2015 Mason Gross Summer Series offers free music and dance

The 2015 Mason Gross Summer Series is set to launch on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

The five-event series, a mix of music and dance, takes place July 15, 22, 23, 29, and August 5, 2015 at the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center on the Douglass Campus. All July performances are free, family-friendly, and run just over an hour long. The August 5 performance of Yiddish operetta Di Goldene Kale is ticketed. Tickets for the general public start at $15, with discounts available for Rutgers alumni, employees, seniors, and students. All performances begin at 7 p.m.

The series opens Wednesday, July 15, with a tribute to Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk, and Charles Mingus, featuring the Mason Gross Jazz Faculty All-Stars.

“It’s going to be a tour-de-force of standard jazz literature played by leading proponents of the genre,” says Christopher Kenniff, the artistic director of the series.

Performing on July 15 are musicians “Ku-umba” Frank Lacy (trombone), Ralph Bowen (saxophone), Tim Hagans (trumpet), Kenny Davis (bass), Bill O’Connell (piano), Victor Lewis (drums), Robby Ameen (drums), and Champian Fulton (vocals/piano).

The Atlantic Brass Quintet will perform Wednesday, July 22, presenting works by Bach and Handel as well as new, experimental compositions. Dmitri Tymoczko’s Rube Goldberg Variations is inspired by surrealist artist Jean Tinguely’s kinetic sculptures and features a piano whose sound has been altered by the insertion of objects, including pieces of rubber, nuts, and bolts, between or around its strings.

Two dance concerts follow. Summer DancePlus features Bathtub Trio, choreographed by alumna Cleo Mack and performed by faculty member Randy James’s all-male alumni troupe, 10 Hairy Legs; Equanimity, choreographed and performed by faculty members Chien-Ying Wang and Paul C. Ocampo; and works by recent alumni.The concert is set for Thursday, July 23.

The Bang Group will perform Wednesday, July 29. The group mixes tap, body percussion, vaudeville, ballet, and contemporary dance styles. They will present excerpts from Nut/Cracked, their quirky take on The Nutcracker,as well as new experimental tap works such as Settling Scores, an interpretation of Morton Feldman’s score “For John Cage.” Mason Gross alumni and students will perform.

The Yiddish operetta Di Goldene Kale will wrap up the series Wednesday, August 5. The performance, co-sponsored by the National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene and The Allen and Joan Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life, will be a concert production sung in Yiddish with English and Russian supertitles, performed with a full orchestra for the first time in 70 years. Zalmen Mlotek, artistic director of the National Yiddish Theatre - Folksbiene, conducts.

Tickets for the operetta go on sale 10 a.m. July 21, and a 6 p.m. pre-performance lecture by scholar Michael Ochs is free for ticket-holders.

“In his prime, [Rumshinsky] was known as the Yiddish Sigmund Romberg, a composer of majestic, sweeping, romantic melodies,” Mason Gross Dean George B. Stauffer says.

The operetta, which Stauffer says was a “smash hit” when it premiered in 1923, will appeal to opera connoisseurs as well as neophytes.

“The style is so accessible,” Kenniff says. “Even if you know nothing about Yiddish opera you can enjoy it.”

 “People like the opportunity to experience something that is outside of their comfort zone,” he says of the annual series, and doing so at little or no expense doesn’t hurt.

“You can’t beat that,” Kenniff says.

The 2015 Mason Gross Summer Series takes place at the Nicholas Music Center and the Victoria J. Mastrobuono Theater, 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 to the first four concerts is free; no tickets are required. Tickets for Di Goldene Kale are $15 for the general public, with discounts available for Rutgers alumni, employees, seniors, and students. Ticket fees may apply.

Wristbands will be distributed upon entry to free performances. Limited seating available. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about the Mason Gross Summer Series, call the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center ticket office at 848-932-7511. Ticket office hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Summer hours are subject to change.

Check out a pre-performance lecture by Michael Ochs that is free with the purchase of Di Goldene Kale tickets.

Photo of the Atlantic Brass Quintet by Darlene DeVita; Photo of The Bang Group by Yi-Chun Wu.

Posted June 2015