2015-2016 A&E Season Preview

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Suddenly it’s September again, and the arts are in full bloom.

My goal, as usual, is to open doors for you, whether you are a seasoned arts-goer, someone returning after a hiatus, or an adventurer looking to try something new. What you’ll find in the following pages are more than 125 events that I hope get you excited about what’s in store in the coming months.

Of course, what’s here is just the tip of the cultural iceberg. The museums are open almost daily. Most of the performing arts groups have full seasons to sample. And there are groups that didn’t make the mix here that are quite capable of excellence.

Lou HarrySo don’t take my educated guesswork as a final, all-inclusive list. Instead, use it as a starting point. I’ll remind you about these and tell you about more in my weekly Lou’s Views column, and on my priority list previews and blog at www.ibj.com/arts (where you will also find ticket giveaways).

Stay in touch via Twitter @ibjarts and @louharry to let me know what you’ve seen and loved.

And, by all means, say hello when you see me out at these and other Indy arts events.



“Rad Science: Skatepark Physics”

create-a-skate-15col.jpg Photo courtesy of Indiana State Museum

Sept. 5-Jan. 3
Indiana State Museum
If you’ve ever watched expert skateboarders and wondered how they seem to defy physics—or if you’ve ever tried to ride and painfully experienced gravity—this could be the exhibit for you. It explores how gravity, acceleration, balance, force, momentum, friction and other principles drive action sports. Tip: If you are over 35, don’t use the word “rad.”

Sasheer Zamata

sasheer-zamata2-15col.jpg Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal Media, LLC/Mary Ellen Matthews

Sept. 6
White Rabbit Cabaret
You might have seen her in Pike High School’s production of the musical “Working.” Now she’s reaching a much larger audience as a featured player on “Saturday Night Live.” Here’s another chance to catch her on stage as she returns to town for a one-night-only stand-up show in Fountain Square.

Indy Jazz Fest
Sept. 10-19
Various locations
Once again, the festival is spread around town. Performances include a Sinatra tribute at the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center, Take 6 and Dianne Reeves at the Madame Walker Theatre, and Pharez Whitted at the Indiana Landmarks Center. Plus, Lonnie Smith, Sullivan Fortner, and a block party at the Jazz Kitchen.

“Little Women”
Sept. 11-26
Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre kicks off its season with the musical adaptation of the beloved Louisa May Alcott book. It’s up to you whether to explain to the kids you are with why you have extra tissues in your pocket.

Sept. 12
Tiki Bob’s Party Lot
One tribute band can be a bit awkward. Six of them? Sure, why not? This first-time fest includes the nine-piece James Brown Experience, The Funky Monks (Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute), The Handsome Devilz (The Smiths), Royalty (Prince), Unknown Pleasures (Joy Division), and Guns and Ammunition (The Clash).

“Quest for the West” Art Show and Sale

thomas-last-of-the-posse-15col.jpg “Last of the Posse,” by Andy Thomas (Courtesy of Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Sept. 11-13
Eiteljorg Museum
Want some insight into what collectors are buying in the Western art market? Ask them yourself when they converge on Indianapolis for this 10th annual event. No worries if you miss the opening—when most of the bidding and buying takes place. The work of the 50 artists remains on display (with some stragglers still on sale) through Oct. 11 before retiring to new collections.

Penrod Art Fair
Sept. 12
Indianapolis Museum of Art
More than 300 artists display and sell their wares, more than 50 arts organizations share info on upcoming shows, and six stages house a wide range of music and dance styles. IBJ will be there to chat with you about the upcoming arts season and hand out A&E Season Previews to those who don’t already have one. For an additional fee, you can be a part of Evening with Penrod on Sept. 11.

“Pokemon: Symphonic Evolutions”
Sept. 12
Murat Theatre
Yes, it’s an actual live orchestra concert with video accompaniment. If you’ve been trying to introduce your kids to live symphonic music, this could be the ticket.

“Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs”

alan-cumming-1col.jpg (Photo courtesy of Cabaret at the Columbia Club)

Sept. 12-13
Cabaret at the Columbia Club
The Broadway star of “Cabaret,” co-host of this year’s Tony Awards show, regular on “The Good Wife,” and, well, I could go on with his resume. Suffice it to say that when the multi-talented Alan Cumming hits the stage, he’s as likely to sing a song by Lady Gaga or Adele as he is to tackle a Broadway tune. (And brace yourself for his take on Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch.”)

Taylor Swift

taylorswift-1col.jpg (Photo courtesy of Bankers Life Fieldhouse)

Sept. 16
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
In addition to her stack of hit songs filled with bad relationship drama, expect the pop star to bring along a team of back-up dancers, tons of light-up bracelets, and a set to outdo anything short of Cirque du Soleil. I’m sure Indy will supply plenty of screaming fans.

IMEM Music Festival
Sept. 17
The Vogue
What makes a concert a festival? I’m not quite sure, but whatever you call it, those who follow local music might want to hit The Vogue when Indiana Music & Entertainment Museum presents Henry Lee Summer, The Fabulous Starlettes, Beki Brindle, Cathy Morris, Allen “Turk” Burke and Art Adams.

