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Flynn Center Blog


by Ana Hernandez, Burlington Writers Workshop

Pink Martini performs on the MainStage on Wednesday, September 24 at 7:30 pm. Get tickets at

A warm, calm house surrounded by quiet woods loves music, I think, so early one winter evening I played bits of 1969 (Pink Martini, with Saori Yuki) for Kim.

Yuki was born just after the end of WWII and quite literally grew up with the genre of kayokyoku emerging from cultural and artistic struggles and convergences, and variously described as both postwar Japanese music infused with Western elements, and “like foreign food with Japanese style.”

Years later, Yuki relived her debut with an international audience in this collaborative work with Pink Martini, the imaginatively self-styled 1962 house band of the United Nations.

Sleet clicked and slid against the darkened glass as she sang about the “footsteps of the seasons.”

“I wonder if your mum would like it?” I mused.

Kim’s mother, Fumi, married her father while he was stationed in Japan and came to the US when his tour was over—still a teen but on her own already for many years—to a family with deep roots in rural Massachusetts that she’d not yet met. Neither spoke the other’s language.

I see Fumi as archetypal of a survivor of war and a nation’s loss of much of its past and its future. Who are you? How do you comprehend what comes next? She will tell me, easily, of extreme childhood poverty and of having decided to marry the first man who could promise her a roof and that she would not be hungry again.

Kim’s father was that, and an unexpected love.

I imagine her, early on, as committed to make work whatever this future might hold. She is, to me, accomplished and courageous beyond compare—she built a house, has been a guest speaker at her children’s schools, converted to Catholicism, learned to make Western food and clothing better than most in her new community, opened her home to friends in need, and cheated dramatic deaths—by fire, Legionnaire’s disease, a brain aneurysm—all square on, with equal aplomb.

I try to imagine, suffuse myself with such resolve, and quickly hear myself devolving, railing bitterly, “why won’t you even try to learn Japanese,” “I want to go home,” “this food is too coarse, too heavy,” “stop bothering me.” So instead, I ask Fumi her stories and write them down. I want to keep her close, of course, but also I vaguely suspect that I have yet to learn that which she has to teach.

And I ponder the humanness of turning moments, like notes, that span miles and years—winter evenings, meals, houses, Legionnaire’s disease, debuts, questions—into moods and stories, into melodies, that enrich as they endure. Sweetness, self-invention, diaspora, grief, love. How moments become richer in memory, how tellings and retellings clash and meld, how lives unfold into music.

In memory of Derek Rieth.

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An Overview of the Season

by Steve MacQueen, Artistic Director

This year’s season kicks off with Pink Martini (Wednesday, September 24), the ultimate sophisticated lounge band (that’s a compliment!). The group draws from musical traditions around the world and across genres of pop, jazz, and classical. On Wednesday, October 1, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Los Lobos, whose music is influenced by rock and roll, Tex-Mex, country, folk, R&B, blues, brown-eyed soul, and traditional music such as cumbia, boleros, and nortenos. Second City (Thursday, October 2) opened in 1959 to present a mix of sketch and improv comedy, and became the starting point for generations of America’s best and brightest comedians, including Joan Rivers, John Belushi, John Candy, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and Tina Fey. Featuring top global choreographers, distinctive groundbreaking works, and virtuoso dancers, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (Saturday, October 18) is one of the most dynamic, athletic, risk-taking contemporary ballets around. Wynton Marsalis calls Marcus Roberts (Friday, October 24) “the genius of modern piano.” Roberts and his 12-piece band, which includes Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra veterans alongside some up-and-coming jazz musicians, play an evening length original composition, Romance, Swing, and the Blues. R. Buckminster Fuller was quite a guy: architect, designer, engineer, inventor, linguist, writer, and philosopher. Documentary filmmaker Sam Green and indie-rock band Yo La Tengo pay homage to Fuller with a live-performance, multimedia documentary, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller (Thursday, October 30; co-presented by the UVM Lane Series).

Winner of 31 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards and two Grammys, the Del McCoury Band (Sunday, November 2) was hand-picked by Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora to set previously undiscovered lyrics to bluegrass music. The legendary Martha Graham Dance Company (Friday, November 21) carries on the legacy of Graham’s focus on expressive movement. The New York Times says that “Graham’s choreography remains a true, living American document.” An absolutely astonishing vocal group that’s been around for more than 40 years, Sweet Honey in the Rock (Thursday, December 4) sings spirituals, freedom songs, and protest songs in unspeakably beautiful five-part harmony. A landmark in the funny-nun genre, Sister Act (Thursday, December 11) started out as a Whoopi Goldberg film before becoming a big Broadway hit.

Returning to the Flynn for the 33rd year, Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s A Christmas Carol (Friday, December 12) is true a holiday favorite. Emerging choreographer Camille A. Brown (Saturday, January 17) creates pieces that are high energy, provocative, and theatrically electrifying. Grease (Friday, January 23) is not only the word . . . it’s also a fun sing-a-long, so dress up in your favorite Grease outfit and sing along. Terri Lyne Carrington (Friday, January 30) was the drummer of choice for 20 years, playing with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, Cassandra Wilson, and many more. Money Jungle is her tribute to the Duke Ellington/Charles Mingus/Max Roach album, but it stakes its own territory, and takes off like a rocket from the first downbeat.

