Friday, May 24, 2019

Live Arts Season at the Morris Museum Brings Thrilling, Original Work From Around the World to The Bickford Theatre

Live Arts at the Morris Museum

Live Arts at the Morris Museum, a bold new performance series, introduces cultural climate change to Morris County’s Morris Museum in historic Morristown, New Jersey. Innovative artists from around the world and around the area will dominate the season with world and regional premieres of the most interesting new work being created in music, dance and theater.

Live Arts at the Morris Museum is the brainchild of the new Curatorial Director of Live Arts, Brett Wellman Messenger who comes to The Morris Museum by way of The Santa Fe Opera and Peak Performances.

“I see this series as an impetus for exciting, new conversations with our audiences. They are savvy, sophisticated and ready for new cultural adventures right in their own backyard,” Messenger said. “We’re presenting works that align with the Museum’s evolving mission to explore sound, motion and kinetic art onstage as well as in the galleries.” Cleveland Johnson, Executive Director, says “The Morris Museum is a rarity in the museum world—it has its own performing arts facility. The Museum can become home for those eyeing new horizons, who are ready to be surprised, who are hungry for new artistic creations.”

On Thursday, June 6th there will be a Live Arts at the Morris Museum Launch Event where Kyle Marshall Choreography, who appear later in the season, will preview their new work, a duet called Horizon.

WHERE: Museum’s 312-seat Bickford Theatre, Morris Museum, 6 Normandy Hgts. Rd., Morristown

Dzul Dance:
The Last Mayan King

WHEN: Friday, September 20, 8:00PM, Saturday, September 21, 2:00PM

Javier Dzul has of the most impressive and exotic resumes in modern dance. He grew up in the jungles of southern Mexico performing Mayan ritual dance until the age of 16 when he became the last king of his Mayan tribe. He then left his home, becoming a principal dancer with Ballet Nacional de Mexico and Ballet Folklorico de Mexico before he went to Ballet Nacional de Cuba. From there he got a scholarship to study with Martha Graham and danced with the company and also worked with Pearl Lang and Alvin Ailey. Along the way he learned and performed aerial work. That, along with the Mayan history, the influences of modern dance legends is traced on his remarkable body and in the vastly rich physical vocabulary he draws upon in his extraordinary work. His choreography exudes a sinewy, sinuous muscularity befitting Mayan royalty. The Last Mayan King channels the ferocity and grandeur of Mayan culture and Dzul’s own trajectory. Despite the ravages of the conquistadores, Maya culture never vanished and remains thrillingly alive onstage in Dzul’s work.

Rob Kapilow
What Makes it Great/American Song Book/Cole Porter 
Featuring Broadway stars Michael Winther & Sally Wilfert

WHEN: Sunday, October 6, 2:00PM

The witty and urbane Cole Porter joyfully pushed the envelope of musical theater in the 1920s, 30s and 40s with ultra-sophisticated, often risqué songs banned by the censors and adored by theatergoers. Unlike most of the 20th century’s great songwriters, Porter grew up in a world of unbelievable wealth and privilege that included Yale, Harvard and astonishingly lavish travel. Yet beneath his socially perfect public persona was a hidden private life that influenced nearly all of his music and lyrics. Broadway stars Sally Wilfert and Michael Winther join Rob Kapilow for a musical tour through Porter’s extraordinary life and career, as they take a fresh look at Porter’s complex highbrow/lowbrow sensibility in classic songs like “You’re the Top,” “Night and Day,” “All Through the Night” and “Begin the Beguine."

Sylvia Milo
The Other Mozart

WHEN: Friday, October 18, at 8:00PM, Saturday, October 19, 2:00PM and 8:00PM

“Imagine an 11-year-old girl performing the most difficult sonatas and concertos of the greatest composers…with precision, with incredible lightness, with impeccable taste,” the Austrian press raved in 1763. That 11 year old girl was Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl) Mozart and The Other Mozart is an award-winning play based on the true story of the sister of Wolfgang Amadeus. A prodigy, keyboard virtuoso and composer who performed throughout Europe with her brother to equal acclaim, her work and her story faded away by the age of 18, lost to history in the shadow of her famous brother. This innovative production, created and performed by Sylvia Milo, imagines the life of the forgotten genius through her letters and features an original score written by Nathan Davis and Phyllis Chen (who appears with her own show later in the Live Arts season) featuring music box and toy piano. “Strikingly Beautiful” – The New York Times

