2010-11 OFA Flashback: Artful lessons

by Tom Lee

OFA Learning From Performers Program Manager Thomas Lee reports on this year’s roster of visiting artists, the first in a series of blog posts taking a look back at significant events and program highlights sponsored by the Office for the Arts during 2010-11.

This year, Harvard students learned how to create a Dada-inspired art installation, design a set for a Broadway musical, and wring the most out of a show tune lyric; where the best schools are to study early music; who was a master of both photography and jazz bass playing; what it takes to write, direct, produce and market your own film; and how NOT to create a successful TV show (hint: don't make it too literary or sophisticated).

These learning experiences, and many more, were made possible by Learning From Performers, the OFA's visiting artist program. A total of 41 artists participated in programming this year, ranging from workshops in acting and singing to master classes in Baroque violin, as well as lectures, demonstrations, and informal conversations covering a range of artistic disciplines.

Master pianist Alfred Brendel held forth on Mozart and Beethoven—and recited some of his witty poetic wordplay—during a conversation at Kirkland House; Ruth Bauer, co-creator of the American Repertory Theater production The Blue Flower, inspired students to scale the heights of surrealism as they created an installation in the theater's lobby for the run of the show; Tony Award-winning actor/singer Victoria Clark—currently raising a holy ruckus on Broadway as the Mother Superior in the hit musical Sister Act—coached aspiring musical theater performers (and made them do a bit of rope-jumping) during an unconventional master class; and filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, known for There's Something About Mary and other blockbuster comedies, discussed their craft and screened a work-in-progress short film that had to be seen to be believed (some in the audience are still in a state of disbelief).

Two masters of musical theater—Sheldon Harnick of Fiddler on the Roof fame and Maury Yeston, composer/lyricist of Nine, Titanic and Grand Hotel—spoke to students enrolled in a curricular class on the Broadway musical; Emmy Award-winning actress Archie Panjabi was interviewed by two undergraduates during a public conversation that confirmed she's not at all like Kalinda, the mercurial character she plays on CBS's "The Good Wife"; and jazz singer Tierney Sutton and her trio reminded students that it don't mean a thing if it ain't got...well, you know THAT lesson.

Click here for a complete list (and project descriptions) of all the artists who passed through Harvard this year under the auspices of Learning From Performers.

[Caption: Filmmakers Peter (left) and Bobby Farrelly at Kirkland House (photo by Justin Ide, Harvard News Office).]

[Caption: Composer/lyricist Sheldon Harnick discusses musical theater with Prof. Carol Oja.]

[Caption: Claire Dickson (left) and Samara Oster ‘13 (right) with vocalist Tierney Sutton (photo by George Hicks, WBUR).]