onset of the pandemic - Slack felt it necessary to create a program focusing on the healing powers of justice and love. The program will include material from composers Clayton White, Undine Smith Moore, Ricky Ian Gordon, Scott Gendel, H. Leslie Adams, Jake Heggie, and Adolphus Hailstork. Slack is a 2022 National Sawdust Creative Partner. A recipient of the 2022 Sphinx Medal of Excellence and hailed for possessing a voice of extraordinary beauty, Karen Slack has garnered international renown for her artistic versatility, charisma, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Her extraordinary dramatic range and passion for new work has been featured in multiple world premiere productions and appearances with such distinguished companies as the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera and the San Francisco Opera.

Tuesday, June 14 and Wednesday, June 15

The Future Is... Creative Forum

Featuring Adji Cissoko, Molly Joyce, Laurel Lawson, Jihye Lee, Aditi Mangaldas,

Marisa Michelson, Brianna Jenee' Mims, Miriam Parker, Tiffany Rea-Fisher, Alice Sheppard,

Val-Inc aka Val Jeanty, Emily Wells, and Kara Wilkes

with Additional Contributions from Nona Hendryx, eddy kwon and Lynne Procope

Multiple Events running 10:00am to 6:00pm

Tickets: All Free with RSVP

The Future Is... Creative Forum is designed for - but not limited to - direct audience engagement with accomplished composers, choreographers, dancers, and musicians via innovative multimedia presentations, interdisciplinary work and multidisciplinary collaboration. The Creative Forum is a generative space for creators and audience participants to explore tools, skill sets, play, practices, and ritual work. Through interactive masterclasses, panel discussions, featured speakers, grounding sessions and digital presentations, participants in both the local and virtual world are invited to explore the forum's two key themes: improving listening practices and achieving pleasurable futures.

Dates for individual sessions, along with the participating artists' event descriptions or bio, follow below.

Tuesday, June 14 at 10:00 am

Workshop with Constellation Chor's Marisa Michelson: Core Sounding

"A model and practice for connecting body to body, body to spirit, and bringing our Wholeness into group vocal improvisation" Michelson is a 2021 Toulmin Fellow with National Sawdust and Center for Ballet and the Arts.

Tuesday, June 14 at Noon

Discussion with dancer and choreographer Aditi Mangaldas: Listening to the Aging Body

"Ask a mature dancer what she learnt from listening to her body. How does a performer and creator, who is very much aware that time is of the essence, deal with what the pandemic has thrown up for her practice and to cope with the silence of an empty dance studio and the stillness of her ankle bells?" Mangaldas is 2021 Toulmin Creator with National Sawdust and Center for Ballet and the Arts.

Tuesday, June 14 at Noon

2022 Toulmin Fellow Work-In-Progress Presentations with

Choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher

Tiffany Rea-Fisher is a National Dance Project Award winner, 2021 Toulmin Creator, 2022 Toulmin Fellow, a John Brown Spirit award recipient and was awarded a citation from the City of New York for her cultural contributions. As a choreographer, Tiffany has had the pleasure of creating numerous pieces for her company as well as being commissioned by Dance Theater of Harlem, Dallas Black Dance Theater, NYC Department of Transportation, Utah Repertory Theater, The National Gallery of Art in D.C., and having her work performed for the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg. Her works have been seen on many stages including the Joyce, the Apollo, Joe's Pub, Aaron Davis Hall, and New York Live Arts. Tiffany was the first Dance Curator at the interdisciplinary arts organization The Tank where she now sits on their Board of Trustees. She also curates the Bryant Park Dance Summer Series providing free art access to thousands while exposing upcoming and established artists to a wider audience.

Tuesday, June 14 at 2:40 pm

Interactive Presentation with composer Molly Joyce: What Is Care for You?

"This work engages critical values from disability culture in an interdisciplinary artistic project that fosters access as aesthetic and is grounded in the disabled experience." Joyce is a 2021 Toulmin Fellow with National Sawdust and Center for Ballet and the Arts.

Tuesday, June 14 at 4:00 pm

2022 Toulmin Fellow Work-In-Progress Presentations with

Composer Emily Wells

Forging a bridge between pop and chamber music, composer, producer, and video artist Emily Wells builds songs from deliberate strata of vocals, synths, drums, piano, string and wind instruments. Wells's latest release, the ten-song album Regards to the End, explores the AIDS crisis, climate change, and her lived experience watching the world burn.

Tuesday, June 14 at 5:30 pm

2022 Toulmin Fellow Work-In-Progress Presentations with

Dancer Adji Cissoko

Adji Cissoko was born and grew up in Munich, Germany where she trained at the Ballet Academy Munich and graduated with a diploma in dance. Cissoko attended the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at American Ballet Theatre in New York City on full scholarship, before joining the National Ballet of Canada in 2010. In 2012, she was awarded the Patron Award of Merit by the Patrons' Council Committee of The National Ballet of Canada. Cissoko joined LINES Ballet in 2014. Cissoko has taught around the world as part of the company's outreach program. In 2020, she became certified in health/life coaching as well as in ABT's National Training Curriculum, and in 2021, Cissoko created a piece on BalletX called AZIZ.

Wednesday, June 15 at 10:00 am

2022 Toulmin Fellow Work-In-Progress Presentations with

Artist and Educator Kara Wilkes

Kara Wilkes is an interdisciplinary choreographer, educator, dancer, visual artist, and filmmaker. Her expertise in classical and contemporary ballet is extensive and supported by her twenty-year professional dance career. She has performed works by Alonzo King, Alvin Ailey, Twyla Tharp, Nacho Duato, Jacqulyn Buglisi, Dwight Rhoden, George Balanchine, Darrell Grand Moultrie and others. In 2019, she earned her MFA in Dance from Hollins University where she began her choreographic research surrounding inherited trauma, addiction, and healing. Her creative work also focuses heavily on the Digital Age's impacts on society and our planet. Most recently, she choreographed works for Traverse City Dance Project, the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, Santa Clara University, and Texas Christian University.


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