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The Arts Season Preview: Let Them Entertain You

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Shows to See

The arts season is bigger and bolder than ever. Here are some highlights.

Fringe Wilmington, the city’s  newest festival, will feature unconventional and experimental art at 11 venues.

Alternative

Fringe Wilmington
576-2100 or fringewilmingtonde.com
Oct. 1-4 Like its big-city cousins such as Philly Fringe, our version—the very first—will present visual art, innovative performance art and films at 11 venues, including Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, the Baby Grand, OperaDelaware and Theatre N. Don’t miss the opening night preview party Sept. 30.

 

Art

The Biggs Museum of American Art
406 Federal St., Dover, 674-2111 or biggsmuseum.org
Sept. 15-Oct. 15 “Fusion: American Classics Meet Latin American Art,” coordinated with the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs, celebrates the work of local Latino artists.
March 5- June 20 “Ships and Seas: American Society of Marine Artists” offers a collection of contemporary works by internationally known artists.

“Pride” is one of the featured works of “Jamie Wyeth-Seven Deadly Sins” at the Brandywine River Museum.Brandywine River Museum
U.S. 1, Chadds Ford, Pa., (610) 388-2700 or brandywinemuseum.org
Sept. 12-Nov. 22 In “Jamie Wyeth: Seven Deadly Sins,” the artist explores greed, sloth, lust, gluttony, avarice, pride and envy. Scavenging seabirds stand in for human sinners. Discuss.
Nov. 27- Jan. 10 “Alice in Pictureland: Illustrations of Lewis Carroll’s Classic Tales” shows art by John Tenniel, first to illustrate the stories.

Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington, 571-9590 or delart.org
February 6-May 16 “Dinotopia: The Fantastical Art of James Gurney” depicts a place where humans and dinosaurs live in harmony in a society that has its own language and alphabet.
June 19-Aug. 29 “Fifty Works for the First State: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection” will display many of the works amassed by the Vogels, including the conceptual art of Sol LeWitt, Richard Tuttle and Robert Barry.
 

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Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
200 S. Madison St., Wilmington, 656-6466 or thedcca.org
Thru Oct. 11 In “Heather Harvey: Fractious Happy,” the artist uses gallery walls as the medium she manipulates, layering them with plaster to create sculpture.

Mosaic Rehoboth Beach
Gallery Collective Exhibit, 727-0905 or mosaicrehoboth.com
Sept. 11-24 The Philip Morton Gallery is the first Mosaic-member gallery to feature an exhibit of original works by downstate artists exclusively. Check for succeeding exhibits at other Mosaic galleries throughout the year. Need an overview? Do any Second Saturday Destination Art Walk.

“Faces of a New Nation: American Portraits of the 18th and Early 19th Centuries from The Metropolitan Museum of Art,” at Winterthur Museum & Country Estate features important portraiture by early American masters. Winterthur Museum & Country Estate
Del. 52, Winterthur, 888-4600 or winterthur.org
Thru Jan. 24 “Faces of a New Nation: American Portraits of the 18th and Early 19th Centuries from The Metropolitan Museum of Art” graces Winterthur, the only venue in the world to offer this select group of works by such portraiture artists as John Singleton Copley. The show was curated by the Met exclusively for Winterthur. Do the iPod tour. The stories behind the paintings enhance the experience.
March-July “Lost Gardens of the Brandywine” takes a look at Brandywine Valley gardens from the 1920s and ’30s.

 

Comedy

Delaware Comedy Theater
delawarecomedytheatre.com
Oct. 30 What will happen at the Halloween Mystery Ball? It’s still a mystery, even to DCT’s directors. But one thing is certain—it will be side-splitting funny. At Fish On! in Lewes.

The Grand Opera House
818 N. Market St., Wilmington, grandopera.org or 652-5577
Oct. 23-24 Lewis Black, the acerbic comic from “The Daily Show,” cuts up pop culture and politics.
Nov. 20 Stand-up comedian and actor Sinbad delivers his unique humor.
Jan. 22 Paula Poundstone, the stand-up comic, mother, and writer, deploys her wicked wit.