Nice Work If You Can Get It (Monday, February 2) is like a jukebox filled with George and Ira Gershwin songs: Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off, ‘S Wonderful, I’ve Got a Crush on You, Someone To Watch Over Me, and of course, the title tune. The plot holding the songs together is great, frothy, screwball fun. The family matinee of Schoolhouse Rock Live! (Sunday, February 15) brings back all your old favorites, like 3 Is a Magic Number, Conjunction Junction, and How a Bill Becomes a Law. This performance is sensory-friendly for people with autism, which means that the house lights are a little brighter and the rules a bit relaxed. Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy (Wednesday, Februrary 18) are two great Cape Breton fiddlers who happen to be married. Along with the music and step-dancing, you’ll hear stories about Cape Breton, and catch glimpses of their family life (and even some family members). While Gregory Porter’s (Thursday, February 19) voice may recall the heyday of early ‘70s folk geniuses such as Bill Withers and Donny Hathaway, he’s a jazz singer, having won the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Kuchipudi is classical Indian dance, as challenging and precise to perform as classical ballet. Shantala Shivalingappa (Saturday, February 21) makes it look easy with Akasha, a program of five solos accompanied by live singing, flute, and percussion.

Lily Tomlin (Sunday, March 8) studied acting under Charles Nelson Reilly and made her TV debut on the Merv Griffin Show, but it was Laugh-In that made her a star. Since then she’s won two Tony Awards, a Grammy, and the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize. Nine-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion Eileen Ivers (Friday, March 13; co-presented by the UVM Lane Series) is not only the original musical star of Riverdance, but she’s also a founding member of Cherish the Ladies. She joins us this year for our annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. The Acting Company returns to the Flynn with one of Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring (and bloody!) tragedies, Macbeth (Wednesday, March 25). The Nile Project (Saturday, March 28; co-presented by the UVM Lane Series) is an electrifying all-star band that embraces numerous musical cultures under one roof, but it’s also a much larger project that embraces sustainability, clean water, and sharing of resources across borders of countries through which the Nile flows.

Peter and the Starcatcher (Tuesday, April 14) is the critically acclaimed prequel to Peter Pan and winner of five Tonys, including sound design, light design, costume design, and scenic design. The New York Times said, “With grown-up theatrical savvy and a child’s wonder at what it can achieve, this show never stops flying.” The iconic title design was created by Vermont woodworker John W. Long. Miwa Matreyek (Wednesday, April 15) is an incredible experimental filmmaker who creates hallucinatory dreamscapes, and then backlights herself into the action to create an immersive, in-the-moment film experience you haven’t had before. The African Children’s Choir (Thursday, April 16) started off as a way to assist children in Uganda, but they now have numerous choirs and seven homes for children who have been displaced by war or famine. Their performances are celebratory and jubilant. Gilberto Gil (Monday, April 20) is one of the world’s greatest and most influential musicians. As a co-founder of the Tropicália movement, he helped reinvent Brazilian popular music by incorporating rock, reggae and funk into traditional Brazilian rhythms. In concert, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (Tuesday, April 21) offers a funny, virtuosic, twanging, awesome, foot-stomping evening as they jump from Tchaikovsky to Nirvana via Otis Redding and Spaghetti Western soundtracks. This American Life host Ira Glass joins dancers Monica Bill Barnes and Anna Bass in Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host (Saturday, April 25), a funny, lively evening of dance and storytelling. It’s This American Life . . . with dancing. Anything Goes (Monday, April 27) won three Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical. Featuring Cole Porter favorites such as I Get a Kick Out Of You, It’s De-Lovely, and the title track, the story follows two unlikely pairs setting off on a course to true love, while on a ship heading out to sea. The New York Times calls Wendy Whelan (Thursday, April 30) “America’s greatest contemporary ballerina.” A longtime principal dancer for the New York City Ballet, Whelan enlisted four of the most dynamic young choreographers today and commissioned duets from each of them. In Restless Creature, she dances these duets with each choreographer.

Cirque Mechanics (Sunday, May 10) returns to the Flynn with Pedal Punk, which features the Gantry bike—a pedal powered circus caravan that moves around the stage as the performers —acrobats, cyclists, equilibrists, and funambulists—throw themselves around on the moving structure.

Explorations in FlynnSpace

Sometimes, you want something a bit more intimate and offbeat than the usual. For the Flynn, which has long had a commitment to cutting-edge work designed for smaller audiences, those moments generally occur during our Explorations Series in FlynnSpace, where the connection between artist and audience is immediate and magic seems to happen on a regular basis. These dance, theater, and music performances feature artistic perspectives from Vietnam, Japan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda, as well as various parts of the US. All of them have provocative, interesting artists with something to say, and we’re delighted to give them a place to say it.

Tri Minh Quartet, Sounds from Hanoi (Sunday, September 28)
A new musical voice from Vietnam, Tri Minh and his Quartet combine electronica, acoustic instruments, and traditional motifs in a program of collaborative and improvised works. Tri Minh’s evocative soundscapes have attracted international attention and he has worked with some of today’s top DJs and electronic musicians, though his music is equally evocative of classical music infused with regional sounds.

