OZ Second Season: Conversation, Contemplation and Connection

a_RJM7960It’s an exciting time for Nashville’s contemporary arts center OZ. Artistic Director Lauren Snelling is very happy with the rapturous response such first-season offerings as Peter Brook’s The Suit and the music of Philip Glass and Tim Fain received, and she’s thrilled to talk about what’s coming up at 6172 Cockrill Bend Circle.

“I don’t program around a theme, but it is fascinating what emerges when you’re looking at a program after it’s come together,” She tells ArtsNash during a conversation in the center’s boardroom. “…It’s very thrilling to have some well-known artists alongside some folks whose work will be brand new to Nashville.

“And this program isn’t just about the work of the artists. It requires the audience to lean forward and get involved.”

ActorsGangMidsummer5One of those well-known artists is Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins (Mystic River), who is scheduled to bring his Los Angeles-based theater troupe The Actors’ Gang to town in September for two performances of his company’s take on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (“What Tim Robbins does with this adaptation is so hysterical and irreverent and so much fun,” says Snelling, who saw the production in last August in LA.) Another is the great performance artist Laurie Anderson, who will stop by OZ in March for two presentations of The Language of the Future. “Laurie is…such a forward thinker with a big-picture viewpoint of America,” the AD notes, “how it’s changed and the directions our culture has taken and how we’re evolving. She delivers that so clearly through story, observations and of course through her music.”

And, if all goes as planned, those two artists will do more than public performances while here – Robbins’ group has a Commedia dell’Arte-based prison project that it hopes to introduce here (pending approval from the Tennessee Department of Correction). Anderson will stay for Pi Day, a celebration and examination of the far-reaching impact the numerical constant has on many facets of human endeavor: “It’s very much at the forefront of educational conversation about how we involve art in math and science, engineering and technology,” Snelling says of the event, and of the outreach that OZ has to five Metro Nashville schools that will utilize an associated curriculum during the early part of next year.

a_RJM7987That curriculum isn’t the only outreach to students – there will be OZ School Days when MNPS schools aren’t in session where Nashville-based teaching artists will facilitate a full day of arts learning that includes dance, drama, music and visual arts. That, the Carnival of Culture summer camp this July and other initiatives are some of the ways OZ is conversing. contemplating and connecting with the local community beyond public performances; another is the upcoming Family Day in August featuring Dan Zanes and Friends that offers “22 different art-making opportunities for parents and kids,” according to Snelling.

What about the artists that might be new to many in the Music City? One is the critically-acclaimed Phantom Limb Company, who will be in residence at OZ from July 20 to Aug. 3 in conjunction with Nashville’s Wishing Chair Productions developing Memory Rings, which will have its world premiere at OZ next June. Snelling says the innovative puppetry/movement/multi-media ensemble will tell “the push and pull story between humanity and the environment” with the bristlecone pine tree (some of which are more than 5,000 years old) as inspiration. “It’s our first chance to give our space over to watch a performance work being created,” she says. “It’s huge for us and we’re really, really excited!”

Pioneering vertical dance troupe Bandaloop will literally scale the heights when it visits as a to-be-determined building downtown will be the site of a free 15-minute teaser of their work on Oct. 6 called Lookup Nashville! That aerial presentation will be followed by Harboring – a movement piece with the audience participating as the performance utilizes the OZ parking lot and both ends of its Grand Salon.

VijayIyer5The November visit of Vijay Iyer visit for his Music of Transformation concerts should be quite memorable: “He’s an incredible jazz pianist and composer. It’s part of our mission to work with artists that are shifting the landscape of their field with they work they are putting out, advancing the way we interpret music or dance or theater. Vijay is absolutely at the pinnacle of that,” Snelling says. The International Contemporary Ensemble and other musicians will join him; of special note is the music/film collaboration with Prashant Bhargava that’s called “Radhe Radhe: Rites of Holi,” which will have only its second performance ever when it plays at OZ. “The music and the journey the film takes you on is such that as soon as it’s over you want it to start again,” she adds.

Another intriguing combination of music and movie occurs in January when Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips accompany images from some of Andy Warhol‘s many screen tests. “It shows us some folks (like Dennis Hopper and Lou Reed) that are are very recognizable and some that are not,” Snelling explains. “It’s just a fascinating look at people…and with the fantastic music it is poetically beautiful.”

TrishaBrown1Poetic beauty may also describe the dance works developed by the recently retired Trisha Brown for her influential New York-based dance company. “So many dancers have been affected by the choreographic movement vocabulary she introduced in New York through the Judson Church movement…We wanted to honor her contributions by presenting as much of her work as we could in the shortest period of time,” says Snelling, who adds that the May performances at Oz will have both proscenium and gallery perspectives in their stagings inside and outside the OZ venue as well as a May 15 appearance at Zeitgeist Gallery. Local dance collective New Dialect will be part of that Zeitgeist performance too.

And last, but certainly not least, the popular Thursday Night Things events every third Thursday of the month will continue; among those scheduled are author and artist Cory Basil with musician Brooke Waggoner on July 17, Banning Bouldin and New Dialect with Multilingual on Aug. 21Michael Weintrob’s Instrumenthead (Oct. 16 – 18), and shows by Alex Lockwood (Feb. 19 – 21, 2015) and William Tyler (April 16, 2015).

CoryBasil3All of the second season programming that goes in, out, through, around and beyond OZ shows its relevance to the human condition as a whole – art is certainly not created in a vacuum. As Snelling says,”Everyone is creating art based on what they experience in the world.”

Here are links to more information about the second season with videos, images and links to purchase tickets. Click here for more info on OZ memberships; the center’s home page is at OzNashville.com:


The Actors Gang










Vijay Iyer





Andy Warhol, Dean & Britta





Laurie Anderson




Pi SynesthesiaMusic/Visual Art/Discussion:

Pi Day 2015





Trisha Brown Dance Company





Phantom Limb




*All photos (except pictures of Lauren Snelling and Cano Ozgener by Rick Malkin) and videos courtesy the various companies, artists and OZ.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for ArtNowNashville.com from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (www.americantheatrecritics.org).