 

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Dancers Jake Allison and Aynsley Inglis in First State Ballet Theatre’s production of “Carmen”Dance

Christina Cultural Arts Center
705 N. Market St., Wilmington, 727-0905 or ccac-de.org
Nov. (TBA) World-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem visits Delaware for a blowout performance.

First State Ballet Theatre
658-7897 or firststateballet.com
Oct. 10, 25 Part one of First State Ballet Theatre’s “Carmen Suite” will be classically “Carmen,” with lush music and beautiful costumes. Part two will be a series of vignettes by renowned choreographer Viktor Plotnikov. See it at The Grand Opera House in Wilmington and Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover.

Mid-Atlantic Ballet
266-6362 or midatlanticballet.org
March 26- 27 “Alice in Wonderland” is a ballet in two acts based on Lewis Carroll’s famous story. That includes the giant mushroom and Mad Hatter’s crazy tea party. See it at UD’s Mitchell Hall.

 

Film

“The Ritual,” Wilmington’s Anthony Spadaccini’s latest flick, will run at the Newark Film Festival.Newark Film Festival
newarkfilm.com
Sept. 10-17 See dozens of independent films from around the world—including two titles made by Delawareans—at the Cinema Center in Newark. “The Ritual” is local filmmaker Anthony Spadaccini’s flick about a serial killer and his protégé. See it September 12. View the audience’s picks for best films during Best of the Fest at Delaware Art Museum September 25-27. 

Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival
rehobothfilm.com
Nov. 11-15 The festival offers more than 100 independently produced movies. Past festivals have highlighted films from Israel and Mexico. This year’s Country Spotlight shines on Japan, with plenty of offerings from elsewhere, too. See them at Movies at Midway.

Theatre N
11th and Tatnall streets, Wilmington, theatren.org
Sept. 11-13 The drama “O’Horten” focuses on a life-changing moment in a 67-year-old train engineer’s life during the evening of his retirement. See this and other independent films.
 

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Music

Brandywine Baroque
brandywinebaroque.org
Oct. 10-11 The quartet, which performs on period instruments, will open its season with a program of work by Monteverdi, Madrigali and other Italian composers at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Lewes and The Barn at Flintwoods in Wilmington.

Jazz artists such as  bass virtuoso Esperanza Spalding will play the Clifford Brown Year Round series at The Grand.Clifford Brown Year Round
652-5577 or thegrandwilmington.org
Performances at The Grand Opera House
The DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival lasts one week in June. Now, thanks to a partnership between the city of Wilmington and Christina Cultural Arts Center, contemporary jazz will continue throughout the year. Jazz singer and bassist Esperanza Spalding performs October 1. “A Charlie Brown Jazz Christmas,” featuring the Eric Mintel Jazz Quartet happens December 10. Point Blank plays January 26, Maurice Brown Effect on March 20 and Vijay Iyer’s “Tirtha” on April 30.

Delaware Symphony Orchestra
desymphony.org or 652-5577
Performances at The Grand Opera House
Sept. 25-26 Hail Jonathan Biss, one of the most accomplished young pianists in the country. He’ll join the symphony and Maestro David Amado for “American in Paris/Russian in L.A.” to kick off DSO’s classical series. In addition to Gershwin’s “An American in Paris,” you’ll enjoy Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 3, from his American period.
Oct. 7 Five By Design, a group of nationally known interpreters of American pop, offers the live radio broadcast, “Radio Days.” The whole family will love it. Amado conducts.
Dec. 1 You’ve heard Maestro Amado play piano. Have you heard his wife, Meredith, on violin? “Amado and Amado” is your chance. (At the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont.)
January 29-30 In “Oz With Orchestra,” the symphony plays in front of a giant screen that displays the “The Wizard of Oz.” You’ll feel the tornado.