Jimmy Pardo
Sept. 17-19
Comedy Attic, Bloomington
The pioneer podcasting comic (give a listen to his Never Not Funny) comes to one of the hottest comedy clubs in the Midwest.

“Angel Burlesque’s Tribute to The Muppet Show”
Sept. 18-19
Athenaeum Theatre
It’s a muppetational burlesque show. That’s all you need to know to decide whether this is a show for you.

“Second City Fully Loaded”
Sept. 19
Zionsville Performing Arts Center
The touring gang from Chicago’s famed comedy hub plays a benefit for the Zionsville Band & Orchestra Musical Instrument Endowment Fund.

Sister Cities Fest
Sept. 19
Georgia Street
No, you aren’t expected to have these memorized. But stop in at this free fest and you’ll experience a bit of the culture of Taipei, Taiwan; Cologne, Germany; Monza, Italy; Piran, Slovenia; and Hangzhou, China. (Mom always liked Piran best.)

“Help Wanted/Inquire Within”
Sept. 19
Indiana History Center
Minnesota-anchored tale teller and NPR contributor Kevin Kling returns to Indy via Storytelling Arts with a story rooted in his Boy Scout boyhood.

“You are There 1816: Indiana Joins the Nation”


in-constitution-1col.jpg(Image courtesy of Indiana Historical Society)

Sept. 19-Jan. 21, 2017
Indiana Historical Society
At the latest interactive exhibit, visitors step through an image of the 1816 Indiana State Constitution and into the debate in Corydon over how to shape the new state. Also on display will be the original constitution.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters
Sept. 22
Murat Theatre
New songs, blues songs and, of course, Led Zeppelin songs are on the set list for the rock legend’s tour.

Lotus World Music & Arts Festival
Sept. 24-27
Various locations, Bloomington
Let’s not pretend we’ve heard of Kardemimmit or Zedashe. Instead, let’s just remind you that a veritable U.N. of world musicians converges on Bloomington for an overwhelming weekend of concerts. A ticketed wristband is required for most, but there are also a free Lotus in the Park concert and a parade for those who need to sample before committing.

“One Man, Two Guvnors”
Sept. 24-Oct. 18
Phoenix Theatre
As the title suggests, this comedy concerns a hapless gent trying to please a pair of bosses. What it doesn’t suggest is that it contains one of the funniest sequences I’ve ever seen on stage (in the NYC production) and that it features a live skiffle band.

Buckwheat Zydeco
Sept. 25
The Jazz Kitchen
The band responsible for the three highest-selling zydeco albums of all time brings its joyful sound to the Jazz Kitchen. Expect etoufee sales to skyrocket.

Circle City Classic weekend
Sept. 25-26
Indiana Convention Center
Circle City Classic is more than a game. It’s also an opportunity to see a comedy jam featuring D.L. Hughley, a concert led by R&B singer Charlie Wilson, a gospel gathering at the Madame Walker Theatre, and more.

“Plain Airs: Contemporary Takes on Reality and Realism”

chris-thorson-of-wrath-15col.jpg “Plain Airs: Contemporary Takes on Reality and Realism”(Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Art Center)

Sept. 25-Nov. 11
Indianapolis Art Center
Let’s get real. One artist’s realism is another’s, well, something else. In this show, contemporary and conceptual artists from around the country explore what realism an be. Concurrently, the Art Center also presents shows devoted to artist K.P. Singh and contemporary glass from the Midwest.

“Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra Opening Gala”
Sept. 26
Hilbert Circle Theatre
Time for Three and violinist Joshua Bell help the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra get the season started with a program that includes “Suite from West Side Story” and excerpts from Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

“Seeking Asylum: Preservation at Central State”
Sept. 26
Indiana Medical History Museum
This two-hour walking tour takes you into three of the remaining buildings of the former complex that opened as the Indiana Hospital for the Insane and became Central State Hospital. Sponsored by Indiana Landmarks and the Indiana Medical History Museum.

Joyce Carol Oates

joyce-carol-oates-credit-dustin-cohen-1col.jpg(Photo/Dustin Cohen)

Sept. 28
Clowes Hall
Butler University Visiting Writers Series hosts the prolific author who has probably penned more published books than every Indianapolis college English department faculty combined.

Bard Fest 2015
Oct. 1-18
Carmel Design District
A trio of theater companies presents its take on “As You Like It,” “Timon of Athens” and “Othello” at this first-ever fest. I’m particularly interested to see “AYLI,” directed by one of the town’s leading Shakespearean actresses, Lauren Briggeman. Also in the mix: an Oct. 17 Shakespeare Most Pit with tailgating, street performers, food vendors and a chance to see all three productions in the same day.

Mark Knopfler
Oct. 3
Murat Theatre
Let us not forget that, in addition to his work with Dire Straits and his solo music, Mark Knopfler also wrote the scores for “Local Hero” and “The Princess Bride.”

“Songbook Celebration Gala”
Oct. 3
No word yet on who will perform, but word is out that the honorees this year are George & Ira Gershwin, Chita Rivera, and Steve Lawrence & Eydie Gorme (with Rivera and Lawrence in attendance). Michael Feinstein will be on hand, of course, with other performers to be announced.

