Peak Performances announces new season: Mandy Patinkin, ‘Coco,’ Cécile McLorin Salvant and more

by JAY LUSTIG
peak performances 2023-24

Mandy Patinkin performs in the Peak Performances series at Montclair State University, Feb. 24.

Wiley Hausam was named the director of arts and cultural programming at Montclair State University in late 2022. And the first full season of the university’s Peak Performances series that he has overseen — and for which tickets have just gone on sale — reflects his influence.

Peak Performances’ longtime artistic director Jedediah Wheeler made it into New Jersey’s leading outlet for avant-garde dance, theater and multi-media productions. The 2023-24 schedule, while still ranking among the most impressive and adventurous set of shows offered anywhere in New Jersey, represents more of a mix between the avant-garde and shows with some mainstream appeal. And while Peak Performances used to book most of its shows for four-day, Thursday-to-Sunday runs, the 2023-24 schedule is made up of one- or two-night engagements.

Here are the shows; all except the “Coco” screening will take place at the university’s Alexander Kasser Theater. For information and tickets, visit peakperfs.org.

Sept. 10: “An Afternoon with Anna Deavere Smith.” A talk by the veteran playwright, actress and educator.

Oct. 5: “Coco.” A screening of the animated 2017 Disney/Pixar film at the Montclair State Amphitheater with the score performed live by the 20-member Orquesta Folclórica Nacional de México, conducted by Esin Aydingoz. Food trucks will be on hand as well.

KYLE ABRAHAM

Nov. 4: “Kyle Abraham/A.I.M” A dance program featuring works choreographed by Abraham and others including “Uproot: love and legacy,” “MotorRover,” “If We Were a Love Song” (featuring music by Nina Simone) and “5 Minute Dance (You Drivin’?).”

Nov. 9: “Odyssey.” A new theater production by the New York-based Acting Company, based on a translation by Emily Wilson and directed by Lisa Peterson. It tells the story of Homer’s epic “The Odyssey” through four women living in a refugee camp.

Nov. 16: “Triplets of Belleville.” The 2003 animated film will feature live music by a jazz orchestra conducted by the score’s composer, Benoît Charest.

Nov. 18: DakhaBrakha. A concert by the all-female vocal quartet from Kyiv, which combines elements of Ukrainian folk music with other influences.

Dec. 16: Cécile McLorin Salvant. A concert by the jazz singer and composer, whose honors include three Grammys for Best Jazz Vocal Album.

Feb. 16 and 18: “Blind Injustice.” An opera, featuring music by Montclair State faculty member Scott Davenport Richards and a libretto by David Cote, based on Mark Godsey’s 2017 book of the same name about six unjustly convicted and imprisoned people who free themselves with the help of the Ohio Innocence Project.

Feb. 24: Mandy Patinkin. The singer and actor presents a concert titled “Being Alive,” with accompaniment by pianist Adam Ben-David.

May 11-12: “Stage Door.” A dance/variety show by choreographer Larry Keigwin and Keigwin + Company co-founder Nicole Wolcott that has been described as a “community-enhanced show inspired by the artist’s post-pandemic life on the other side of the stage door featuring a number of performers from Montclair and surrounding towns. Larry and Nicole explore the universal themes of acceptance, aging, and finding your place in the world through the lens of the audition.”

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