The Grand Opera House
818 N. Market St., Wilmington, 652-5577 or grandopera.org
Oct. 21 Rickie Lee Jones, the Grammy-winning singer best known for the hit song “Chuck E.’s In Love,” is the musician her successors only wish they could be. It will be a stellar show.
Nov. 9 Lyle Lovett and His Large Band do blues and country in their inimitable way.
February 5 “Mardi Gras Mambo” features New Orleans legends Dr. John on piano and The Neville Brothers doing what only the Nevilles do.
February 23 Folk legend Arlo Guthrie is still on the road, after all these years.
 

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 The Music School of Delaware
4101 Washington St., Wilmington, 762-1132 or wilmingtonmusic.org
Jan. (TBA) The Serafin String Quartet and poet Kate Light will integrate Mozart’s string works with Light’s original prose in “Einstein’s Mozart.”
Feb. 7 “Three Big Bs” features Timothy Schwarz on violin and Larry Stomberg on cello performing Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

Newark Symphony Orchestra
369-3466 or newarksymphony.org
Dec. 13 Guest conductor Simeone Tartaglione will lead the impressive orchestra in Glière and Brahms at The Independence School in Newark.

Schwartz Center for the Arts
226 S. State St., Dover, 678-5152  or schwartzcenter.com
Dec. 17-18 “Scrooge!” Two shows for one price in Dover: Clear Space Productions’ Dickens-inspired musical, and the festive lights on Loockerman Street.
April 29 The Rutgers University Big Band jams in “A Duke Ellington Celebration.”

 

Opera

OperaDelaware
658-8063 or operade.org
Performances at The Grand Opera House
Nov. 1, 6-7 “The Barber of Seville” is a classic comedy about a count who disguises himself as a poor student in order to woo the lovely Rosina.
May 2, 7-8 “Tosca,” Puccini’s powerful masterpiece, features New York City Opera star Grant Youngblood—a native Delawarean—as the evil Scarpia. Welcome back, Grant. 

  

Theater

Delaware Theatre Company
200 Water St., Wilmington, 594-1100 or delawaretheatre.org
Oct. 14-Nov. 1 Opening DTC’s season is “Fire on the Bayou: A Mardi Gras Musical Extravaganza.” Told by Hurricane Katrina survivors, “Fire” is a celebration of the music and spirit of New Orleans. Audience fave Kevin Ramsey wrote and directs.
Dec. 2- 20 In “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” a local cast will reenact the Capra classic in 1940s radio show-style, with man-made sound effects, old commercials and live music.
 

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“Death of a Salesman” is just one of the stellar plays by UD’s Resident Ensemble Players. Photograph by Kathy Atkinson/University of Delaware.Resident Ensemble Players at UD
Roselle Center for the Arts, Newark, 831-2204 or udel.edu/theatre
March 11-15 We expect a gut-wrenching portrayal of Willy Loman, one of the greatest characters ever written, in Tennessee Williams’ “Death of a Salesman.” Why? Because REP employs some of the best actors and directors in the country.
April 16- May 16 “Dancing at Lughnasa” is Brian Friel’s Tony Award-winning play about the summer of 1936, when the narrator lived with his unwed mother, her four sisters and their wireless radio. And you think you have it hard?

City Theater Company
220-8285 or city-theater.org
Sept. 8-10 In “Not Just Shakespeare in the Park,” the often outrageous troupe presents three nights of wacky outdoor theater in Wilmington’s Willingtown Square. Look for “Sweeney Todd” in December and “Falsettos” in May, both at OperaDelaware Studios in Wilmington. (Dates TBA.)

“The 39 Steps” at DuPont Theatre mixes Hitchcock with Monty Python. Photograph by Joan MarcusDuPont Theatre
1007 N. Market St., Wilmington, 656-4401 or duponttheatre.com
Jan. 19-24 Barbara Eden hosts a new dance production, “Ballroom with a Twist,” choreographed by “Dancing With the Stars” creator Louis van Amstel.
April 6-11 “The 39 Steps” is a marriage of Hitchcock and Monty Python that won two Tony Awards.

