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Fisher Center at Bard Announces 2020-21 Season


The season will feature commissions of New Work from Meshell Ndegeocello, Charlotte Brathwaite, Tania El Khoury, Peter Sellars, and more.

Fisher Center at Bard Announces 2020-21 Season

The Fisher Center at Bard will present a 2020-2021 season of virtual and interactive works that focus on healing and transformation in troubled times. In each project, leading artists engage with cutting-edge technology to create compassionate and courageous offerings for a world riven by the pandemic and political strife. In most cases these works are presented free of charge, as gifts designed to reach as broad a public as possible without financial barriers to access. The season includes five newly commissioned works through Live Arts Bard, the Fisher Center's residency and commissioning program, now in its eighth year. The virtual offerings build on the Fisher Center's path-breaking exploration of virtual performance, which began in April with Ashley Tata's online production of Caryl Churchill's Mad Forest. The Fisher Center continues to navigate the complexities of live performance in our precarious present, embracing technology as a means of sharing vital artistry and gripping examinations of the most pressing issues of our time.

Fisher Center Artistic Director Gideon Lester says, "The season was born from a number of urgent questions. How can we continue to support artists in this time when gathering in person is impossible? What kind of artistic interventions and offerings might offer healing and hope to communities around the world in this time of turmoil and strife? What might artists teach us about new forms and ways of working that we might carry forward from the shutdown into the future? In these projects, brilliant artists from across genres are exploring entirely contemporary forms to show us paths of hope and transformation."

Responding to the events of 2020, the projects in this season explore and reflect on what it means to live through and create work in the midst of a pandemic, global crises, and political turmoil. From multimedia performances, rituals, and political actions to classical music, interactive live art, and dance on film, this season at Bard broadens the potential of virtual performance across genres, with all offerings available on UPSTREAMING, the Fisher Center's online venue. Audiences will be invited to experience and engage with each of these projects in entirely different ways, yet together the season seeks to build community and activism in isolation.

2020-2021 programming kicked off Saturday, September 5, with the first of four live-streamed concerts comprising Out of the Silence: A Celebration of Music, presented by the Bard Music Festival and The Orchestra Now (TŌN). The series celebrates the joy of music-making and Bard's commitment to presenting unjustly neglected works. Programs will feature works by prominent Black composers alongside a selection of pieces from the BMF archives, together tracing the history of classical music from the late 18th century to the present and affirming the centrality of music to life and our public culture. The programs are conducted by Leon Botstein (artistic co-director, BMF; music director, TŌN), James Bagwell, Andrés Rivas, and Zachary Schwartzman.

This season, the projects commissioned by Live Arts Bard (LAB) continue to build new relationships with artists and nurture long standing ones. The first-up LAB-commissioned virtual work brings ten-time Grammy-nominated musician Meshell Ndegeocello (virtually) back to the Fisher Center, with Chapter & Verse: The Gospel of James Baldwin. This work, co-commissioned with UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre, and Festival de Marseilles and made in collaboration with acclaimed director Charlotte Brathwaite, is an episodic, multimedia "ritual toolkit for justice" with new music, text, interviews, printed materials, and calls to action inspired by the work of James Baldwin. Charlotte Brathwaite also joins collaborators June Cross, Sunder Ganglani, Janani Balasubramanian, and Justin Hicks for The Future is Present: A Casting the Vote Project, an UPSTREAMING commission that continues to build new possibilities for virtual and hybrid activism and performance, engaging a core group of Black and Indigenous youths from the Hudson Valley and NYC to collaborate with Bard students and professional artist/activists and art-makers to imagine a better world. The work will feature a series of performance and visual outputs and actions throughout the fall. Tania El Khoury-Bard College's recently-announced Distinguished Artist in Residence of Theater and Performance, who will soon, with Zaid Abu-Rish, lead a groundbreaking Master of Arts program in Human Rights and the Arts at the college-reteams with artist Basel Zaraa for As Far as Isolation Goes, a companion piece to their Bessie Award-winning collaboration As Far As My Fingertips Take Me. This U.S. Premiere, a one-on-one live Zoom performance, reflects on the mental and physical turmoil experienced by migrants and refugees. To herald in a new year and in celebration of the resilience of the human spirit, the Fisher Center teams with UCLA's Boethius Initiative on an international commission from the fearlessly inventive Peter Sellars. "this body is so impermanent..." (Vimalakirti Sutra, Chapter Two) is a film made in isolation from across the planet, incorporating text, song, movement, and calligraphy, using the teachings of an ancient Buddhist sutra on illness and the impermanent material body. Four virtuosic artists join Sellars to create this work: South Indian singer Ganavya Doraiswamy, improvisatory dancer Michael Schumacher, calligrapher Wang Dongling, and cinematographer Yu Lik-wai.

