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Shakespeare birthday bash begins annual Bryn Mawr College Arts Series

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STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For 21st Century Media
A new season of cultural and artistic events is underway and the annual Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series offers an eclectic mix this year. The five productions feature a variety of music, dance, theater, and film.
Since 1984, the Performing Arts Series has presented artists and performances to Philadelphia-area audiences to recognize and celebrate the value of the arts. This year’s series kicks off October 4 with a Shakespeare birthday bash. The other events are: Camille A. Brown & Dancers: Black Girl and Mr. Tol E. Rance (excerpts) on Dec. 5; the Wintry Mix/Performance Festival, including performance artist Cynthia Hopkins on Jan. 30 and Philly favorite Martha Graham Cracker on Jan. 31; the Jasper String Quartet on Feb. 27; and singer/songwriter Emel Mathlouthi on March 27.
The Shakespeare event, called Shakespeare’s 450th: Scenes and Sonnets, Music and Dance with members of Piffaro and Guests, features Renaissance music, scenes from some of his most popular plays (directed by Barrymore Award winner James J. Christy and performed by local actors), and dancing, taught to the audience by Renaissance dancing master Dorothy Olsson.
The music to be performed by Piffaro (www.piffaro.org) was chosen based on the scenes selected to be showcased and sonnets, said artistic co-director and musician Joan Kimball.
“We chose music to fit the mood,” she said.

Piffaro will be part of the opening event of the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series. Photo by Karin Talbot.

Piffaro will be part of the opening event of the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series. Photo by Karin Talbot.

Four musicians will play a variety of songs on instruments including different-sized recorders, shawms, dulcians, lutes, Renaissance guitars, and more. Kimball, a Shakespeare fan, thinks that the program will be fun and that the music and the words go together well.
“His language is so musical, if you think about it,” she said.
The music of the period is usually short – two to 10 minutes for each song – so choosing what to play takes thought, especially when arranging choices around a theme or historical event, she said. Playing music to accompany Shakespeare is almost old-hat to these performers, though – two of the regular members of the ensemble performed with the musicians for Twelfth Night and Richard III on Broadway, she said.
Kimball likes playing Renaissance music because of its ties to history, which she likes, and also the variety of the sounds. There are “upbeat dances, love songs, bawdy songs, and sacred music,” she said. For this program, they’ll feature “the more upbeat side – dance and fun elements.”
No matter when or in what style it was written, Kimball thinks that all music is universal.
“There’s an immediacy to music – you hear it and it’s gone in time,” she said. “There’s something about grasping that and letting it flow through you that is satisfying and meaningful to all of us.”

IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Shakespeare’s 450th: Scenes and Sonnets, Music and Dance,” with members of Piffaro and guests.
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4.
WHERE: Bryn Mawr College, Thomas Great Hall, 101 North Merion Ave., Bryn Mawr.
Tickets: $20; seniors $18; students $10; children younger than 12 $5. Subscriptions to all five performances also available.
Call (610) 526-5210 or visit brynmawr.edu/arts/series.html.

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