Andy Milne, Strings & Serpents (Wednesday, October 29)
Strings & Serpents is the latest venture from adventurous jazz pianist Andy Milne, who teams with French pianist Benoit Delbecq, the Japanese TsuguKaji KOTO duo, and animator Saki Murotani to create this fascinating tapestry of sight and sound. A multi cultural collaboration that marries Japanese and Western forms through improvisation and rhythm, set against the backdrop of Murotani’s startling animations, Strings is based on Japanese Rainbow Serpent mythology. The work was commissioned by the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts and supported by the Japan Foundation through the Performing Arts JAPAN program.

Look Backward, Dance Forward: Tales from Home
Faustin Linyekula, Le Cargo (Friday, October 31)
Panaibra Gabriel Canda, The Marrabenta Solos (Saturday, November 1)
This unique two-evening dance-theater program features two remarkable dancers offering artistic perspectives on the complex histories of their countries. Hailing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Faustin Linyekula presents his first solo piece Le Cargo, which recounts his return home and things lost and found on his journey. Panaibra Gabriel Canda’s Marrabenta Solos examines Mozambique and its struggles with colonialism, nationalism, and modernity. Accompanied by virtuoso guitarist Jorge Domingos, Canda tells the story through marrabenta, a dance that mixes local traditions and European influences. Both Canda and Linyekula are first-rate storytellers, both through words and movement, and their stories are well worth hearing.

Steve Paxton & Jurij Konjar, Bound (Thursday, November 6)
Dubbed “a titan of the 1960s and ‘70s avant-garde” (New York Times) and the founder of contact improvisation, Vermont resident Steve Paxton’s impact on modern dance is nearly incalculable. An early dancer with Merce Cunningham and one of the key figures in the deeply influential Judson Dance Theatre of the ‘60s and Grand Union of the ‘70s, Paxton (recently awarded The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Dance at the International Dance Festival of the Venice Biennale) makes his Flynn debut with a restaged version of his 1982 work Bound. He’s not actually dancing it, however; he set the work on Slovenian dancer Jurij Konjar, and advance notice on the piece is fabulous. Before Konjar’s performance, Paxton is interviewed by Polly Motley in the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery.

Raphael Xavier, The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance (Saturday, November 15)
Philadelphia-based hip-hop dancer/choreographer/spoken- word artist Raphael Xavier’s The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance is hip-hop dance as performance art, an autobiographical culmination of Xavier’s 30 years in the business. Xavier plays with the rhythms of rap, dance and narrative, deconstructing them along the way to give insight into the artist’s life and work. Visceral yet deeply thoughtful, the show, directed by Ralph Lemon, reflects an artist’s view on hip-hop’s influence and history as the form—and its practitioners—age.

Mat Fraser & Julie Atlas Muz, The Freak & the Showgirl (New date: Thursday, January 8) Mat Fraser is a writer, actor, musician, cabaret host/performer, and disability advocate, while his partner Julie Atlas Muz is an actress, burlesque celebrity, and former Miss Exotic World. The two will perform an evening of no-holds-barred, explicit, adults-only cabaret that will challenge the audience’s perceptions on a variety of topics.

Kristina Wong, The Wong Street Journal (Thursday, February 26)
L.A.-based performance-artist Kristina Wong concludes a week-long residency with an in-progress performance of her (by then) nearly finished work, a scathingly satirical look at global economic inequality, inspired by her trip to Uganda. Hilarious and fearless, Wong is a provocateur, solo performer writer, and cultural commentator who’s unafraid to live her life in public (her hysterical romantic pursuit of NBA star Jeremy Lin is a small example). Wong has five solo shows already to her credit—including the lauded Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which examined the high rate of suicide among Chinese-American women— and when she takes the stage in FlynnSpace, that number goes up to six. During her residency, Wong is also active in the community, working with high-school students.

Terry Galloway, You Are My Sunshine (Saturday, April 11)
Performance artist Terry Galloway performs her one-woman show, based on her experience as a deaf woman who received a cochlear implant well into adulthood, and her struggles/revelations as a person who suddenly emerges into a world of noise. A mesmerizing storyteller, Galloway is alternatingly thoughtful and hysterical, often one when you expect the other. While in residence, Galloway also reads from her memoir, Mean Little Deaf Queer, and hosts a performance workshop.

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Remembering Joan Rivers

by John Killacky, Executive Director

Comedians Jason Lorber and Joan Rivers at the Flynn in April 2012.”

Comedians Jason Lorber and Joan Rivers at the Flynn in April 2012.

Two years ago, I was nervously waiting for Joan Rivers to arrive for rehearsal with local musicians the Flynn had hired as her musical back up.  I expected a feral tigress; instead I welcomed a kindly grandmother type, chicly dressed in black.

She got right down to work. Going through musical cues, the comedian told the band, “I really like you, but when the show starts I might not be so nice. Don’t take it personally.” At one point, she explained, “I will fall down and beg you to help me up, but don’t make a move. It’s funnier that way, and I like funny.”

Local comedian Jason Lorber had been invited to perform a short warm-up set.  After his sound check, Rivers told him, “Don’t worry if you bomb, the audience is here to see me.” Not the most reassuring praise for a fellow artist.

After the rehearsal, I handed Ms. Rivers her check in an envelope that she immediately opened.  “It’s the right amount, thank you,” she said with a smile and a wink.  This was an artist who knew her finances.

Hours later, her raspy, foul-mouthed brilliance came alive on stage.  My jaw dropped as she began her barrage of insults: telling the old people to leave, attacking the obese, and chiding the lesbians who didn’t love her as much as the gays. Nothing was off limits, and the audience at first seemed uncomfortable.

