Mason Gross celebrates 40 years with "The Soldier’s Tale"

The Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University celebrates its 40th anniversary year with a presentation of The Soldier’s Tale (L’histoire du soldat) 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 20, 2016, at Nicholas Music Center.

The fully staged production, a school-wide collaboration of the Dance, Digital Filmmaking, Music, Theater, and Visual Arts programs, includes a score composed by Igor Stravinsky and text by Swiss writer C.F. Ramuz.

The Soldier’s Tale is a “remash of a few Russian folktales that are put into one story of a soldier who sells the devil his violin, which in a sense represents his soul,” explains theater faculty member Christopher Cartmill, who voices the narrator. “And you can’t cheat the devil.”

An ensemble of seven musicians, led by Rutgers Symphony Orchestra conductor Kynan Johns, will perform Stravinsky’s score, which was created “in a moment of incredible adversity for both the world and the composer,” says Cartmill.

“World War I was going on and Stravinsky was at a pivotal point in his own career where his work was changing,” Cartmill says. “Instead of being stopped by it, he created something of lasting power. There’s something really extraordinary about that as we work to teach and to learn.”

“Stravinsky himself was so enthusiastic about this work and its dance idiom that he wanted to dance the role of the devil himself,” adds George B. Stauffer, dean of the Mason Gross School. “The director urged restraint.”

Artistic director and music faculty member Elena Chernova-Davis says the production’s use of video projections, created by faculty and students from the Visual Arts Department, establishes a fresh take on previous performances of the tale.

“The projections use abstract animations to evoke the mood of each scene--flowing ripples of blue when the action takes place by a brook, chaotic swirls of yellow and purple to depict the hectic scene inside the castle,” explains Chernova-Davis. “These projections allow a freedom of expression to the dancers who are interacting with them that would not be possible using traditional physical sets.”

Stauffer says The Soldier’s Tale is the “perfect work” for the 40th anniversary celebration of the school, founded in 1976 as the arts conservatory of Rutgers University.

“Stravinsky and Ramuz conceived this piece for actors, musicians, and dancers, with a strong visual element,” says Stauffer. “The Mason Gross School’s production stays true to that interdisciplinary spirit.”

Following the performance on campus, The Soldier’s Tale will be presented February 21 at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City, with an opening showcase of short pieces performed by Rutgers’ Helix! New Music Ensemble.

The Soldier’s Tale will be presented 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 20, 2016, at Nicholas Music Center. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $10 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $5 for students with valid ID. Nicholas Music Center is in 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. The production will also be presented 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 21, 2016, at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City. Tickets are $15 to $20 and are available here. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit www.masongross.rutgers.edu or call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511.

Published February 2016