The Hideaway: A Hullabaloo of Music and Art
Oct. 3
Fountain Square
Two stages of music will be filled with local, regional and national acts while a hoped-for 100 artists show their work at this first-time fest from the folks at Square Cat Records.

“Evening with the Stars”

daniilsimkin-gs-dsc4176-15col.jpg “Evening with the Stars” Daniil Simkin from American Ballet Theatre (Photo courtesy of Evening with the Stars)

Oct. 3
Clowes Hall
The all-star Indianapolis City Ballet benefit event—featuring dancers from American Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet, Berlin Ballet and others—returns to Clowes Hall.

“Cabaret Poe”
Oct. 3-31
Theatre on the Square
Q Artistry’s signature show, spearheaded by Ben Asaykwee, returns for its sixth local production, this time on Mass Ave.

“The Addams Family”
Oct. 8-Nov. 22
Beef & Boards
Say the name and it’s difficult not to think of finger snapping. In this musical, a growing-up Wednesday Addams’ interest in a “normal” boy stirs up problems in the creepy/kooky household. The notoriously troubled Broadway production has been rewritten and features some quite lively tunes.

Sci-Fright Frenzy
Oct. 9-10
Artcraft Theatre, Franklin
The wonderful old movie house in Franklin offers a weekend marathon that includes “Godzilla,” “War of the Worlds,” “Gila!,” “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” “Forbidden Planet,” “Planet of the Apes,” and “Night of the Living Dead.” Add in some fresh popcorn and you’ve got a terrific pre-Halloween weekend.

“The Last Five Years” in Concert
Oct. 9-10
Cabaret at the Columbia Club
Songs from the two-character Jason Robert Brown musical have become staples on the cabaret circuit and in musical-theater auditions. Here, the two stars from the recent New York revival, Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe, perform the entire piece.

“Water by the Spoonful”
Oct. 9-24
IndyFringe Basile Theatre
The gutsy Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project offers the local premiere of Quiara Alegria Hudes’ 2012 Pulitzer-winning drama about a returning Iraq War veteran dealing with his splintered family. Ronn Johnstone directs.

“Ghost Stories at Crown Hill Cemetery”

storytellingcrownhill-15col.jpg “Ghost Stories at Crown Hill Cemetery” with Lou Ann Homan (Photo courtesy of Storytelling Arts of Indiana)

Oct. 10
Crown Hill Cemetery
Storytelling Arts of Indiana’s Halloween hit returns for more appropriate-for-older-children stories. Pack a picnic, indulge in food-truck fare, or pay extra for the RIP reception beforehand.

Monument Circle Art Fair
Oct. 10
Monument Circle
Another new festival adds to the Indy art scene. This free day includes music by Luke Austin Daugherty and Cathy Morris. The 80 expected artists can show only original work produced in the last three years.

Indiana Authors Awards
Oct. 10
Central Library
A pair of poets took the national and regional author awards this year, with Marianne Boruch and Adrian Matejka being celebrated at this dinner event. Earlier in the day, an author fair includes lectures, signings and other activities with the honorees and other Indiana writers.

Rachel Caswell
Oct. 14
Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center
The jazz vocalist sings for her latest album, “All I Know,” which showcases her voice in duets with single instruments.

Josh Groban
Oct. 14
Murat Theatre
The darling of the PBS pledge-break set performs in concert.

“Optical Popsicle”
Oct. 15, 17
Indianapolis Museum of Art
The anything-can-happen whimsical variety show returns featuring the IMA’s performance-company-in-residence Know No Stranger.

“Remembrances: A Ballet in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust”

dk-remembrances-3-15col.jpg “Remembrances: A Ballet in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust” (Photo courtesy of Clowes Memorial Hall/Drew Endicott)

Oct. 16-18
Clowes Hall
Former Dance Kaleidoscope dancer Brian Honigbaum choreographed this work inspired by his relationship with local Holocaust survivors Mike and Agnes Vogel. In addition to DK dancers, the piece will involve dancers from the Indianapolis School of Ballet. DK’s “iconoGlass” opens the show.

Heartland Film Festival
Oct. 16-25
Various locations
Titles haven’t been released, but some changes have been announced for the 23rd annual festival. Opening night has moved from a Thursday to a Friday (at the Indianapolis Museum of Art), a Premiere Pavilion party area will be set up outside AMC Traders Point, and the award ceremony has moved to the second Saturday at the Egyptian Room, with the winners re-screened on Sunday at Traders Point. An Indiana Spotlight category has been added to recognize local filmmakers.

“Titus Andronicus”
Oct. 16-31
Indy Indie Artist Colony
Eclectic Pond Theatre Company sets Shakespeare’s bloody drama in a post-apocalyptic future.

Lewis Black
Oct. 17
Murat Theatre
The comic who looks like he could burst a blood vessel at any moment brings his latest show to the Murat.

The Bad Plus, with Joshua Redman
Oct. 18
The limit-pushing drum/bass/piano trio is joined by tenor saxophonist/friend Joshua Redman for an evening of originals and iconoclastic covers.

“Rock to Read,” with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt
Oct. 20
Murat Theatre
The WTTS-sponsored benefit for local children’s reading programs features a pair of roots-rock legends.

