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The Festival Blog


Today the Festival received the Arts Council's Art Recharged award alongside brilliant New Haven Community artists and thinkers

Below is executive director Mary Lou Aleskie's acceptance speech

In 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival rose out of the ashes of the Second World War to provide 'a platform for the flowering of the human spirit'. Edinburgh is not the first Festival to emerge in response to basic human need but it may be among the most among the world’s most prolific.

Twenty years ago, Anne Calabresi in collaboration her co-conspirators Roz Meyer and Jean Handley, believed that the establishment of an international festival in New Haven could provide a platform for generating civic healing and empathy for this community. And while Edinburgh was surely an inspiration, their idea was unique to the qualities of New Haven, and that is what has made it lasting. What makes this festival unique to New Haven, is what makes it distinctive among festivals of the world even today. And therein lies the success of our 20 years.

Our founders knew a few key things about our community….we are an engaged, interested and curious city. People here care about each other. Our remarkable and walkable infrastructure is outsized by the richness of talents, cultures, intellect, ambition and compassion of its citizens. And we can boast an arts community that would be the envy of cities many times our size. And so they imagined a festival big enough in its ambition to include everyone! They imagined a festival that welcomed artists not just to perform, but to think. They imagined a festival that brings people from all walks of life together in sharing common experiences. And they imagined a festival broad in scope yet completely directed toward making our lives just a little bit more livable….in a word, they have given us a festival that stays vital because all of us participate each year in keeping it “RECharged”.

When I heard the news that Arts & Ideas would be honored this year considering the theme for this year’s luncheon, it seemed so right. Then, I heard from Cindy that even the Arts Council was surprised to realize that Arts & Ideas had not honored in the past.

Well in fact we have been honored….Our founders have been recognized, our board members and funders have been recognized, our staff has been recognized, our community partners and countless New Haven based-artists and arts organizations have all been recognized! and that is because it takes each of you as pull this off!!!


A great Festival is built on a strong and broad foundation. It is the sum of many parts and is lasting over the course of generations.

We…all of us in this room…just happen to be the stewards of this grand vision for the moment. It is our privilege to stand together in this work but it is also our responsibility. And that responsibility, especially in these times, is great. The work we do together is extremely important and is about many things…it is about generating economic vitality, advancing global relationships, celebrating arts and culture, and engaging in ideas, but more than all of those, it is about inclusion. It is about being great because all are welcome to participate and are needed, to be the community we aspire to be. Understanding, tolerance and empathy. These are our products. And they are made possible when we recognize that the arts and culture is fundamental to what it means to be human and belongs to everyone.

20 years later, the inspiration has come full circle. The Festival just announced a major collaboration with the National Theater of Scotland that will see the American premiere of a brand new musical from the creators of Billy Elliot and Mamma Mia at the Festival in New Haven as it heads to a run in London’s West End. And while we are excited by this news, we are just excited to see applications rolling in for our high school fellowship program that will welcome a cohort of high school sophomores and juniors into our festival family, opening the door for them to the world of arts, ideas and the future.

And so I thank you Anne for your vision and for trusting us all to carry it forward. Thank you to our incredible board led by the most insightful and kind Board Chair anyone would have the privilege to work with, Gordon Geballe. To our staff who gives tirelessly in their work, our community partners, funders, you, our donors, members, and audience and most of all the artists and thinkers…those of you here in the room..and those throughout our city and around the globe. You make miracles happen.

Congratulations to our fellow nominees. Thank you New Haven Arts Council. I accept this award on behalf of all of you!

Top photos by Harold Shapiro


The International Festival of Arts & Ideas is more than just performances and lectures.

Across the 15 days of each Festival, numerous programs promote healthy living through active lifestyles, food and sustainable consumption, and activities that engage the mind as well as the body. The message we spread is one of building a healthy community, living life to the fullest and enriching the mind, body and spirit.

Unfortunately it’s difficult for us, at times, to incorporate these messages of healthy living into the demanding schedules of our staff and crew. By day 15 of the Festival most of our staff have mastered stand-up-sleep and can count the green vegetables they’ve eaten on one hand. We do this work because we love it even if our bodies don’t love it quite as much. That’s why come July 1st when we transition from on-the-go 12+ hours a day back to a normal 8 hour work day at desks we rejoice in the sedentary.

At first this change of pace is divine, a long-awaited rest for tired toes. But as the days of desk life roll on it becomes less of a reprieve, less of a novelty and more of a sentencing. As inherently active people (you have to be to make it through June at the Festival!) the prospect of sitting down for 8 hours a day, for 5 days a week, for 49 weeks can seem like torture for our tushies.

