If you talk to Joann Browning about the arts in Newark, be prepared to set aside some time. There is a lot to talk about.
Browning is associate dean for the arts in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Delaware. University programs are open to the public. Yet the city’s artistic offerings are not limited to campus. Newark itself has more arts organizations and events than many urban centers.
All the World is a Stage
At UD, Professional Theatre Training Program students are currently in the second year of the three-year program. (No new students come into the program during the three-year cycle.) Last year, the university incorporated the Resident Ensemble Players into the program. In their third year, the students will merge with the 10 resident, professional actors to form a larger troupe of about 20 performers.
The actors next year will benefit from the work of a visiting playwright. “The playwright will create an original play that will incorporate all 20 actors,” Browning says. “At a time when productions can only afford plays for a small cast, this is unusual and very exciting. We expect national attention.”
When the cycle repeats, the resident actors perform plays in the Thompson Theatre of the Roselle Center for the Arts. The graduate students perform separately in Hartshorn Theatre, until they merge once again.
Undergraduate student theater groups generally perform in Pearson Hall, which has been outfitted with lighting and sound. The groups include E-52, the Harrington Theatre Arts Company and the Khulamani Theater Troupe for African-American students.
Originally a university theater group, the Chapel Street Players is now the “official community theater for the city of Newark.” The all-volunteer group, which is celebrating its 75th season, features four main stage productions a year, along with a one-act showcase. Its annual FUNraiser is held each June, and for 47 years, Renee O’Leary has participated—in some shape or form. You might see just a hand, an arm or her whole presence on the stage. “We are a superstitious group,” says Scott Mason, president of the theater’s board. “The directors are terrified not to put her in.”
Apparently, their good luck charm is holding.
Page 2: Can’t Stop the Music
Can’t Stop the Music
As with theater, there is no shortage of musical performances in Newark, starting with the city’s own symphony. Founded in 1966, the Newark Symphony Orchestra includes about 80 musicians, who perform eight concerts per season. Four are part of the symphony series. The other four are part of the chamber series.
The symphony is currently interviewing conductors to replace longtime music director Roman Pawlowski, who retired at the end of the 2008-2009 series. “It’s an exciting time for us, and we’re focused on the future,” says Denice Grawe, the symphony’s business manager. “We have a lot of fun. This is our avocation, and we play to the best level that we can.”
At the university, the Master Players are under the direction of Xiang Gao, a faculty violinist from China. Each year, Xiang does a special event focused on a different theme, and they often have a technological or unique element. For instance, this year he broadcasted into the Mary Campbell Center.
There are also many student and faculty ensembles, as well as a student opera group. The UD Chorale travels internationally. “It’s quite a stunning chorale,” Browning says.
Page 3: Gotta Dance
This year the university started a new dance program with a faculty of four. Offered as a minor, the program is geared toward students who want to continue their dance studies.
Students also enroll at the Mid-Atlantic Ballet Company on Main Street, which offers adult classes. The school focuses solely on ballet and Pilates classes. It offers a performance of the “Nutcracker” during the holidays, as well as a spring performance. The productions are typically held at Mitchell Hall on the university campus. The school this summer plans to move from its temporary space into a new building near the post office on Main Street.
The Delaware Dance Company offers a variety of classes, including ballet, jazz and modern dance. The group also presents an annual “Nutcracker” performance and two other productions, which are held at Mitchell Hall and the Baby Grand in Wilmington.
Page 4: Art in Motion
Art in Motion
Between the university and the community, the visual arts are also well represented. The Old College Gallery, which has been closed for renovations, will re-open in the fall with an exhibit featuring pieces from the school’s permanent collection. The acclaimed Paul R. Jones Collection of African-American Art is installed in Mechanical Hall next door.
Graduate students exhibit on campus and beyond. The art department has also aligned itself with the New Wilmington Art Association to participate in the Wilmington Art Loop. “We can cover a lot of space and get a lot of exposure,” Browning says.
Giving exposure to regional artists is the goal of Hardcastle’s Newark, a gallery and framing shop. “Years ago, there wasn’t much art to be found unless you went onto the campus,” says owner Michael Brock. He confines his search to a 200-mile radius or less, in part because there’s so much talent in that area.
In addition to Hardcastle’s, which changes exhibits about every two months, there is the Newark Arts Alliance in Market East Plaza, which has a gallery shop that displays members’ work. Classes for children and adults are not limited to the visual arts. Screenwriting and creating an artist’s journal were recent offerings.
The Newark Film Festival, meanwhile, will return to Newark Cinema Center 3 on Main Street September 23-30. This year, the festival is adding the Delaware Independent Filmmakers’ 24-Hour Film Racing Challenge. Contestants must create, shoot and produce a film in just 24 hours. The Film Brothers Festival of Shorts is another new addition to the Newark Film Festival.
Gordon DelGiorno of Film Brothers is excited to bring his festival to Newark. “Newark is a quaint town with great restaurants, so people can make a night of it,” he says. “There’s a lot of creativity here. It’s unique.