July 6-27: Mason Gross Presents Summer Series features free theater, music and dance

Soak up a little summertime fun this July during the Mason Gross Presents Summer Series 2011. The Jennifer Muller/The Worksfour-performance program, featuring percussion music from around the globe and a concert by our renowned jazz faculty, among other events, takes place Wednesdays from July 6 through July 27. Performances are free, family-friendly and run just over an hour long.

Julie Roth, Summer Series artistic director, says she hopes the program’s affordability and accessibility will encourage audiences to sample something new.

“We are offering a taste in each area of performing arts,” Roth says. “Most free summer events don’t offer programming on this level. The Summer Series allows you to gain exposure to an area of the performing arts you may not be familiar with.”

The Summer Series 2011 opens 8 p.m. July 6 at Nicholas Music Center with a world premiere of Mason Gross alum Bill Bowers’ one-man show Moving Pictures. The fusion of mime, music and monologue continues Bowers’ lifelong investigation of silence. He is accompanied by Suzzy Roche (The Roches) on piano and vocals.

Can’t spring for a vacation this summer? Take a world tour starting 8 p.m. July 13 at Nicholas Music Center, when The Diaz/Nelson Project presents a multimedia percussion performance featuring West African master drummers Sekou “Pablo” Dembele and Mangue Sylla. The world-premiere around-the-globe journey via drumming is spearheaded by master percussionists Javier Diaz (Broadway’s Tarzan, American Symphony Orchestra) and Madeleine Yayodele Nelson (Women of the Calabash, Paul Simon). Be prepared to boogie in your seats as the show highlights the universality of rhythm and movement.

Bill BowersJennifer Muller/The Works contemporary dance company fuses movement, theater and visual arts. Longtime artistic director Jennifer Muller has created numerous gripping productions, which include collaborations with Keith Haring and Yoko Ono, among others. The group performs at 8 p.m. July 20 in the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater, formerly known as the New Theater.

The series concludes 8 p.m. July 27 at Nicholas Music Center with a beloved annual tradition: a performance by the esteemed Rutgers Jazz Faculty with Kenny Davis on bass; Conrad Herwig on trombone; Ralph Bowen on saxophone; Bill O’Connell at the piano; Vic Juris on guitar; Robby Ameen on drums, and Joe Magnarelli on trumpet.

“These are heavy hitters,” Roth says. “You can’t trek into New York City and hear all these guys in one room—for free, nonetheless. Nowhere else can you experience this all-star cast.”

The Mason Gross Presents Summer Series 2011 takes place at the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater and the Nicholas Music Center, both part of the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. Admission is free, and no tickets are required. For more information about Mason Gross Presents, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 732-932-7511. Media inquiries: Laurie Granieri, 732-932-7591, ext. 516.

Photo of Jennifer Muller/The Works by Carol Rosegg; photo of Bill Bowers by Larry Levanti Photography