By my reckoning, in its first two full days, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas brought in audiences which collectively equalled the size of a third of the population of the city of New Haven. They have ten more full days of programming to go. Do the math. We built this city on Arts & Ideas.
If you stare at the top of the Elm Street Stage, you’ll see a small spinning object. It’s a wireless weather monitor—more than a vane, less than Doppler radar—that raises an alarm (via phone app) if inclement weather approaches.There were some scary looking clouds on both days, but the sunshine held all weekend. That’s a fairly miraculous occurrence for A&I; some years have had as many as half a dozen storms.
Note to Arts & Ideas performers: Don’t announce that you’re about to play your last song. Erik Friedlander did so during his Block Ice and Propane concert at A&I’s Friday night “gala festival preview” concert in Yale’ s Iseman Theatre. Hearing that the show was about to end, one of the festival’ s many volunteer ushers took it as a cue to come down from his seat fairly high up in the auditorium and assume his end-of-show stance at one of the exits. Distractingly, the usher did this during Friedlander’s final song. Worse, once he‘d done it, all the other ushers felt they’d better do likewise. They streamed down the aisles, one by one, as Friedlander quietly played his cello.
There’s plenty of time to assume your positions during those long applause-heavy curtain calls, usher folk. Don’t interrupt the performance. That’s what you’re there to prevent.
It’s been a good festival for kids. I admit to wondering, now that her own daughter is high school age, whether Artistic Director Mary Lou Aleskie would retain the same instincts about programming for, as they say, “all ages.”
Needn’t have worried. For starters, the Children’s Film Festival at the Yale Center for British Art has become an immovable annual event. My kids are now 10 and 12—certainly on the old side for these short animated flicks based on picture books—but they insisted on going out for the sake of tradition. Also because the films in the festival (most of them produced by the award-winning Weston Woods company in, you guessed it, Weston Woods Connecticut) are so well crafted that their artistry can be appreciated by anyone. At the 10:30 a.m. Saturday screening we were delighted to learn that one of our family’s favorite literary pick-me-ups of all time, Rosemary Wells’ Voyage to the Bunny Planet series, had been turned into cartoons:
Far beyond the moon and stars
Twenty light-years south of Mars
Spins the gentle Bunny Planet
And the Bunny Queen is Janet.
The kids and I returned the Green again for Sunday to see what had become of Box City. We had seen its rise on Saturday morning and and now we witnessed its decline and fall. As the city was laid to waste (or at least as numerous cardboard-building architects came to bring their buildings home) we heard the ethnic folk stains of Nu Haven Kapelye, a local Jewish traditional folk ensemble that got to play on the vast Elm Street Stage at 4 pm. The Kapelye troupe encouraged dancing. Klezmer fiddling while Box City burned. (It didn’t really burn. I’m being poetic.)
Kids rule Arts & Ideas weekdays. The festival’s Family Stage on New Haven Green starts its daily 1:15 p.m. concert series June 17 with Drum Tales from the band Mikata. With the Noon to Night concert series also beginning Tuesday, with live (mostly local) bands at noon at 6 p.m., Arts & Ideas is amecca for parents of preschool kids in search of something cool to do outside now it’s warm. Older kids will miss out this week—public schools don’t let out until June 25. But Arts & Ideas ends on the 28th, so those weekday afternoons should end with big family crowds next Thursday and Friday.