Within a few minutes, however, we relaxed as she goaded us to “Oh, grow up!” and laughed at things no one else would dare talk about in public. This brash idiosyncratic icon was in top form, demonstrating her life-long mantra, “Life is tough, so you better laugh at everything.”

After the performance, she had agreed to do a ‘Meet and Greet’ with Flynn supporters. Instructions were precise: visitors were to stand in line and Ms. Rivers would pose for photographs.  And that she did, smiling for each and every photo-op until the last person got their memento.

What an honor it was to present this legend. Fifty years ago she broke down the male bastion of comedy on mainstream television. Then, through personal tragedies and professional setbacks, she continually reinvented herself: day-time talk show host, shopping network maven, celebrity apprentice, reality show star, and red carpet fashionista.  “Can we talk?” was always her invitation as she tackled societal taboos with irrepressible chutzpah.

On her way out of the Flynn that evening, she turned to me and sweetly said, “Thank you for bringing me to your beautiful theatre.  Hope you will have me back.”

You are most welcome Joan Rivers. You were such a fierce artist, a comic genius with unstoppable determination. Thank you for all the laughter you allowed us.

This commentary first appeared on Vermont Public Radio.


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At the Intersection of Art and Disability

by John Killacky, Executive Director

The Flynn has a long-standing commitment to access and inclusion. In 2011, we received our second award from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and the METLife Foundation for our work in accessibility and inclusivity for artists and audiences with disabilities. This year, the Surdna Foundation gave the Flynn a three-year grant to continue this kind of programming and outreach. The grant is augmented by support from The Gibney Family Foundation and Courtney and Victoria Buffum Family Foundation, as well as generous local foundations and individuals.

Marcus Roberts & The Modern Jazz Generation (MainStage, October 24)
Preeminent jazz pianist Marcus Roberts is in residence at the Flynn from October 20-24, which culminates in two performances with his 12-piece band, one for students and one for the general public. While in residence, Roberts visits multiple communities including Burlington’s Integrated Arts Academy and the University of Vermont Big Band. In addition to being a jazz genius, Roberts, blind since age five, has made extraordinary breakthroughs in the development of adaptive technology that enables blind composers to write complicated musical scores. The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired is one of the Flynn’s community partners for the residency. Large Braille programs and audio descriptions are available at both the student and evening performances and an online study guide is available for teachers, parents, and homeschoolers.

Thodos Dance Chicago (Thursday, February 5)
As part of our Student Matinee Series, Thodos Dance Chicago performs its beautiful A Light in the Dark based on the lives of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan. The Flynn is excited to give students a new way to look at The Miracle Worker—as a dance piece rather than a theater piece—and open lines of understanding about differently-abled populations and art-making. Planned residency activities include an onstage “touch tour” of the sets, props, and costumes for the visually impaired. Pre-show workshops are devised in collaboration with VSA Vermont and the UVM Deaf/Blind Project (part of the Vermont Sensory Access Project at the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion), to give audiences a stronger line into understanding both contemporary dance and the experience of having impaired sight and hearing. The performance is audio-described for the blind and visually impaired and interpreted in ASL for the deaf and hearing impaired. An online study guide is available as well.

“Schoolhouse Rock Live!” (Sunday, February 15)
This adaptation of the Emmy-winning ‘70s Saturday morning cartoon series is presented as an autism-friendly performance: the content remains the same,teacher nervous about his first day relaxes by watching TV, characters appear and show him how to win over his students using imagination and music. The Flynn worked with the artists in the touring company and the National Autism Theatre Initiative of Theatre Development Fund to learn how to create a supportive environment for audience members diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensory issues. We also convened a local advisory group that chose this particular performance, and will work with us to spread the word statewide. This is an inclusive performance to which all family audiences are invited.

In FlynnSpace

Mat Fraser & Julie Atlas Muz: “The Freak and the Showgirl” (New date: Thursday, January 8)
Mat Fraser and his wife Julie Atlas Muz bring their provocative, adults only, burlesque spectacle The Freak and the Showgirl, asking us to leave political correctness at the door as they challenge perceptions on disability and the body. Born with a thalidomide syndrome of shortened limbs, Mat has long been a disability activist on stage and in film as an actor and musician. Their cabaret extravaganzas have been seen in London, Seattle, Holland, Portugal, Baltimore, Adelaide, Leeds, Liverpool, New York, and Key West.

Terry Galloway: “You Are My Sunshine” (Saturday, April 11)
Terry Galloway brings her autobiographical one-woman show, You Are My Sunshine, about her transition from deafness to suddenly being able to hear after receiving a cochlear implant. For decades, Galloway has been deaf activist and her performance art has been produced internationally. You Are My Sunshine explores the struggles and revelations of a person thrust into a new world of sound after 40 years of deafness. In addition to her performance, informal community gatherings are planned with the LGBT and deaf communities, and Galloway will do a reading from her bitingly humorous memoir Mean Little Deaf Queer.

In the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery
In association with the GRACE Gallery in Hardwick, next June the Flynn exhibits the work of artist and autism advocate Larry Bissonnette. A high fever at the age of two damaged his nervous system and he was institutionalized as a child, but now lives with his sister. Bissonnette has been drawing prolifically since the age of five. His work is exhibited nationally and internationally and is in the permanent collection of the Musée de l’Art Brut, Lausanne, Switzerland and in many private collections. He has been a featured presenter at many educational conferences and has written and spoken on the topics of autism, communication, and art. Three disability related films on the work of Larry Bissonnette, Mark Utter, and Gayleen Aiken will also be screened.

