2011 represents a new normal for arts scene

Itzhak Perlman in Texas. Photo by Dr. Scott M. Lieberman | AP.

Itzhak Perlman in Texas. Photo by Dr. Scott M. Lieberman | AP.

After a volatile year in Central Kentucky arts, 2011 should give us a sense of how things might settle in for the coming years.

This will be a year that could establish new normals for the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra, which will enter its second season fully under the direction of its new artistic director, Scott Terrell, and the Norton Center for the Arts, which will see its first season completely programmed by new chief Steven A. Hoffman.

It will be an interesting year overall for performing arts centers as programming at the Singletary Center for the Arts continues to evolve and the performing arts center at Eastern Kentucky University opens. Also, the Downtown Arts Center will enter a second year without Actors Guild of Lexington as a primary tenant, so it will be intriguing to see what happens under the Arts Center’s new director, Joe Cannon Artz.

Actors Guild will start a new chapter in its story when it opens a new season in its new digs in South Elkhorn Village on Harrodsburg Road, under the direction of new artistic director Eric Seale. Right now, the group has a season lined up that includes David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross and Kyle Jarrow’s A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant. After a year and a half of sporadic programming in the wake of a financial meltdown and a managerial purge, eyes will be watching to see how a reconstituted Actors Guild works its way back into the theater community.

There also were introductions of new entities in 2010, and this year we will see what becomes of ProjectSEE Theatre, which launched in late 2010 to good notices, and how the Lyric Theatre work its way into the artistic life of Lexington.

Before writing 2011 becomes routine, here are a few things to look forward to in the coming year.

University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s Porgy and Bess, Jan. 28-Feb. 6 at the Singletary Center for the Arts: This is a huge show for any opera company to take on, though anyone who has spent any time with Everett McCorvey would know that his UK Opera Theatre would eventually present it. But that’s not the only story line here. This show is going to be a co-production with the Atlanta Opera, which will present it after UK, and it will feature projected sets built by UK’s Center for Visualization and Virtual Environments. The opera will employ new technology to put Catfish Row on the Singletary stage that we could soon see in theaters around the country.

Transylvania University Theatre’s Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls, Feb. 20-26 at the Lucille Little Theatre: The Transy theater department has become really adept at presenting modern, avant garde theater. That fact, and a desire to see how well this entry by Naomi Iizuka in the 1999 Humana Festival of New American Plays has aged, have me curious to see this production. When it was new, it was very timely.

Itzhak Perlman and the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, March 5 at the Singletary Center: Singletary Center director Michael Grice was told that Perlman would never come to Kentucky to play with a student orchestra. But here he will be, playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the UK Symphony, which already has had a heady season, with a Marvin Hamlisch concert and a return performance at Carnegie Hall. And the Perlman gig just gets their year started. Read on.

A world premiere by the Lexington Philharmonic, Feb. 18 at the Singletary Center: This is a sort of soft opening to the philharmonic’s commissioning collaboration with the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington. In 2008, Daniel Thomas Davis was commissioned to write a Kentucky-inspired piano quintet for the festival. The resulting Book of Songs and Visions was an award-winning success, and now it will come back to Lexington for its orchestral premiere with the philharmonic.

The Boston Pops and the UK Symphony Orchestra, Oct. 15 at Rupp Arena: Keeneland will celebrate its 75th anniversary by bringing in maestro Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops for a concert that will feature the world’s premier pops orchestra playing alongside UK’s student musicians. The show will start with a set by the UK Symphony, then the Boston Pops, and then the two together.

Those are some highlights. But I am fairly certain that we will not get too far into the year before we start hearing of eye-catching programming. Lexington is increasingly becoming a town of organizations, such as Institute 193 and Balagula Theatre, that do not announce plans very far ahead of time, so it might pay to not load up our calendars too far in advance.

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