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Montclair State University's PEAK PERFORMANCES 2017-18 Season Dedicated Only To Women

Peak Performances, the renowned series at Montclair State University that plays a key role in the global performing arts landscape by introducing major new stage productions and critical innovations in the development and presentation of contemporary theater, dance, performance art and music, is proud to announce that its 2017-18 season will consist entirely of new works by women. The season as a whole, and the nine premieres that comprise it, make a timely contribution to national and international conversations about women's agency. All performances will take place in the state-of-the-art Alexander Kasser Theater in Montclair.

"The temper of the times demands a statement: there is no excuse for the remarkably slow progress toward gender parity in the arts. Despite the stunning vision and singular work and of so many contemporary women artists, they remain underrepresented in performance venues in the U.S. and abroad," said Peak Performances Executive Director Jedediah Wheeler. "I hear time and again that there is a glass ceiling in the arts. Devoting the entire Peak Performances season to the work of these exceptional artists is a continuation of our long-held commitment to shattering that ceiling."

Peak Performances' 2017-18 launches with the American Premiere of a groundbreaking new production of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venicefrom director Karin Coonrod and her company Compagnia de' Colombari, originally staged last year in the Jewish Ghetto in Venice, Italy. A cast including Reg E. Cathey ("The Wire," "House of Cards") as Antonio and five actors of diverse backgrounds playing Shylock will perform the play, September 19-October 1, 2017. Colombari's Merchant is one of several productions by celebrated female theater-makers this season. Peak Performances will present the American Premiere of Le Sorelle Macaluso (The Sisters Macaluso), which marks the New York / New Jersey debut of the great Italian director Emma Dante, November 16-19. Stacy Klein and her company Double Edge Theatre return to the Kasser Theater March 17-25, 2018, with Leonora and Alejandro: La Maga y El Maestro, which explores the common ground between Leonora Carrington, writer, artist and one of the founders of Mexico's Women's Liberation Movement, and Alejandro Jodorowsky, the celebrated Chilean-French filmmaker. Peak Performances brings another lauded international writer-director, Spain's Angélica Liddell, to the New York / New Jersey area for the first time, April 19-22, 2018, when Liddell's company Atra Bilis Teatro performs the American Premiere of her Esta Breve Tragedia de la Carne (This Brief Tragedy of Flesh).

As always, Peak Performances will premiere a range of new works by important choreographers this season. Pam Tanowitz Dance combines forces with the celebrated classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein, one of the foremost interpreters of Bach's landMark Goldberg Variations, in the New York / New Jersey Premiere of New Work for Goldberg Variations, a thrilling new dance setting of the score, October 19-22. The award-winning Camille A. Brown & Dancers will conclude their trilogy of works investigating culture, race and identity with ink, which makes its New York / New Jersey Premiere at the Kasser February 1-4, 2018. Israel's Inbal Oshman Dance Group and the ensemble New York Baroque Incorporated, led by double bass and viola da gamba player Wen Yang, will offer the American Premiere of Oshman's M Stabat Mater, which is based on Pergolesi's masterpiece and explores various aspects of motherhood, April 12-15, 2018.

Simone Dinnerstein is just one of the musical luminaries featured in the season. Composer Ashley Fure's opera for objects The Force of Things, created with architect Adam Fure and performed by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), makes its American Premiere October 6-8, 2017. Trailblazing cellist Maya Beiser teams up with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julie Wolfe for Spinning (May 10-13, 2018), a multimedia production about the timeless art of spinning thread, with projections and textiles by theatrical visual artist Laurie Olinder.

The 2017-18 season builds upon Peak Performances' rich history of investing in, and sharing, works by female artists, including Trisha Brown, Laurie Anderson, Nora Chipaumire, Liz Gerring, Marianne Weems, Caroline Shaw, Sonia Destri, Deborah Hay, Robyn Orlin, Susan Marshall, Charlotte Vincent, Andrea Miller and Pat Graney, to name a few.

