Smile Politely

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts’ 24-25 season celebrates the joy of live performance

Photo of two bands with five members in each band member holding their instruments including a French horn, a bassoon, an oboe, a tuba, a clarinet, and trumpets.
Imani Winds and Boston Brass; Photo provided by Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts just released the 2024-2025 season and it’s fire. From Renée Fleming to a feminist reworking of Dracula to some phenomenal dance and unique magic-meets-performance art pieces, your calendar will be full. There is nothing like a live performance. Whether it’s a concert in the acoustically magical Foellinger Great Hall or in the multi-dimensional space of the Studio Theatre, experiencing the performing arts live is pure enchantment. Live theatre, dance, and music cannot be replicated on a screen. I am a Shakespeare nerd so I’m itching to see Winter’s Tale next April, as well as Sarah Ruhl’s gender-bending, rule-breaking adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando on tap in November.

I had a chance to connect with Julieanne Ehre, Krannert’s Assistant Director for Programming and Engagement, about the upcoming season. Ehre, who comes to the University of Illinois from a theatre and arts background in Chicago, is excited about the season and brings a fresh perspective to her role and to the arts scene here in Central Illinois.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Photo of a Black musician in a black shirt holding his trumpet.
Terence Blanchard; Photo provided by Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

Smile Politely: What are some of the biggest surprises coming up in the 2024-25 season? 

Julieanne Ehre: We have an exciting and diverse season coming up and there’s really something for everyone. With multiple Grammy winners across genres from classical superstar, Renée Fleming, to Jazz great, Terence Blanchard, there will be a lot of buzz and excitement around those star-studded events. We also have some cutting-edge theater and dance artists, Geoff Sobelle who was last here with his work, HOME, returns with his hilarious and magical exploration of everyday themes, this time with FOOD. Another visionary artist is LaTasha Barnes, whose work the Jazz Continuum includes a cast of dancers and a live jazz band and DJ and is a celebratory exploration of the influence of jazz on contemporary Black music forms like house music. And those are just a few of the exciting artists coming to Krannert Center!

SP: Who are the players involved in putting a season together?

Ehre: I started here as Assistant Director for Programming and Engagement this past August so this was my first season overseeing the programming team here at KCPA. I work closely with the director of the center, Mike Ross, as well as with a team of staff members who have expertise in classical music, jazz, global music as well as popular bands. I come from Chicago where I ran a multi-disciplinary arts organization and worked as a theater director. With my background primarily in theater and dance, and others expertise in music, we make for a well-rounded team.

SP: What were some of the major considerations for this KCPA season?

Ehre: When putting together this upcoming season, I felt that I wanted to bring people joy. This is a very divisive time that we’re living through and my main consideration was to bring our diverse community together through celebratory events and create a sense of our shared humanity. In addition, we want everyone in our community to feel welcome and that KCPA is a place for them to experience art and be a part of a larger community. In addition, we have more practical concerns such as making certain that the season is balanced across genres and various aesthetics.

SP: In what ways are students (either undergraduate or graduate or both) involved in the creation of a KCPA season? 

Ehre: What a great question. I started here in August and dove into the deep end of the programming swimming pool. I am now able to take a breath and put in place larger initiatives. For example, before the pandemic we had an advisory group of students and that has really fallen apart after COVID and with the departure of several staff members. We are about to hire a Director of Campus Engagement and along with that position we are looking at rebuilding the Krannert Center Student Association with the intention that students will have the opportunity to advise on what events appeal to the campus community.

Photo of a white man in a waiter costume serving a white plate in a large audience.
Geoff Sobelle in FOOD; Photo by Iain Masterton

SP: Who are the two or three guest artists or events that you’re most excited about and why?

Ehre: That’s hard. I’m not sure I can choose. I traveled to New York last fall which is a great time to see a lot of new performances. I’m very excited about two shows that I saw there that we’re bringing to Krannert. Geoff Sobelle’s FOOD is a hilarious performance that is part magic show, part theater.  And Sister Sylvester’s Drinking Brecht is a quirky and original piece where the audience will have the opportunity to make DNA-infused cocktails. I kid you not. What I love about both these works is that they break down the fourth wall and engage the audience in innovative ways while also posing larger societal questions.

SP: If you had to describe the season in just three words, what would they be?

Ehre: Inclusive, joy, celebration. We want everyone to feel included here at Krannert Center and we want you to experience the joy of live performance that just cannot be replicated streaming at home, and finally, being together in community with one another is cause for celebration.

Four white well-dressed men holding percussion instruments.
Third Coast Percussion; Photo by Saverio Truglia

SP: Anything else you think the Champaign-Urbana region should know about the season or the artists behind it? 

Ehre: I think you covered it! Coming from Chicago, I’ve been blown away by Krannert Center as a world-class performing arts center — we don’t have anything like this organization in Chicago — KCPA is truly a gem here in central Illinois and I hope everyone will come to explore the season!

KCPA will also host the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra as they return to Krannert Center for their 65th season. Stephen Alltop, music director and conductor, will lead the CUSO through four performances: Season Opening: Music and Majesty (October 12th); Holiday Concert: Season of Glory (December 11th); Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (March 8th); and The Rite of Spring (April 12th).  They will also perform a Youth Series concert, Carnival of  the Animals, on April 22nd and 23rd.

Get those calendars out and start your planning. Click the link below for the complete season and information regarding KCPA.

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
500 S Goodwin
Complete 2024-2025 Season Information

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