“April 4, 1968”
Oct. 20-Nov. 15
Indiana Repertory Theatre
IRT playwright-in-residence James Still crafts a play exploring how an Indianapolis family responds to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Robert Kennedy speech that was inspired by the tragedy.

“Back to the Future”
Oct. 21
Hilbert Circle Theatre
Yes, the entire film will be shown … minus Alan Silvestri’s soundtrack music. That will be handled by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

“The Nether”
Oct. 22-Nov. 22
Phoenix Theatre
Jennifer Haley’s intense drama wrestles with the moral complexity of virtual life. Should an online fantasy world be free from judgment and consequence? Prepare to be uncomfortable and to have some intense conversation on the way home.

Kenny Rogers, with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

kennyrogers-15col.jpg (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra)

Oct. 23-24
Hilbert Circle Theatre
The Country Music Hall of Famer joins the ISO for a pops concert dipping into his catalog of hits, which includes “The Gambler, “Lady” and many others from his 50-year career.

Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn
Oct. 23
The birth of their son led the acclaimed banjo artists to hit the road as a family whenever possible, hence this concert featuring the pair.

Gustave Baumann, German Craftsman-American artist
Oct. 25-Feb. 14
Indianapolis Museum of Art
More than 100 works by the woodblock printmaker—and former Brown County artist—are on display while an artist-in-residence shows woodblock carving and printing techniques.

“An Evening with David Sedaris”
Oct. 28
Clowes Hall
There aren’t many writers who can consistently sell out concert halls these days. The exception: David Sedaris, following in the footsteps of Charles Dickens and Mark Twain as he packs venues with eager listeners.

Twyla Tharp Dance Company
Oct. 28
IU Auditorium
The 50th anniversary of the Indiana native’s acclaimed dance company is celebrated with a tour of two new works: one set to Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” and the other fueled by the jazz music of Henry Butler and Steve Bernstein.

Bollywood Masala Orchestra

bollywood-15col.jpg (Photo courtesy of The Center for the Performing Arts)

Nov. 1
The word “orchestra” might be a little misleading. This group, subtitled Spirit of India, features bold costumes, a brass band, vocalists and a trio of dancers.

“Dia de los Muertos”
Nov. 1
Indiana State Museum
Encore Vocal Arts pays musical tribute to the southern Mexican celebration. Pre-show activities—to the sounds of a mariachi band—include face painting and sugar-skull making.

“The Agony & Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”
Nov. 5-22
Waldron Firebay, Bloomington
Mike Daisey’s monologue/play exploring where our technological gadgets come from gets a local premiere courtesy of Cardinal Stage. It will be performed in repertory with the comedy “Buyer & Cellar,” which means times aren’t consistent from day to day. Make sure to double-check dates and times before you hit the road for Bloomington.

Marin Mazzie

marin-mazzie-1col.jpg (Photo courtesy of Cabaret at the Columbia Club)

Nov. 6
Cabaret at the Columbia Club
The original-cast star from Broadway’s “Ragtime” and “Passion” visits the Cabaret. Her new solo album, “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” covers a wide range of songs, from “Midnight at the Oasis” to “Begin the Beguine.”

Spirit & Place Festival
Nov. 6-15
Various locations
The theme is “Dream” for this year’s wide-ranging event for which, well, the final list of events won’t be posted until after press time.

Mihaela Martin and the Michelangelo String Quartet
Nov. 10
Indiana History Center
The Indianapolis Violin Competition’s International Laureate Series pairs its 1982 gold medalist with the international touring group fresh from stops in Denmark, Romania, the United Kingdom and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

“Our Town”
Nov. 11-15
Schrott Center
The Thornton Wilder play that every human being should see once every 10 years or so is staged by Butler University Theatre.

Bands of America Grand National Championships
Nov. 11-14
Lucas Oil Stadium
The top high school marching bands in the country once again converge on Indianapolis for a weekend of high-energy competition. If you like the halftime shows better than the football games, you owe yourself the favor of seeing the finals at least once in your life.

Son de Madera
Nov. 13
The Veracruz, Mexico-based, string-heavy band specializes in son jarocho—a folk music style most popular along the Gulf of Mexico.

Tracy Kidder
Nov. 12
Ransburg Auditorium, University of Indianapolis
The Pulitzer-winning journalist (“Soul of a New Machine”) pays a visit to UIndy as part of its Kellogg Writers Series.

“Conversations Eiteljorg Contemporary Art Fellowship”
Nov. 14-Feb. 14
Eiteljorg Museum
Where the “Quest for the West” in September presents a popular side of Western art, this show—featuring the work of five artists—emphasizes the boundary-pushing. Since 1999, the biennial program has awarded over $1 million in grants and led to the acquisition of more than 200 pieces for the Eiteljorg’s permanent collection.

Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott
Nov. 18
Yo-Yo Ma likes to mix it up. This time, the legendary cellist teams with British pianist Kathryn Stott for a concert that includes the “Arc of Life” suite, incorporating music from Bach, Sibelius, Gade, Debussy and Schubert.

Tonic Ball
Nov. 20
Various Fountain Square locations
At the 14th annual Second Helpings benefit, a wide variety of bands pays tribute to the music of Beck, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and Pink Floyd. Pick your venue accordingly.