Universal Design for Learning
This season, the Flynn continues its work with VSA Vermont and Burlington City Arts providing professional development for teachers and teaching artists’ residencies at the Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington. A component of this training focuses on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles in relation to arts-integrated curriculum. UDL is a set of curriculum development principles that considers multiple learning styles in order to give all individuals equal opportunity to access learning in intentional and meaningful ways. These are particularly relevant for students with physical and cognitive disabilities.

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Dance at Bennington College: 80 Years of Moving Through

by John Killacky, Executive Director

Dance at Bennington College: 80 Years of Moving Through
An exhibition drawn from Bennington College’s archives
September 12 through November 29, 2014
Amy E. Tarrant Gallery at the Flynn Center

Martha Graham in lift with Erick Hawkins 8” x 10” Photographer unknown

Martha Graham in lift
with Erick Hawkins
8” x 10”
Photographer unknown

Dance enthusiasts claim that modern dance is America’s indigenous art form; jazz fans may disagree. Nevertheless, modern dance artists from this country continue to exert a profound aesthetic influence worldwide. Most remarkably, this genre found its first American home in Vermont at Bennington College. In 1934, the college created a center for the study of modern dance under the stewardship of Martha Hill. That summer, she invited Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman, and Hanya Holm to teach, create, and perform.

This initial summer school, attended by 103 students, validated these choreographers and helped them develop their distinctive teaching technique and vocabulary. The Bennington School of the Dance was formally born. Other icons such as Sybil Shearer, Erick Hawkins, Bessie Schönberg, Merce Cunningham, José Limón, Ana Sokolow, Anna Halprin, and Alwin Nikolais soon visited Bennington. Louie Horst, Martha Graham’s music director, taught dance composition and New York Times critic John Martin helped students and faculty learn how to talk and write about this nascent art form. Without hyperbole, the case can be made that modern dance would not be where it is today without Bennington College.

In subsequent decades Sophie Maslow, Jack Moore, Steve Paxton, Remy Charlip, Harry Shephard, Min Tanaka, Eiko and Koma, Ulysses Dove, and many others visited, giving students access to the most creative dancemakers alive. Currently, the faculty includes Terry Creach, Dana Reitz, Susan Sgorbati, and Elena Demyanenko.

For the Flynn’s exhibition, historic photographs are drawn from Bennington’s archives that feature many of these figures in the development of American modern and post modern dance. Related to the exhibition are the following Talking Dance lectures in the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery:

Friday, September 12, 5:30 to 8 pm
Opening reception and discussion about the history of dance at Bennington with dance professors Dana Reitz and Terry Creach and Flynn Executive Director John Killacky.

Thursday, November 6 at 6 pm
Pre-performance discussion with Stowe-based choreographer Polly Motley and dancer Steve Paxton, whose solo piece Bound is performed by Jurij Konjar in FlynnSpace at 7:30 pm.

Friday, November 21 at 6:30 pm
Pre-performance conversation with Martha Graham Dance Company Artistic Director Janet Elber and Flynn Artistic Director Steve MacQueen.

For more information, visit the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery page.

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In the Queue

by Julia Rhoads & Leslie Danzig of Lucky Plush

Come to a free performance by dance group Lucky Plush of their new work-in-progress The Queue on Monday, August 18 at 6 pm. Get more info here.

Hello Flynn audience members!

We’re sitting here in the Flynn MainStage on a 10 minute break during our National Dance Project-supported production residency. We’re here to refine the design and staging of The Queue, which premiered in Chicago this past spring at Links Hall, and that begins touring throughout the US in September. The Queue is a dance-theater work that takes place in the communal spaces of a staged airport, where plots unfold and intersect, and characters become embroiled in each other’s lives. The Queue also features live music by The Claudettes, an amazing drum & piano duo that you can see live in Burlington on Sunday night at Red Square (7 pm . . . join us!).

We’re working on a section we call “Dispersal,” where the performers move through places like Hudson News, monitors, and the food court. We’re finally getting to realize an idea we had months ago before our Chicago premiere that involves an accelerating footwork pattern, which evokes the nonstop motion of an airport. Because of the small size of our premiere venue in Chicago, and limited lighting equipment, we weren’t able to successfully execute this idea for our opening, but are determined to make it work at the Flynn Center.

We work with a complex mix of technical dance, physical theater, and dialogue-driven scenes. A lot of our time is spent trying to achieve the perfect balance of layering and tacking between these forms. We spent all day yesterday tackling this one moment in the show where we have to get from a narrative scene into full-bodied, lush choreography. We tried a lot of approaches, and over dinner last night at El Cortijo (really good food!) we think we figured it out. Trying that out today as well.

We’re so excited, and we hope that you will join us on Monday evening at 6pm for an informal showing of The Queue. 

Break is over!

Warm regards,

Julia Rhoads & Leslie Danzig

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Movement is Healing

by Sara McMahon, Flynn Teaching Artist

This fall, FlynnArts offers Movement for Parkinson’s, a weekly class designed for people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers to engage participants’ minds and bodies. Sign up for the class here.

Image courtesy of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group

Image courtesy of the Brooklyn Parkinson Group

My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s just over two years ago. The impact on our lives has been instrumental in finding ways to support all the changes that have come our way.

