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Fall Performing Arts Season Set to Entertain, Inspire

Five artists partner to investigate Commoner’s Laws of Ecology via movement, visual art, writing and music to launch this season’s performing arts series
Rehearsals for "The Red Thread" closed out the summer in preparation for a debut performance on Sept. 7 at The Barn.


BRISTOL, R.I. -- After the college marching bands trumpeted a culminating blast and the final festive float closed out Bristol’s 2013 Fourth of July Parade, throngs of spectators packed up the kids and coolers to continue their Independence Day celebrations with family cookouts or a jaunt to the ocean to cool off on the steamy, brilliant day. But an unsightly human mark remained behind.

As Cathy Nicoli took advantage of the now-empty streets to walk her dog through her downtown Bristol neighborhood, she spied a vibrant candy wrapper marooned on the sidewalk not far from a corner trashcan. A little annoying, but minor as far as litter goes, she thought. A block farther, she caught sight of clumps of trash cast along the parade route – uniquely manmade detritus that isn’t typically found on Bristol’s well-maintained streets. And all of it non-biodegradable litter that would have taken little effort to dispose of correctly. (Rest assured, that in no time at all, Bristol’s public works department swept the streets and sidewalks clean, a meticulous job that takes them through the night after each Fourth of July celebration.)

Such a thoughtless scene prompted Roger Williams University’s new assistant dance professor to recall pioneering environmentalist Barry Commoner’s Laws of Ecology – that we all live in a linked ecosystem and each action reaches around the world. Inspired to transmit that ecological message to an audience, she’s using her own medium, with the help of others, to convey Commoner’s legacy via an innovative and distinctly artistic approach. Collaborating with four partners, Nicoli entwines video collage, music, dance and creative fiction in an original production of “The Red Thread: An Interdisciplinary Arts Approach to Barry Commoner’s Four Laws of Ecology,” which kicks off this fall’s performing arts events with a free performance on Saturday, September 7 at 7:30 p.m. in The Barn.

Nicoli, who learned of Commoner in his 2012 obituary, was captivated by the simplicity of his four laws. The laws each have a specific structure but can still be applied and interpreted many different ways – exactly what inspired her to think, “I can make a dance around that.”

When it came time to choreograph the dance, however, she didn’t want to make it a solo performance. As two of the laws expound, “Everything is Connected to Everything Else” and “Nature Knows Best.”

“That old saying ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ – well, that’s pretty true,” Nicoli says. “We are constantly affecting each other. I like to have the form and the architecture of a work reflect the concept.”

She brought in four other professionals who work in different mediums to create a multidisciplinary – and interconnected – piece. Brandon Shaw, a Brown University dance scholar with training in tango and Kung Fu, will stage a slow-tempo duet with Nicoli to open the performance. Thomas Deininger, a renowned Bristol artist who executes large found-object works, created a video collage that will be projected on the newspaper-lined walls of the set. Heidi Henderson, an associate dance professor at Connecticut College, will incorporate the natural forces of momentum and gravity in a dance with Nicoli. RWU adjunct writing professor Eugenio Volpe wrote a short story that will be incorporated in the finale. And tying together each scene will be an original musical score written and performed by Michael DeQuattro, RWU’s resident composer and accompanist for the performing arts.

“The Red Thread” leads off the fall performing arts season, which will also feature theatre productions, concert performances and the ALIVE! Arts Series. All productions will take place in the Performing Arts Center (The Barn). Click here for additional information on the performing arts and events at RWU.

Dance Basement Performance Series: “The Red Thread”

“The Red Thread: An Interdisciplinary Arts Approach to Barry Commoner’s Four Laws of Ecology” is an original, collaborative production that investigates Commoner’s theory by creating kinetic metaphors and visual analogues through the mediums of movement, fiction writing, visual art, and music. The RWU Foundation to Promote Scholarship and Teaching supported this production. The event is free and takes place on Saturday, September 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Freshman Theatre Production: An Evening of Durang!

Enjoy wacky and wonderful one-act plays from 2013 Tony Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang. The event takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, September 20 and Saturday, September 21. Tickets are $4 for general admission and $2 for students.

Music Series: The Greybeards

The Greybeards perform the music of Handel, Telemann and Bach on baroque flute, harpsichord and viola da gamba. The musicians are experts on the history and performance of 17th century music, and expand the concert format to include insights on their music and instruments. The event is free and takes place on Sunday, September 22 at 2 p.m.

Theatre Main Series I: “Metamorphoses”

Mary Zimmerman’s adaptation of the classic Ovid tale was nominated for three 2002 Tony Awards, including Best Play. RWU Professor Jeffrey B. Martin to direct. The event takes place on Friday, October 11 and Saturday, October 12 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, October 13 at 2 p.m.; and Thursday, October 17 through Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students.

Alive! Arts Series: Issa Coulibaly and Didakan

Issa Coulabaly, a master drummer from Mali, and his group Didakan infuse audiences with a raw and direct connection to the African continent. With their seamless combination of performance and “infotainment,” viewers will delight in the music of Mali while learning about the tradition and importance of music in the country’s history and culture. The event is free and takes place on Sunday, October 20 at 2 p.m.

Stage Company One Act Festival

The RWU Stage Company will perform “The Game” by Louise Bryant and “Helena’s Husband” by Philip Molleur. The event takes place on Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $3 for students.

Dance Basement Performance Series

Freshman dance majors perform with critically acclaimed choreographer and performer Heather Ahern and her company, Aerplaye. The event is free and takes place on Saturday, November 2 at 7:30 p.m.

Theatre Main Season Series II: “Jane Eyre”

Adapted for the stage by Polly Teale and directed by RWU Professor Peter Wright, “Jane Eyre” explores the 19th century notion that a Victorian woman who expresses her passionate nature will invite severe punishment. The event takes place on November 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m.; November 17 at 2 p.m.; and November 21 to 23 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students.

Dance Theatre in Concert

New and innovative works by guest artists, faculty and students. The event takes place on December 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m.; December 7 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and December 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students.

Instrumental Ensemble Fall Concert

Enjoy a varied program of classical, jazz, and pops selections performed by the Instrumental Ensemble, a group that includes students, faculty and staff, alumni and members of the community. The event is free and takes place on December 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Chorus Fall Concert

The RWU Chorus, a celebrated musical ensemble consisting of students and faculty members, will present a seasonal concert that represents many different styles of choral music. The performances will range from the masterworks of the Renaissance to the contemporary styles of vocal jazz and popular music. The event is free and takes place on December 11 at 7:30 p.m.