NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- In one fell swoop, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (better known as Mass MoCA) has announced a full slate of live performing events for the spring, including over two dozen concerts, films, art talks, plays, dance performances, special museum events and more, running through early May.
Performances will be held in Mass MoCA's various performance spaces, including the Hunter Center, a massive black box theatre usually used for large concerts and theatre productions, and the more intimate Club B10 for small events.
In the spirit of the museum's progressive approach to contemporary art, the spring performance lineup includes some well-known, nationally-touring acts as well as a diverse array of experimental, forward-thinking and non-traditional events, some of which defy genre categorization entirely.
Some of the biggest names on the bill are legendary reggae musician Burning Spear and Phish bassist Mike Gordon, who will be performing at the museum in February and April, respectively. Born Winston Rodney in 1945, Burning Spear contributed to the rise of Reggae as a popular music genre in the ‘70s, and he has become a respected figure over his 45-year, 25-album career.
Mike Gordon helped found Phish as a student at the University of Vermont, and his booming, feverish 5-string bass has been a key element of the band's improvisational style over their 30 year career. Also a filmmaker and bluegrass enthusiast, Gordon will play at Mass MoCA with his own five-piece band, featuring guitarist Scott Murawski.
Other musical acts coming to Mass MoCA include Connecticut-based psychedelic fusion band The Stepkids, Jamacian one-stringed guitar sensation Brushy One String, all-female punk band BETTY, eclectic international musicians Banda Magda and collaborative music/film hybrid "Water Songs: Hatay G'am."
Dance performances are also a key aspect of the museum's spring performance lineup, with Bessie Award winning choreographer Beth Gill bringing her latest piece "New Work for the Desert" to the Hunter Center, along with an esteemed cast of dancers and designers. Later in the spring interdisciplinary choreographer David Neumann will present an evening of solo performances from throughout his career, and New York-based gypsy jazz sextet The Brain Cloud will host a Western Swing Dance Party in the Hunter Center on Feb. 1.
Film and theater presentations will be held throughout the spring seasons as well. Club B10 will host screenings of independent films like "20 Feet from Stardom," which documents the lives of pop music's uncelebrated backup singers, "When I Walk," Jason DaSilva's story of living with multiple sclerosis, and "The Light in Her Eyes," a documentary that explores a conservative Qur'an school for girls in Syria. The lineup also includes a pair of theater performances: "The Interview: A Play by Guillaume Leblon," an absurdist short play int he format of an interview, and Andrew Dawson's "The Russian Doctor. Anton Chekhov's Journey to Sakhali," which follows Chekhov's journey across Siberia.
Along with this play, Dawson will also perform a one-man kids show about Apollo 11 called "Space Panorama." High-quality children's programming has always been a key part of Mass MoCA's mission, and several events during the spring reflect that commitment. Running from Feb. 17 to 21, Camp Utopia is an especially exciting program for 6- to 12-year-old artists. Based on Jason Middlebrook's drawing "A Fresh Start," Camp Utopia gives kids the chance to build life-size forts and structures while participating in daily yoga, meditation and artistic activities. The Spring Art Detox is another multi-day kids event designed to get kids ready for spring with three mornings of art-making, physical activity and healthy snacks.
Besides these performances and activities, the museum will host several art lectures over the spring, including discussions with artist Izhar Patkin on his exhibit "The Wandering Veil," a talk with Williams college professors and Nepali artist Ang Tsherin Sherpa on the politics of art in Tibet and a reading of Agha Shahid Ali's ghazal poems.
The museum will also celebrate a couple of special days during the spring. Jan. 11 will be a Free Day at the museum, with free museum admission for all, roaming musicians, dance performances and special events happening throughout the day. Mass MoCA also invites couples to celebrate Date Night at the Museum on Valentine's day, with candlelight dinner four two, gallery strolling, handmade crafts, and special couples activities. Kidspace will also be offering a special dinner and activities for kids during the event so parents can enjoy their own romantic night at the museum.
Unsurprisingly for Mass MoCA, several events on the schedule don't fit within any defined category or genre -- they simply need to be experienced to be understood. Roger Clark Miller's "A Night of Surrealist Games" promises to be such an event, as the Mission of Burma and Alloy Orchestra member promises to guide participants through "a corpus of mind-bending games" developed in the 1920s by Andre Breton and his fellow surrealists. Another unclassifiable but intriguing event is "Mortified," a funny, poignant evening of shared high-school embarrassments that Newsweek calls a "cultural phenomenon."
Tickets for these events are available now on the Mass MoCA website, with the exception of Mike Gordon tickets, which go on sale Dec. 13. Tickets to most events (again, excluding Mike Gordon) are on sale for 25 percent off their normal price between now and the start of the new year.
Mass MoCA is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., every day except Tuesdays and Christmas.
Jack McManus can be reached on twitter at @Banner_Arts and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org