Mass MoCA Announces Its Fall Season
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Theatergoers are going to be mad about Mass MoCA this fall.
Jon Hamm, the star of the landmark television series "Mad Men," comes to town this fall to collaborate in a work-in-progress theater project dubbed "Fishing," which will see him team with Wilco percussionist Glen Kotche and director/choreographer Danielle Agami.
"We are going to welcome this amazing mash-up of artists," Sue Killam, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's managing director of performing arts, said Wednesday morning. "They're going to come together in a piece called ‘Fishing.'
"The performance touches on the beautiful, simple absurdity of desire. And they're going to be here for two weeks figuring it out. They're just starting this collaboration, and they're here to learn what that collaboration is going to bring up for them.
"We'll be lucky enough to see the results of their work together."
Those results will be on stage on Dec. 8, the capstone of a busy four months of fall programming announced Wednesday by Killam and Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson at the institution's Club B10.
The announcement was made to members of the media, invited guests from the community and the Mass MoCA staff, which gathered in the performance space to hear a little about what's to come and a be congratulated for what they've accomplished.
"It's been a great summer," Thompson said. "I want to thank the entire staff for welcoming and engaging lots and lots of patrons."
Mass MoCA is doing what it can to keep those patrons coming back throughout the autumn — starting with the Sept. 14-16 FreshGrass music festival and including six more live music events, a film that will be paired with live music, conversations with artists and three theater pieces, including "Fishing."
It is a landmark year for the 28-year-old contemporary art museum, which on Nov. 17 will hold an all-day celebration of the decadelong collaboration with conceptual artist Sol Lewitt.
"It's hard to believe that this coming November is the 10th anniversary of 'Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective,' " Thompson said. "This is obviously a crowd pleaser, an evergreen. People come and come back and come back again.
"We're going to celebrate it with a series artist talks, people like Spencer Finch and Laurie Anderson. Laurie will also be performing one of her works. … John Hogan, who led the team of draftspeople who produced this work 10 years ago will be back. Wilco's Michael Jorgenson will be back performing a new piece of music he's written about the Wilco installation.
"There will be scholarship, talks by artists, performances all over the place. We're essentially sending up Roman candles and celebrating the anniversary of the show at Mass MoCA."
Thompson said the work by LeWitt, who died in 2007, has an importance for Mass MoCA that goes beyond the drawings themselves.
"Besides being a really wonderful work of art, the LeWitt program lifted this institution in so many ways and gave us so much deep intellectual seed corn. The idea of long-term engagements with artists, deep dives, broad surveys to counter and juxtapose against our three-ring circus of changing exhibitions and performing arts — clearly became a fulcrum for many of the things that came later."
The circus really comes to town on Sept. 14 with the annual FreshGrass festival, a three-day event that will feature acts like Flogging Molly, Indigo Girls and Bela Fleck.
That event bridges the busy summer season and the fall, when Mass MoCA serves up six live music events on weekends from Sept. 29 through Oct. 30: Angel Olsen and Julianna Barwick (Sept. 29), The Decembrists (Oct. 4), Harold Lopez-Nussa (Oct. 6), Bonnie "Prince" Billy and The Other Years (Oct. 13), Shareef Keyes & The Groove (Oct. 20) and the Tune-Yards and U.S. Girls (Oct. 30).
"[Keyes] is taking the world by storm a little bit," Killam said of the Brooklyn-based artist. "He is committed to really funky rhythms of the ‘70s and combining it with a modern hip-hop undertone. So the two combined really makes for amazing live performances."
On Nov. 3, Mass MoCA provides some comic relief with an appearance by the improv group Chicago City Limits.
And then things turn a little more serious with three theater pieces in four weeks, finishing with "Fishing."
While the museum will provide plenty of performance-based art, it also will offer a number of artists talks, including a conversation between novelist Akwaeke Emezi and visual artist Allison Janae Hamilton on Oct. 11.
Thompson said such events are going to be an emphasis for the museum going forward.
"One of the other things we talked about in our recent strategic planning was a hunger we felt to do more adult educational programming," Thompson said. "We are proud of all the educational programming with do with the kids of North Adams in the elementary school system with Kidspace. But we've heard from our members and others that more programs for adults would be welcome.
"And we decided to do in every one of our [seasons] at least two, maybe sometimes three, maybe sometimes four events that are focused on adults. And we're kicking that off with gusto this season."
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