5 gems at ARTS FIRST 2013

by Kristina Latino

Every year, Harvard’s ARTS FIRST Festival brings together hundreds of Harvard community artists and performers for a weekend jam-packed with free, fun events. Those of us who have been to the festival before know that some organizations, like the Holden Choruses and Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra, return to perform each year. Many events, though, appear in only one festival. I’ve compiled a list of the five "hidden gem" performances that I’m most excited to see this year. They may be unique to this festival, so make sure to catch them in 2013 before they’re gone.

1. Films on the Plaza - To celebrate this year’s Arts Medalist, Matt Damon, ARTS FIRST will be screening two of his films on the new Science Center Plaza. On Thursday night (4/25), watch the classic Good Will Hunting. On Saturday (4/27), it’ll be The Bourne Identity. The screenings start at 10:30 p.m., which makes them the perfect post-performance, post-study activity. Harvard will provide blankets for lounging, popcorn and ice cream. You bring yourself and your friends.

2. Paint for a Cause - The Harvard Undergraduate Global Health Forum is creating a mural for a children’s hospital run by Partners in Health in an area such as Rwanda or Haiti. Come to the Science Center Plaza on Saturday (4/27) between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to paint part of the mural. Since you can participate on your schedule, you can do some good between performances in the ARTS FIRST performance fair. All materials will be provided, and for this part of the festival, you are the artist.

3. The Dinner Party Show - The Immediate Gratification Players, one of Harvard’s improv comedy groups, will build a comedic play in real time from audience suggestions. The best part? The audience gets in on the action. Dinner is woven into the play, as a meal is served to those attending. Make sure to check it out at the Student Organization Center at Hilles in the Penthouse - I hear there’ll be Bertucci’s. Takes place 6:30 p.m. on Saturday (4/27).

4. Waiting - The Emerging Choreographers initiative of the Office For the Arts Dance Program has put together an intimate dance piece that explores student experiences of mental health. Harvard has seen a surge in student response to mental health issues in 2013, and various groups have called for greater understanding regarding mental health on campus. The performance is immersive, taking place in small rooms in Grays Hall Basement. Each of the four performances accommodates only 20 viewers, so reserve your ticket ahead of time and join the discussion. More information is available at http://whileyourewaitingfor.us/.

5. Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture - The Lowell House Last-Minute Orchestra will lead a "pick up" performance of this famed piece of music in Lowell House Courtyard at 3 p.m. Sunday (4/28). Each year, student musicians gather in the beautiful Lowell Courtyard to play a fun rendition of the beloved piece of music. It's all there: faux cannon fire, real bells and beautiful scenery.There you have it. Five events to get started and hundreds of others to explore. Download the full ARTS FIRST Festival Guide on the Office for the Arts website. Or curate your own personalized schedule for the weekend by downloading the ARTS FIRST festival app at iTunes (iOS 6+) and Google Play Store, and start exploring.