I’ve been a movement educator and artist for over 35 years, and have always held a particular interest in neurological movement (developmental) patterns and improvisation. When we first learned of the diagnosis, I began to research existing movement classes for people with the disease. I immediately came across a Parkinson’s dance program at Keene State, and registered for an informational seminar. From there, I went on to train intensively in a special program developed in partnership by Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group. The physical therapists at Fletcher Allen’s Movement Disorders Center have also been incredibly supportive in my research. This current direction—teaching dance and movement to those with Parkinson’s—feels energizing, challenging, and rewarding.

Dance and movement classes provide so much for those with Parkinson’s. First is the benefit of coming together as a group and feeling accepted and validated, both for what one can do and what one is challenged to do. The classes help to stretch and strengthen muscles; improve motor skills, balance, and facial expressions; increase confidence, coordination, and energy; treat depression, enhance a sense of belonging, and build community.

Class begins with a warm-up and progresses to phrases, then to across-the-floor movements. Our initial warm-up takes place sitting on chairs in a circle: during this section, we begin with slow movement focusing on upper body flexibility and strengthening phrases. Next we focus on the feet, legs, and hips, followed by work on incorporating voice and facial expressions.  Then we move across the floor combining the movement elements we’ve worked on, again drawing on different dance styles. These activities are accompanied by a variety of musical styles that enhance the experience. We close our class in a circle with a calming and relaxing “cool down” sequence.

For all the challenges that participants face, the support in these groups is powerful, and many times I’ve been moved beyond words.  I too benefit from the class, as I feel both energized and humbled at the same time by the work. I’ve always believed that movement is healing.

SARA MCMAHON has been involved in the research, teaching, performing of movement as a form of artistic and personal development for the past 30 years. Her teaching approach draws from elements of Bartenieff Fundamentals, Body-Mind Centering, basic principles of anatomy and kinesiology, and improvisational and modern dance techniques. Sara McMahon is a professional movement performer and educator trained in the Dance for PD® method. Assistance and support is offered by Elizabeth Brody, Flynn Arts Faculty, and other trained professional dance and yoga instructors.

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A Shot Through the Art

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

“What I love about this organization is that it has many different faces, depending on who’s coming here”

During the year after John Killacky was hired in 2010 as executive director and CEO of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts, earlier work he had done with his predecessor, founding director Andrea Rogers, came to fruition with a $500,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation.

The resulting $2.3 million campaign’s funds were slated to be used for projects such as enclosing the loading dock, which, when open in winter, sent the heating costs soaring; painting the floor and replacing rugs; painting walls; upgrading the lobby; and replacing the seats, which dated to 1946.

“The good news was, they gave us $500,000,” Killacky says, laughing; “the bad news was, they gave us $500,000.”

Worried about where the rest would come from, he sought input from longtime donors. “Bobby and Holly Miller are great. Bobby said, ‘What are you worried about?’ I said, ‘I’m the new guy in town. What if I fail?’ He said, ‘Well, John, you are new. You may fail. But be reassured this community will not let the Flynn fail.’

“We created the Take a Seat campaign without having a lot of money ahead of time, as a kind of grassroots campaign,” he says, “and one of the most remarkable things in my entire career happened.

“After the Free Press did an article about the squeaky seats that were going to be replaced, the front desk came to me with a hand-addressed envelope that said Director of Development, Flynn Center.” The typed message said, in part:

The lights went on for us when we read the article in the Free Press with the hilarious title “Let the de-squeaking begin.” We looked at one another and said, ‘This is a project we can really help move forward.’ It can happen now!

Enclosed was a bank check for $1 million.

“I cried!” he says. “I started obsessing about who it could be. Then I thought, These people want to be anonymous, and it could be anyone, even one of our volunteers. So I started being grateful to everyone who came in. I still don’t know who sent it.”

When he arrived to take the job, Killacky was quite familiar with the Flynn, having done several partnerships with the organization in the 1990s, when he was at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. When Killacky left Walker, the Flynn’s then artistic director, Philip Bither, took his position.

An old friend was also waiting to welcome him. At age 20, living in New York and needing a place to stay, he learned that a friend’s neighbor, a writer named Kathy Robinson, needed a nanny for her children. Killacky took the job. “When I moved to Vermont, a friend asked, ‘Did you get in touch with Kate Schubart yet?’ She was Kathy Robinson! And now I’m like a grandfather, because her daughter has a little baby.”

“I only know John through Kate,” says Schubart’s husband, Bill, an author, retired business owner, and Flynn member whose admiration is palpable. “One of the most wonderful things of John’s arrival at the Flynn has been his completely open and collaborative approach to culture. John sees it as the mission of the Flynn to lift everyone’s cultural boats. It’s not a control or power issue; his attitude is, How can we all do this together to make the arts stronger?”

The Flynn is one of Burlington’s largest employers: a $6.6 million organization that last year employed 264 people. “And that payroll was $2.1 million,” Killacky says. That includes 32 full-time staff plus part-timers: box office, stage hands, and over 70 teaching artists, he says, “teaching here at the Flynn but also at a number of schools.

“What I love about this organization is that it has many different faces, depending on who’s coming here,” he says.

