It’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.”
One 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.
That 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.
The 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.”
Poetic 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. 21, Michael Weintrob’s Instrumenthead (Oct. 16 – 18), and shows by Alex Lockwood (Feb. 19 – 21, 2015) and William Tyler (April 16, 2015).
All 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.”