So, how did I like The Gloaming?
I don’t know, I’ve never gloamed.
The Irish/American folk band The Gloaming played at Yale’s Morse Recital Hall last night. As it happened, I was at a non-festival event, the opening of Map of Virtue at Yale Summer Cabaret. I might just as easily have been at Long Wharf, which opened its own summer season with Split Knuckle Theatre’s show Endurance. But even if I just stuck with A&I offerings, both the Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel dance performance of Moses(es) and Elevator Repair Service’s Arguendo opened on Wednesday.
Yes, we’ve hit that pivotal point in all International Festivals of Arts & Ideas editions, when several key events all happen at once, and it’s impossible to see everything.
I’m as close to a “seen everything” guy as there is, Arts & Ideas-wise. I’ve covered the festival every year since it started, 19 years ago. And even at that very first festival, I had to make hard choices and miss events that I would otherwise have loved to have seen. In fact, I probably can reel off a list of shows I was sorry to have missed that’s as long as a list of the most memorable things I saw.
This, folks, is the definition of “festival.” A stream of events and activities, joined by a theme or a sensibility or a general geographical location, where one event feeds naturally into another until you’re just overwhelmed by the possibilities.
Not everyone sees it this way, of course. Certainly there are those who simply said, “Whoa! The Gloaming is in town,” saw The Gloaming, and just gloamed back home again. I think people like that are missing out. I’m glad that the festival takes a moment at every one of their events to remind everyone that there is a full fortnight-long festival going on. I’m glad that the Arts & Ideas program has those little boxes (reminiscent of Amazon.com) which suggest “if you like this event, you might like these other events.”
Me, I just show up. Arts & Ideas was a reliable brand name for me from the start, and I remain loyal. They’ve brought in plenty of acts I’ve heard of, and which I knew other local culturemongers weren’t about to bring to town. They’ve brought in just as many acts that I haven’t heard of, many of which have led me to ask “Why haven’t I heard of them before?”
The biggest sign of a worthwhile, interconnected, abundant festival is that you can’t possibly experience all of it. On a Thursday in college town in late June, that’s the reality and it’s pretty remarkable.
Not having seen an Arts & Ideas event on Wednesday, I felt duty-bound to wander the streets of New Haven late at night, and see if it still felt festivally even though I hadn’t personally partaken of of any arts & ideas that day.
It did. New Haven Green positively glows—the big colored backdrops on the Elm Street stage, that strange red floating roof near the Info booth, all the banners and signposts… At 10 p.m., folks were still dawdling outside many of the theater venues where Arts & Ideas events had happened earlier, including Morse Recital Hall (home of The Gloaming) and the Yale Rep (Arguendo’s pad). A real night-out festival atmosphere. After the festival had ended. On a summer Thursday. Arts & Ideas is in the air.
A heads-up from Arts & Ideas staff: If you’re planning to see the 1 p.m. Sunday matinee of Arguendo at Yale Rep—the performance that’s followed by an “Ideas” panel discussion on “The First Amendment in the Spotlight” across the street at the Yale Art Gallery—get your tickets now, because it’s selling out. The talk, by the way, is free. Go ahead and catch Arguendo at a different time, then come to the talk separately. Trust me, the show will be fresh in your mind whenever you see it.
Likewise, given that 40,000 people turned up for Ruben Studdard and Lalah Hathaway on New Haven Green on the festival’s opening night last Saturday, Arts & Ideas organizers are recommending that folks come early to get a good spot for the Dianne Reeves/New Haven Symphony Orchestra jazz/pops concert on Saturday the 21st. Dozens of people had set up blankets and chairs for Studdard/Hathaway by 9 a.m., ten hours before that show. Mark your patch of grass!