Tickets for all performances are affordably priced at $20 and will be available as of April 20 at and 973.655.5112. The Alexander Kasser Theater is located at 1 Normal Ave in Montclair, New Jersey.


The Merchant of Venice (American Premiere)
Compagnia de' Colombari
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Karin Coonrod
September 19 - October 1, 2017

Director Karin Coonrod, whom Ben Brantley of The New York Times has called "a theater artist of far-reaching inventiveness," and her Compagnia de' Colombari bring their visionary production of The Merchant of Venice to Peak Performances for its American Premiere. The engagement follows a run of the production in the still-extant Jewish Ghetto in Venice, Italy, last year that marked the 500th anniversary of the ghetto's founding and the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

With its themes of insiders and outsiders, love and hate, justice and mercy and, above all, what it means to be human, The Merchant of Venice is as timely as ever. The play's central antagonist, Shylock, exposes the hypocrisy of the dominant culture. In Coonrod's production, five actors-performers of diverse race, ethnicity and gender, including Sorab Wadia, Myra Lucretia Taylor and Ned Eisenberg-will play the role, bringing out both its Jewishness and its universality. The cast alsoincludes Reg E. Cathey ("The Wire," "House of Cards") as Antonio, Michelle Uranowitz as Jessica, Paul Spera as Lorenzo, Francesca Sarah Toich as Lancillotto, Linda Powell as Portia, Abigail Killeen as Nerissa and Chris McClinden as Bassanio. The production features an original score by the Grammy Award-winning founder of The Klezmatics, Frank London.

Compagnia de' Colombari's The Merchant of Venice follows the company's texts&beheadings/ElizabethR, which won critical praise in the 2015 BAM Next Wave Festival.

The Force of Things (American Premiere)
Composed by Ashley Fure
Designed by Adam Fure
Performed by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE)
October 6-8, 2017

Peak Performances presents the American Premiere of the site-specific opera for objects The Force of Things, created by composer Ashley Fure in collaboration with her brother, architect Adam Fure. Performed by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), whom Alex Ross of The New Yorker describes as "America's foremost new-music group," this immersive work of music theater wrestles with the animate vitality of matter and the haunting thrust of the Anthropocene, the geological epoch in which human activity is the primary influence on the environment. Audience members sit beneath a dense canopy of hanging things that transform through kinetic, sonic, and lighting effects as the piece unfolds. Live performers engage these materials, but only through complex chains of causality: their labor ripples through a grid of interference, spawning unintended, alien effects. Singers peer into the space from afar, like Greek choristers, shouting a warning that sounds like a whisper in a language no one can understand. A sense of urgency fills the place, and yet it's eerily still: as if the timescales are off, as if some future frantic state reaches us only in slow motion. The Force of Things makes audible this volatile stillness, tangling the audience in a web of vibrant matter.

New Work for Goldberg Variations (New York / New Jersey Premiere)
Created by Simone Dinnerstein and Pam Tanowitz
Performed by Simone Dinnerstein and Pam Tanowitz Dance
October 19-22, 2017

New Work for Goldberg Variations is an evening-length piece for piano and dancers, created by classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein, "an artist of true expressive force" (Washington Post), and choreographer Pam Tanowitz, whom The New York Times has described "the wittiest choreographer since Mark Morris." Inspired by Bach's landmark The Goldberg Variations, the work is performed by Dinnerstein and Tanowitz's company, Pam Tanowitz Dance. Dinnerstein, one of her generation's foremost Bach interpreters and a specialist in The Goldberg Variations brings to the project her nuanced understanding of the demanding score; Tanowitz uses a slyly deconstructed classical movement vocabulary to translate the music into movement.

