Smile Politely

Krannert Center announces 2015-16 season

In Champaign-Urbana, the transition from summer to autumn brings a lot more than just an influx of students. Beginning in September, there will also be an extraordinary caravan of talented artists making their way to Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. That’s right, Arts lovers: it’s time for KCPA to announce its schedule for the 2015-16 academic season.


The festivities kick off September 10-12 with ELLNORA — The Guitar Festival, which is perhaps the greatest assemblage of axe-wielding experts this side of a logging camp. Prior to opening night, there will be a pre-festival event, “Local Heroes Night” (September 8th), as well as the pre-festival “ELLNORA at the Art” event on September 9th.

The September 10th Opening Night Party will feature Terakaft, Mia Dyson, AJ Ghent Band, John Jorgenson Quintet, and North Mississippi Allstars. And this year’s ELLNORA Keynote will be A Conversation with Sharon Isbin. Beyond that, you can expect to see and hear some astounding guitar as well as singing, including work from the following:

Valerie June (see below)/Andy McKee

Squonk’s Pneumatica (see below)

Star Rover

David Hidalgo and Marc Ribot

Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn

Rhonda Vincent and The Rage (see below)

Drive-By Truckers

Earth with Dylan Carlson

Dan Zanes and Friends Celebrate Leadbelly (see below)

Keola Beamer and Jeff Peterson with Moanalani Beamer

Sharon Isbin with Colin Davin

Min Xiao-Fen: Mao, Monk, and Me/Simon Shaheen, Sashank Navaladi, and Juan Pérez Rodríguez

Punch Brothers (see below)

Bucky and John Pizzarelli

Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear

Jessica Lea Mayfield

Los Lobos (see below)

Rodrigo y Gabriela

Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint with Dither & Friends with guest sets by Colin Davin & Mark Stewart

John Scofield and Jon Cleary


Following this mind-blowing lineup, of course, there will be a revolving door of artists — some of them world-renowned, some of them emerging; some of them visiting from abroad, some of them returning home. Some highlights, by date, are:

September 16 — Evalyn Parry’s SPIN, starring the bicycle as muse, musical instrument, and agent of social change. (Tryon Festival Theatre)

September 17-19 — Julie and Nathan Gunn, club-style (Studio Theatre)

September 25The Pygmalion Festival, in the Lobby and Tryon Festival Theatre

September 26 — Julia Wolfe/SITI Company/Bang On A Can All-Stars: Steel Hammer, directed by Anne Bogart. With original text by Kia Corthron, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux, and Regina Taylor, this is a musical and theatrical exploration of the cost of hard labor on the human body and soul. (Colwell Playhouse)

September 27 — Jupiter String Quartet with Denise Djokic, cello (Foellinger Great Hall)


October 7 — Compañia Flamenca José Porcel: Flamenco Fire (Foellinger Great Hall)

October 10 — Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with conductor Semyon Bychkov and violinist Renaud Capuçon (Foellinger Great Hall)

October 13 — Takács Quartet (Foellinger Great Hall)

October 151984, Illinois Theatre, through October 25 (Colwell Playhouse)

October 21 — The National Circus and Acrobats of the People’s Republic of China: Peking Dreams (Foellinger Great Hall)

October 22The Other Shore, Illinois Theatre, through November 1 (Studio Theatre)

October 28 — Philadanco! at 45: Celebrating Joan Myers Brown and James Brown, Pioneers in Dance and Music (Tryon Festival Theatre)


November 1 — Young Concert Artists Winner: Raphaël Sévère, clarinet (Foellinger Great Hall)

November 3 — Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India: Spirit of India (Foellinger Great Hall)

November 5-7 — Somi: The Lagos Music Salon (Studio Theatre, club-style)

November 13Brooklyn Babylon. Created by Darcy James Argue and Danijel Zezelj, this is an urban fable which wordlessly unfolds through projected animation, real-time painting, and big band jazz. (Tryon Festival Theatre)

November 14 — Isabel Leonard (pictured, right), mezzo-soprano and Sharon Isbin, guitar (Foellinger Great Hall)

November 18 — Patch Theatre Company: Me and My Shadow (Tryon Festival Theatre)


December 3-6The Nutcracker (Tryon Festival Theatre)


January 19-21 — Moscow Festival Ballet: Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Cinderella (Tryon Festival Theatre)

January 31 — Sphinx Competition Winner: Christine Lamprea, cello (Foellinger Great Hall)


February 3 — Cellist Matt Haimovitz and Voice in If Music Be the Food of Love (Foellinger Great Hall)

February 4Kingdom City, Illinois Theatre, through February 14 (Studio Theatre)

February 9 — The Band of the Royal Marines and the Pipes, Drums, and Highland Dancers of the Scots Guards (Foellinger Great Hall)

February 16 — Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra: Baroque Fireworks, with Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano, and Nicholas McGegan, conductor (Foellinger Great Hall)

February 23 — An Evening with Savion Glover (pictured, below) and Jack DeJohnette: a tour de force of percussion and tap dance artistry (Tryon Festival Theatre)

February 24-27 — National Theatre of Scotland: The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. Created by David Greig, writer, and Wils Wilson, director, this is a devil of a tale, filled with wit, wiles, story, and song, performed “pub-style.” (Studio Theatre)

February 27 — Polish Baltic Philharmonic, with Boguslaw Dawidow, principal guest conductor, and Agata Szymczewska, violin (Foellinger Great Hall)


