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A Letter from the Director: Together Again

Published on 8/23/2021 2:08:59 PM

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Several years ago, a playwright told me that “theatre exists for a community to learn itself and celebrate itself; whoever comes in that door, they become one in the theatre.” At the Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts we have taken this vision to heart, recognizing the profound role all the arts play in celebrating, challenging, and transforming our community.

Since we last met, in February 2020, to see and hear The Passion of St. Thomas More, our community has faced hardships. The global coronavirus pandemic. Ongoing violence against Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color. Rampant misinformation on everything from the integrity of our elections to the safety of our vaccines. A mob run riot through the US Capitol. The failure of our power grid in the face of severe winter storms. Each of these has strained us in ways that remind us of the necessity of the arts to make our community resilient and sustainable. It is in our theatres, auditoriums, and galleries that we can gather to care for one another, to decolonize our institutions, to practice anti-racism, to find enlightenment, to confront our failures, and to commit ourselves to making the better world we owe one another.

If the challenges of the past two years have made learning and celebrating our community more urgent, they have also revealed that the contours of our community extend well beyond the bounds of the Brazos Valley. We were excited to present As Far As Isolation Goes and The Just and The Blind online this past spring, and we are equally excited to be bringing performers to campus once again in the coming year—an exciting roster of artists whose work cuts across genres and disciplines. Their performances invite us to rediscover the joys and challenges facing our community as we come together again after so long apart. 

Our season begins this October with the concluding presentation of our commission for the Gardens at Texas A&M University, Growing Harmony, featuring new and returning location-aware music composed by the Holladay Brothers and Texas A&M students. In November, the work of internationally renowned dancers and choreographers will yet again grace our stages, as Rubberband Dance Group presents Vic’s Mix, a meeting of classical ballet and 1990s West Coast Hip Hop that redraws the boundaries of contemporary dance. The spring semester will begin with a concert by the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, a jazz ensemble featuring drummer Dan Brubeck and bassist, trombonist, and composer Chris Brubeck, (sons of jazz giant Dave Brubeck), as well as guitarist Mike DeMicco and pianist Chuck Lamb. In March, choreographer Michelle N. Gibson brings her New Orleans Original Buckshop to campus for workshops with students and community members that will immerse participants in the culture and diasporic traditions of Black New Orleans, and her own New Orleans Second Line Aesthetic. Later that month, dancer and choreographer Jinah Parker presents SHE, a choreoplay that uses dance, music, and storytelling to take on the epidemic of sexual and gender-based violence, and uplift the many women and allies working to address it. Finally, in April the AVPA is proud to present S-P-O-R-T-S-P-L-A-Y, an original community-based installation performance devised by Mike Durkin of the Renegade Company in collaboration with partners across campus that will celebrate and interrogate the traditions surrounding sports in our culture. 

I hope you will join us for each of these exciting presentations. And I invite you to get involved with our workshops and community-based projects. Most of all I look forward to joining with you to make and remake our community each time we meet to experience what the AVPA has to offer. I can’t wait to be together again.

James R. Ball, III
Director, Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts