July 5—August 4, 2019 on the Amherst College campus in Amherst, MA
AMHERST, MA – The Ko Festival of Performance, in its 28th summer season on the Amherst College campus, is a perennially popular summer experience in Western Massachusetts, featuring five weeks of theatrical performances, the KoFest Story Slam, and three 6-day intensive theater workshops. Unlike standard summer stock theater, Ko Festival performances are all original, devised pieces, created by distinguished professional solo and ensemble theatre artists from across the U.S. Each year, the performances at Ko are curated around a theme designed speak to area audiences. Lively post-performance discussions, often with guest experts, follow each of the performances.
This summer, KoFest will present five weeks of performances curated on the theme of “HABITAT (human).” Artistic Director Sabrina Hamilton says, “We’re thinking about transplants, displaced persons and the effects of sudden habitat change. About endangered and vanished cultures. About cracking open the past by re-examining the habitat one grew up in. Entertaining and thought-provoking, the season is all original work – created by the artists who come to us from across the US.”
$11.00 – $24.00
Fri. & Sat. July 5-7 at 8pm, Sunday July 7 at 4pm
Lead Writer/Performer/Deviser: HILARY CHAPLAIN
Director/Deviser NANCY SMITHNER
Puppeteeers/Makers/Devisers: ARIEL LAURYN & MINDY ESCOBAR-LEANSE
Composer/Musician: SERGEI DREZNIN
Lighting Design: SABRINA HAMILTON
Scenic Design: JUDY GALLEN
Dramaturg: STEPHEN RINGOLD
Our 2019 season opens with THE LAST RAT OF THERESIENSTADT, a show about Sofia Brünn, a Weimar cabaret star from 1930’s Berlin who finds herself transplanted to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. In this completely foreign habitat, she forges an unlikely friendship with Pavel, a rat (played by a puppet), who despite the lack of food that has driven away the rest of his kind, remains out of love for her and her art.
THE LAST RAT is show about resistance and hope, and the need to fill the soul as well as the body. A black comedy, it’s a low tech, multi-media play with music, rod/bunraku style puppetry (our titular Rat), shadow puppetry, overhead projections (artwork from the camp used to set the scene and illustrate a landscape for our story) — and three performers.
Developed at Ko during a 2017 rehearsal residency, the piece was performed in New York at The Tank and to sold-out houses at two theater/puppet festivals in Poland. It won the Jury Grand Prize, Student Jury Prize, Audience Prize, A Moment of Beauty in Puppetry awards at the Lalka Tez Cztowiek Puppet Fest, Warsaw, Poland. It will be touring to Israel in the fall.
$11.00 – $24.00
Fri. & Sat. July 12-13 at 8pm, Sunday July 14 at 4pm
Writer/Performer: KATIE PEARL
Additional Performers: Still T.B.A. but will include LAURIE McCANTS
Lighting Design: SABRINA HAMILTON
$11.00 – $17.00
Saturday, July 20 at 8pm – one night only!
You’ve heard of poetry slams – competitive poetry events. This is one is for first person, true stories – told live and without notes – just like most of the shows you see on the lineup this season.
Cash Bar & Prizes!
Tickets are $16, which goes to support the Ko Festival of Performance.
Additional donations gratefully accepted.Stories must be true and told without notes, and under 5 minutes long, and related to our season theme of “HABITAT.”And this year we’re interested in stories that have to do with human habitats – particularly changes in human habitats. For example we might have a story that looks back at where someone grew up, or about move to a new locale or culture. It could be a story about you, or a story about someone or something you’ve personally observed, but somehow it must be have that first-person element. Lots of room for lots of kinds of stories.
There will be some pre-selected ringers, but this might be your opportunity to take your place on the Ko Festival stage alongside KoFest artists & staff. We’ll have a few slots reserved for last minute sign-ups —our very first grand prize winner was someone who decided at the last minute to share a hilarious story about her experiences being fitted for a Playboy Bunny costume at the Playboy Club in NYC. If we have too many sign-ups, we’ll audition the first lines of stories – and audience members will get to vote on which ones should be told in their entirety!
Feeling a bit unsure? We’re offering a limited number private storytelling coaching sessions from Ko Festival artists! Call 413.427.6147 to sign-up for one of these slots or for more information. Price for this coaching is a donation to the Ko Festival. Whatever you can afford.
Know a great raconteur? – tell them about the event! Everyone should come prepared to listen, but you may want to come prepared to tell! Club style lighting will be by Holly Gettings. And to help you wet your whistle we’ll have a cash bar. And prizes!
We’ll be saving a few slots to be given away on the night – but we’re currently accepting pitches for pre-slotting. To be considered for pre-slotting please email email@example.com about your story after July 1, and give us a little biographical background. Or you can call (413) 427-6147.
You may also wish to hone your story by taking Gerard Stropnicky’s FIRST PERSON: Crafting your Story for Performance Workshop which runs from July 15-20.
$8.00 – $10.00
Sunday July 20 at 4pm
Performed by the METTAWEE RIVER THEATRE COMPANY
Directed by RALPH LEE
The Mettawee River Theatre Company has spent two years preparing a new version of THE RING DOVE,which they first performed in 1988. An allegorical tale about friendship, it is drawn from THE PANCHATANTRA, a collection of stories whose origins reach back over 2,000 years, to ancient India. The central characters are a crow, a rat, a turtle and a gazelle, whose behavior and relationships reflect many aspects of human nature. The production tells the story of the creatures’ growth in friendship with each other, as they achieve strength and harmony through cooperation and understanding.
