Here is a quick overview of some of the notable events on tap for January, some of which will be explored in more detail in future ArtsPaper stories:
Shakespeare in the Park Festival (Mizner Park, Jan. 6-8)
Shakespeare Miami is teaming with the city of Boca Raton to present three free mountings of The Merchant of Venice at Mizner Park in the first week of the new year.
And while the play may be late 16th-century, this production won’t be ignoring current events.
“I purposely chose this play to use as a powerful tool to speak out against anti-Semitism, and the ugly bullying of people of different faiths, race and origin, that has gone on in this country over the past year,” says artistic producing director Colleen Stovall. “People need to see it.”
She was inspired to bring the play to South Florida after seeing Al Pacino portray Shylock in New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park Festival in 2015.
“It’s incumbent upon us to provoke dialogue and context to Shakespeare’s words,” Stovall says. “Shakespeare’s genius is that he created the controversial character of Shylock as a full human being.”
“Some of the dialogue is harsh,” she added, “but my purpose is to use it as an educational tool to get people talking about the parallels between what’s happening today in our society and what happened 450 years ago in Shakespeare’s England.”
The free shows feature a full professional cast of actors, period costumes and original music. Before the curtain goes up, Stovall and the cast will host a talk using materials provided by the Anti-Defamation League.
“I believe this is the way to change hearts and minds,” she says.
Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 6 p.m. Sunday at the Mizner Park Amphitheater, 590 Plaza Real.
Sunshine Music Festival (Jan. 15, Mizner Park, Boca Raton)
There’s never been much mystery about the headliner of the annual Sunshine Music Festival since its inception five years ago, since it’s the creation of singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi and her husband, guitarist Derek Trucks.
But if you’ve never heard a big band play the blues, the 12-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band never fails to unearth musical mysticism. Tedeschi is an outstanding guitarist and a powerhouse Janis Joplin-meets-Bonnie Raitt singer; Trucks is the preeminent finger-picker and slide guitarist in the genre, and the juggernaut is rounded out by keyboardist/flutist Kofi Burbridge, bassist Tim Lefebvre, drummer/percussionists Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson, and a trio of horn players and backing vocalists.
Each of the five years of the event has also provided great supporting acts. For 2017, those include icons from pop (Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers), rock (Dave Mason), blues (The North Mississippi Allstars) and gospel (Mavis Staples), plus up-and-coming acts in the jam band circuit (Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Greyhounds, and Railroad Earth), all spread over two stages throughout the day.
The all-day Sunshine Music Festival starts at noon at the Mizner Park Ampitheater ($45-$130 plus service charges through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000). — Bill Meredith
Palm Beach Poetry Festival (Jan. 16-20, Delray Beach)
Miles Coon, founder of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, says many people in the poetry community have had a strong reaction to the current political climate, so much so that some of his attendees will skip the last workshops on Jan. 20 to head to Washington, D.C., to protest President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“Poetry can provide a respite from the vitriol of the political campaign,” Coon notes. “Poetry is a way to bridge our differences and gives people the power to express their deepest feelings and convictions. By paying careful attention to language, and careful listening we can develop a sense of empathy with each other.”
“The festival allows people who love this art form to recharge their batteries and makes them feel part of something larger than themselves,” Coon says.
Founded by Coon in 2005, the festival began with four poets at Lynn University, in partnership with the Poets of the Palm Beaches. It will run Jan. 16-21 at Delray Beach’s Old School Square.
This year, participants from 22 states, Canada and Israel will descend on Delray Beach, including this year’s honored guest, past U.S. Poet Laureate (2007-2008) and 1990 Pulitzer Prize winner, Charles Simic.
Award-winning poet Laure-Anne Bosselaar returns, along with poets Tina Chang, Lynn Emanuel, Daisy Fried, Terrance Hayes, Dorianne Laux, Carl Phillips and Martha Rhodes.
Individual conferences will be offered by nationally acclaimed poets, including Sally Bliumis-Dunn, Nickole Brown and Ginger Murchison. Performances at the Field House will highlight spoken word poems by The Mayhem Poets: Mason Granger and Scott Raven.
For Coon, who is passionate about his art form, he waxes poetic, “This year we have a chorus of very strong voices; masters of both harmony and counterpoint.”
“It’s times like these we need poetry,” Coon says. “It’s an antidote to cynicism. And wouldn’t it be nice to learn how to take words and fashion them into something beautiful?”
Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival (Jan. 19-Feb. 11)
The 27th annual Donald M. Ephraim Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival brings to the area 30 movies on Jewish themes from around the world. But it is really three separate consecutive festivals, with most of the feature films and documentaries screening in three different locations throughout Palm Beach County.
So you can pick the site most convenient for you — the Cinemark Palace in Boca Raton, Jan. 21-27; Cobb Theatres in Palm Beach Gardens, Jan. 28-February 4; and the Frank Theatres in Delray Beach, Feb. 5-11.
The festival kicks off with the documentary On The Map, the inspiring account of Israel’s triumphant 1977 basketball team, which won the coveted European Cup for the first time. Appearing with the film at the Kravis Center’s Cohen Pavilion will be basketball legend Tal Brody and the film’s director, Dani Menkin.
Closing out the festival at the CityPlace Parisian will be The Women’s Balcony, a five-time nominee for Israel’s Academy Awards about the unexpected consequences when the synagogue balcony reserved for women comes crashing down during a bar mitzvah. Oy.
In between are films from such diverse Jewish outposts as Argentina, Greece, Hungary, Morocco, the Netherlands and Sweden. Opening night tickets are $20 for Film Society members and $25 for nonmembers. Otherwise, tickets range from $7-$15 for society members and $9-$18 for nonmembers. They will be available now through the festival website (www.pbjff.org) or by calling 877-318-0071. — Hap Erstein
Palm Beach Opera: Madama Butterfly (Jan. 27-29)
When this now most beloved of operas had its premiere in 1904, composer Giacomo Puccini was sure he had a hit on his hands. What followed was one of the most memorably awful opening nights in history, with heckling, jeering and laughter that began almost immediately and lasted until the end.
It was the mortified composer’s first serious setback in years, and he quickly set to work on a revision. Since then it’s become one of the world’s most popular operas, the story of Cio-Cio-San (aka Butterfly), a teenage geisha girl who renounces the religion and culture of her Nagasaki home to marry a U.S. Navy Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton. He leaves just after their marriage, and returns three years later with a new American wife and in search of the child he had with Cio-Cio-San.
Palm Beach Opera is opening its mainstage productions this season with this sure-fire box office work. Starring on Friday and Sunday as the jilted heroine is the Moldovan soprano Inna Los, opposite the American tenor Scott Quinn. For Saturday’s performance, American soprano Alexandra Loutsion sings Butterfly, with the American tenor Adam Diegel as her unfaithful spouse. The Latvian mezzo Vanda Švēde is Suzuki and the Mexican baritone Luis Ledesma is Sharpless.
Conducted by the Opera’s artistic director David Stern, this Madama Butterfly will be directed by Sam Helfrich, who staged the world premiere of Ben Moore’s Enemies for the company in 2015.