It was only fitting that tonight’s announcement of the Festival of the Arts BOCA’s 2014 program came packaged on a night of Mizner Park entertainment that included a film screening/concert hybrid (pianist Marika Bournaki performed after a showing of “I Am Not a Rock Star,” an award-warning documentary about her). After all, next year’s Festival of the Arts appears to be all about artistic hybrids, whether it’s an acclaimed dance company performing with a chamber ensemble; a best-selling speaker whose lecture on music’s impact on brains will include a component of live music; or a show that will marry cirque theatrics with orchestral virtuosity.
The Festival of the Arts has perhaps never felt less segmented than next year’s lineup suggests; its biggest events thrive in the hyphen between forms, and I can’t wait to see what new ideas emerge from them. Here is the full lineup – with the exception of the inevitable couple of “TBAs” – along with select comments from the festival’s co-directors, Charlie Siemon and Wendy Larsen.
March 6: “TBA” will perform with conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos and the Festival Orchestra.
March 7: Dance is finally back at the Festival. The Bill T. Jones Dance Company, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, will perform along with live music from a chamber ensemble. In its lengthy tenure, the company, named after Florida native and award-winning choreographer Jones, has danced in more than 200 countries. “We’ve been trying to get them here for a long time and have not been successful, either from scheduling conflicts or financial considerations,” Siemon says. “We’re glad to have dance back: It’s not a big money-raiser for us, but it’s a very important thing.”
March 8 (afternoon): As a staff writer at The Atlantic for more than three decades and a former speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, James Fallows knows a thing or two about world affairs. “I’m crazy about him,” Siemon says. The expert journalist has focused particularly on China, the complex nation that many prognosticators believe will eventually overtake the United States as the world’s largest superpower. Fallows’ presentation is titled “How Shall We Think About China?” – a good question indeed.
March 8 (evening): Arturo Sandoval rose to greatness as a mentee of Dizzy Gillespie and has since become a household name in his own right. The nine-time Grammy winner, born in Cuba, is a composer and pianist, but his instrument of choice is the jazz trumpet, and that’s what he’ll be playing tonight at the Festival’s only performance of Big Band music. His appearance will come just a few months after taking home a 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.
March 9 (afternoon): Boca audiences may recognize the name Barbara Schmidt. The local businesswoman, philanthropist and spiritual teacher has helped bring unique and positive guests to Florida Atlantic University through her Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life nonprofit and the university’s Peace Studies Program, including the Dalai Lama, Dr. Jane Goodall and James Finley. This afternoon’s presentation will focus on “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Viktor Frankl’s best-seller about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor and his subsequent embrace of existential therapy.
March 9: The indefatigable TBA will return for another surprising performance, backed once again by Kitsopoulos and the Festival Orchestra.
March 10: My personal top pick for the Festival is this presentation/performance hybrid with Kitsopoulos and Daniel J. Levitin, the neuroscientist, professor, musician, joke writer, sound engineer and all-around polymath behind This is Your Brain on Music, one of the most influential nonfiction books of the past decade. As comfortable in rock clubs as he is academia, the Montreal-based Levitin will discuss music with Kitsopoulos, and will try to capture the effect that organized sound has on our brains.
March 11: In her 30 years as an actress on film, television and the stage, Anna Deavere Smith has played plenty of important people: doctors, hospital administrators, district attorneys, national security advisors and deputy national security advisors, including a six-year run on “The West Wing.” And she’s an equally important force behind the camera, as a law professor at NYU, an award-winning playwright and an artist in residence at the liberal think tank the Center for American Progress. Her lecture will address “Reclaiming Grace in the Face of Adversity.”
March 12: Geraldine Brooks, a celebrated Australian-American writer, cut her teeth on nonfiction, including investigative articles for The New Yorker and Nine Parts of Desire, an enlightening survey of modern Muslim women. Her desire to get every fact right in her reporting has led to an invaluable career as a fiction writer; her novels such as the prizewinning March, her Civil War-set parallel novel to Little Women; People of the Book, inspired by the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s; and Caleb’s Crossing, about the first Native American to graduate from Harvard; all draw evocatively from history. She’ll discuss her process in a lecture titled “The Art of the Historical Novel.”
March 13: She’s back! Doris Kearns Goodwin took off from the Festival of the Arts this past spring. This was understandable; after all, she was still basking in the Oscar glory of her then-recent book, Team of Rivals, which received several Academy Award nominations in its translation to the silver screen as “Lincoln.” Next year, the Festival’s official writer in residence will return for her fifth presentation, this time in support of her latest presidential tome, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism.
March 14: Here’s something new: a cirque production with orchestral cachet. Cirque de la Symphonie is exactly what its name suggests: a performance by international aerial flyers, acrobats, contortionists, dancers, jugglers, balancers and strongmen, with their actions choreographed to live symphonic music played by the Festival Orchestra. The show has received raves everywhere it’s played, with the word “impossible” turning up in many of its reviews.