The production will incorporate an array of giant figures, puppets, and masks and will be performed out under the stars in a landscape permeated with live music, song and a spirit of celebration.
On the Amherst College Observatory Lawn off of Snell Street in Amherst.
Bring blankets, lawn chairs and insect repellent, but leave the dogs at home!
Tickets: $9 Adults / $7 Children (12 & under). Cash or check only. No credit cards at the door.
Supported, in part, by the Amherst Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency
$10.00 – $24.00
Fri. & Sat. July 26-27 at 8pm, Sunday July 28 at 4pm
Written and performed by DEBÓRAH ELIEZER
Directed by BEN YALOM
Video Design: KEDAR LAWRENCE
Lighting Design: SABRINA HAMILTON
In (dis)Place[d], foolsFURY Co-Artistic Director Debórah Eliezer cracks open the assumptions of her own identity through the story of her father, Edward Ben-Eliezer, an Iraqi Jew born in 1930, a member of the Zionist underground, refugee, Israeli spy, and immigrant to America.
Eliezer brings twenty years’ experience as an acclaimed physical performer to create a dozen different characters, including her father at three different ages, her great grandmother, their Iraqi neighbors, an ethereal embodiment of the Tigris Euphrates valley itself, refugees, immigrants, and more.
First generation immigrants have often hidden the stories of their past, sometimes to keep painful memories from their children, sometimes to enthusiastically embrace their new countries. The children are caught between cultures, with no way of acknowledging a multi-national, multi-ethnic identity. It was not until Eliezer’s father had begun his descent into dementia that she began to glimpse his past.
“We kept cyanide in our socks,” he said out of the blue one day. And she learned that her peace-loving father had been a spy for the Israeli Defense Forces. Other stories trickled out:
- as a child he hid for days on a rooftop as Baghdadi Jews were slaughtered during the Farhoud, a Nazi-inspired “pogrom”;
- at 11 he joined the Zionist underground, smuggling weapons;
- at 19 he was targeted for assassination, fled Baghdad, crossed the desert on foot, and lived in a refugee camp on the Iraq/Iran border for two years;
- he managed to bring 8 of his 9 siblings to Israel, unable to save the eldest, who stayed behind and was killed.
Bit by bit Debórah uncovered her roots, and the remarkable history of the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora. Remarkable because Jews had been deeply integrated into Iraqi life for over 2500 years, and made up a third of Baghdad’s population in 1940. And because, within a decade, all 130,000 were gone, expelled, escaped, or killed. Today fewer than 10 Jews remain in Iraq.
(DIS)PLACE[D] follows her exploration of these stories, and asks hard questions: Who has the right to tell the story of a people? What is the significance of borders versus land and culture? What is the relationship of nationality to identity? The work aims to open a space for community dialogue around these issues in general, and specifically within the diaspora of Mizrahi Jews. Through this journey, the artist also finds a missing part of herself, “a song sung in a language I can’t understand” as she puts it. “A dream I can’t remember.”
“Luminous…So beautifully written, performed and directed that you might wish it were longer.” (SF Examiner)
$11.00 – $24.00
Fri. & Sat. August 2 & 3 at 8pm, Sunday August 4 at 4pm
An original performance by SAMITE
Lighting Design by Sabrina Hamilton
A performance tailor-made by Samite to fit KoFest’s 2019 season theme of “HABITAT: (human)” using a rich a blend of traditional African music and personal stories that draw on his own experience of war in Idi Amin’s Uganda, and his life as a refugee who finds his new home in rural upstate New York to be a place from which he can reach out globally to help remind others of their strength, so that they may find peace.
KoFest performances take place in Amherst College’s air-conditioned Holden Theater, located behind the Admissions Office off South Pleasant Street in Amherst, MA. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are priced at: $22 Adults / $18 Students & Seniors and $10 for SNAP/EBT cardholders. Tickets and further information on the savings that come with the KoFest “Passes & Posses” program are also available at kofest.com or by calling the box office after July 1 at (413) 542-3750. Before July 1, information can be found online or at (413) 427-6147. Call about a limited number of $8 tickets.
In addition to the performance schedule, KoFest is now accepting registrations for three 6-day workshop intensives for performers, writers, puppeteers, storytellers, directors, educators, visual artists, crafters, and all those wanting to kick-start their creativity. Workshops meet from 10am- 4pm in Amherst College’s Webster Hall. Past participants have ranged in age from 18 to 80 and the workshops are taught by expert teachers who are adept at gearing their classes for all levels of experience. Visit kofest.com for details.
July 8 – 13
TOY THEATRE with JOHN BELL and TRUDI COHEN of Great Small Works
Our workshop will present the history and practice of this intimate and highly accessible puppetry form.
July 15 – 20
FIRST PERSON: Crafting Your Story with Gerard Stropnicky Come with a story. (Or two. Or three.) Leave with a performance. (Or two. Or three.) Perfect for Story Slam participants!
July 29 – August 3
UNLOCKING INSPIRATION: The Vital Act with Debórah Eliezer of foolsFURY Theater This fun, participatory workshop will explore embodied creation methods that will remove your inner critic and allow your uninhibited creativity to flow.
The Ko Festival, where the only certainty is surprise!
Funded, in part, by The Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, the Amherst Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency, the Expeditions program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional support from the six New England state arts agencies; and Art Angels.