March 3The Grapes of Wrath, Illinois Theatre, through March 13 (Colwell Playhouse)

March 4-5 — Mark Morris Dance Group & Music Ensemble (Tryon Festival Theatre)

March 10 — Richard Goode, piano Foellinger Great Hall

March 12 — Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour 2016, with Patti Austin, vocals; Terence Blanchard, trumpet; Ravi Coltrane, tenor and soprano sax; Gerald Clayton, piano and music director; Joe Sanders, bass; Justin Brown, drums (Tryon Festival Theatre)

March 13 — Concert Artists Guild Winner: In Mo Yang, violin (Foellinger Great Hall)

March 15 — Jupiter String Quartet (Foellinger Great Hall)

March 16 — globalFEST On the Road: Creole Carnival, with Emeline Michel, queen of Haitian song; Brazilian samba band Casuarina; and Brushy One-String. Jamaica’s one-stringed guitar virtuoso. (Tryon Festival Theatre)

March 17 — Take 6 (Tryon Festival Theatre)

March 31— In the Blood, Illinois Theatre, through April 10 (Studio Theatre)


April 2Aging Magician. Co-created by composer Paola Prestini, writer/performer Rinde Eckert, and director/designer Julian Crouch, this musical and visual allegory on time, youth, and the peculiar magic of ordinary life features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. (Colwell Playhouse)

April 7 — Trio Voce: piano, violin, and cello (Foellinger Great Hall)

April 20 — JazzReach: An Evening With The Metta Quintet (Colwell Playhouse)

April 21 — Jupiter String Quartet with Natasha Brofsky, cello and Roger Tapping, viola (Foellinger Great Hall)

April 27 — Utah Symphony Orchestra, with Thierry Fischer, conductor, and Colin Currie, percussion, en route to Carnegie Hall for the symphony’s 75th anniversary celebration (Foellinger Great Hall)

April 30 — Cahoots NI: Egg, a magical story of friendship and empathy, designed for young people (Colwell Playhouse)


May 1 — Krannert Center Debut Artist (Foellinger Great Hall)


The umbrella theme for this season of Illinois Theatre is “Free Expression: Censored,” and the chosen plays will all relate to censorship and the denial of free speech.

1984, directed by Tom Mitchell — October 15-17, 22-25

Adapted for the stage by Michael Gene Sullivan, this adaptation of George Orwell’s dystopian classic is set in an austere interrogation room where Winston Smith confesses thoughtcrimes to fellow party members.

*Dessert and Conversation — October 17 & 25

The Other Shore, directed by Sandi Zielinski — October 22-24, October 28 –November 1

Written by Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian, this endlessly creative theatrical experience explores an individual’s journey to enlightenment and self-discovery.

Kingdom City, directed by J.W. Morrissette — February 4-6, 10-14

Based on actual events, this play by Sheri Wilner examines the battle between censorship and freedom of expression in 21st-century Middle America.

The Grapes of Wrath, directed by William Brown — March 3-5, 10-13

Written in 1939, The Grapes of Wrath has been controversial since its publication for questioning religion and the American way of doing business. Adapted by Frank Galati.

*Dessert and Conversation — March 5 & 13

In The Blood, directed by Aaron Todd Douglas — March 31-April 2, April 6-10

Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks adapts the often-banned classic American novel The Scarlet Letter into a contemporary riff on a woman’s struggle against judgment and abuse.


November Dance — November 12-14

*Dessert and Conversation—November 13

February Dance — February 4-6

*Dessert and Conversation — February 5

Studiodance I — March 10-12

Studiodance II — April 21-23


Beatrice and Benedict (Much Ado About Nothing) — November 5-8

*Dessert and Conversation — November 7-8

A Midsummer Night’s Dream — February 18-21

*Dessert and Conversation — February 20-21

Kiss Me, Kate — April 21-24

*Dessert and Conversation — April 23-24


Rush Hour: New Worlds — September 15

The Immortal Beethoven — October 17

The Seasons — November 7

Messiah and Mozart — December 5

Voices Unite! — February 21

Classical “Tweets” — March 12

Lost and Found — April 23


Chicago Symphony Orchestra (pictured, right) with Semyon Bychkov, conductor — October 10

Isabel Leonard, mezzo-soprano and Sharon Isbin, guitar — November 14

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra: Baroque Fireworks — February 16

Polish Baltic Philharmonic Boguslaw Dawidow, guest conductor — February 27

Utah Symphony Orchestra Thierry Fischer, conductor — April 27


Haydn’s The Creation — October 24

Holiday Heralds — December 10

House of Cards in Concert — January 30

Second to None — March 5

Brass Blowout! — April 15


Jupiter String Quartet with Denise Djokic, cello — September 27

Takács Quartet (pictured, below) — October 13

Cellist Matt Haimovitz and Voice in If Music Be the Food of Love — February 3

Richard Goode, piano — March 10

Trio Voce — April 7


Young Concert Artists Winner: Raphaël Sévère, clarinet — November 1

Sphinx Competition Winner: Christine Lamprea, cello — January 31

Concert Artists Guild Winner: In Mo Yang, violin — March 13

Krannert Center Debut Artist — May 1


In addition to checking in with Smile Politely as often as you can, you should check out the Krannert Center website for updates on dates, times, and ticket availability.

Photos provided by Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.

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