Pam Tanowitz, the Fisher Center's first and current Choreographer in Residence, brings a multitude of digital projects to the season, all born from necessity in a season where she and her company saw cancellations and postponements of live engagements compile month after month. Two new dance for camera works are set to premiere in 2021: Past Present Future, a tryptic of short films reimagining existing Pam Tanowitz Dance material in unconventional settings, commissioned by PBS/All Arts and co-produced by the Fisher Center and Cyprian Films; and Finally Unfinished, a Jasper Johns-inspired co-commission from the Fisher Center and Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Rounding out the season will be a celebration of Tanowitz's Four Quartets, which premiered in 2018 at Bard Summerscape, across various offerings in the fall of 2020. These include a limited stream of an archival recording of the dance; a new documentary about its creation; and an audio recording of esteemed actress Kathleen Chalfant-who narrates the work in live performances-reading T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets.

Exact release dates and details for how to access each project will be announced through

2020-2021 Schedule and Project Descriptions

Bard Music Festival and The Orchestra Now

Out of the Silence: A Celebration of Music

September 5, 12, 19, and 26 at 5:30 pm EST

The Orchestra Now (TŌN), conducted by Leon Botstein, James Bagwell, Andrés Rivas & Zachary Schwartzman

Pairing works by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák and Bartók - all past subjects of the Bard Music Festival - with music by ten prominent Black composers - ranging from Classical pioneer Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges to contemporary Americans Alvin Singleton, Adolphus Hailstork and Jessie Montgomery, this free, four-concert series celebrates Bard's commitment to neglected rarities and the unquenchable joy of music-making. All four programs will be performed without an audience and with appropriate safety measures on Bard College's idyllic Hudson Valley campus by its unique graduate training orchestra, TŌN, under the leadership of Music Director Leon Botstein.

Live Arts Bard presents

Meshell Ndegeocello

Chapter & Verse: The Gospel of James Baldwin

Launches September 15

Inspired by the writing of James Baldwin

Created by Meshell Ndegeocello

In collaboration with Charlotte Brathwaite

Featuring the contributions of Staceyann Chin, Suné Woods, Nicholas Galanin, and others to be announced

Graphic Design by Rebecca Meek

A Co-Production of Bismillah, LLC and Fisher Center at Bard

Co-Commissioned by Live Arts Bard, UCLA's Center for the Art of Performance, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre, and the Festival de Marseilles.

"No label, no slogan, no party, no skin color, and no religion is more important than the human being."-James Baldwin

Chapter & Verse: The Gospel of James Baldwin is a 21st century ritual tool kit for justice, shared in isolation but bridging communities around the world. Inspired by James Baldwin's seminal treaty on justice in America, The Fire Next Time, the project was created during the time of two raging pandemics plaguing the United States: COVID-19 and racism.

Each month, September through December 2020, the project offers free gifts-music, thoughts, meditations, and visual testimonies of resilience-inspired by James Baldwin's work, interpreted for today by Ndegeocello, Brathwaite, poet and activist Staceyann Chin, artists Suné Woods and Nicholas Galanin, and more.

The Bard College Theater & Performance Program and Live Arts Bard present

The Future is Present: A Casting the Vote Project

Launching October 2020

Created in collaboration with Bard students and youth artist/activists, led by the creative team of Charlotte Brathwaite, Justin Hicks, Janani Balasubramanian, Sunder Ganglani, with producer Alyssa Simmons and documentarian June Cross

A co-production of Fisher Center at Bard and Casting the Vote.

