5 reasons to get excited for the new season of Alverno Presents
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Plenty of local arts organizations pay lip service to bringing diverse, cutting-edge entertainment to Milwaukee, but none of them put their money where their mouth is quite like Alverno Presents. Now in its 53rd season, Alverno Presents has exposed Milwaukee to psychedelic Wild West shows, Nick Cave-inspired dance troupes, and gonzo variety shows that set out to discover the meaning of life—and that was just last year. On Sunday, July 15, Alverno Presents will host a preview show of sorts, Coming (And Going) Attractions, at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, featuring site-specific sculpture from Roy Staab and music from Juniper Tar and Jon Mueller. Before that show, we offer our own preview of five Alverno Presents shows you absolutely cannot miss.
Global Union (Sept. 15 at Humboldt Park)
They say: “Bring your friends. Bring your family. Enjoy Milwaukee’s last, and best, outdoor party of the summer.”
We say: The big news surrounding the seventh edition of Global Union is that it has been scaled back from two days to one. That downsizing seems wise—two days of largely unknown “world music” acts (unknown to U.S. audiences, that is) has always been a hard sell, and keeping the lineup to four groups spread over six hours is a bit more manageable. And those four acts are worth checking out: The Panorama Jazz Band is a youthful but refreshingly old-school New Orleans outfit; MC Rai is a genre-bending North African musician whose deadpan cover of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” was featured in The Dictator; Rana Santacruz gives traditional Mariachi music a charmingly indie twist; and Movits are a Swedish hip-hop/swing group who have appeared on The Colbert Report.
Trisha Brown Dance Company (Oct. 20 at Pitman Theatre)
They say: “Consider the ordinary gesture: your arm as you reach for a cup, your wrist as you twist a door knob, your leg as you step off a curb. Now remove the context from the gesture. Suddenly, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. And with Trisha Brown, the extraordinary becomes magical.”
We say: It’s time to get over the whole “postmodern dance” thing. Choreographer Trisha Brown is a legend in her field—hell, even we’ve heard of her—and there’s no better time than this fall to leave your darkened apartment and dive into the work of one of the greats. The Alverno Presents show will include a new piece from Brown, the wonderfully titled “I’m going to toss my arms—if you catch them they’re yours,” along with a few of her company’s greatest hits.
Jon Mueller/Death Blues (No Time Like The Present) (Nov. 16-17 at Pitman Theatre)
They say: “Presence. It’s about more than what happens in the here and now. It’s about the unique quality of spirit that animates the moment. Jon Mueller’s Death Blues (No Time Like The Present) digs into the core of this moment. It’s about music, because Jon is an eminent composer and percussionist, known for his work with members of Swans, Wilco, and Bon Iver; his founding the groups Pele, Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, and Volcano Choir; and his collaborations with Rhys Chatham, Z’EV and more. But it is also about all the senses— taste, scent, touch, as well as sight and sound— that make us present and alive to the moment.”
We say: This one’s gonna be a doozy. Mueller is one of the city’s most compelling talents—just check out that résumé—and his Death Blues show will be something of a “Milwaukee’s greatest hits” installation/performance. Along with Mueller himself, the show will feature choreography from Molly Shanahan; design work from Dylan Schleicher; music from members of Altos, Field Report, Testa Rosa, and Juniper Tar; and food from pop-up restaurant And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Crumbs. On top of it all, only 100 people will be allowed at each performance, making this an intimate, “buy-your-ticket-now-or-regret-it-later” kind of deal.
Beautiful Dreamer: The Foster Project (Feb. 2, 2013 at Pitman Theatre)
They say: “American Popular Culture begins with Stephen Foster. You may not recognize the name, but you absolutely know his music: “Oh! Susannah” (yes, that “Oh! Susannah”), “Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair”, “Beautiful Dreamer,” and "Hard Times Come Again No More” (a song recorded over 400 times by artists as varied as Emmylou Harris, Yo-Yo Ma, Johnny Cash, Renee Fleming, and Mavis Staples).”
We say: Alverno Presents is at its best when it begins with a hazy, obscure reference point—here, Stephen Foster, who died penniless at age 37—and traces an unlikely line back to the present day. For the Foster Project, Juniper Tar’s Ryan Schleicher will assemble a one-night-only supergroup of musicians in order to interpret and expand upon Foster’s work. Jon Langford of the Waco Brothers, Christopher Porterfield of Field Report, and a “community choir of 20 voices” will all be on hand to pull off Schleicher’s vision.
Cedar Block: May The Schwartz Be With You (April 20, 2013 at Turner Hall)
They say: “May The Schwartz Be With You finds [Brent] Gohde and friends back at the much loved (and missed) Milwaukee bookstore, Harry W. Schwartz on Downer Avenue. It was here that Gohde met the friends, booksellers and customers who went on to become the artists, musicians, curators, and entrepreneurs who now define what is most valued and idiosyncratic in Milwaukee culture. Through stories, songs, film, and art, the past will be reclaimed, and the future will be that much brighter.”
We say: The last time Alverno Presents and Milwaukee’s official “doers-of-cool-shit” Cedar Block got together, they set out to find the elusive Higgs boson particle with local music, art, video games, and plenty of booze. Months later, scientists announced that—whaddya know?—the Higgs particle had indeed been discovered. Clearly, the tag team of AP and CB can get shit done.