Regina Carter and Kenny Barron
Nov. 21
Veteran pianist Kenny Barron teams with violinist and MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient Regina Carter for a duet concert.

“Silent Night”
Nov. 28
Indianapolis Museum of Art
The sound of silence is explored in this second annual IMA alternative to post-Thanksgiving craziness. Personal headphone concerts, a reading room, massage and meditation spaces, and more are in the hushed mix.

“Tiny IV: A Really Big Show”
Dec. 4-Jan. 8
Gallery 924
Over 100 central Indiana artists contribute work to this annual show with everything 6x6x6 or smaller. It’s touted as a great opportunity to start your own art collection.

“Festival of Carols”
Dec. 6
Scottish Rite Cathedral
Dec. 18-20
It’s the 25th anniversary of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir’s popular holiday program. The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and a guy in a red suit help make the season bright.

Jan. 7-Feb. 7
Phoenix Theatre
An unusual but exciting choice for the Phoenix Theatre: Set during the Civil War, it concerns the face-off between a lawyer-turned-general and a runaway slave seeking asylum. Yes, it’s dramatic, but it’s also surprisingly funny. Based on a true story.

Project Trio: “Peter & the Wolf”
Jan. 9
The trio, whom kids might recognize from appearances on Nickelodeon and MTV, offers its take on the classical classic.

Ramsey Lewis Quartet: “The In Crowd & Hang On Ramsey 50th Anniversary”
Jan. 9
Let us not forget that, in addition to the gold albums and Grammy attention, Ramsey Lewis has recorded versions of both “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water.” That’s range.

Janet Jackson

janet-jackson-1col.jpg (Photo courtesy of Bankers Life Fieldhouse)

Jan. 19
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The youngest Jackson sibling is back on the road with a new album—her first since 2008—on her own record label.

“Public Art in Indy”
Jan. 19-Feb. 12
Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Gallery
Sure, you could just explore the city looking at public art. But this show promises to give some context to how it got there (Let’s just assume the Georgia Street John Wooden statue and the web of metal under the Virginia Street parking garage won’t get mentioned). Presented in conjunction with the Richard M. Fairbanks Symposium on Civic Leadership.

Out of This World: Cosmos Music Festival
Jan. 22-Feb. 6
Hilbert Circle Theatre
A trio of concerts looks to the skies. First, a Jan 22-23 concert of music that is included on the space probe Voyager, including Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” and Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5.” Next, of course, “The Planets by Holst,” Jan. 29-30 with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir. Finally, “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and other music from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Jan. 22-Feb. 13
Theatre on the Square
Bill Simmons stars in David Hare’s play about a woman reconnecting with her former lover after he has become a widower. Winner of the 1996 Olivier Award for Play of the Year.

“Re-inventing the Radio: An Evening with Ira Glass”
Jan. 23
The voice behind NPR’s “This American Life” talks about journalism, the creation of his radio program and more.

“Opera’s Rising Stars”
Jan. 30-31
Schrott Center
Finalists from the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions are showcased with support from the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and Indianapolis Opera. Matthew Kraemer conducts.

Feb. 9-14
Clowes Hall
It’s the first-time-in-Indy appearance for the Tony-winning musical about a street musician who, well, if you don’t already know from the movie, then let yourself get lost in this low-key but powerful story featuring a terrific score played by onstage musicians.

Midwinter Dance Festival
Feb. 10-14
Schrott Center
Classical and modern mix in Butler’s annual event—actually two events with different programs on alternating nights. Included: a world premiere by Canadian choreographer Lesley Telford.

“Sister Act”
Feb. 11-March 26
Beef & Boards
A Vegas performer who goes into hiding at a convent after witnessing a murder is one of two first-time-at-the-Beef shows this season. Based on the hit film starring Whoopi Goldberg, its fresh score by Alan Menken’s music helps make it one of the better recent screen-to-stage shows.

“Sinatra Centennial,” with Tony DeSare and Frankie Moreno

tony-desare-sinatra-centennial-15col.jpg (IBJ Photo/ Eric Learned)

Feb. 12-13
Hilbert Circle Theatre
I don’t know Moreno, but DeSare has contributed to some memorable pops and cabaret concerts in town, and he knows how to evoke the energy and spirit of Frank Sinatra without resorting to impersonation. And the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra sure knows how to swing.

“He Loves Me/She Loves Me Not”
Feb. 13
Basile Opera Center
Encore Vocal Arts plays both sides of the Valentine’s Day fence in a concert that includes Brahms’ romantic “Liebeslieder Walzer” as well as the premiere of an anti-Valentine’s work by Jay Kawarsky. Tango dancers perform during both pieces.

“Celebrating the History of Indiana through Music”
Feb. 15
Christel DeHaan Arts Center
As part of its faculty recital series, UIndy pairs pianists Rebecca and Allegra Sorley with historian Ted Frantz for a multimedia show that includes works by Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter.

“Voices of a Generation: The Folk/Rock Revolution”
Feb. 25-March 6
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Nick Owens and David Hochoy once again split the choreographic chores (as they did with 2014’s “Ray & Ella”) for this Dance Kaleidoscope tribute to the music of the 1960s.

