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Visions and Voices unveils innovative 2015-16 schedule

USC’s popular arts and humanities initiative lifts the curtain on another year with an array of stellar performers

Visions and Voices highlights
Writer and activist Naomi Klein (Photo/Ed Kashi); composer and performer Ken Butler; Pee Wee's Playhouse; countertenor, pianist and songwriter M. Lamar (Photo/Amos Mac); Irish folk group The Gloaming (Photo/Feargal Ward); death penalty opponent Sister Helen Prejean (Photo/Scott Langley), clockwise from top left

Visions and Voices, the USC arts and humanities initiative, will unveil its 10th year of innovative programming with a 2015-16 schedule full of MacArthur geniuses, visionary composers and designers, documentaries and groundbreaking performance art, opera and classical music.

In recognition that the inaugural class of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance enrolls this fall, the new schedule is particularly strong in dance offerings. Los Angeles street dance troupe The Groovaloos, Alonzo King LINES Ballet from San Francisco and the Hubbard Street 2 dance company from Chicago will perform this season on the Bovard Auditorium stage.

In the spring, USC Kaufman dance students will have two extraordinary performance opportunities with other visiting dance artists. In March, students will collaborate with famed choreographer Bill T. Jones on an adaptation of his work Story/Time. And in late April, Visions and Voices’ season will end with a performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company that will include USC Kaufman dance students performing a Graham work.

Every event will include an interactive component.

Daria Yudacufski

“We are thrilled to be celebrating the 10th year of Visions and Voices,” said Daria Yudacufski, executive director of the initiative. “The new season features a stunning array of events conceived by faculty and schools from throughout the university, revealing USC’s commitment to interdisciplinarity and the arts. Every event will include an interactive component, providing opportunities for students and the community to engage with artists, reflect on their experiences at the events and share their own voices.”

Signature Events

Alonzo King LINES Ballet. (Photo/Quinn B.Wharton)

Alonzo King LINES Ballet (Photo/Quinn Wharton)

Visions and Voices is a university-wide initiative that was established by USC President C. L. Max Nikias during his tenure as provost. Nearly every event is free, and all programs except the kickoff event in August has seats set aside for the general public.

This year’s featured programs, which are called Visions and Voices Signature Events, include the Martha Graham Dance Company, Alonzo King LINES Ballet and four other programs:

“An Evening With Junot Díaz”: The Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur genius grant-winning author will discuss the border-transcending potential of literature and the importance of voices on the margins. (Sept. 2)

“The Gloaming”: Irish folk meets New York art music in this acclaimed group consisting of a singer, two fiddlers, a guitarist and a pianist. Presented in collaboration with UCLA’s Center for the Art of Performance. (Oct. 2)

“An Evening With Robert Schenkkan” The Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning playwright will talk about creating dramas that represent real, complicated histories of America. (Oct. 28)

“Binge-worthy Journalism: Backstage With the Creators of Serial”: Radio journalists and producers Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder explain how their investigation of a murder case became the most popular podcast in the world. (March 4)

An interdisciplinary approach

Each Visions and Voices event is developed by interdisciplinary teams of USC faculty members and students who suggest the speakers, performers, venues and approaches that allow an in-depth look into subjects of interest.

Over its first nine years, Visions and Voices has engaged more than 240,000 audience members with more than 1,000 compelling programs, beginning with the first event in 2006, a performance and discussion with Quincy Jones and several jazz greats on “Jazz, Public Diplomacy and Dizzy Gillespie.”

A few of the many notables who have appeared at USC since then include filmmaker Spike Lee, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, actor Anna Deavere Smith, filmmaker Lena Dunham, food writers Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser, Krump pioneers Lil “C” and Miss Prissy, filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar, musician and author Patti Smith, musician Elton John, cartoonist Art Spiegelman and architect Zaha Hadid.

The 2015-16 schedule has multi-event programs on subjects as varied as death row and capital punishment (with Sister Helen Prejean), a centennial tribute to Frank Sinatra’s musical and film legacy, the history of the cello and three events delving into the humanities and medicine.

Some performances, such as one by countertenor, pianist and songwriter M. Lamar about unjust black deaths, have been developed specifically for Visions and Voices.

There are dozens of one-off programs, including five Korean hip-hop artists performing and talking about the meaning of hip hop in Korean society; a concert by composer Ken Butler, who turns items such as umbrellas and power tools into musical instruments; crime novelist Walter Mosley and others talking about detective fiction; and “I Know You Are But What Am I?”: The Artists Behind Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.

Visions and Voices also offers a series for USC students called “Experience L.A.,” featuring events at theaters, museums and music venues throughout Los Angeles, giving students opportunities to experience the city’s dynamic cultural offerings.

As the Visions and Voices brochure states, the programs are intended “to make every future scientist a better scientist, every future lawyer a better lawyer, every future business professional a better business professional and every future artist a better artist, contributing to a better society as a whole.”

A look at 10 years of Visions and Voices programs:

2006. The inaugural event for Visions and Voices explored jazz and public diplomacy.
2007. A cutting-edge series of presentations examined the connections between art, science and technology.
2008. USC Architecture Dean Qingyun Ma hosted an evening with influential Chinese artists Ai Weiwei, Chi Peng and Liu Jiakun.
2009. In the center of the USC campus artist/architect/composer Christopher Janney created a mesmerizing light and sound installation.
2011. This celebrated contemporary ballet company presented a stunning evening of dance.
2011, Academy Award winning filmmaker Pedro Almodovar was in  conversation about his life and work.
2012. Krump pioneers Miss Prissy and Lil'C and other dancers premiered their performance of The Underground.
2013. Artist Patti Smith presented a one-of-a-kind evening of music and intimate conversation.
2014. Inspired by the mad world of Lewis Carroll, video projections transformed the exterior of Doheny Library into a colorful wonderland.

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