First Thursdays Festival ushers in October with theater and art


Spissy band member Aaron Denton performs during Culture Shock Saturday at Rhin's All Ages Club. Victor Gan and Victor Gan

IU students will have another opportunity to interact with swaying show choirs and leaping falsettos at this month’s First Thursdays Festival at 5 p.m. tonight at the Showalter Arts Plaza.

“The First Thursdays program is meant to provide easy-going, no-pressure access to our campus arts programs,” said Edward Comentale, the director of the IU Arts and Humanities Council. “We look to schedule a mix of popular and more traditional performances, and then we serve it all up in bite-sized portions so people can sample a lot in one evening.”

Groups like the Singing Hoosiers, the African American Dance Company, IU Contemporary Dance, IU Opera Theater and Spissy will perform on the main stage at the event.

They will be joined by RPS Dining Services and David Tallent, the executive chef of IU Catering, serving paninis, sliders, root beer and free hot apple cider.

“Last month’s programming was big and bright, summery and celebratory,” Comentale said. “This month, we’re relaxing into the more subtle sounds and colors of fall.”

The department of theater, drama and contemporary dance will appear once again for the First Thursdays Festival program.

Students and faculty will teach stage combat techniques and dance choreography and will also speak on how the actors embody and interact with race within the department’s productions.

“It’s a wonderful support mechanism for the theater department,” said Drew Bratton, one of the two representatives for the department on the First Thursdays Committee. “It allows us to reach out a little bit more to the campus community, especially the student population that doesn’t necessarily seek out theater on their own.”

The event will include a Balinese puppet show and puppet-making. Turkish water marbling, Chinese calligraphy and Samoan star weaving will also be available at different crafting tents. Bratton said the multicultural aspect of the art showcased at the First Thursdays Festival is an important part of cultural understanding.

“What we hope to do is expose the students and faculty that may not always have this level of education to the full array of arts and how they can be different and how they look different from the American perspective,” Bratton said.

The Eskenazi Museum of Art will organize a painting table where chocolate will be used in place of everyday paint as a nod to the Vik Muniz pop art exhibit in the art museum.

The Lilly Library will also have new exhibits on Star Trek and Indiana literature and a vintage board game room.

Comentale said another intention of the program is to introduce students to IU’s art culture.

“The goal of every First Thursdays Festival is to introduce as many students as possible to the arts and culture of this campus,” said Comentale. “First Thursdays is dedicated to making this campus feel just a little more like home, more like a community, one that welcomes and supports all sorts of artists and thinkers.”

After the program, there will be a poetry open mic at the Studio Theatre in the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures will host a costume party, and the IU Cinema will screen the film “Wings,” the first recipient of an Academy Award for Best Picture at the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929.

Comentale said the First Thursdays Festival intends to celebrate IU’s culture of art and get as many students as possible involved.

“IU is a giant professional school with a small liberal arts heart,” Comentale said. “First Thursday celebrates all of those things that make us feel part of a living, breathing community.”

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