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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: May 13, 2019

Portland Ovations will preview season with a block party

Written by: Bob Keyes

Suzanne Nance Photo courtesy of Portland Ovations

Portland Ovations has become pretty good at creating spectacles.

Recall the dancers from the troupe Bandaloop, who used the side of One City Center as their stage, dancing as they descended slowly down, down, down. Or violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain, who led a parade along Congress Street for First Friday Art Walk, fiddling as he marched up, up, up.

On Wednesday, May 22, Portland Ovations is closing Myrtle Street by Merrill Auditorium for a sneak-peak preview party to announce its upcoming performance season, which begins in September. The idea is to have a party, create some good juju and let folks know what’s coming up. Suzanne Nance, the former host of the classical music show on Maine Public and soprano extraordinaire, will perform several songs from or related to shows and events that are part of the 2019-20 season.

“It’s a party with a performance,” said Portland Ovations’ executive director, Aimee Petrin. “That’s who we are.”

Petrin and her staff are tight-lipped about the upcoming season, other than to say they’ve had a blast planning it and that there’s a strong bicentennial thread running through it, including the presence of Maine artists and performances that will present alternative views of Maine and American history. Maine’s bicentennial is 2020.

The other hint she offered was to say the season will continue a recent trend of Portland Ovations presenting more immersive and interactive performances and fewer passive events. “I think that speaks to the evolution of how people want to experience live performance, so we are responding to that and bringing performers to town who embody those performance ideals,” she said. “If we can immerse you in an experience that you cannot stop talking about or thinking about, that’s when we are a making a difference.”

She said the performance season is filled “with cool and complex stuff.”

Portland Ovations presents a variety of music, theater, dance and other events at performance spaces in and around Portland, often inviting artists into the community for workshops and special events. They’ve talked about a block party for a few years. With the ever-popular Nance back in town, the time seemed right to host the party now, Petrin said.

The party will begin at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, outside on Myrtle Street, which will be closed to traffic beginning at 4:30 p.m. There will be food trucks, family activities, exhibitions and drummers, dancers, jugglers and musicians, who will spill into the Merrill lobby and lead the crowd in procession into the auditorium. Performers will include the Rwandan dance group Ikirenga Cy’Intore, jazz guitarist and visual artist Gregg Harper, the dance troupe Casco Bay Movers, jugglers and mimes from the Celebration Barn and improvisers from Collective Motion/Bare Portland.

From the stage, Petrin will announce the season and Nance will tease it with a performance of several songs, accompanied by pianist George Lopez.

Nance is president and chief executive officer of KQAC in Portland, Oregon, which also is known as All Classical Portland.

Photo courtesy of Suzanne Nance

In a phone interview, she said she was looking forward to coming back to Maine and singing in this Portland. She teased her program, without giving away the season’s secrets. “I expect that we will dive into the overview of this big bicentennial celebration of Maine through music and art. The program is focused on Maine history and Maine artists and putting them on the stage, and also Maine’s environment.”

The other idea behind the street party is to recruit members into the Portland Ovations family, Petrin said. Tickets for the performances that will be announced Wednesday will go on sale to the public on June 17. Members of Portland Ovations will be able to boogie to the box office following the big reveal.

Street to Stage: Portland Ovations’ Season Preview Party

WHEN: 5:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 22
WHERE: Myrtle Street and Merrill Auditorium
INFO:  On Facebook

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