What do Broadway star Sutton Foster, country music legend Travis Tritt, blue-collar comedy alum Bill Engvall, actress Olympia Dukakis and THE Michael Bolton have in common? They’re all scheduled to perform this season at Strathmore.
Tickets go on sale to the public today for the 2013-2014 season at Strathmore.
Shelley Brown, artistic director at Strathmore, said it’s exciting to see the venue come into its own.
“I think that we really are hitting our stride,” Brown said. “We’re finding out what we do well and we’re doing more of it. I think, in the area of Broadway, Sutton Foster I think is one of the biggest names out there who’s doing performances. We’re delighted to have her featured here in the fall. Also Diane Reeves, who’s coming out with a big, new album. It’s nice that we’ve become a venue with the reputation that sometimes these artists are seeking us out, in the case of these two.
Going into planning with a sense of balance was paramount for Brown. It was important to everyone at Strathmore to have the right mix of dancers, singers and performers.
“When I start to present – or to outline – a season, we do try to have a balance both in terms of the dates throughout the year from September through June and we do try to have a balance of performances from different constituencies,” Brown said. “This year there was a big change. We did a big thematic festival in the summer – that’s going on right now – it’s called ‘Puppets Take Strathmore.’ The big thematic event in years past have happened in the Music Center or in the Mansion. This one is taking place in the new blackbox theater … in the Education Center.”
According to Brown, the puppets really started the new season for Strathmore.
“It’s a marvelous way to begin a season because it’s creative, it’s interdisciplinary, it’s surprising, it’s artistic and some of it’s a little naughty with little adult puppets,” Brown said. “So I’m really happy with how that sets the tone for the season.”
With dance groups popping up regionally, Brown said it was important to try to get performers local dancers could come and see.
“We try to have dance in every season,” Brown said. “We’ve got ‘Forever Tango’ coming up, we’ve got Pilobolus here in February, which I’m delighted because I’ve been trying to get Pilobolus here since we first opened. … I’m working really hard to keep dance on the stage here. ... I think that we have a growing market for dance in Montgomery County with [American Dance Institute]’s great success and with CityDance’s school growing like crazy, I want to have product for them to come see at the Music Center.”
Also featured in the growth of the season is the inclusion of more country acts. Again, the dynamic of the surrounding area played a big part.
“This year we do have more country music,” Brown said. “I’m really trying to move into that area because I think, well, number one, because of WMZQ right here, we have a great country radio station. We don’t have that with all formats of music, but we have a good way to speak to audiences who like that music. We also have a whole new group of neighbors at the NIH at the Walter Reed Center and country music is one that that age group likes. So I’m trying to adjust our concerts in response to changes going on in our community.”
Big name acts aside, there are plenty of other events and acts coming to Strathmore that audiences will find intriguing. Strathmore continues its artists-in-residence program and a comic book exhibit will make its way there in mid-April. For Brown, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“You know, the Mansion at Strathmore, we have a 100-seat music room,” Brown said. “This year, we have created a new cabaret series and we have Nellie McKay coming and others. But Nellie, I think, is one of the just brightest rising stars in music. She has performed in the Music Center before and some 100 lucky people are going to get to see her there. So that’s one that I think is quite wonderful.
“The other one is we’re working on a residency program with Jayme Stone and his Lomax Project. Alan Lomax was an important recorder of music for the Smithsonian and went all over the country to record sounds and music and this will be looking at that archive, which is available in the public domain to use. We’ll be looking at what’s there and using that as a teaching tool. [Stone] will be working with Julian Lage, who’s amazing, and Bruce Molsky, who’s from the area and brilliant, and Margaret Glaspy. … This is giving us an opportunity to present fantastic concerts but also do some school outreach, some education stuff, education events in conjunction with the concerts that I think will have some real impact.”