Lyric Theatre Company spearheaded the purchase of the Flynn in 1981 to save it from the wrecking ball, says Syndi Zook, Lyric’s executive director. “We owned the Flynn for about six months and hired Andrea Rogers, then spun it off as its own nonprofit. John Killacky had big shoes to fill.

“I think that John has done an amazing job of keeping the Flynn feeling like it belongs to all of the original stakeholders and yet opening it up so that it belongs to everyone.”

“So we present the artists; people buy tickets, which I’m very grateful for,” Killacky says, “and we’re also home to the Vermont Symphony, Vermont Youth Orchestra, Vermont Stage Company, Lyric Theatre. Those other organizations’ audiences also call the Flynn home, which I’m just thrilled about.”

Gratitude: It crops up in just about every subject he addresses, not least when telling about the path that brought him here.

Killacky grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where his father and grandfather sold cattle at the Chicago Stockyards. “I was one of these kids who went on a school trip to the theater,” he says. “It was to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.

“I went home and said, ‘I want to be a modern dancer when I grow up.’ My mom and dad, with an Irish Catholic family and five kids, said, ‘What is a modern dancer?’ But God love them, they checked a phone book and found a modern dance studio.”

He became what he says was “a pretty good dancer,” and headed to New York for a summer internship with the Harkness Ballet, then to Winnipeg to perform professionally with Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers.

Back in New York, he danced with the Theatre of the Open Eye. “What I saw was that I was a pretty good dancer in Chicago, but once I went to New York, I was an OK dancer, especially in the classical ballet world.”

He toured and performed a couple of years, then transitioned into administration, managing the dance companies of choreographers Laura Dean and Trisha Brown. Six years later, he left to run the Pepsico Summer Fair in Purchase, N.Y., for a couple of years, followed by two years leading the arts program at The Pew Charitable Trusts in Philadelphia.

By then, Killacky had earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hunter College. “It took me nine years, because I would take a semester, then go off and perform. I told people that you can only be a dancer or an athlete like that in your 20s, so if you really want to go for it, go for it.”

His next move, to Minneapolis to run the performing arts program at the Walker Arts Center, “was a fantastic job,” he says. “It was a contemporary museum and my job was to bring in contemporary artists.

“It was the 1990s, and the contemporary artists of that time were causing a ruckus.” He recalls his mother’s calling to ask what on earth he had done to get Rush Limbaugh talking about him for a half hour on television.

“It was a time when people were dying of AIDS,” he says, “and bodily fluids, and blood, were just so scary to people, and of course artists were in that mix having to think about those issues. It was what contemporary artists do, and I was at that nexus.”

After eight years in Minneapolis, he was recruited to run the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco. His life would take a radical shift before he left for San Francisco, when a tumor was found inside his spinal cord “at C2, up high,” he says.

Killacky left the hospital following surgery, paralyzed and not expected to walk again. “I had no sensation on my right side and no location on my left side. Even today, my brain doesn’t know I have a left side,” he says.

He realized, however, that when being moved from the bed to the wheelchair, he felt like he could almost stand up. In outpatient rehab, he asked for a mirror. “I said, ‘I think I can learn to stand up visually.’”

Told it was unlikely, he persisted. “I said, ‘When I was younger I was a dancer and practiced in a mirror to make it look good. Let me try.’” He credits his early work with mirrors for preparing his brain to help him walk.

“And after I stopped dancing, I became a runner and ran six marathons, so I knew if I could figure out the first step, I could do it. I still work on it with yoga and swimming and strengthening. I need a cane because my body still doesn’t know I have a left side.”

Killacky’s freest moments these days come from driving his pony cart at Windswept Farm in Williston, pulled by his Shetland pony, Pacific Raindrop.

“In riding a horse, you need two legs,” he says. “But when you’re driving a horse or pony, you work only through the long reins. So I don’t have my own legs, but I can run, can dance again in the world with this pony, and I just have a blast.”

Killacky says that, at 62, he’s happier than he’s ever been. He lives in South Burlington with his family: husband, Larry Connolly, who teaches creative writing at Champlain College, “the pony — our 400-pound daughter; a very hyper border collie named Zephyr; and a three-legged cat, Lana.

“What I love doing and have been blessed to do, is Vermont Public Radio commentaries — about six of those a year. I tend not to only speak about art stuff; horse stuff sometimes; other things. I love that opportunity to be a cultural citizen. I’m on the board of the Vermont Community Foundation, and the state Tax Department just asked me to be on the Vermont Tax Advisory Board.”

The subject of the Flynn is never far from his mind. Mentioning the 38,000 children who come to see performances at student matinees, he says, “This is my best moment because I was one of those kids. When I see them, especially the little ones whose heads are just above the seats, watching live theater, it’s so important to me, because it transforms those lives. It did mine, and it will others.”

This article appears in Business People Vermont.

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2014 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival: By the Numbers

The 2014 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival filled the community with music, from the waterfront to Church Street, from the Flynn Center to the downtown clubs and restaurants, played by performers ranging from local artists to internationally recognized superstars.

In 2014 we presented:

129 total events

111 free events, including 114 hours of free music
16 Free educational events, including films, meet-the artist sessions, performances and workshops

95 free Church Street Marketplace performances, including 55 VT school bands and 660 Vermont students

210 gigs for local and regional musicians through the

18 clubs and restaurants who participated as ‘Round Town Venues during the festival.

