September Show Preview: The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

Diversity is the name of the game this month at the University of Maryland’s Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center. To start off the school year, The Clarice has compiled six events and performances with a wide variety of backgrounds and origins, which aim to expand both the audience’s preconceived ideas about performance and their knowledge of the world.

“Particularly for students who are new to the university, one of the great things about being in a public university is that you have access to all these opportunities that’s hard to access once you leave this environment,” said the Clarice’s executive director Martin Wollesen.“So taking advantage of this thing that’s there is so critically important.”

NextNOW Fest 2016: Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10 

Free, no tickets required.


NextNOW Fest is a two-day welcome back festival here to kick off The Clarice’s 2016-2017 season. Events take place all over the building, where students can experience virtual reality, buy old records and costumes, watch dance performances and hear from student jazz musicians, beat boxers, comedians and more.  Now in its third year, the festival includes 32 artistic partners, as well as a number of student curators and alumni artists. The main goal of the event? Immerse students in a creative, innovative environment.

“We’re a performing arts organization at a major public research institution, so it was really important for me that we were building events that reflected the creative spirit of our students,” said Wollesen, who created NextNOW Fest when he first came to the University of Maryland. “The great thing about NextNOW Fest is that it’s always different, because it’s not formulaic, per say; because the whole thing is that we want to reinvent ourselves every year.”

Other exciting events to look out for this year: a late night silent disco in the lobby, a balloon sculpture artist and performers who will be dancing on the outside walls of the building.

“The thing about that is when you come to a university, particularly for the first time, it’s a… place to explore and discover and figure out interesting, new things,” Wollesen said. “The NextNOW Festival is sort of a microcosm of that. You can come, sort of expecting nothing, and explore and run across something you’d never expect to run across.”

For the full list of events, click here.

Daraja Ensemble: American Inspired: Thursday, Sept. 15 at 8 p.m.

Free, no tickets required.

Daraja is the Swahili word for “bridge,” which is fitting, considering the story of the Daraja Ensemble. A group of five woodwind musicians from diverse backgrounds currently working toward their doctoral degrees in music, the Daraja Ensemble aims to bridge the gap between performers and audience through classical and modern music.

The concert, presented by by UMD’s School of Music, features American-composed jazz music with “some ties to the classical idiom” and “roots in all kinds of things,” according to bassoonist Sam Fraser. It’s not the music you would traditionally hear from a classically-trained woodwind quintet, but by meshing styles, the ensemble hopes to introduce their music to a broader audience.

“We’re trying to cross genres in that sense,” Fraser said. “We’re playing pieces that aren’t considered classical, but have some ties to the classical idiom, but also are very modernized and very accessible for audience members. We think that our group is definitely a stepping stone… for people who maybe have some kind of interest [in classical music].”

Bassem Yousef: Tuesday, Sept. 20 (English) and Wednesday, Sept. 21 (Arabic), 8 p.m.

Student/Youth tickets: $10, General Public tickets: $25


Known as “the Jon Stewart of the Arab world,” Bassem Yousef hosted a The Daily Show-esque program in Egypt before he was forced off air for criticizing Middle Eastern politics.

Presented by The Clarice’s Artist Partner Program, Yousef will perform back-to-back nights at the Clarice: first in English, then in Arabic. According to Wollesen, this is the first show at the Clarice to be shown in two different languages. The English performance, Wollesen says, will be a presentation followed by a question and answer session, while the Arabic performance will follow a moderated conversation format. During each show, he will discuss the challenges he has faced with free speech both abroad and in the US, and comment on the 2016 US Presidential election.

“It’s a good time, I think, for us as we go through this pretty strange electoral process, to have someone from the outside looking in,” Wollesen said. He adds that Yousef will also comment on how politics and culture put pressure on free speech.

Kreativity Open Mic Night: Friday, Sept. 23, 7:30 p.m.

Free, no tickets required.

The Kreativity Diversity Troupe, a student performance group at the University of Maryland, hosts monthly Open Mic Nights at The Clarice, presented by the School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies. Students are invited both to attend the event as spectators and participate themselves.

Songs of Lear / Piesni Leara: Song of the Goat Theatre: Friday, Sept. 23 and Saturday, Sept 24, 8 p.m.


Student/Youth tickets: $10, General Public tickets: $25

When Wollesen and his co-workers were putting together this year’s calendar of Artist Partner Program events, Songs of Lear puzzled them. Was it theater? Was it a vocal performance? Maybe a little bit of both, they finally decided.

Through movement, words, and music performed in Latin, Polish and English, the show tells the story of William Shakespeare’s tragedy King Lear. The catch? It doesn’t include any of Shakespeare’s original prose.

“It follows the basic outline of the play, but because it’s not always using text, it’s using sound, it has an unbelievably impactful way of telling the emotion of betrayal, of loss, of degeneration, of anguish,” Wollesen said. “In my line of work, you see a lot of Shakespeare and I love Shakespeare, and you see a lot of reinterpretations of Shakespeare. But I have never seen something that went right to the core of the emotional content of the work.”

The Call: Friday, Sept. 30 – Sunday, Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m.

Student/Youth tickets: $10, General Public tickets: $25

A play about middle-aged American adults looking to adopt a child from Africa might not seem like the most obvious choice for a college production. Nonetheless, one of the five cast members, junior theater major Alicia Grace, says the play will force the audience to think about concepts they might not have been otherwise exposed to.

The Call, a 2014 play written by Tanya Barfield, explores topics of race, sexuality, stereotypes and adoption. Presented by the School of Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies, the cast has been rehearsing since the week of August 22.

“We don’t think about posing questions and inquiring about the inter-connectivity of race and age groups,” Grace said. “As  college students, of course we have other things that we could entertain ourselves with. But during this time in our life, it’s a huge time for us to learn. It’s best to learn not just through reading or listening to lectures, but [by] going to the experience that is the theater and seeing this, and being able to leave that and discuss it with your friends.”