Dinnerstein, one of the most acclaimed pianists of her generation, gained an international following with the remarkable success of her recording of The Goldberg Variations (2007), which ranked No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Classical Chart in its first week of sales and was named to many Best of 2007 lists, including those of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and the New Yorker. New Work for Goldberg Variations arrives on the 10th anniversary of Dinnerstein's recording. Pam Tanowitz has been making dances since 1992. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011 and Bessie Awards in 2009 and 2016, among many other accolades. Her works The Spectators (2013), Heaven on One's Head (2014) and Broken Story (wherein there is no ecstasy) (2015) have all made The New York Times' Best Dance of the Year lists.

The Sisters Macaluso (American Premiere)
Compagnia Sud Costa Occidentale
Written and Directed by Emma Dante
November 16-19, 2017

In a fantastical world suspended between earth and heavens, life and death, the seven Macaluso sisters form a family of crows. A strip of adhesive tape on the floor marks the border between here and there, is and was, now and ever. The sisters participate in funerals-those of their own family, and those of others-remembering, dreaming, laughing and mourning. The line between life and death is one to fight over, again and again, in the manner of Sicilian puppets, sword and shield in hand.

Emma Dante was born in Palermo in 1967. She graduated in 1990 from the Accademia Silvio D'Amico in Rome and founded her company Sud Costa Occidentale in 1999. Her performances, staged in Italy and abroad, have won numerous prestigious prizes and vast critical praise, including Ubu awards-Italy's top theater honors-for her works mPalermu (for Italian Innovation,in 2002), Carnezzeria (for Best Italian Original Play,in 2003) and Le sorelle Macaluso (The Sisters Macaluso) (for Best Director and Best Show, in 2014). Other plays she has directed include Vita mia, Mishelle di Sant'Oliva, Medea, Il festino, Cani di bancata and Le pulle. Her Trilogia degli occhiali has toured Italy and the world since 2011. Dante has also helmed several acclaimed opera productions, including Bizet's Carmen, with Daniel Barenboim conducting, at La Scala in 2009; Strauss' Feuersnot, conducted by Gabriele Ferro, at Palermo's Teatro Massimo in 2014; and Rossini's La Cenerentola, conducted by Alejo Perez, at Rome's Teatro dell'Opera in 2016. Dante's first novel, Via Castellana Bandiera, won the Premio Vittorini and the Super Vittorini in 2009; it become a movie, A Street in Palermo, directed by Dante, that won actress Elena Cotta the Volpi Cup for Best Actress, won Cotta and Alba Rohrwacher the Pasinetti Award for best actress, and won Dante a Vittorio Veneto Film Festival Award Special Mention and the and the Soundtrack Stars Award for best film score at the 70th Venice Film Festival.

ink (New York / New Jersey Premiere)
Camille A. Brown & Dancers
February 1-4, 2018

Camille A. Brown & Dancers' ink is the final installment in the company's trilogy of dance-theater works aboutculture, race and identity, following the Bessie Award-winning Mr. TOL E. RAncE (2012) and the Bessie Award-nominated BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play (2015).ink reclaims African-American narratives and examines elements of them that have been appropriated, rewritten or silenceD. Brown focuses on pedestrian interactions as contexts in which individuals and communities have liberation and accessed their power throughout African-American history, from the Abolitionist movement to the Civil Rights struggle, the Black Power movement and the emergence of hip-hop.

Brown's choreography for ink draws from a variety of styles: African-American social dance, African dance, tap, jazz, modern and hip-hop. The score, created in collaboration with Music Director Allison Miller, percussionist Wilson Torres and violinist Juliette Jones-who perform live with the company-is integral to the storytelling and traverses a similarly broad stylistic range: blues, swing, jazz, hip-hop and more.

Double Edge Theatre
Leonora and Alejandro: La Maga y El Maestro
Written and Directed by Stacy Klein
March 17-25, 2018

Double Edge Theatre returns to Peak Performances with this new work that concludes the company's Latin American Cycle. In Leonora and Alejandro: La Maga y El Maestro,Stacy Klein, Double Edge's founder and artistic director, envisions a conversation between Leonora Carrington, the late British-born Mexican artist, surrealist painter, novelist and founding member of Mexico's Women's Liberation Movement, and Alejandro Jodorowsky, the Chilean-French filmmaker.

