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Artist and social activist Bernice Johnson Reagon opens the festival Nov. 5

Artist, scholar, author, and social activist Bernice Johnson Reagon will open this year’s Roethke Humanities Festival with a lecture at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5 in the Williams Center for the Arts.
The College’s 10th biennial Roethke Humanities Festival champions the 25th anniversary of the Williams Center, with a many-sided exploration of jazz, vocal music, dance, the visual arts, and contemporary music from Nov. 5-22. Named in honor of American poet and former Lafayette English professor Theodore Roethke, the festival seeks common ground among the six humanities departments to celebrate alliances of arts and ideas.

Reagon, the founding artistic director of the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, will present this year’s Jones Visiting Lecture. Reagon is professor emeritus of history at American University in Washington, D.C., and holds the title of curator emeritus at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In 1995, President Bill Clinton presented her with the Charles Frankel Prize (National Humanities Medal) for her contributions to the public understanding of the humanities.

In her presentation, “Come and Go With Me to That Land: Notes from the Autobiography of a Freedom Singer,” Reagon will reflect upon her personal journey as an artist, intellectual leader, social activist, and humanitarian. This event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.

Roethke residency performances will feature MacArthur prize-winning choreographer Liz Lerman and her Dance Exchange on Nov. 14, and string ensemble the Kronos Quartet on Nov. 19. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Williams Center box office at (610) 330-5009.

Lerman’s three-day residency, which will include several forums and workshops, will feature the renowned piece, Ferocious Beauty: Genome. This dance draws upon the magical powers of stagecraft, movement, and music to visualize the mysteries of the genome. Using such figures and Mendel, Darwin, and a cadre of scientists, philosophers, and physicians from our own era, it demystifies the fascinating worlds of genetics, lineage, scientific problem-solving, and medical ethics. Concurrent with this residency is the Nature (Re)Made: Genomics and Art exhibit running Nov.1 – Dec. 7 in the Williams Center gallery.

The Kronos Quartet will perform George Crumb’s iconic Black Angels, the work which first prompted violinist David Harrington to found the ensemble 35 years ago. Crumb’s masterpiece will be presented in a new staging with theatrical effects enhancing the expressive musical themes. The program will also showcase three recent works by female composers Aleksandra Vrebalov of Serbia, Hanna Kulenty of Poland, and Aviya Kopelman of Israel.

Other festival performances include: American pianist Jeremy Denk, Nov. 6; Sweet Honey in the Rock, Nov. 7; and the Alan and Wendy Pesky artist-in-residence Mulgrew Miller and his group, Wingspan, Nov. 22.

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