New Haven Register Announces Festival 2017

Reggae group, Jimmy Greene to headline Arts & Ideas concerts; June schedule announced

In a transition year to a new executive director, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas isn’t taking anything easy.

The newly unveiled June schedule includes a first-time reggae headline concert and a hip-hop oratorio prompted by the Virginia Tech and Newtown tragedies. As in the previous 21 festivals, there will be several acts dependent on up-to-date travel papers.

Festival officials officially announced this year’s Yale-peppered and world-salted schedule Tuesday evening at a launch party in the auditorium of Alexion Pharmaceuticals on College Street, heralding the fest’s 200 events planned from June 3-24.

While 80 percent of the events are free, there will be 24 ticketed events that include an urban dance piece; a world premiere music event with Wu Man and the Miro Quartet; and a co-commissioned Yale oratorio written by Martin Bresnick and using the thoughts of Yale prof and literary critic Harold Bloom.

New to this arts-and-smarts festival that drives June business in downtown New Haven are programs such as ALTAR’d Spaces — featuring indoor arts events at four churches on or near the New Haven Green — and collaborations with the New Haven Documentary Film Festival and the African Literature Association Annual Conference at Yale.

“We have worked year-round,” said A&E’s Chad Herzog in a release, “to bring some of the world’s more exciting artists and thinkers to New Haven’s stages for Festival 2017 to celebrate and explore some of the most pressing issues of the day.”

Herzog, hired in 2014 as programming director, is also interim co-executive director of the festival, a title he shares with A&I officials Liz Fisher and Tom Griggs.

Outgoing Executive Director Mary Lou Aleskie, whose last day is officially Friday, will be honored in a celebratory dinner, performance and dessert reception on the penultimate day of the festival at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 121 Wall St. The well-regarded Aleskie is leaving to become director of the Hopkins Center of the Arts at Dartmouth College.

• The festival’s popular free concerts on the Green will include Grammy-nominated saxophonist, composer, arranger and Connecticut native Jimmy Greene, who wrote and recorded the album “Beautiful Life” three years ago to celebrate the life of his 6-year-old daughter, who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Greene has released a sequel, “Beautiful Life, Volume 2,” and is bringing his music to the Green June 18, backed by musicians of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra.

Also on the Green will be Latin music groups Troker and Fulaso June 17, roots and world rockers Rusted Root and reggae group The Wailers on June 24.

The hip-hop oratorio, about our society’s collective emergence from large-scale tragedies, is called (Be)Longing, by Byron Au Yong and Aaron Jafferis and presented in association with Long Wharf Theatre June 17 and 18 (also featuring cast singers and beat-boxers). The urban dance piece is Black Girl: Linguistic Play June 15 and 16 from choreographer Camille A. Brown.

Another issue-driven event will be stories of discrimination in We Are Citizens, from Theatre of the Oppressed NYC on June 21 at Bregamos Community Theater, 491 Blatchley Ave. Locals will join actors in sharing their stories.

• Also ticketed will be the presentations of four Yale-China Fellows from June 22-24 at 1156 Chapel St., the result of six months in residence in New Haven learning from practicing artists and professors at Yale and in the Greater New Haven community.

• Filling the yearly A&I slot of acrobatics/spectacle will be the ticketed Leo: The Anti-Gravity Show June 23 and 24 at University Theatre. The Montreal-based show is described as “mind-bending, funny, surreal and surprisingly touching.”

• Under the typically stimulating Ideas banner will be sessions that illuminate city neighborhoods historically and national issues topically. There will be free sessions on Imagining New Haven: Engaging the City with writer Nicholas Dawidoff, Ideas on Foot sessions on Dixwell’s roots, Wooster Square’s immigrant experience and “The Changing Role of Downtown.” Also: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century, and a WNPR collaboration called We Thought It Was About the Economy? (On the news cycle of executive orders, Russia and tweets on crowd size instead of the economy.)

Herzog summed up the plans by saying, “We will laugh. We will sing. We will dance. Our eyes may be opened. Our minds may be changed. That’s what the festival is all about.”

• The festival also confirmed it would continue its outreach Pop-Up Festivals, one-day preliminary fests in early June, in the Hill, Dixwell and Fair Haven neighborhoods.

Officials note that the festival attracts more than 100,000 people each June and generates more than $15 million in economic development.

For a full look at the schedule, go to

- Joe Amarante, New Haven Register