OZ Arts 2017-18 brings phenomenal artists to Nashville

Bassem Youssef comes to OZ Arts Nashville November 18  Photo by Yehia Elzeiny

Bassem Youssef comes to OZ Arts Nashville November 18 (Photo by Yehia Elzeiny)

OZ Arts Nashville, the city’s pioneering contemporary arts center, recently announced its 2017-18 season. Artistic Director Lauren Snelling has programmed a fifth season of works that are by turns viscerally beautiful, death-defying, innovative and topical. The new season brings such diverse talent as Renee Fleming, Brandon Donahue and Bassem Youssef.

The season begins next month, on July 20, 2017, with the first theatre production to grace the TNT (Thursday Night Things) local spotlight series. Simon Stephens’ moving monologue Sea Wall, directed by Jaclynn Jutting and performed by Nat McIntyre will emerge from within an installation of photographs by Tina Gionis in OZ Arts’ Grand Salon.

Kicking off the Mainstage program on August 19, 2017, is the latest edition of OZ Arts’ annual Family Day, an indoor-outdoor extravaganza for young people and families. This year’s event, focused on sports and art, gives visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in thematic art-making activities as well as interactive installations by Brandon Donahue, including a volleyball court with unique design and a basketball court with handpainted backboards. A dozen of Donahue’s wildly creative art works made from scavenged sports equipment and found artifacts will also be installed on OZ Arts’ gallery walls. in OZ Arts’ front parking lot, audiences can take in stunts by skate boarders and BMX riders on a park of ramps assembled for the occasion.

Even in a city teeming with music, OZ Arts boasts several singular music—or music-influenced—programs this season. The legendary American soprano Renée Fleming comes to the venue for a special concert on December 1, 2017, inaugurating the Chairman’s Choice performance selection by Board Chairman Cano Ozgener. Seattle’s award-winning company zoe | juniper, led by choreographer Zoe Scofield and visual artist Juniper Shuey, presents Clear & Sweet (September 14 & 15), a multi-disciplinary piece inspired by the Sacred Harp choral music tradition originating in the American South and staged in the round with singers interspersed in the audience. Montreal-based scratch DJ, music producer and graphic novelist Kid Koala, who performed two shows of his Nufonia Must Fall at OZ Arts in 2016, returns with Satellite (April, 2018), in which he enlists the audience to join the performance by providing them with a turntable, an effects box and a crate of records.

En Garde Arts’ profoundly moving documentary theater production Wilderness comes to OZ Arts for two performances on October 20 & 21. In Wilderness, six adolescents stand at the brink of emotional chaos, lost in social stigma, insecurity, aggression and anger; their parents risk losing their children forever. Inspired by firsthand interviews and field research conducted by En Garde Arts’ Executive Producer Anne Hamburger and co-writer, director Seth Bockley, these families’ stories elucidate issues of mental health, addiction, gender and sexual identity and the extraordinary challenge of coming of age in 21st Century America. Another program that illuminates the world we currently inhabit, Bassem Youssef shares his experience as the “Jon Stewart of the Arab World” and his thoughts on the political climate that led to the Arab Spring and its parallels to the current state of American politics in The Joke Is Mightier Than the Sword (November 18, 2017).

Iconic artist Elizabeth Streb brings her company STREB Extreme Action to OZ Arts to perform SEA (Singular Extreme Actions), on January 27 & 28, 2018. The work showcases Streb’s physics-redefining “PopAction” choreography combining dance, athletics, boxing, rodeo, circus and stunt work into feats of pure daring and strict precision. Robin Frohardt’s inventive theater work The Pigeoning employs Bunraku-style puppetry, original music and lo-fi special effects to tell the story of a New York City office worker in the 1980s who is convinced pigeons are plotting against him.

TNT, OZ Arts’ local spotlight series, also features Love Song to the Sun, from electric six-string violin composer-performer Tracy Silverman, with Blair School of Music (October 5, 2017); Michael Gordon’s Rushes, performed by Rushes Ensemble, and Timber, performed by Mantra Percussion (March 22); and a Musicircus curated by Nashville’s Colleen Phelps (May 17, 2018).

Season Subscriptions will be $289 for season 5 which is a 20% savings and will be on sale May 14, 2017 through July 19, 2017. Tickets for all events can be purchased online throughout the year at www.ozartsnashville.org. OZ Arts is located at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle in Nashville, Tenn.

OZ ARTS NASHVILLE’S 2017-18 SEASON

THEATER: Sea Wall. Written by Simon Stephens, directed by Jaclynn Jutting and performed by Nat McIntyre
July 20, 2017; 7pm (Doors open at 6:30pm)

Brandon Donahue highlights OZ Family Day August 19

Brandon Donahue highlights OZ Family Day August 19

KIDS AND FAMILY: Family Day at OZ. Brandon Donahue, August 19, 2017, 11am – 3pm. BMX & skate shows at 12:30 & 2pm (25 minutes each). Visual artist Brandon Donahue will create multiple interactive art installations, including an outdoor volleyball court and an indoor basketball court. OZ Arts will also display a selection of Donahue’s work on the warehouse venue’s gallery walls, including pieces made from using scavenged sports equipment and found urban artifacts that otherwise would have been thrown away. Moving the Family Day mainstage outdoors this year, OZ Arts transforms its front parking lot into a park with BMX and skateboard ramps for two stunt performances.