New Candlelight Theatre
2208 Millers Road, Wilmington, 475-2313 or newcandlelighttheatre.com
March 6-April 24 “Evita” This Andrew Lloyd Webber classic depicts the rise and fall of Eva Peron, played by professional actors. The New Candlelight is celebrating its 40th season, so the atmosphere will be extra festive.
Jan. 9-February 27 With “High School Musical On Stage!” expect major commotion from the youngsters. Like, so cool. 
 

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Science

Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, 658-9111 or delmnh.org
Nov. 7- Jan. 31 “The Science of SuperCroc” shows the complete skull and 50 percent of SuperCroc’s skeleton, which was unearthed by scientists in the Sahara. Awesome.
February 20-May 16 “Attack of the Bloodsuckers” is about blood and bugs. The kids will be riveted.

Hagley Museum and Library
450 Black Smith Hill Road, Wilmington, 658-2400 or Hagley.org
Thru Dec. 31, 2010 Too few people know that Hagley is a trove of advertising art from artifacts for the World’s Fairs—not to mention science and technology. In “Nineteenth-Century Patent Models: Innovation in Miniature,” see more than100 patent models from the days of yore.

 

Making the Arts Matter

Why it’s important for all of us.

Did you happen to catch “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” at the Delaware Theatre Company last season? How about OperaDelaware’s “La Bohème?” The Delaware Art Museum staged the exhibit, “Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks,” and the Delaware Symphony Orchestra stunned audiences at The Grand Opera House with “The Night of All Nights: The Cirque is Coming to Town.”

If the answer is no—you saw none of the above—you’re not alone.

Delaware’s arts world is buzzing about a recent study by Slover-Linett, a Chicago-based research firm commissioned by Arts for Delaware’s Future and funded by The Longwood Foundation. Data show that a surprising number of us are spending entertainment dollars elsewhere.

Among the 2,042 responses collected—from Delawareans labeled “cultural consumers”—about one-third had not visited a Wilmington-area arts institution in the past five years. And though the region is home to world-class entities such as Winterthur Museum & Country Estate, the Delaware Art Museum, Hagley Museum and Library, OperaDelaware, Delaware Symphony Orchestra, Delaware Theatre Company and The Grand Opera House, a staggering 27 percent could not name a single cultural institution in the area.

The year-long study “shocked us,” says Tatiana Copeland, who chairs AFDF. The reason there’s a disconnect between local entertainers and locals wishing to be entertained will surprise you, too.

Do patrons really understand why local arts matter? Survey says: Probably not.

Delaware’s arts industry is one of the 10 largest employers in the state. “It directly or indirectly supports about 3,800 jobs,” says Delaware Division of the Arts director Paul Weagraff. “For every one dollar invested in culture, seven is returned to the state and local government in the form of tax revenues.”
 

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National corporations establish headquarters in Delaware for tax breaks. But executives also know that Delaware’s high number of professional arts institutions improves the quality of life and attracts good employees.

Copeland founded Arts for Delaware’s Future in 2007, inviting five of Delaware’s largest arts organizations to raise $12 million in three years. Progress has been steady. But as meetings between the Delaware Art Museum, Delaware Symphony, Delaware Theatre Company, OperaDelaware and The Grand progressed, more emphasis was placed on rebranding the local arts image.

“One of the things we’ve been thinking about is how to get people to consider Wilmington as a cultural destination, as opposed to New York or Philadelphia,” says AFDF project leader Laura Scanlan. “One of the promising things we learned was that the quality of our arts groups is not the issue.”

The real issue is poor communication. About 43 percent of consumers from New Castle County and 62 percent from Kent and Sussex didn’t receive enough info, nor had they heard of any “can’t miss” shows.

“We had been under the impression that people were getting too much mail,” says Copeland. “What came out of this was exactly the opposite.”