Telegraph Quartet and Robert Sirota 
Wave Upon Wave

WHEN: Sunday, November 3, at 2:00PM

San Francisco’s vibrant, young Telegraph Quartet joins forces with esteemed composer, Robert Sirota to perform his moving work, Wave Upon Wave. In this piece, which was commissioned to Telegraph Quartet, Sirota looks “inward to examine the topography of the human heart. Wave Upon Wave is about our fears, our hopes and our prayers that we will triumph over the forces of darkness that threaten to overwhelm us,” he says. If the string quartet is the mountaintop experience for composers, then Sirota has found the perfect musical partners to lift his work, and us, to the summit. Robert Sirota will be at the performance and will participate in a discussion about his work. In addition the Telegraph Quartet will perform Bartok’s String Quartet No. 4 and Haydn’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 77, No. 2 to create an afternoon of glorious music.

10 Hairy Legs & Doug Elkins
Trouble Will Find Me: Remixed (World Premiere)

WHEN: Thursday, November 21-23 8:00PM

New Jersey’s own dance heroes, 10 Hairy Legs, celebrate the artistry of the male dancer. They will join forces with up-from-the-street choreographer Doug Elkins for Trouble Will Find Me: Remixed, a new site-specific piece staged, fittingly, in the Museum’s Main Gallery with the new exhibition, Aerosol: Graffiti l Street Art l New Jersey l Now as their backdrop. This unique and playful World Premiere allows the audience to experience ‘dance in the round.’ Trouble Will Find Me: Remixed will feature a new soundtrack of surprising pieces of music ranging from baroque to contemporary pop. Audience members are invited to sit, walk, and move about during this fresh dance happening. Each performance will be different as the nimble dancers respond spontaneously to the soundtrack (which will be played on shuffle) so that every performance is developing right before our eyes, a user-friendly Russian roulette of dance. There will be a cash bar in the gallery so audience members can imbibe during and after the performance which will then evolve into a social affair/dance party with the artists.

Yevgeny Kutik
Music from the Suitcase

WHEN: Saturday December 21, at 8:00PM and Sunday December 22, 2:00PM

When Yevgeny Kutik was five years old, he and his family emigrated from the deteriorating Soviet Union to the United States. They had to leave most of their possessions behind and fit everything else into just two suitcases. Yevgeny’s mother, a violin teacher, insisted on filling one of the suitcases with sheet music from the family’s collection. Years later, Yevgeny began to explore the music from the suitcase and was enthralled with the pieces he discovered, many of them banned by the Nazi State Music Bureau for being degenerate. “They began to organize themselves into a distinct array of moods and themes…Russian folklore, fantasy, and poetry. It reminds me of what we went through and how far we have come,” Kutik says.  Composer Richard Strauss headed the bureau for two years and tried to ensure that banned music by composers such as Mahler and Mendelssohn survived the Nazi reign. Music From A Suitcase unifies Strauss’ own luscious scores with prominent works by four composers whose music was banned: Mendelssohn, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Mahler. The various ways in which these five composers antagonized the Nazis through their artistry are exemplified in their respective pieces, highlighting the resilience and enduring power of art to fight tyranny and oppression.

Kyle Marshall Choreography
Horizon (World Premiere)

WHEN: Friday, January 17, 8:00PM, Saturday, January 18, 2:00PM and 8:00PM

Provocative, young Kyle Marshall Choreography will bring three new works to Live Arts. A.D. is a solo that explores the dancer’s body as a sacred vessel and its relationship to Christianity. King honors Martin Luther King. From the 1955 Montgomery Bus boycott to his last “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech in Memphis 1968, Dr. King put his body where his mouth was and marched and marched and marched for social change. What was the physical and emotional price of that marching? What were effects on his body and soul? Also on the program is the World Premiere of a new duet, Horizon. In Horizon, a man and a woman of different races negotiate the tension of our expectations--what may occur and what we, the audience, have been trained to expect. These three pieces exemplify Kyle Marshall Choreography’s core belief in “the dancing body as a container of history, an igniter of social reform and a site of celebration.”

