Smile Politely

Krannert Center announces 50th anniversary season

The 50th season of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts is one of celebration, that will go beyond what you might see in a regular season. It’s held up by four “pillar” events that will open and close the two-season commemoration, beginning with the Opening Night Party that extends into a daytime gathering for families in September of 2018, and a “come home to Krannert Center” weekend, for which they are reaching out to everyone who has had a relationship with Krannert over the years, in April 2019. The following season will open with a special 50th anniversary of Ellnora, and in April of 2020 there will be a special closing experience that is still in the works.

“What I love about this season, is that it’s so emblematic of the center itself. You can look at this collection of performances and see the center’s values,” says Bridget Lee-Calfas, Advertising and Publicity Director for Krannert. “There are certainly artists where you’re going to say ‘Wow, there’s such a history with this company’ and then you have young, cutting edge companies that are representing the center’s commitment to new work. I love that sort of totality of seeing all the things that matter to us, that we think our community needs, and as a collection they just present this opportunity for so much discovery.”

Krannert Center Director Mike Ross echoes that sentiment. “One of the goals we look to achieve is ending up with a mix of experiences…one of the things I enjoy is identifying artists and bringing them here that are bringing something surprising no matter how familiar the art form might be, or the artist themselves.”

The Krannert Center for Performing Arts has provided a home for Dance at Illinois and Illinois Theatre, who are celebrating their 50th anniversaries as well. Prior to the Krannert Center, there was not a comprehensive Fine Arts program at U of I. Dance was housed within Kinesiology, and Theater was in the Communications program. Krannert gave those programs a permanent home.

Opening Night Party

September 7th
This year’s opening night party will be a “vibrant gathering of five decades in the making.” Featuring music from Ranky Tanky, Baragutanga, AJ Ghent (pictured above), Mucca Pazza, and C-U’s own New Orleans Jazz Machine, the party will also include vintage cars on display on Goodwin Avenue and the invitation to dress from your favorite decade, anything from the 1960s to the future. Food and drinks will be available to purchase, but admission is free.


September 8th: 50th Anniversary Celebration Family Day and Japan House 20th-Anniversary Celebration

The Opening Night Party fun continues into the next day with a family friendly event “celebrating Krannert Center’s long-standing commitment to programming for all ages.” The event will feature both talented artists and interactive activities that encourages hands-on arts exploration. 

September 13th: The Builders Association: STRANGE WINDOW: The Turn of the Screw

September 14th: The Hot Sardines  

September 15th: Los Angeles Master Chorale: Lagrime di San Pietro (Tears of St. Peter), pictured above 

September 27th: Pygmalion

Pygmalion started as a music festival 13 years ago, but has since evolved and now includes tech presenters and authors. The festival takes places all over Champaign Urbana, but the Krannert Center will be hosting artists on the 27th.



October 3rd: ELLNORA Reverb: Marcus Tardelli, guitar (pictured above) 

October 4th: Jupiter String Quartet and Jasper String Quartet (pictured below) 

October 6th: Nathan and Julie Gunn and Friends: An Evening on Broadway

October 18th – 20th: Ann Hampton Callaway and Susan Werner

October 25th: Daniel Hope and Friends: Air — A Baroque Journey


November 4th: Circa: Carnival of the Animals

November 6th: Circa: Humans (pictured above) 

November 9th: Ballet Folklórico de México

November 13th: Eroica Trio

November 15th: Cynthia Oliver/COCo Dance Theatre: Virago-Man Dem (pictured above) 

November 19th: Manual Cinema: No Blue Memories—The LIfe of Gwendolyn Brooks

November 30th – December 9th: The Nutcracker

Presented every year by the Champaign Urbana Ballet, The Nutcracker has become a tradition for many families in CU. They strive to add new elements each year, so if you feel like you’ve already seen it, there might be something more to check out.