Maceo Parker 3 Madis Gras Indians Ray Vega Regina Carter Tony Bennett

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Broadway World Reviews FlynnArts’ Chilling “Carrie, the Musical”

by Erin McIntyre

This review appears on the Broadway World website.

FlynnArts Summer Youth Theater opened CARRIE, THE MUSICAL on Thursday, July 18 at Burlington’s FlynnSpace at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts.

Based on Stephen King‘s novel, CARRIE is a musical with a turbulent history. The 1984 New York City workshop and the 1988 Stratford-upon-Avon tryout met with mixed reviews, and the Broadway production flopped in May of 1988 after just a handful of performances.

2009 saw a major revamp of CARRIE by its creators, composerMichael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford, and bookwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, along with director Stafford Arima. The revision met with critical acclaim in a 2012 off-Broadway revival featuring Molly Ranson as Carrie White and Marin Mazzie as Margaret White. With the success of the re-imagined show, performance rights were made available and productions have sprung up across the country. The FlynnArts production marks the Vermont premiere of CARRIE, THE MUSICAL.

The storyline follows a group of high school students in the small town of Chamberlain, Maine. Carrie White, the awkward social outcast and daughter of religious zealot Margaret White, is taunted mercilessly by her peers. If you’ve read the Stephen King novel, you’ve got the gist of the plot – religious fanaticism, teenage rage, and eerie telekinetic powers collide, culminating in a prom night that turns tragic.

The fact that the FlynnArts production is a youth musical, with no cast member over the age of 19, is remarkably irrelevant. There are no weak links in this cast, and many of the young actors display near-professional ability.

Zoë Olson is riveting as the painfully shy Carrie White. Her journey from silent victimhood to empowerment is uncanny and terrifying, and Olson uses both voice and physicality to truly inhabit this role.

Cassidy Thompson’s portrayal of Carrie’s mother is extraordinary. It’s rare for a teenager to possess the maturity to be convincing in an adult role (particularly one as complicated as Margaret White), and Thompson doesn’t just manage it – she delivers a level of nuance that many seasoned adult actors never achieve.

Bonnie Currie is perfect as Sue Snell, the one female student who treats Carrie with kindness. Sue is the primary witness to the horrid events that transpire on prom night, and her testimony guides the audience through the story. Currie does an especially fine job of navigating Sue’s struggle to find the balance between being popular and being kind.

Chiara Hollender is Chris Hargensen, Sue’s best friend and Carrie’s chief tormentor. Hollender’s portrayal is wonderfully devilish, and she also manages to find the character’s undercurrent of loneliness. Charlie Aldrich hits all the right comedic moments as the swaggering bad boy, Billy Nolan, and Adam Brewer is charming as Sue’s kind, level-headed boyfriend who agrees to take Carrie to the prom. Evan Cohen is hilarious as Mr. Stephens, the English teacher, and Olivia Christie delivers some lovely moments as Miss Gardner, Carrie’s sympathetic gym teacher.

The cast is vocally strong throughout, and the principals are backed by a fantastic-sounding group of supporting and ensemble characters, played by Audrey Teague, Pearl Guerriere, Kira Johnson, Seamus Buxton, Jackson Bisaccia, Max Chlumecky, Shea Dunlop, Zelda Ferris, Olivia Peltier, Maddy Smith, Arlo Cohen, Seth Jolles, Nathaniel Miller, and Alec Rutherford.

The staging is excellent, and lighting design (Jamien Lundy Forrest), costume design (Olivia Hern), and video/projection design (Dom Wood) are especially effective. The ensemble of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard is top-notch. This production clearly benefits from a skilled creative team, including directors Christina Weakland, Gina Fearn, and Danielle Sertz, and musical director Piero Bonamico. The team has worked with the cast to examine the elements of school culture at play in this plot, and an excerpt from the directors’ note in the program captures the heart of the story:

“Humiliation and ridicule are all too common elements of growing up in our society, and the implications range from damaged self-esteem that impacts lifelong relationships patterns, to full-scale horror, like the massacres at Columbine and Newtown. School shooting have, in fact, become a norm in America; there have been over 74 instances in the past 18 months alone, and bullying is linked to 7 out of 10 of these violent events. [...] We hope audiences (teen or not) will take away from CARRIE the inspiration to do better, to affirm each others’ humanity, to respect the dignity in each soul.”

Stafford Arima, director of the 2012 off-Broadway revival of CARRIE, spent a day with the FlynnArts cast, deepening their understanding of the piece. “The team at CARRIE in Burlington, Vermont have put together an impressive production [...] that tells this story with clarity, horror, and heart,” says Arima. “Congratulations to the entire cast, creative team, and musicians on a successful run.”

FlynnArts provides this age advisory for CARRIE, THE MUSICAL: Although bloody, Carrie is not actually gory. (The blood is a cruel prank meant to humiliate Carrie about the onset of her period.) Overall this is a tale of bullying and supernatural revenge (which will take an abstract form in this production – no gruesome violence.) Carrie’s mother also demonstrates an abusive parenting style that some children (and adults!) might find disturbing to experience in close proximity. That said, we think most youth aged 11+ can handle the content with a parent or guardian present to field questions, and the ultimate anti-bullying message of the piece is a vital one for middle- and high-schoolers to grasp.

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Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
153 Main Street, Burlington, Vermont 05401
Tickets: 802-863-5966, voice/relay calls welcome
Administrative Offices: 802-652-4500 (P) 802-863-8788 (F)