There’s little crossover among arts consumers. Those who favor museums stay in museums, those who like music go to concerts, and so on. Collaboration and cross marketing would help “to rebrand the identity of the Wilmington arts landscape,” says Copeland. “Every arts organization, when they publish their playbills, should include what’s happening at other organizations. It happens in New York. It can happen here.”

Broadway has always aligned itself with nearby restaurants. But few Delawareans surveyed could name any restaurant close to a performance venue. “I could easily come up with seven or eight names,” says Copeland. “The restaurants are not in walking distance, but they’re in close proximity.”

The walking issue has plagued Wilmington for years. It’s no secret that people are afraid to stroll Market Street at night. Yet only a quarter of the respondents mentioned crime as a deterrent.

“It’s still a fair point,” says Copeland. “I would love to see mounted police again, and I know it’s a matter of money. But if, in fact, people are bringing in money to attend the arts, why can’t the city consider bringing in police to Market Street?”

AFDF will meet with city officials to discuss policing. The group will also request that arts groups share marketing dollars. “We’re asking for a small part of each advertising budget to collaborate,” says Copeland. “I’d love to have a one-year blitz to everybody in Delaware.”

Expect more mail, email, television spots and radio ads. Tag lines will emphasize economics. “We’re getting away from the art-is-good-for-the-soul thing,” says Copeland. “The arts are financially important to the state.”

The true selling point is that nonprofit arts and cultural groups in Delaware take in $142.4 million a year, according to a study by Americans for the Arts. When you buy a ticket to The Grand and a meal at Deep Blue, you’re pumping cash into the local economy. 
 

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AFDF is focused on groups that bring in the most revenue, but it won’t discount smaller groups. “We’re the front of the train that’ll eventually become attached to everyone else,” says Copeland. “But we have to get the train started.”

Arts leaders have no choice but to climb aboard. The economy sets the stage, not them. Innovators earn the applause.

Innovation is critical to Lee Kimball of OperaDelaware. Opera attracts small crowds. He uses volunteer carpenters and paints his own office floors so he can hire professional singers and top orchestra players, most of whom are first chairs in the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. This year he’s offering a new opera cabaret.

DSO executive director Lucinda Williams paints her office, too. So the symphony remains world class, largely because Williams has “woven a fabric of relationships with nonprofits ranging from the Boys and Girls Clubs to the Urban League to Canine Partners for Life,” says DSO spokesman Mark Mobley.

Others have gotten the message. Hagley is participating in the Delaware Tourism Office’s Delaware Geo-Caching Trail to raise its profile. The Grand lets subscribers pay in installments. The Delaware Art Museum is shifting from expensive, outside exhibitions to smaller shows organized in-house.

The Mispillion Art League is creating a mural project in downtown Milford with the Milford Museum, Milford Historical Society and the Salvation Army. Christina Cultural Arts Center is partnering with elementary schools to get school teachers into its learning centers. And the Biggs Museum of American Art, the Delaware State Fair and Boys & Girls clubs are doing a wacky chair contest. The winner gets a spot on “The Ellen Degeneres Show.”

Two groups lead the pack: Mosaic Rehoboth Beach Gallery Collective, and The Brandywine Museums & Gardens Alliance.

Founded last year, Mosaic promotes awareness of the art scene in Rehoboth Beach, which has gone gangbusters in the past five years.

“We’re owners and purchasers,” says Martha Emerling, owner of the Kennedy Gallery in Rehoboth Beach, a Mosaic member. “There’s an economic struggle.” Artists are creating smaller works at lower prices. When the economy recovers, they’ll paint bigger.

The Brandywine Museums & Gardens Alliance, a partnership between the Brandywine River Museum, Longwood Gardens, Winterthur and six others, launched a single-price ticket good for one-time admission to all nine institutions. The program ended August 31. It will be repeated next summer.

But the shows you want to see start now. Don’t know about them? Open the windows. The marketers are shouting their fabulous lineups from the rooftops.

In harmony, of course.

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