Jodorowsky and Carrington are two artists who see the world in a similar way-they once made a play together in Mexico City, and Jodorowsky credits Carrington with introducing him to the tarot-but approach it differently. Klein notes that in the writings of both artists "things grow out of nothing, out of daily life," but, she says, "In Carrington's writing, that growth is personal, intimate, while in the case of Jodorowsky, it's always large-scale, epic." Leonora and Alejandro will take up themes common in Jodorowsky's and Carrington's work: the silencing of women, the role of military puppets and corporate thugs, and the purposeful devastation of land, water and people.

Alejandro Jodorowsky was a source of inspiration for the previous two works in Double Edge's Latin American Cycle, the outdoor spectacles Cada Luna Azul (Once a Blue Moon) (2015) and A Latin American Spectacle (2016). With the company's new work, Klein wanted to further explore Jodorowsky's artistry, but, she said, "I can no longer create work that does not feature women's experience in a primary role." Her deep dive into the women of the Latin American art world led Klein to Leonora Carrington, who passed away in 2011.

Leonora and Alejandro is the second work by Stacy Klein and Double Edge Theatre to be presented by Peak Performances, following a successful run of The Grand Parade in 2016.

M Stabat Mater (American Premiere)
Created by Inbal Oshman
Performed by Inbal Oshman Dance Group and New York Baroque Incorporated
April 12-15, 2018

With M Stabat Mater, the celebrated Israeli choreographer Inbal Oshman uses Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's 1736 composition Stabat Mater as a point of departure for a contemporary dance work exploring universal aspects of motherhood, from strength and pugnacity to tenderness and vulnerability. Created while Oshman was pregnant with her third daughter, M Stabat Mater takes inspiration from the story of the Virgin Mary and a cross-cultural range of other mythical mothers, such as the dark raging Hindu goddess Kali and the Four Matriarchs of the bible. Like Pergolesi's, Oshman's work consists of twelve sections; each reflects motherhood or femininity from a different angle.

At Peak Performances, the singers and musicians of the period orchestra New York Baroque Incorporated, led by double bass and viola da gamba player Wen Yang, will perform Pergolesi's score, along with Francesco Durante's Concerto for Strings No. 2 in G Minor.

M Stabat Mater made its world premiere at the International Dance Festival in Bangalore, India, performed by the four senior dancers of Attakkalari Dance Company, where Oshman was a resident choreographer, in 2013.

Esta Breve Tragedia de la Carne (This Brief Tragedy of the Flesh) (American Premiere)
Written, Designed and Directed by Angélica Liddell
Performed by Atra Bilis Teatro
April 19-22, 2018

With Esta Breve Tragedia de la Carne, Peak Performances introduces audiences to the singular work of the confrontational Spanish writer, director and performance artist Angélica Liddell. The production, the first part of Liddell's Trilogy of the Infinite, epitomizes her tendency to put herself and her performers through physical pain in explorations of politics and the human condition. Here she immerses herself in Emily Dickinson, who spent much of her life secluded in a room in her father's house in Amherst, Massachusetts. Liddell uses as a point of departure a word often repeated in Dickinson's poems-"bees"-and the idea of Dickinson's confinement, performing Esta Breve Tragedia de la Carne while enclosed with live bees, running, throughout, the risk of getting stung.

Liddell describes her body of work as "pornography of the soul." She speaks out, "blows up the walls of indecency" and fearlessly addresses sensitive issues such as intimacy and pain. Having studied psychology as well as theater, Liddell established her company Atra Bilis Teatro (Black Bile Theatre) in 1993. Often connecting personal pain with world politics, she exposed the murders of women and children in the Mexican city of Juarez in La Casa de la Fuerza (2009), for example, and warned about the effects of killing free expression, castigating the Cultural Revolution in China under Mao and the lack of response from the Americans in Ping Pang Qiu (2012). El Año de Ricardo, Liddell's adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III, was a furious rejection of all forms of political abuse of power.