“Broadway’s Next Hit Musical”
Feb. 26
Clowes Hall
First half is a parody of an award show, featuring improvised songs with titles suggested by the audience. Second half is a production of the musical that allegedly houses the winning song.

Silk Road Ensemble
Feb. 27
Named for the well-traveled route between Turkey and China, this group of world musicians celebrates and combines the music of those countries and those in between.

Stefan Milenkovich
March 1
Indiana Landmarks Center
The 1994 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis silver medalist is joined by accordionist Marko Hatlak for a cabaret-style concert that’s part of the IVCI Laureate Series.

Christian McBride Big Band
March 4
Who said big-band music is dead? This 17-piece ensemble picked up a Grammy in 2012 for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for its first release.

March 4
Indianapolis Museum of Art
The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra provides live musical accompaniment to the otherwise silent Harold Lloyd comedy about an unemployed Yankees fan. Watch for a cameo from Babe Ruth himself.

Michael Feinstein and Cheyenne Jackson
March 5
The artistic director of the Center for the Performing Arts teams up once again (they recorded an album, “The Power of Two,” in 2008) with the star of Broadway’s “Xanadu” and “Finian’s Rainbow.”

Hogeye Navvy
March 5
The treasured Indianapolis-based folk band plays a shanty-filled concert for kids.

March 9-April 3
Indiana Repertory Theatre
August Wilson’s 1987 Pulitzer-winning play, perhaps the best known of his cycle of 10 plays, each set in a different 20th-century decade, gets a revival at IRT. Its focus is a former Negro League baseball star working as a garbage man in 1950s Pittsburgh.

Joshua Bell and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
March 13
It’s easy to take for granted that one of the world’s leading violinists is right down the road in Bloomington. So I’m including him a second time in this season preview in hopes that, eventually, his live music will find your ears. Here, he teams with the British conductor-less ensemble.


newsies-1-15col.jpg(Photo/Deen van Meer)

March 15-20
Clowes Memorial Hall
It’s the first time in Indy for the surprise hit musical based on the flop film. A group of newsboys stages a strike against greedy Joseph Pulitzer with toe-tapping results.

Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
March 16
Indiana Landmarks Center
It says something when a chamber music concert in March is sold out by August. Oh, well, at least some folks will get to hear Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn played by the acclaimed group in a concert presented by Ensemble Music Society.

Kari Kriikku, with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
March 18
Hilbert Circle Theatre
Kari Kriikku is soloist for the U.S. premiere of Kimmo Hakola’s “Clarinet Concerto.” Also on the bill: Carl Nielsen’s “Symphony No. 4,” aka “The Inextinguishable,” featuring a pair of battling timpani.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet

alonzoking-1col.jpg(Photo courtesy of Photo/RJ Muna)

March 18-19
The San Francisco company presents a work inspired by animal soundscapes.

“Mansfield Park”
March 18-20
Schrott Center
Attention Jane Austen fans: Jonathan Dove’s 2011 chamber opera gets its Indianapolis Opera premiere. The critic for the London Evening Standard called it “witty, brilliantly inventive.” That’s promising even for those of us lesser Austen-ites.

“Steinbeck Out Loud!”
March 19
Indiana History Center
Carol Birch offers a dramatic reading from John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”—the parts not focused on the Joad family—in this Storytelling Arts of Indiana presentation.

“200 Years of Indiana Art: A Cultural Legacy”
March 19-July 21
Indiana State Museum
Indiana’s bicentennial is celebrated in visual art at this long-range show culled from the museum’s permanent collection as well as collectors, artists and other institutions around the country.

“Bridge and Tunnel”
March 29-May 1
Indiana Repertory Theatre
An open-mic poetry reading is the setting for Sarah Jones’ play, in which one woman plays all the participants.

Bach’s “St John Passion”
April 2
Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center
Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, Symphonic Choir Chamber Singers and a cast of soloists team up for a concert likely to be as crowded backstage as it is in the auditorium.

SFJAZZ Collective: “The Music of Michael Jackson”
April 8
This jazz supergroup has an unusual process. Each spring, the members gather to work on the music of an established artist and also music by the group’s members. What you’ll see at the Palladium is the former, this time considering the music popularized by Michael Jackson.

“The Book of Mormon”
April 12-17
Murat Theatre
It’s back. And while returning audiences might not be surprised by some of the outrageous plot turns, they will still be rewarded by a terrific score and a still-Equity production. A pair of Mormon missionaries is assigned to a volatile African country and, well, as one earnest character sings: “A warlord who shoots people in the face/what’s so scary about that?”

“Portal 1812”
April 13-17
Black Box Studio Theatre, Lilly Hall
Butler University visiting artist Darla Villani conceives and directs this original ensemble performance created by Jordan College of the Arts students as part of Butler ArtsFest 2016.

April 14-May 1
Phoenix Theatre
Based on interviews with members of the Indianapolis Latino community and fueled by folk tales, Phoenix Playwright-in-Residence Tom Horan and Producing Director Bryan Fonseca create an original work exploring nature, life and mythology.