But what about healthy living? What about active lifestyles?

So we began our research and came to the following conclusions:

  • Standing desks are all sorts of great for you. They reduce the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other metabolic diseases.
  • There is such a thing as "Sudden Onset Cankles"
  • Adjustable desks exist, but are relatively large and expensive

We crafted some DIY some standing desks et viola! The W.B. Mason standing desk!


Needless to say it took approximately half a day of make-shift desks, two ladies doing coordinated office exercises, and just a touch of whining for everyone to agree that an investment in standing desks was an investment in the health of our staff. Although there are many flavors of standing desks we opted to go for the best of both worlds, a Sit/Stand desk by Varidesk.

After only one day with the "test desk" sent over by Varidesk, we were hooked. Even the skeptics in our office found it easy and fun to use. The option to stand or sit provides a happy and healthy balance wherein we reduce long term risks of disease (caused by prolonged sitting) and yet don’t get overly fatigued from standing all day.


Other totally health-based reasons we’ve found to get a sit/stand desk:

  • Having a reason to clean off our desks to make room for the sit/stand addition
  • Having the ability to choose whether you sit/stand based on how you feel and what you're doing (we all have those sitting days, we won't lie!)
  • Being able to practice our sweet dance moves as we work the day away

It un-numbs our tushies to walk around the office and see Festival staff moving around, sitting, standing, and dancing as necessary. We are cultivating a culture of healthy living that we so effectively promote during the Festival. Sometimes we can get so busy planning or running the Festival that we forget to take care of ourselves. But when we pause, we can be reminded that a happy and healthy staff will ultimately lead to a more successful festival!


The Festival's headline concerts on the New Haven Green—the big shows on Saturday and Sunday evenings (and this year, one on Friday!)—are among the most visible and exciting parts of each year's Festival. And, they are complete FREE and open to everyone to enjoy.

There are a number of ways that you can attend and have a great time. Here are a few tips and tricks from our veteran Festival attendees.

Just show up!

The easiest thing to do is to just show up! The headline concerts (as well as all activity on the Green) occur on the "lower" part of the Green between Temple and Church Streets, are completely free to everyone, and do not require a ticket. You are welcome to swing by and grab any available spot to enjoy the concert.

To sit up close, get there early

If you'd like to sit right at the front of the stage, get there as early as you can. While the concert is free, spots up front are first-come, first-served. (For our most popular concerts, some attendees have been known to arrive early in the afternoon!)

You do not need premium passes to sit right at the front of the stage: the right-hand side of the stage is open access without reservations. If you'd like, premium passes may be purchased to guarantee an up-front spot on the left, with access to a hospitality lounge (see below).

Otherwise, there is plenty of space all over the Green offering a great view and great sound. There is no need to show up early unless you'd like one of those spots up front!

Please be courteous of your neighbors

As many as 10,000 to 15,000 visitors join us on the Green for the headline concerts, and the Green is a public park with open access.

Please be courteous of your neighbors: if you'd like to be up dancing or would like to talk through the concert, great! But if you are seated in an area where people seem to be enjoying the concert quietly and listening intently, please be courteous and move to an area where others are doing what you are (and vice versa). The Green is a big place and there is space for everyone!

There are no formal restrictions about smoking, however we do ask that you please go to the outer pathways of the Green to smoke, out of courtesy to other audience members.

Keep the pathways open and clear

For safety reasons, the pathways on the Green must be kept clear and moving: please no standing, sitting, or congregating on the pathways. (Also, standing on the pathways often blocks the view of other audience members, so again, please be courteous!) Standing is not allowed along the barricades surrounding the premium seating area.

Food and Food Trucks

You are welcome to bring your own picnic to be enjoyed on the Green. Food trucks and vendors are also available along the Temple Street side of the Green. Click here for a list of food trucks and vendors.


Street parking in the vicinity of the Green fills up quickly and can be very hard to find, especially on headline concert evenings. We recommend that you use one of the Festival's designated garages, which are only $5 with a Festival parking coupon (cheaper than finding street parking on Saturday nights, and easier too!). The garages are located only one block away from the Green, on well-lighted and populated streets.

Park at the Temple Street Garage, 1 Temple Street or the Crown Street Garage, 213 Crown Street, and download a Festival parking coupon to bring with you.