Co-commissioned by Live Arts Bard Bard and New York Live Arts

The Future is Present is a high-impact, liberatory media project that engages a core group of Black and Indigenous youth activists and art makers working in tandem with Bard students and adult movement leaders, artists, and researchers. Inside a 7-week art and political action laboratory, the youth leaders will craft a set of core demands and messages for our collective future, which will then be amplified through a series of high-distribution public actions and artistic interventions.

Pam Tanowitz

Four Quartets Rehearsed

October/November 2020

Exact dates and details to be announced

Choreography by Pam Tanowitz

Text by T. S. Eliot

Images by Brice Marden

Music by Kaija Saariaho

Scenic and Lighting Design by Clifton Taylor

Costume Design by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung

Sound Design by Jean-Baptiste Barriére

Music performed by The Knights

Featuring Kathleen Chalfant

In 2018, three landmark contemporary artists joined to imagine T. S. Eliot's haunting and mysterious meditation on time, Four Quartets, as a ravishing union of dance, music, painting, and poetry. Hailed by the New York Times as "The greatest creation of dance theater so far this century," the work's world tour was temporarily halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over a weekend this fall, the Fisher Center will host a limited streaming event of the archival recording of the work, accompanied by the release of a new documentary about the work from the perspective of those who perform it, and an audio recording of actress Kathleen Chalfant reading the poem-the first authorized recording of the poem read by a woman.

Kathleen Chalfant's recording of Four Quartets is supported by the T. S. Eliot Foundation.

Live Arts Bard presents

Tania El Khoury

As Far as Isolation Goes

Winter 2021

Exact dates and details to be announced

Created by Tania El Khoury, in collaboration with Basel Zaraa

Performed by Basel Zaraa

As Far As Isolation Goes (Online) is a live-streamed, 1-on-1 performance using touch, sound, and interactivity to bring audience members in contact with those faced with inhumane detention centers and a mental health system that disregards their political and emotional humanity.

A collaboration between live artist Tania El Khoury and musician and street artist Basel Zaraa, reimagined online during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, the piece explores the mental and physical health experiences of refugees. Built as a companion piece to their original Bessie Award-winning collaboration As Far As My Fingertips Take Me, this new work makes its U.S. premiere with the Fisher Center in 2021.

As Far as Isolation Goes was originally commissioned by the Sick of the Fringe 2019. The online version was originally commissioned by GIFT 2020.

Live Arts Bard presents

Peter Sellars

"this body is so impermanent..." (Vimalakirti Sutra, Chapter Two)

January/February 2021

Exact dates and details to be announced

Illuminations of illness.

A film made in isolation across the planet.

Performed By Wang Dongling, Michael Schumacher, and Ganavya Doraiswamy

Directed By Peter Sellars

Cinematography By Yu Lik-wai

Sound Design By Shahrokh Yadegari

English Translation By Robert Thurman

Chinese Translation By Kumārajīva

Co-produced by the Fisher Center and the Boethius Initiative at UCLA

What can we learn from a virus? Can we recognize COVID-19 not only as an affliction but also as a messenger? The Vimalakirti Sutra, an inconceivably radiant Buddhist text from the first century CE, understands illness as a path of spiritual awakening. Four virtuosic and singular artists - blazing South Indian singer Ganavya Doraiswamy, transcendent improvisatory dancer Michael Schumacher, pathbreaking calligrapher Wang Dongling, and fearlessly inventive director Peter Sellars - are creating an hour-long simultaneous meditation that explores two pages from this visionary text, collaborating in cyberspace from Portland, Amsterdam, and Hangzhou. Their exchange reaches across three continents and three artforms as a film made in real time, offered for free as a gift to a world in pain.

Live Arts Bard presents

Pam Tanowitz

Past, Present, Future


Finally Unfinished

Spring 2021

Exact dates and details to be announced

Past, Present, Future

Choreography by Pam Tanowitz

Film Directed by Liz Sargent

A co-production of the Fisher Center and Cyprian Films

Co-commissioned by the Fisher Center and PBS / All Arts

FInally Unfinished

Choreography by Pam Tanowitz

Music by Caroline Shaw

Film Directed by Liz Sargent

A co-production of the Fisher Center and Cyprian Films

Co-commissioned by Live Arts Bardand the Philadelphia Museum of Art

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