April 15
Schrott Center
Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence James Aikman created this multidisciplinary tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and others who fought for peace. Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Krasovec and saxophonist Rob Dixon sit in.

Denzal Sinclaire
April 16
When Sinclaire appeared at the Songbook Gala in 2014, his tribute to Nat King Cole led me to write that he “managed to put truth into every syllable with a sound that sent me running to YouTube as soon as I got home. I can’t recall a time when I so quickly became a fan of a performer. Here’s hoping he finds his way here for a full concert soon.” Well, he has. And I’m excited.

T.C. Steele
April 21-July 9
Indiana History Center
In conjunction with its publication of “The House of the Singing Winds: The Life and Work of T.C. Steele,” the Indiana Historical Society presents this exhibition featuring works culled from private collections.

Batboy: The Musical”
April 29-May 28
Theatre on the Square
Co-producers Zack Neiditch and Zach Rosing team up on the out-there musical sprung from a Weekly World News headline.

“Indianapolis Children’s Choir 30th Anniversary Concert”

desmond-tutu-visit-sept-2013-15col.jpg(Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Children’s Choir)

April 30
Clowes Hall
It’s a program of all new music as Henry Leck leads his final concert before passing the baton to the ICC’s new leader.

Manahem Pressler, with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
May 5, 7
Hilbert Circle Theatre
In his 92nd year, the pianist and founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio joins the ISO for a concert that includes Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 2,” Brahms’ “Tragic Overture” and Schumann’s “Symphony No. 2.”

Artist-designed mini-golf
May 5-Oct. 30
Indianapolis Museum of Art
It’s not a new concept—but it can be a fun one when artists are assigned to design miniature-golf holes. The temporary set-up at the IMA will feature two courses, one looking at the history and culture of Indiana and the other inspired by works in the museum’s collection.

June 10, 12
Hilbert Circle Theatre
The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra winds up its season with a semi-staged performance of George Bizet’s “Carmen.” Mezzo-soprano Oksana Volkova and tenor Evan Bowers take the leads, with the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and the Indianapolis Children’s Choir adding to the mix.


College Visitation

Some of the most exciting arts events are happening on really-not-that-far-away university campuses. Here’s some encouragement to get you on the road.

“The Power of Words: Meet the Authors of ‘March’”
Sept. 21
IU Auditorium, Bloomington
A while back, I wrote about “March,” the powerful graphic-novel series about the Civil Rights movement as told through the eyes of congressman John Lewis and illustrated by Bloomington-based Nate Powell. At this event, the two, along with co-author Andrew Aydin, will discuss the books.

“Betty’s Diner, the Musical”

bettys-diner-carrie-newcomer-1-15col.jpg Carrie Newcomer, composer of “Betty’s Diner, the Musical” (Photo/Jim McGuire)

Sept. 25-Oct. 10
Mallett Theatre, Yue-Kong Pao Hall, West Lafayette
Well, it’s about time someone turned Indiana folk music star Carrie Newcomer’s character-based songs into a musical. Gary Walters serves as musical director. Anyone up for eggs and toast afterward?

“Dead Man Walking”
Oct. 16-24
IU Musical Arts Center
The harrowing opera by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Terrence McNally gets its IU Opera debut.

“Beyond Glory”

beyondglory-15col.jpg (Photo courtesy of CMI Entertainment)

Nov. 6
Emens Auditorium, Muncie
Stephen Lang might be best known as the villain in “Avatar,” but he is also a strong stage actor who adapted Larry Smith’s book into this stark one-man play that looks at eight military veterans who have been awarded the Medal of Honor.

“A Moon for the Misbegotten”
Feb. 18
Loeb Playhouse, West Lafayette
Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre sends a touring production of Eugene O’Neill’s great play about an alcoholic actor, a tenant farmer’s daughter, and the night in which they could be each other’s salvation.

“Four Faces of Balanchine”
March 25-26
IU Musical Arts Center, Bloomington
A quartet of pieces by George Balanchine, including “Raymonda Variations” and “Tarantella,” make up IU Ballet’s spring collection.

“The Sound of Music”
April 8-16
IU Musical Arts Center
Why tell you about yet another production of the Rodgers & Hammerstein warhorse? Because Gabriel Barre (who helmed such off-Broadway musicals as “The Wild Party” and “Summer of ’42”) is directing IU Opera’s production.


mother-2-1col.jpg(Photo courtesy of Ball State University)

April 21
Emens Auditorium, Muncie
Any opportunity to see one of the most powerful musicals of the past quarter century should be seriously considered. Based on E.L. Doctorow’s great novel, the tapestry of a show weaves together the lives of real and fictional characters at the dawning of the 20th century.

“Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson”
April 15-23
Ruth N. Halls Theatre, Bloomington
If you missed Phoenix Theatre’s production of this in-your-face musical a few seasons back, make the trek to Bloomington to catch IU Theatre’s production, directed by George Pinney.

See also Ball State Theatre’s production of “Merrily We Roll Along,” as well as Butler University/Clowes Hall/Schrott Center and University of Indianapolis events throughout the guide.