Bleacher Seating, Lawn Chair Rental, and Premium Seating

There are convenience options available if you'd like the Festival to worry about the details for you: Headline Concerts: bleacher seating ($10) offers a clear, raised view of the stage; lawn chair rentals ($10) can be enjoyed from any spot on the Green without the hassle of lugging a chair from home.

Or, if you really want to get up close to your favorite headliner or want the ultimate experience with Festival hospitality, get a premium pass ($125), which also comes with Festival membership for the year.

Get the scoop on the Festival

The Festival Information Center and XFinity Lounge is located on the west side of the Green. Stop by for information about other Festival events happening throughout the Festival's two weeks, or just to relax in the XFinity Lounge with WiFi access and technology.

The Festival Box Office is also open at the Information Center for ticket sales, and you can also purchase t-shirts, Festival sunglasses, and other fun Festival gear.

Have fun!

The Festival puts on this annual two-week event for YOU and for the entire region to enjoy. There are many ways to enjoy these summer evenings, and we hope you have a particularly great time at these Festival events.

2015 Headline Concerts:

(This article refers specifically to events presented by the International Festival of Arts & Ideas: see INFONewHaven for the City's Music on the Green series.)


"(The Revolution) will be feathered, jeweled, sequin, glitter, long leg, high heel, patent pumps and…won’t be masculinized.”
—from an original song by Taylor Mac

In Taylor Mac’s ambitious, ongoing series A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, he explores the popular music and social context of each decade in American history, starting with the 1770s. Each decade is represented by its concert, debuted one by one over a period of several years. When the entire cycle is complete in 2016, all 24 decades will be performed in a single marathon event.

The 1990s will premiere in New Haven at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas on June 12 and 13. Commissioned by the Festival to celebrate its founding decade, the work will feature Taylor’s unique blend of commentary, song, and, of course, fantastic costumes from collaborator Machine Dazzle.

Costumes by Machine Dazzle for A 24-decade History of Popular Music

The 1770s

The 1800s

The 1890s


Artist and theater-maker Taylor Mac talks to Deborah A. Brothers about performance, costumes, and revealing the truth to audiences

Be prepared to be amazed. In his award-winning theater and performance-art works, Taylor Mac takes us on a fantastical journey, telling us truths that we have forgotten. He comes to the theater, Taylor said in a recent conversation, to “remind the audience of the dismissed or the buried within them,” of ideas that have been forgotten.

To do this, Taylor has readapted an ancient role: he has become the modern version of a court jester, a fool. “Everyone laughs and has a good time and the king doesn’t go to war,” Taylor says, because a fool must “say what everyone knows is true.” His performance is an entry into burlesque, drag costume, art, politics, and social change.

Designer and artist Machine Dazzle is Taylor’s frequent and fabulous costume collaborator. There is a glitter-proof room at an armory where Machine Dazzle creates costumes for Taylor; in the early part of their collaborations, Taylor gave him guidelines about what the emotional goal of his performance and design might be. Now, there are no guidelines. The modern fool, according to Mac, has to be “the oddest person in the room.”

In A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Machine Dazzle creates a costume for each decade, to illustrate a particular theme or to allow Taylor to accomplish what he needs. One of Machine’s creations frames Taylor in a flotilla of small helium-filled balloons, while his headdress is tied in sparkling blue ribbons, a cross between women’s hairstyles and a fabulous birthday present. Taylor’s face is painted in white with multiple lines of sequins, beginning a magical concoction of performer and costume.

Sometimes, their collaboration is about small details: Taylor and Machine Dazzle find a train on a skirt may be too long, or that a different color would be better for the next incarnation of a costume. Or even that a costume has to be larger in scale and silhouette because of the decade (and costume) that comes before it. Each piece contains “something to wow the audience, and to have heart and to tell the story,” says Mac.

But nothing is arbitrary. Everything is carefully researched, combining parody and joy and acid directness. For example, on the costume for The 1920s, there are PEZ candy dispensers as decorations. These dispensers were an invention in that particular decade: so while they seem out of place, these are an actual historic detail.

Taylor mostly performs in drag—as a man in woman’s clothing. This is both funny and aggressive: it allows Taylor to speak and act in ways that are not permitted in ordinary male dress. Taylor performs with transgressive freedom that permits us to laugh and then to question our laughter.

There will be feathers, glitter and sequins. There will be debris and art left for us when Taylor leaves the stage. As he and his fool confront us, he will try to make us remember the truths that we have hidden in ourselves. Taylor both allows and pushes us into laughter. And by his performance magic, hopefully, we can confront our prejudices and reveal, as Taylor says, “the dismissed and the buried” in all of us.

