On September 12, The Ware Center opened its doors to preview the coming artistic season. It was a full house as people filed in to get a taste of the arts and culture of Lancaster. The night was filled with quick glimpses ranging from classical music, to theatre, dance, poetry, lectures, and documentary film. Jill Brown was the host for the night, and she began with a quick overview of some of the events before the performances began.
One event of note was celebration for the opening for the Winter Center on October 13 which will feature a performance by Cirque-Tacular with aerialists, jugglers, illusionists and more. This will definitely be a show worth checking out.
Dr. Vera Volchansky and Sara Male began the night performing a beautiful rendition of “Scherzo from the Eight Pieces, Op. 39” by Reinhold Gliere. It was a slow, haunting song that seduced the audience and had them transfixed throughout the entire piece.
As soon as they walked off the stage the screen started playing the trailer of documentary film. The movie was called “Misa’s Fugue” and it tells the story of Frank Grunwald who lived through the Holocaust and was able to endure and survive the horrifying circumstances through his love of art and music. Filmmaker Sean Gaston brings Grunwald’s story to life. Many people involved in the production were Millersville graduates, including Gaston. The film series kicks off on Monday, September 24 with “Misa’s Fugue.” Grunwald’s artwork will be available for purchase that night as well.
Dr. Dennis Denenberg took the stage next as he previewed his “Hooray for Heroes” lecture. He hopes his lecture can enlighten kids about the true heroes past and present. He had numerous hats, which he used to show off his different personalities and heroes. Among them were Harry Truman, Thomas Jefferson, and Eleanor Roosevelt. The proceeds for his show on October 21 will go towards his organization “Diana’s Dreamers- Determined to Defeat Breast Cancer.” It was set up in honor of his sister Diana who died from breast cancer after numerous bouts with it over the years.
Tara Montgomery took the stage to sing “Ma Rendi Pur Contento” by Vincenzo Bellini. The audience watched with awe as she sang alone on the stage. Even though she sang in a foreign language, she conveyed the meaning of the song in a universal way – through the beauty of her voice.
Next up was a quick monologue from “Show me the Franklins”. A young woman took the stage and stared out into the crowd. “You know the ancestors are calling you”, she said numerous times. Behind her a woman played an instrument that looked like drum, but sounded like a xylophone. She called out to the ancestors and showed a range of emotions in the short monologue.
Gregg and Susan Hurley stepped onto the stage and began a dance from Gershwin’s “Isn’t it a Pity/My Man’s Gone now”. Susan did the singing while Gregg did the majority of the dancing. It was a slow methodical dance as Gregg would move towards Susan and then pull away over and over. At one point he lifted her over his shoulder and as she remained still, looking like a dead body. He continued to dance with her draped over him and it was really a stunning show of trust, discipline and balance.
After that, poet Rick Kearns recited some his pieces to the music of bassist Keith Mohler and guitarist Tom Witmer. The music evoked what Kearns was trying to say as he spoke passionately about Billie Holiday and then recounted snippets of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Former Poet Laureate Daina Savage came out and introduced the new Poet Laureate Christine Longenecker. Her poem was about how much she loved to watch the leaves fall from the trees. She longed to see a leaf actually make the disconnection from the tree as she compared the leaves holding on to people fighting death, and clinging to life. It is difficult to do the reading justice but it was truly and one of the highlights of the night. Longenecker received thunderous applause after her act.
The new Family Arts Collaborative will have live, interactive performances for children and their families. Kids came in from the entrance stormed the stage and sang a song to the audience previewing FamFunFest.
A rendition of “Get Here if You Can” by Oleta Adams was performed next. Erin Cruise sang a lovely and passionate version of the song that was a great conclusion to the night.
Mayor Rick Gray took the stage and talked about how great it was that Millersville was able to obtain The Ware Center and turn it into a great arena for the arts.
“Lancaster could be the Sante Fe of the Northeast,” said Mayor Gray. He was just one of the many VIPs at The Ware Center. Paul and Judy Ware were also there, along with Rodgers and Associates, and the Director Harvey Owen.
“My only talent is surrounding myself with talented people”, said Owen.
The show ended with Millersville University’s Keystone Singers giving their rendition of The Gettysburg Address. It was an invigorating act that brought history to life and was really different from the rest of the night. It was a great way to wrap things up the crowd loved it.
At the end of the night Dr. Francine McNairy came onto the stage.
“These facilities are more than education centers. They are portals to the community”, said McNairy. She was speaking about The Ware Center and the new Winter Center. She was very enthusiastic about what was happening that night as well as the upcoming shows in the future.
“One of my proudest moments will be when we officially open The Winter Center,” said McNairy. She has been president of the Millersville for nine years, so the importance of this new building, as well as her love of the arts, was presented through in her speech.
All of the performers worked together to create a great showcase of varying arts that will appeal to almost anyone. The new season promises to bring even more talent, so please be sure to visit Millersville’s webpage for a list of upcoming events.