Spinning (World Premiere)
Composed by Julia Wolfe
Performed by Maya Beiser
Visuals by Laurie Olinder
May 10-13, 2018

Spinning brings together two of new music's foremost artists, composer Julia Wolfe and cellist Maya Beiser, for their first individual collaboration. The piece draws on history, legend, metaphor, and iconic imagery of the simple labor of spinning thread. Music has long been a part of the craft - both as a propelling force as well as a distraction. Spinning incorporates layers of cello, accordion, percussion, singing, and speaking, as well as found sound, and will feature multimedia 3-D projections and textiles by innovative visual artist, Laurie Olinder.

Julia Wolfe, a 2016 MacArthur Fellow and winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music, draws inspiration from folk, classical and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them. Her music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes. Wolfe's recent projects include her evening-length Steel Hammer, on the John Henry legend, and Anthracite Fields, on the coal mining community of northeastern Pennsylvania. Virtuosic cellist Maya Beiser, "a "cello rock star" (Rolling Stone) has captivated audiences worldwide with her dynamic and eclectic repertoire and her relentless quest to redefine the boundaries of the instrument. Visual Artist Laurie Olinder is a sought-after visual designer in theater and opera whose recent work graced the stages at BAM's Opera House and Disney Hall (Los Angeles).


The Force of Things is made possible by generous commitments from the International Contemporary Ensemble: First Page Program, University of Michigan Office of Research, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Dartmouth College Provost's Office Seed Funding Program, Miller Theater at Columbia University (NYC), and Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt (IMD). The project was supported by New Music USA and made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from New Music USA project grants, with the friendly support of Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung.

New Work for Goldberg Variations was commissioned by Duke Performances at Duke University and Peak Performances at Montclair State University, co-commissioned by Opening Nights Performing Arts at Florida State University and Summer Stages Dance at the Institute for Contemporary Art/Boston. The project is supported by creative residencies at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography (MANCC) at Florida State University, The Yard at Martha's Vineyard, the NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts, New York City Center, and Montclair State University. New Work for Goldberg Variations was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. General operating support for Pam Tanowitz Dance was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Angélica Liddell's Esta Breve Tragedia de la Carne premiered in Switzerland with the support of La Bâtie Festival de Geneve.

Spinning is funded in part by The MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Sisters Macaluso is a co-production of Teatro Stabile di Napoli, Théâtre National (Brussels), Festival d'Avignon and Folkteatern (Göteborg), in collaboration with Atto Unico/ Compagnia Sud Costa Occidentale and in partnership with Teatrul National Radu Stanca-Sibiu. The project is supported by the Culture Program of the European Commission and the European project Villes en Scène/Cities on Stage.

The lead commissioners for ink are Peak Performances and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., with support from Lumberyard. The creation and presentation of ink was made possible by The New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and the Howard Gilman Foundation. ink was given its original creative development residency by The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance in partnership with The Evelyn Sharp/CalArts Summer Choreographic Residency. The development of the work was made possible, in part, by the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, with support from the Princess Grace Foundation. The work is also being created, in part, during creative residencies at ASU Gammage, the University of Iowa's Hancher Auditorium, The Yard, Jacob's Pillow, and CUNY Dance Initiative at Kingsborough Community College.


Peak Performances is a program of the Office of Arts and Cultural Programming at Montclair State University and has been honored by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts with an Arts Citation of Excellence and Designation of Major Impact. Programs in this season are made possible in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; the New England Foundation for the Arts' National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Alison and James T. Cirenza; Holly and Robert Gregory; and The Honorable Mary Mochary.

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