JOHNSON CITY, TN – Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at East Tennessee State University spring season will open with the mellifluous poetry and drama of revered writer W.B. Yeats.
Soon to follow, in spring 2016, at ETSU's School of the Arts will be the sounds of laughter, classic bluegrass and Latin-classical music, wordless theater, art experts in hot pursuit of a wily forger, drag queens in vibrant performance and the peaceful passage of time in nature.
On a scale from hip to hilarious, the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts will open its spring season on the more serious end of the arts spectrum, celebrating Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet and playwright W.B. Yeats with a two-day series of events, "For the Ear Alone: A Festival in Honor of W.B. Yeats."
The festival, a collaboration with ETSU's Department of Literature and Language and Storytelling Program, will feature five events – some free, some ticketed.
>> The festival begins with a free panel discussion, "W.B. Yeats and the Poetic Drama," at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, in Reece Museum. Another free panel discussion, "Yeats and Contemporary Poetry," follows Thursday, Jan. 28, at 3:30 p.m., again in Reece Museum. The panel discussions will include readings and performance excerpts, since the panelists are performers and poets themselves.
>> Two stage performances are festival highlights. "Coole Lady: The Extraordinary Life of Lady Gregory" – a one-woman memory play told by Yeats' patron and collaborator Lady Augusta Gregory and portrayed by Irish actress Joan McCready – unfold at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 27 in ETSU's Martha Street Culp Auditorium.
>> On Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m., "In the Deep Heart's Core: A Mystic Cabaret from the Works of W. B. Yeats," a theatrical song cycle of Yeats' poems and stories from his autobiographical writings, written by ETSU storytelling professor Joseph Sobol, will be performed in the Culp auditorium. Immediately following the performance, A Terrible Beauty Is Born: A Yeatsian Slam concludes the festival at 9 p.m. in the Culp auditorium, with readings, spoken word performances, music and open mic slots. The poetry slam and panel discussions are free and open to the public. Tickets for "Coole Lady" and "In The Deep Heart's Core" are $10 general and $5 for students of all ages with ID. Special discounts will be available for tickets purchased for both stage performances.
>> Spring 2016 features three additional ticketed events, beginning with Jerry Douglas Presents The Earls of Leicester on Friday, Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m. in Culp auditorium. A 13-time Grammy winner, Douglas has arrayed his "all-star dream team" of bluegrass musicians to create The Earls of Leicester to perform the legendary music of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The group has already won a Grammy for the 2015 Best Bluegrass Album with its debut self-titled recording. The Earls include Douglas on dobro, Shawn Camp on lead vocals and guitar, Barry Bales on bass and vocals, Charlie Cushman on banjo and guitar and Johnny Warren on fiddle. Bales is a Kingsport native, an ETSU alumnus and a former ETSU bluegrass faculty member. ETSU's Bluegrass Pride Band will open the show. Tickets are $30 general admission, $25 seniors 60 and over and $12 for all students with ID.
>> On Thursday, March 17, PUSH Physical Theatre tumbles, quite literally, into the Culp auditorium beginning at 7:30 p.m. Intensely athletic, gravity-defying and soulful, the award-winning PUSH Physical Theatre moves audiences "from hilarity to awe," says Casey Carlsen of Rochester's City Newspaper, with its physical storytelling of joy and sorrow, humor and tragedy, in a combination of theater, comedy, acrobatics and dance. Tickets are $25 general admission, $20 seniors 60 and over and $5 for all students with ID.
>> Dalí Quartet, Friday, April 8, combines American classical conservatory virtuosity with Latin-American repertoire for "an extraordinary concert experience that takes listeners on an eclectic journey of rhythm and sound." The Dalí concert is held at 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 105 S. Boone St., Johnson City. The Philadelphia-based quartet is composed of award-winning solo and chamber artists who have appeared at Carnegie Hall and toured widely in Europe and Asia: Simón Gollo and Carlos Rubio on violins, Adriana Linares on viola and Jesús Morales on cello. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 seniors 60 and over and $5 for all students with ID.
>> Laughter, long known as the best medicine, accompanies the annual "An Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts," featuring comedian and 2015 America's Got Talent runner-up Drew Lynch on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Culp auditorium. Since suffering a vocal cord injury playing softball at age 20, Lynch has laughed a lot, using the profound stutter that is a result of the injury to launch a comedy career. In the wake of his America's Got Talent success, the endearing 23-year-old now is in the midst of a national tour. He will bring his humor and his story to ETSU – free of charge – for a special evening that crosses and connects disciplines, co-sponsored by the School of the Arts and the College of Public Health.
>> A talk by Indiana-based sculptor and professor of art Joyce Ogden offers insights that explore the human relationship to nature, time and space based on her own experiments with and observations of the evolution of time and natural elements. Her media include soil, sap, sand, seeds and pods, often from her home region of Southern Indiana. Her talk is held Wednesday, March 2 at 7 p.m. in Ball Hall Auditorium and is free and open to the public.
Finally, the Mary B. Martin School spring season features three more eclectic independent films from the South Arts Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers – all free and followed by Q.A sessions and receptions with the filmmakers.
>> On Monday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m., in Ball Hall Auditorium, filmmakers Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman take the audience on an adventure in "Art and Craft," pursuing Mark Landis, called one of the most prolific art forgers in U.S. history. Landis also attends the documentary's screening and is a part of the talkback.
>> "Embers," a science fiction feature film, is screened Monday, March 21 at 7 p.m. in the Culp auditorium. Embers interweaves the stories of five characters who, after a global neurological epidemic, are left to search for meaning and connection in a world without memory. Filmmaker Claire Carré talks with audience members afterward.
>>The last film of spring, "Kings, Queens & In-Betweens," follows the personal stories of eight drag performers and their troupes, inviting viewers into a conversation about the distinct differences between gender, sex and sexuality, as well as presenting the spectrum of male, female and trans-gender experiences. The documentary is screened Monday, April 25 at 7 p.m. in at the Culp auditorium. Co-filmmaker Gabrielle Burton accompanies the film.
Purchase tickets online at www.etsu.edu/martin. For further information about spring events, contact Mary B. Martin School of the Arts at 423-439-8587.