The Blogfest!


Throughout the leadup to Festival 2014, Festival staff and volunteers will contribute a video and a few notes on events that we're particularly excited about. This week, Cathy Edwards, who scours the country and the world for shows to bring to Arts & Ideas each year, shares what makes Arguendo special. Click above to watch, and read on!

We're excited about Arguendo

by Cathy Edwards

Director of Programming

The theater group Elevator Repair Service is one of American theater’s brightest lights. They have rightfully received accolades for their inventive and highly physical approaches to making new work, and it’s very exciting for us to bring to Arts & Ideas their most recent project, Arguendo, in which the company uses a verbatim Supreme Court oral argument transcript as its theatrical jumping off point.

A signature aspect to Elevator Repair Service's work is that the ensemble members often “repurpose” existing texts: they identify a text that they want to explore, and discover a way to bring that text to life in dramatically, by finding a theatrical language that does it justice. One of my favorite theater-going experiences of the past decade was seeing the company's piece Gatz at the Public Theater in New York City, in which Elevator Repair Service brought to stage the great American novel The Great Gatsby. That was a six-hour performance in which every word of the novel was read and brought to life on stage.

There are so many ways to appreciate the humor, smarts and spectacle of Arguendo, but above all what I love is the way the company finds the theater inherent in the spectacle of the Supreme Court. They reframe the proceedings in a way that foregrounds the rituals, gestures, personalities and physical trappings that are largely invisible to the public because Supreme Court arguments are not videotaped or televised. The company interrogates the Court on the terms in which it knows best—those of the theater—and by bringing its own “hyper theatrical” approach to the theater of the court, they lift the veil on an all-powerful American institution to reveal both the absurd and the poignant.

Ben Rubin is the visual artist and designer who collaborated with the company to create the phenomenal video backdrop to the theater piece. He is one of today’s most important contemporary digital artists. The design he creates for Arguendo illuminates the complexities and connections of laws, legal precedents and judicial writings in a way that simple, sophisticated, and deeply revealing.

Of course, Arguendo also finds theater in Barnes v. Glen Theatre, in the legal case that is being argued. Who decides what constitutes art if a group of exotic dancers claim their first amendment rights are being violated when they are not allowed to dance in the nude? This is a case that is perfect fodder for a contemporary theater company. Especially when the distinctions between “high art” and popular culture are increasingly meaningless, it will prompt many a debate about the lines we draw in the sand, current interpretations of the First Amendment, and the ways in which justice works in the United States.

Stay tuned for more!: Keep an eye out on our video blog, or join our email list and follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be notified whenever there is a new post!

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As we get ready to honor Sheila Nevins, documentary film producer and President of HBO Documentary Films for Home Box Office, with our 4th Annual Visionary Leadership Award, our first awardee, Zainab Salbi shares her thoughts on what makes a visionary leader.

As we get ready to honor Sheila Nevins, documentary film producer and President of HBO Documentary Films for Home Box Office, with our 4th Annual Visionary Leadership Award, last years winner, Charlayne Hunter-Gault shares her thoughts on what makes a visionary leader.

A classical Indian dancer whose artistic curiosity has spanned contemporary and traditional forms, Shantala Shivalingappa is widely acclaimed for her vivid, brilliantly musical performances. Shivalingappa specializes in the traditional South Indian dance form of Kuchipudi and she has also made an imprint working with Western artists such as Pina Bausch and Peter Brook.

The Festival is proud to present the U.S. premiere of Shivalingappa’s new Kuchipudi solo "Akasha," which explores her wide-ranging traditions and contemporary influences. The piece is performed to live music with four Indian musicians.

Ideas have enormous power. They inspire, they provoke, they delight.

The thinkers, scholars, adventurers, and artists gathered at this year’s Festival are people with ideas to share. Some have taken great risks with their ideas. Others have connected dozens of ideas into a greater whole. Others ask questions with their ideas: who are we, and who do we want to be?

What do these ideas mean to you? What delights will you find in these experiences and adventures? What ideas will they inspire—provoke—in you?

A Broken Umbrella Theatre, New Haven’s award-winning ensemble theater company presents Freewheelers.
Broken Umbrella is known for creating original, site-specific theater inspired by the rich history and lore of New Haven. The ensemble’s immersive spectacles take audiences back in time, enlivening forgotten city locations while uncovering secrets from the past.

For Freewheelers, Broken Umbrella and Olympia Properties have breathed new life into the former Horowitz Brothers department store, transforming it into an exciting theatrical space.

Stuck Elevator is a comic-rap-scrap metal musical prompted by the real life experience of a Chinese restaurant delivery man trapped in a Bronx elevator for 81 hours. The musical follows his experience living in New York, where he has been working at Happy Dragon Restaurant struggling to repay a $60,000 debt to smugglers for his passage from China to the United States. His journey is from one country touted as the next global economic superpower to another founded on the ideals of democracy and freedom.

Seattle-based Byron Au Yong and New Haven native Aaron Jafferis are two exciting and resonant new voices in American theater today: Stuck Elevator returns to the Festival in a full production, after a workshop version was performed at Festival 2010 as part of the Yale Institute for Music Theatre. A complete production premiered at American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco this spring.

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This Video Blog offers a behind the scenes look at a new collaboration from the team behind the Tony Award-winning Broadway & West End hit, WAR HORSE.

Shakespeare’s inexhaustible A Midsummer Night’s Dream unfurls in a new adaption interweaving the lives of lovers, actors, friends, foes, and fairies. This is a Dream about love, lust, survival, and song, where a belief in the mystical presence of fairies isn’t mere superstition, but encoded in the routines of a community living on the edge of viability. This is a future primitive world, a hard world, a world of survival and instinct; a world in which, thanks to the magic of Handspring Puppet Company, all objects are granted the right to life.