Phyllis Chen
Lighting the Dark and Automatoys (World Premiere)

WHEN: Friday, March 13, 8:00 PM, Saturday, March 14, 2:00 PM

Phyllis Chen played the toy piano as a little girl and fell in love with it when she encountered it again as an adult. Here was a remarkable instrument with no set history or rigid rules about how it should be played. With its unrefined but beautiful sound, this children’s toy is a new frontier in music and Phyllis Chen’s mission is to explore all its possibilities.  She is a composer, keyboardist and creative force whose music draws from her tactile exploration of objects and sound.  For the Morris Museum, she will perform Lighting the Dark, a large scale solo work that incorporates two toy pianos, a clavichord, an accordion and custom made music boxes. And she will premiere a brand new work. Described by The Washington Post as “a virtuoso of the toy piano, she delights in the delicate sonorities of music boxes and everyday objects, weaving them into strikingly original works of engaging lightness and transparency.(…)Chen is a master of the art of play — serious, serious play.” For her new work, Automatoys, Chen will hold a workshop on Monday, February 17 where participants are invited to draw on scrolls which Chen will use to create individual compositions based on the illustrations. These miniature compositions become a visual and aural collage- audiences will see and hear these works as they are projected live during the performance. This new work which is making its World Premiere at Live Arts assembles an orchestra of custom made music boxes and automatic musical instruments which perform a work that that is as visual as it is sonorous. Automatoys will coincide with the Museum’s third installment of the exhibition series Cache of Kinetic Art: Tiny Intricacies.

Thaddeus Phillips
Inflatable Space

WHEN: Friday, April 10, at 8:00 PM, Saturday, April 11, 2:00 PM

“Protean, often funny, and somehow the audience’s ally …a wry and compassionate, if sometimes barbed, take on contemporary issues.”—American Theatre

2001: A Space Odyssey changed film and the way we look at it forever. Now acclaimed theatrical shaman Thaddeus Phillips changes the way we look at theater with Inflatable Space, a solar system extravaganza that brings outer space to the intimate stage. For his latest work, the award-winning director/designer/performer teams up with actor Ean Sheehy to deploy an assemblage of custom-crafted inflatable scenery that expands, contracts and collapses as he explores a universe of creation and destruction. Using Carl Sagan’s legendary Golden Record (humanity’s 1977 message to other worlds) as a launch pad, Phillips examines a selected history of life on earth. Visually stunning, Inflatable Space is as original as a walk on the moon as close to space travel as most of us will get, with breathtaking fun along the way.  Colombian pop star, Juan Gabriel Turbay creates a sonic landscape using the tracks on the Golden Record while LA based video artist, Spencer Sheridan delivers a playful and evocative video design that launches this work beyond normal theatrical conventions.                             

Rob Kapilow
What Makes it Great: Beethoven Appassionata                                             
Celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020

WHEN: Sunday, April 19, 2:00 PM

Rob Kapilow returns in April to introduce audiences to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor (known as Beethoven’s Appassionata). Whether this work is very familiar or completely new, this program will charge it with new meaning and leave the audience walking away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for this masterpiece by one of (if not the) greatest composers of all time. Celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday in 2020 with this program that makes his music new to all.

Hai-Ting Chinn
Science Fair: An Opera with Experiments

WHEN: Friday, April 24, 8:00PM, Saturday, April 25, 2:00 PM

Think of Hai-Ting Chinn as a 21st century Mr. Wizard with a thrilling mezzo-soprano voice. “A scientist in the laboratory is not merely a technician but also a child faced with natural phenomena,” she sings in her new show SCIENCE FAIR, An Opera Singer’s Love Song to Science. Conceived and performed by Hai-Ting Chinn, Science Fair uses physical demonstrations and experiments, a libretto created from the words of scientists, and original music to illuminate our current understanding of the natural world. Celebrating curiosities like the formation of our solar system, the structure of the atom, and the ancient legacy of DNA, Science Fair blends light-hearted humor with luscious operatic vocals-- and a remarkable wardrobe-- to uplift the ordinary into the realm of wonder.

“An entertaining, sometimes poetic and unapologetically didactic concoction made up of song, science lectures and demonstrations.” – The New York Times

The Museum is located at 6 Normandy Heights Road (at the corner of Columbia Turnpike) in Morristown, NJ, and is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday, 12:00 to 5:00pm. In addition, the Museum is open evenings from 5:00 to 8:00pm on the second and third Thursday of the month. Admission to the Museum is $10 for adults and $7 for children, students and senior citizens. Admission is always free for Museum members.  For more information, call (973) 971-3700, or visit