Putting it together: an unofficial Stephen Sondheim celebration

stephen-sondheim---photo-jerry-jackson-15col.jpg Stephen Sondheim (Photo/Jerry Jackson)

While it’s not a formal festival, five local companies staging musicals by Stephen Sondheim—all of them rarely produced in these parts—should make musical-theater fans happy.

“Merrily We Roll Along”
Oct. 23-31
Strother Theater, Muncie
Ball State University takes on Sondheim’s much-revised musical, where the scenes are presented in reverse order. The path toward disillusioned adulthood leads back to optimistic youth.

“Sondheim on Sondheim”
Jan. 8-24
Hedback Theatre
Want Sondheim music with back story but no plot? This revue, presented by Footlite Musicals, intersperses live performances of his songs with insight into their creation via filmed interviews with the composer.

“Sweeney Todd”
Jan. 29-Feb. 14
Actors Theatre of Indiana takes on the musical-theater masterpiece about a wronged barber out for revenge.

March 11-26
Theatre on the Square
Tim Spradlin directs the intense musical about a soldier, his married lover, and the ailing woman who changes his definition of love.

May 27-June 12
Buck Creek Players
The community theater that likes to challenge itself with difficult and/or rarely done musicals has a go at Sondheim’s non-linear concept musical about the gallery of real-life characters who have attempted to assassinate U.S. presidents.



Talking Points

Want to join the central Indiana arts conversation this year? Here are some ice breakers.

Will audiences embrace a more intimate Indianapolis Opera?
At last, Indianapolis Opera is offering a full season of shows again—in fact, it already started with an August production of “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” The scale is decidedly not as grand, though, with productions primarily at the Schrott Center instead of Clowes Hall. But intimacy can be an asset, right?

Will the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s admission charge pay off?

ima02-15col.jpg (IBJ file photo)

In April, patrons had to start forking over $18 or become members in order to experience the formerly free IMA upper campus, including the main galleries. (Yes, I know, the fee includes special exhibitions that used to be ticketed, etc.) But how many people are making the leap to membership? And are the others taking advantage of free days or getting their art fix elsewhere? Is the no-longer-free policy affecting donations? And what of the bikers, who seem to be the loudest voices complaining months after the north gate was closed?

Will retail, restaurants and new parking options increase Butler’s A&E profile?
Having dinner before the show or drinks after a production at Clowes Hall means getting in the car and relocating. But not for long. What was once a cultural island amid residential properties soon will have Scotty’s Dawghouse built into its new parking garage.

How will reruns fare on area stages?
Often, Indy-area theater companies stage works already seen at other local theaters. (There have been four, by my count, productions of “The 39 Steps” between here and Bloomington over the past few seasons.) But remountings of shows in the same theater are rarer. So as the IRT brings back “Fences” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Actors Theatre of Indiana restages “The Andrews Brothers,” and QArtistry takes another run at “Cabaret Poe,” it will be interesting to see if these new productions will be treated like “been there/done that” or embraced as old friends. After all, opera companies and symphony orchestras frequently revisit the tried-and-true.

What’s happening with upstart theater groups?
NoExit Performance, known for its site-specific, often-dream-like productions, will take on a new, as-yet-unannounced shape with the departure of key players Michael Burke (for grad school in Chicago), and Georgeanna Smith (for stronger involvement at Young Actors Theatre). Meanwhile Acting Up Productions, which garnered attention for its female-led “Hamlet” in the summer of 2014, took a year off and now has only one production planned—an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol”—for 2015-2016. And Q Artistry has yet to announce a season, with its leader Ben Asaykwee keeping busy on stages all over town. One potential winner in all the transitions: Wisdom Tooth Theatre Project, the serious-minded group that is now theater-company-in-residence at the IndyFringe Basile Theatre.

How will IMOCA make use of its two spaces? Ditto for IndyFringe.
With new management (Paula Katz took over in June) and a second space (at The Alexander Hotel), the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art could double its exposure and influence on the visual arts scene. And now that IndyFringe has the Indy Eleven Theatre, that’s twice as much stage time to fill.

Is the Indianapolis Star back in the arts-reviewing business?
Since Jay Harvey left The Indianapolis Star and created his own blog, our city’s newspaper of record hasn’t opined much about the arts. But last season, a few actual reviews from reporter Wei-Huan Chen were slipped into the mix. A novelty, or another change in the air? Chen said he’ll be reviewing more from the Phoenix Theatre and the Indiana Repertory Theatre as the season gets rolling. Arts folks will also be watching Nuvo to see what changes new Arts Editor Emily Taylor brings to the alt weekly.

What’s next from John Green?
Seems like every teenage reader in America—and lots of adults—wants to know. In the meantime, the screen adaptation of his novel “Looking for Alaska” is in preproduction.

Can anyone imagine an Indianapolis Children’s Choir without Henry Leck at the helm?

henry-leck-and-icc-15col.jpg Henry Leck (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Children’s Choir)

Transitions happen, but few central Indiana arts organizations are as identified with one leader as the Indianapolis Children’s Choir has been. Leck has been with it from the beginning, 30 years ago. I’ll let others do the math on how many thousands of kids have been encouraged to share their voices thanks to his work. Joshua Pedde, who has worked closely with Leck the past five years as assistant artistic director, will be the filler of those big musical and organizational shoes.

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