By Amy Wells
Ohio University's Performing Arts and Horizons Concert series boast strong lineups for 2008-09, including three Grammy Award winners, National Public Radio commentator David Sedaris and three former Broadway shows, while the Kennedy Lecture Series will welcome Animal Planet host Jeff Corwin and ecologist, author and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber.
Coordinated by the Office of University Events, each of these series brings a wide range of prominent guests and artists to Southeast Ohio. The Performing Arts Series features theater and dance performances, while the Horizons Concert Series, sponsored by Pepsi and Dining Services, presents an eclectic mix of musical artists. A committee of faculty and staff led by the University Events chooses both the Kennedy Lecture Series and Frontiers in Science Lecture Series. Guests for the latter will be announced this fall.
"We are thrilled with how both the Performing Arts Series and the Horizons Concert Series came together for this season," said Associate Director of University Events Andrew Holzaepfel. "While we're excited about all the shows, particularly David Sedaris because he is such a prominent and well-known author, and he does very few events a year."
Here's a look at the lineup of guests planned by these series to date:
Sept. 26: Opening the year is the Broadway hit "Chicago," which follows seductive nightclub dancer Roxie Hart's road to fame and trail of blood. Throw in a cunning lawyer and a bit of razzle dazzle, and Roxie goes from cold-hearted killer to the toast of the town.
Oct. 1: The Kennedy Lecture Series welcomes Animal Planet host and leading conservationist Jeff Corwin. His show "The Jeff Corwin Experience" is one of the most popular shows on cable television, reaching more than 13 million viewers in some 70 countries worldwide.
Oct. 2: The Grammy-winning Indigo Girls refuse to mellow with age. Twenty years after they began releasing records as a duo, devoted environmental and social-justice activists and lifelong music-industry mavericks Amy Ray and Emily Saliers continue to entertain audiences with classic hits and tracks from their 10th and latest studio album, "Despite Our Differences."
Oct. 21: In the Cirque Mechanics' "Birdhouse Factory," acrobats and early 20th century machines come together with inspiration from Diego Rivera's "Detroit Industry Murals," illustrations by Rube Goldberg and Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times." Hailed by Spectacle Magazine as having made "the most important contribution to the development of the American circus since Cirque Du Soleil," Cirque Mechanics' members use the assembly line machines to power and assist circus acts while attempting to build a better birdhouse. The acrobats, who describe themselves as "the seamless blend of mechanics and art," tell a story of laughter, love, flight, loss and birdhouses.
Jan. 17: Currently in their 70s and still atop the gospel charts, the Grammy-winning Blind Boys of Alabama predate Elvis, Little Richard and Al Green. Their ability to bring out the most spiritual aspects of mainstream music have led to covers of songs by artists from Tom Waits to Prince in addition to their traditional gospel material.
Jan. 21: The Kennedy Lecture Series will welcome Ishmael Beah, author of "A Long Way Gone." Beah was recruited to fight as a soldier during the Sierra Leone civil war in the 1990s, when he was only 13 years old and after the deaths of his parents and two brothers. Eventually released by the army and sent to a UNICEF rehabilitation center, Beah, now 26, tells a story of redemption and hope.
Jan. 27: The East Village Opera Company re-imagines classic opera repertoire by combining arias, presented in their original languages, with rock rhythms. Imagine a collaboration between Mozart and The Who or Puccini and Queen and you begin to get an idea of the group's provocatively innovative treatments.
Feb. 18: Featuring more than two dozen of Billy Joel's songs, the former Broadway musical "Movin' Out" tells the story of lifelong friends through two turbulent decades, which include post-World War II idealism and the Vietnam War, that change them and the world around them forever. The music is complemented by the beautiful choreography of Tony winner Twyla Tharp, who has choreographed more than 135 dances and directed and choreographed three Broadway shows.
March 14: The African Children's Choir's "Journey of Hope" takes audiences on an inspirational trip out of war-torn Uganda in 1984. The group was recruited when -- following the brutal reign of Idi Amin, which left hundreds of thousands of children orphaned -- founder Ray Barnett and a team of volunteers heard the singing of one small child. The choir's music is a blend of song and dance featuring more than 10 African languages and cultural dancing.
April 2: Chris Thile is best known as a member of the Grammy Award-winning group Nickel Creek. He and his equally talented band-mates are among the most in-demand performers in the worlds of bluegrass and folk and, within a year of their formation, are playing to sold-out crowds across the country.
April 7: National Public Radio commentator David Sedaris, author of The New York Times best-selling book "Me Talk Pretty One Day," has used his sardonic wit and incisive social critiques to emerge as one of America's most popular humor writers. A master of satire, he cuts through cultural euphemisms and political correctness to address the human condition. The evening with Sedaris will conclude with a book signing.
April 13: The Kennedy Lecture Series will welcome ecologist, author and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, an expert on the environmental links to cancer and human health. Her book, "Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment," presents cancer as a human rights issue.
April 16: The timeless tale of the former Broadway hit "Little Orphan Annie" wraps up the Performing Arts Series and provides a whole new generation with the chance to experience some of America's most memorable scores.
Tickets for the Performing Arts and Horizons Concert series go on sale Sept. 8, with the exception of the Indigo Girls, which go on sale Aug. 18. Subscriptions may be purchased now for the Horizons Concert Series, the Performing Arts Series or both. For more information, visit www.ohio.edu/performingarts/ or call the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium box office at 740-593-1780.
All Kennedy and Frontiers in Science Lecture Series events are free and open to the public.
To speak with a media contact about these series, contact Associate Director of University Events Andrew Holzaepfel at 740-593-1760 or firstname.lastname@example.org.