All new carpeting and a fresh coat of paint. Nearly 700 new seats with improved sight lines — and a larger, deeper, enhanced performance space on which to feast the eyes and ears. When the curtain goes up on the 2016 slate of Performing Arts Series events at Monmouth University, audiences will enjoy a Pollak Theatre experience that’s been made friendlier and more comfortable, from both sides of the famous stage.
Tickets are on sale now for the 20th annual spring-season schedule, presented by the Center for the Arts at Monmouth — an eclectic collection of words, music, movement, images, and ideas that begins in January 2016 and continues through May, with more than a dozen events unique to the coastal New Jersey campus.
“From new spins on old favorite stories to some of the most forward-thinking explorers of instrumental music, we’re bringing an exciting mix of sounds, drama and dance to Monmouth County,” explains Vaune Peck, Director of the Center of the Arts. “And we’re all very excited about the improvements that we’re unveiling at our Pollak Theatre in the new year … improvements that will allow our flagship auditorium to take its place among New Jersey’s best mid-sized venues for the performing arts.”
The prelude to spring gets underway on the Saturday evening of January 23, with a first-time visit by a one-of-a-kind musical act that’s as much a visual experience as it is auditory. Installation artist and multi-instrumentalist master William Close and the Earth Harp Collective take the stage for a breathtaking performance (centered around his own inventive stringed instruments) that’s thrilled audiences from world-wide music festivals to NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
The virtuoso musicianship continues into the new year when Celtic flute favorite Joanie Madden and Cherish the Ladies bring their Grammy-nominated mastery back to campus in a February 27 fleadh — while two world renowned Celtic music duos come together for the first time on April 22, when Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill team with Switchback for an engaging summit of traditional Irish and Americana styles.
At the multi-cultural, millennial crossroads of the classical and the contemporary, the members of the modern chamber ensemble ETHEL return to Monmouth on March 4, arriving this time in the collaborative company of Native American “Renaissance Man” Robert Mirabal. The auditorium of Monmouth’s Wilson Hall is the setting on April 1 when Grammy-winning guitarist Laurence Juber displays the finger-style technique that’s made him a favored associate of artists ranging from Paul McCartney to Charles Aznavour. Coming to the Pollak on April 10 (and teaming with our own Monmouth Winds) is the Grammy-nominated Borealis Wind Quartet, an ensemble that’s breathed new life into the chamber template with a spectacular and sparkling palette of musical colors.
Contemporary dance fans will get a look at the new Taylor 2 touring ensemble of the legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company, performing intimate versions of the choreographer’s celebrated works on January 31. From there, audiences can beam back to the streets of Victorian-era London when LA Theatreworks returns to the Pollak on February 11 with a new radio-play rendition of the Bram Stoker classic Dracula. On March 6, audiences of all ages will be enchanted by the theatrical artistry of Imago Theatre’s Zoo Zoo, a show incorporating Cirque Du Soleil-evoking acrobatics mixed with Mummenschanz-like mime, set in a unique yet accessible French-influenced avant-garde playground.
The Pollak stage becomes a street corner in the old neighborhood on February 20 when Doo Wop Explosion: A Night of Acappella Harmony comes to town with a program of performers drawn from the finest vocal groups in New York, Philadelphia and North Jersey. A next-generation Americana legend joins an acclaimed and authentic folk troubador on April 23, when Jimmy LaFave and Amy Helm team up at the Pollak, and May 1 sees the return of a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with impeccable E Street credentials when Nils Lofgren brings his decades-spanning solo songbook and guitar gymnastics to the stage in a duo setting.
The Performing Arts Series comes full circle on May 22, when the act that opened the current season back in September — New Zealand tenor Geoff Sewell and his contemporary classical crossover vocal ensemble Bravo Amici — return by overwhelming popular demand to close out the spring schedule with their dazzling mix of arias from the classic canon and Broadway stages.
Tickets to all events in the 2016 Performing Arts Series are on sale now, with reservations available online or by calling the Monmouth University Performing Arts Box Office at 732-263-6889. Check www.monmouth.edu/arts for updates on these events and more, including student productions, children’s theater, and high definition broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera, Bolshoi Ballet, and National Theatre of London.
For press inquiries regarding Center for the Arts events, contact Kelly Barratt, Assistant Director, at 732-263-5114.