INTERDISCIPLINARY PERFORMANCE: Clear & Sweet by zoe | juniper. September 14 & 15, 2017, 8pm (65 minutes, no intermission); Post-show Q&A on September 14, 2017.
Clear & Sweet is a multi-disciplinary performance incorporating dance and live vocals. Based on an inquiry into the raw and uniquely American tradition of Sacred Harp singing, a rousing tradition of sacred choral music originating in the American South, the piece is performed in the round with singers integrated into the audience, creating an immersive visual and sonic experience. Scofield’s angular, intense choreography and Shuey’s cutting-edge visual design embody a search for redemption, shifting points of perspective for the audience. Clear & Sweet highlights the strength that can be found in community and the redemption that can be achieved through physical exertion.

MUSIC: Love Song to the Sun by Tracy Silverman and Robin Fountain with Blair School of Music. October 5, 2017, 7pm (Doors open at 6:30pm).
Redefining the role of the violin in contemporary music, Nashville-based composer-musician Tracy Silverman has contributed significantly to the development and repertoire for the electric six-string violin and what he calls “21st century violin playing.” He composed and performs Love Song to the Sun, a new, evening-length, multimedia performance for solo six-string electric violin and electronics, with constructed media design, alongside 75 undergraduate musicians from Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. The performance utilizes interactive projections to tell a dramatic story of survival and triumph. It is a fusion of audio and visual technologies containing symphonic breadth and cinematic dimension, where the performer himself morphs into the abstract. In a departure from traditional concert surrounds, Tracy Silverman and the Blair School of Music orchestra, led by Robin Fountain, reimagine the 21st century classical concert for both performers and audience inside OZ Arts’ non-traditional warehouse space.

THEATER: Wilderness by En Garde Arts. Written by Anne Hamburger and Seth Bockley and directed by Seth Bockley. October 20 & 21, 2017, 8pm (no intermission); post-show Q&A on October 20 & 21. Performances suitable for ages 14 and up.
Wilderness is a pulsating new multimedia documentary theatre piece that speaks to our collective search for connection and hope, as families survive the extraordinary pressures and complexities that accompany coming of age in 21st Century America. It is anchored by six real families’ stories that explore issues of mental health and addiction as well as gender and sexual identity.

LECTURE: The Joke Is Mightier Than the Sword by Bassem Youssef. November 18, 2017, 8pm.
Dubbed the Jon Stewart of the Arab World, Bassem Youssef was the creator and host of the wildly popular TV show “Al-Bernameg,” the first political satire show in the Middle East and, with 30 million viewers every week, the most watched program in the region from 2011 through 2014.

Throughout its three seasons “Al-Bernameg” remained controversial for its hilarious and bold criticism of the ruling powers. Accused of being “anti-Islam” and insulting the president of Egypt, Youssef was arrested and interrogated before being released on bail. During its final season, the show achieved unprecedented ratings before Youssef announced its termination due to overwhelming political pressures on the show and the airing channel.

In The Joke Is Mightier than the Sword, Youssef shares his personal story and his thoughts on the political climate that led to the Arab Spring, its parallels to the current state of American politics and how propaganda lays the foundation for dictatorial regimes.

In 2013, TIME Magazine named Youssef of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. He has also appeared on Foreign Policy’s list of “100 Leading Global Thinkers.” He was also received the International Press Freedom Award in 2013 from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Youssef’s current projects are a documentary film entitled Tickling Giants, which follows Youssef and the team of “AlBernameg” as they endure physical threats, protests and legal action—all because of jokes. His books include The Democracy Handbook and Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring.

Renee Fleming sings at OZ Arts Nashville December 1

Renee Fleming sings at OZ Arts Nashville December 1

MUSIC: Renée Fleming, December 1, 2017, 8pm.
One of the most beloved and celebrated American singers of our time, soprano Renée Fleming captivates audiences with her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry and compelling stage presence. For the inaugural Chairman’s Choice event at OZ Arts—a performance selected by Board Chairman Cano Ozgener—Fleming will perform an evening-length concert featuring French and Italian classics as well as some American contemporary works.