December 2nd: Cleveland Quartet Award Winner: Rolston String Quartet


January 19th: Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Ensemble

January 22nd: Russian National Ballet Theatre: Giselle (pictured above) 

January 23rd: Russian National Ballet Theatre: The Sleeping Beauty

January 26th: Savion Glover Featuring Marcus Gilmore (pictured above) 

Savion Glover is a renowned tap dancer who describes his own style as “young and funk.” Said Ross, “There are certain people who have a supernatural capacity…the first time I saw Savion Glover I thought ‘this is not possible.’ It is completely mind blowing.”

January 27th: Concert Artists Guild and M-Prize Winner: Argus Quartet


February 2nd: Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano: Frauenliebe und-leben: Variations

February 5th: Sonic Illinois: 20th Annual 21st Century Piano Commission Competition Concert

Once again, the Krannert Center will be teaming up with the UI School of Music for Sonic Illinois, a month-long “celebration of the vital contemporary music scene and its strong history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus.” 

February 7th: Sonic Illinois: Jupiter String Quartet with Chungliang Al Huang, Tai Ji master

Chungliang Al Huang, a Tai Ji master and contemporary dance choreographer, was the first guest in residence at the Krannert Center in 1969, but has also performed at the center as recently as 2013. So he’s literally been with Krannert for all five decades. Ross calls him a “global citizen and major cultural ambassador.”

February 10th: Young Concert Artists Winner: Hanzhi Wang, accordion (pictured above) 

February 14th: Sonic Illinois: Electroacoustic Concert: Music from the UI Experimental Music Studios

February 16th: Free Family Fun Concert: Artist TBA  and
Sonic Illinois: Eighth Blackbird and Third Coast Percussion: Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians

“Ultimate masterpiece of the minimalist movement. Transcendental work.”- Mike Ross

February 17th: Sonic Illinois: Rachel Barton Pine, violin with the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra

February 21st – 24th: Sonic Illinois: The Rape of Lucretia

February 27th: Sonic Illinois: A Thousand Thoughts—A Live Documentary by Sam Green and Kronos Quartet


March 1st: Sonic Illinois: Illinois Modern Ensemble and Guests: Carlos Carrillo’s and then in dreaming

March 2nd: Day of the Drum, Kodo

March 8th – 9th: Mark Morris Dance Group and MMDG Music Ensemble: Pepperland (pictured above) 

March 12th: Tall Stories: Emily Brown and the Thing

March 13th: Sonic Illinois: Illinois Modern Ensemble and Percussion Ensemble, featuring works by UI composers

March 14th: Dorrance Dance: ETM: Double Down

March 27th: San Francisco Symphony

March 28th – 30th: Les 7 doigts de la main: Réversible (pictured above) 

March 30th:  The Other Guys 50th-Anniversary Reunion


April 2nd: Andersson Dance and Scottish Ensemble: Goldberg Variations—ternary patterns for insomnia (pictured above) 

April 7th: Canadian Brass (pictured above)

April 9th: Dee Dee Bridgewater and the Memphis Soulphony: Memphis . . . Yes, I’m Ready

April 10th: Canadian Brass with the University of Illinois Wind Symphony

April 11th:  Come Home to Krannert Center: A 50th-Anniversary Weekend

The Krannert Center is inviting past and present students, faculty, staff, donors, and anyone with a relationship to Krannert to Come Home to Krannert Center. Their 50th Anniversary Weekend Celebartion will be “a time for friends old and new, near and far, to come together in reflection and revelry, celebrating all that has led to this moment in Krannert Center’s history.” 

April 14th: Krannert Center Debut Artist

April 16th: Chicago Symphony Orchestra

April 23rd: Jupiter String Quartet

April 28th: Compagnia TPO: Panda’s Home


On June 26th, season books will be mailed to Krannert Center mailing list members and will be available at the Center and online. Tickets for the 2018-19 season will go on sale July 14th at 10 a.m. For more information, click here.

Photos provided by the Krannert Center for Performing Arts. 

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