—by Deborah A. Brothers

Deborah A. Brothers is Costume Director and Lecturer in Theatre at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Vincent Dubé’s debut company Machine de Cirque brings the audience in on the risk


Mention circus to many people, and they might think of colorful tents and clowns. But a new type of theatrical circus has emerged: these shows take traditional circus acts like the see-saw, juggling, and high-flying stunts, and repackage them in a slick, more contemporary frame—without the circus animals.

Now comes Machine de Cirque, a brand new Québécois company under the direction of Vincent Dubé. The company’s first show brings together four exciting young acrobats, a versatile musician, an array of props, and even “machines” for a funny and heartfelt experience.

In between rehearsals for the company’s premiere in Quebec City in May, Dubé took a few moments to talk about circus in Quebec, the importance of story-telling in circus, and how a company of performers works together to create something exciting and new.

Montreal, and Quebec in general, has an incredible amount of new circus activity, the “nouveau cirque” as it is sometimes called. How did you form your company, and what makes your company unique?

VINCENT DUBÉ: A lot of modern circus right now is very polished, and I wanted Machine de Cirque to be very raw. We want the audience to see the personality of each artist and the mechanics of the show.

We integrate an on-stage musician very closely into the show—he is even included in the circus acts. For example, in the juggling act, he plays drums with clubs, and he throws and catches them while keeping the beat. It’s very fun and exciting. We’re exploring a unique use of the musician figure, and I think that will be part of our company’s signature going forward.

And finally, engineering and machines are an important part of our show. It’s not large-scale engineering and stage designs, but very intimate. The concept is that we recycle old objects and machines and reuse them on a human scale.

So the “machine” in Machine de Cirque has something to do with that engineering?

Yes! I like technology and engineering, and that’s what led us to that name. There are some machines in the show, but I also think that the name is great for us because the human being, especially the circus artist, is such an amazing machine. If you try to create a mechanical machine as precise as some of the human athletes we have, it will never be as exact. These performers are really amazing.

How did the company come together, and why did you want to make a new company?

I started as a performer, but I had also started directing a bit, doing variety shows and things like that in Germany. After awhile, I felt that I was ready to direct my own show and company. I had also studied engineering as a student, so I also had the idea to use my engineering studies in my artistic work. In 2013, I did a session of research and creation with a few performers who are still with the show: Raphaël Dubé, Yohann Trépanier and Fred Lebrasseur. In 2013 we did a little presentation from that research, which went well.

The other two performers in your group previously performed with Les 7 doigts de la main in Sequence 8, which was a very popular show at the Festival in 2013.

The guys I worked with on Machine de Cirque in 2013 were friends with Maxim Laurin and Ugo Dario, who were in Sequence 8, and they all had always wanted to work together. When I was ready to start creating this complete version of the show, they wanted to come and join the other guys who were already in this project. So the timing was just perfect, and we got along very well.

What makes a good company of performers and artists? Was there a common desire that united all of you?

Each of us likes to explore different ways of using circus skills and going beyond the norm in presenting them to the audience. We all like to include comedy in what we do. The show is not all comedy, but has many comedic bits. Also, we all like to do many different things, different acts, different acrobatics, even things in which we’re not specifically trained. So that makes it really fun to work together.

What is the show about, and how did you make it?

The characters in the show are stuck on their own in a post-apocalyptic world. They find some raw material and use it to build a big machine, which they want to use to try to communicate with other people. During the show, we see them work on the machine until at some point they realize that they had been so focused on trying to find other people that they didn’t notice they had been together the entire time—they realize what they have instead of what they don’t have.

Did the group collectively devise it?

I like to call it “collective creation with direction.” I wrote the main story line first, and then I asked the company members for their ideas. The story has been changed and adapted with their input, with what they think, and what they want to perform.

Your mention of “story” makes me wonder: do you see this as theater?

It’s a mix, really. There is a story line: we try to bring meaning to each act, have reasons why we are at certain places on stage, and know why we go from one point to another. The audience might not see all of that right away, but we know these reasons for ourselves and it keeps the show going.

Where do the circus acrobatics come in?

The acrobatic performance brings the sense of risk that’s so important to circus. We go to circus because we want to wonder, “Will the acrobats land on their feet? Will the juggler catch everything? If they do that towel act [that went viral on YouTube with company members Raphaël and Yohann], will the towel fall?”