At a White House ceremony in 2013, President Obama awarded Fleming the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest honor for an individual artist. Known as “the people’s diva” and winner of the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo, she continues to grace the world’s greatest opera stages and concert halls, now extending her reach to include other musical forms and media. Fleming has explored a number of new-music projects not normally associated with an opera diva, namely a jazz recording with Fred Hersch and Bill Frisell released in 2005 and her recent album, Distant Light featuring modern works by Swedish maestro Anders Hillborg and Iceland’s Björk. In recent years, Fleming has hosted a wide variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live in HD” series for movie theaters and television, and “Live from Lincoln Center” on PBS. She brought her voice to a vast new audience in 2014, as the first classical artist to sing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.

DANCE: SEA (Singular Extreme Actions) by STREB. January 27, 2018, 3pm & 8pm. A Post-Show Q&A will follow each performance
January 28, 2018, 2pm; 90 minutes including one 15-minute intermission.
Elizabeth Streb’s SEA is a thrilling and death-defying work in which daredevil performers interact with mechanics and hardware specifically created for the show. In this edge-of-your-seat, adrenalinized spectacle, the real-life action heroes of Streb’s company STREB Extreme Action redefine physics with unique “PopAction” choreography that intertwines dance, athletics, boxing, rodeo, circus and stunt work. The result is pure daring combined with the strictest precision. The SEA experience includes a soundtrack created by STREB’s resident DJ and emcee, Zaire Baptista.

THEATER: The Pigeoning by Robin Frohardt. February 15 at 10am; February 16 at 10am and 7pm; and February 17 at 7pm. 60 minutes, no intermission; post-show Q&A after the February 16 evening performance; appropriate for ages 8+ .
Robin Frohardt’s The Pigeoning is a Bunraku-style puppetry theater production performed by five puppeteers with an original score. In The Pigeoning, Frank is an office worker living in New York in the early 1980s who is obsessed with cleanliness and order. Plagued by pigeons in the park, Frank starts to believe they are plotting against him. A darkly comedic yet heartfelt adventure, The Pigeoning spins articulate puppetry, live music, video and lo-fi special effects into an epic tale about obsessive compulsion and the illusion of safety and control in the context of the end of the world.

MUSIC: Michael Gordon’s Rushes, Performed by Rushes Ensemble, and Timber, Performed by Mantra Percussion. March 22, 2018, 7pm (Doors open at 6:30pm).
This concert curated by Nashville-based musician Maya Stone pairs Rushes and Timber, two works by Michael Gordon, composer and co-founder of the iconic Bang on a Can collective. Rushes features one of the most unorthodox groups imaginable, Rushes Ensemble, which consists of seven bassoons (and of which Stone is a member). Timber includes six simantra (simple two-by-four slabs of wood, amplified and yielding trance-like sonic textures), performed by Mantra Percussion. Presented at both ends of the rectangular, open warehouse space at OZ Arts, audiences will be invited to walk around during the performance, sit or lie down in the areas between the musicians.

MUSIC: Satellite by Kid Koala. Dates TBA
OZ Arts welcomes back world-renowned scratch DJ, music producer and graphic novelist Kid Koala with his newest, interactive work, Satellite. In Satellite, the follow-up to the his Nufonia Must Fall Live—presented by OZ Arts in 2016—the audience is seated, four per table, and equipped with a turntable, an effects box and a small crate of color-coded vinyl records. Through subtle colored lighting changes in the room, the audience is cued to play along, becoming an “ambient vinyl orchestra” accompanying Kid Koala, melding their individual strains into a fluid body of sound. Together, these harmonized turntables create a unique, uplifting and dynamic evening of light and music.

MUSIC: Musicircus, Curated by Colleen Phelps. May 17, 2018, 10am – 9pm.
Inspired by John Cage’s anarchic concerts of the 1960’s, a “Music Circus” is defined as a series of simultaneous performances, spanning a variety of styles, by both soloists and ensembles. It is a community event with no score and no rules, bar a set of loose guidelines that include: the event should be fun, there should be food and drink, and it should include the greatest possible variety of participants. In celebration of the diversity of artistic endeavors thriving in Nashville, the campus of OZ Arts, both indoors and outdoors, will team with artists presenting works.

Since opening in 2014, OZ Arts Nashville, a 501(c)(3) contemporary arts center, has changed the cultural landscape of the city. Housed in the former C.A.O. cigar warehouse owned by Nashville’s Ozgener family, OZ Arts brings world-class performances and art installations to the city, and gives ambitious local artists opportunities to work on a grand scale. The flexible 10,000 square-foot, column-free venue, nestled amidst five acres of artfully landscaped grounds, is continually reconfigured to serve artists’ imaginations, and to challenge and inspire a diverse range of curious audiences.

OZ Arts regularly engages the community for participation with visiting artists and artworks – either directly, through school visits, workshops, master classes, school performances and/or curated programs led by local teaching artists. In addition, OZ Arts founded a program called OZ School Days, a daylong, multi-arts program presented in partnership with Centennial Performing Arts Studios that aims to engage students aged 5 – 15yrs old on days when Metro Nashville Public Schools are out of session (ex: Columbus Day, Presidents Day). For more information, please visit http://www.ozartsnashville.org/.