Every situation in the show, even with the acting and all the theatrical elements, is all about risk, tension, and release of tension. We use theater and stories, but it’s built on risk-taking that is the basis of circus and acrobatics.

Is that theatrical aspect something extra for you, or is it something essential? Why do you choose to think in such a theatrical way?

I have been working in circus for a long time and I have seen amazing acts, but I think you need that little extra. When I believe in the characters and the situation on stage, I feel that I am really connected with the artist performing. But when I don’t believe in the situation or what is going on, I don’t care as much about what is happening, no matter what the acrobat or the juggler does.

Also I wanted to say something unique. Part of this show is about addressing stereotypes about relationships between men, but we have fun with it. The show is about five guys stuck together for a very long time; they become very close friends in a way that’s not stereotypically what you’d see, and I think it’s very nice. In every part of the show, whether funny or sad, we work deeply with every emotion, and I think people will enjoy that.

I’m blessed because I work with great performers who can act and are also skilled acrobats. It’s very important to present them in a way that will grab the audience’s attention and make the whole situation feel real to them.

What would you say to an audience to prepare them for your show?

I don’t think they need help to enjoy it! Just come to see a great bunch of performers having fun and getting into trouble. I think we’ve approached this well and made a great show.

—by Alexandra Ripp and Art Priromprintr

Machine de Cirque plays at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas from June 23 to 27. Click for tickets and more information!

This original article will be published in the Festival's Program Book in June 2015: make sure to pick up your copy at the Festival! (c) International Festival of Arts & Ideas, 2015. All rights reserved.

Featuring the American premiere of National Theater of Scotland's The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, Mark Morris Dance Group, Australian circus-arts troupe Circa, and a solo performance of King Lear from Taiwan and free performances on the New Haven Green from Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright, Red Baraat, Noori, and Rosanne Cash

Announcing Festival 2012

Serious Fun is the theme of the 2012 International Festival of Arts & Ideas, which will be presented June 16-30 at various sites in New Haven, Connecticut.

“The 17th Annual International Festival of Arts & Ideas is a 15-day extravaganza of seriously good fun—an opportunity to tickle your senses, engage your mind, find inspiration, and launch an adventure,” says Executive Director Mary Lou Aleskie. “We’ve packed Festival 2012 with speakers and conversationalists keen to share expansive idea and renowned artists from all over the world eager to share joy-filled and thought-provoking performances.”

The 2012 International Festival of Arts & Ideas includes an eclectic array of dance, music, theater, and music-theater works, free concerts on the New Haven Green, and family-friendly interactive events.

Go to our Festival 2012 page for a complete listing of events.

Read the Hartford Courant articles about the free concerts on the Green, and about the theater & dance performances.
Celebrate the launch of the Festival 2012 and be the first to hear about the world-class artists and thinkers coming to this year's Festival.

Membership has its value, including advance reservations and discounts on tickets. Tickets will be available at the event for an exclusive member discount price before they go on sale to the general public on April 15.

Memberships are available to purchase at the party or CLICK HERE for more information or to purchase your membership now.

The Festival's Fellowship Program is a five-month program for New Haven-area
high school youth designed to improve each fellow's skills in creative writing,
communication, and critical thinking, through a program of weekly classroom
sessions and interactions with the Festival's staff and programming. The program
aspires to develop the next generation of artists, stage technicians, and arts

Click here for more information

The first female editor of the world's most innovative and widely read online news source made a confession Friday: Nothing compares to the journalistic thrill she gets from grabbing the morning paper. In print. The confession came from Jill Abramson, the new executive editor of The New York Times.

She spoke to a ballroom full of New Haven movers and shakers gathered for lunch at the Omni Hotel ballroom to watch her receive the 2011 "Visionary Leadership Award" from the International Festival of Arts & Ideas-and to dish about life behind the curtain at the Gray Lady.

Click Here to read the rest of the article from the New Haven Independent.

Dear Friends,

Do you remember the summer of 2010 when Elizabeth Alexander interviewed Bill T. Jones at the Festival just a day after his landmark Tony Award for choreography in Fela!? And were you with us in 2011 to catch Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company's stirring reflection on Lincoln in SERENADE - THE PROPOSITION? Or to witness the origins of this important American artist's work in his early career dance BODY AGAINST BODY?

And what excites me about this coming week is that Fela! at the Shubert will feature the same lead actor and many of the same cast members as the Broadway production! I must admit that I danced in the aisles. I am sure you will too. Don't miss it.

Watch video of Bill T. Jones' conversation with Elizabeth Alexander