WHAT Long Island Fringe Festival
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. Saturday, Tilles Center, LIU Post campus, Brookville (5 p.m. preshow party), food donation to RockCanRoll requested
TICKETS $15; 516-299-3100, longislandfringefestival.weebly.com
Stony Brook University
LIU Post, Brookville
INFO 516-299-3100, tillescenter.org
Although fall season at Long Island’s two leading performing arts centers doesn’t open until October, Tilles Center plays host Saturday to the eighth annual Long Island Fringe Festival. Stevie GB, self-described “world’s funniest accountant,” emcees a show featuring fastest-talking woman Fran Capo according to the Guinness Book of World Records (603.32 words per minute), acoustic guitarist Frank the Bald Guy, performance poet Jay Jii and Isadora Duncan-inspired Dance Visions NY.
We spoke to Tilles Center director Bill Biddle and Staller’s Alan Inkles about their upcoming seasons following Fringe’s curtain-raiser.
With Nassau Coliseum closed for reconstruction, “Sesame Street Live” comes to Tilles Oct. 1 and 2, followed by the boomer season opener — the 50th anniversary Monkees tour Oct. 8.
“We’ve added more pop music and comedy because of our audience’s diverse tastes,” says Biddle, who succeeded Elliot Sroka as executive director after his retirement last season. “But we’ll never abandon our core in classical music and dance.” Starting in 2017-18, Biddle says, Tilles will launch an all-orchestra series. “With 2,000 seats, we’re the only place on Long Island that can bring in major world orchestras,” he says. This season’s Great Music series features the Warsaw Philharmonic Oct. 29, the China Philharmonic Orchestra Dec. 10 and New York Philharmonic’s annual visit April 28. Other concerts, such as superstar pianists Andre Watts Nov. 19 and Lang Lang March 3 would switch to a separate soloist series next season.
Music at Hillwood opens with the Juilliard Quartet Oct. 6 and the McGill/McHale Trio Dec. 4. Other chamber highlights: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Dec. 1, ETHEL Feb. 2 and Eroica Trio on March 26.
Tilles resumes its national-tour theater lineup with the 20th anniversary production of “Rent” Nov. 6. Tony-winning musical “Once” makes its Long Island premiere Feb. 11. Topping the dance card is Emmy-nominated Travis Wall’s “Shaping Sound: Dance Reimagined” show and the 50th anniversary tour of Tony-winning Twyla Tharp’s troupe Nov. 12. A new speaker series invites Linda Ronstadt Nov. 27, Neil deGrasse Tyson Dec. 13, Billie Jean King Jan. 26 and Colin Powell March 2. Chita Rivera opens the Cabaret at Club T series Nov. 18 and Tilles’ Oct. 22 gala headliners are Brian d’Arcy James, Megan Hilty and the New York Pops.
Biddle says Tilles will “enhance the experience,” not just the gala, with festival-style presentations in the center’s beautiful atrium.
Alan Inkles says his audience is beginning to trust him. “People are very protective of their arts center,” he says, noting a conversation with a woman who moved to the area from the city. “ ‘I didn’t think I could live here without culture,’ ” Inkles recalls her saying. “But I see we have it right here. And longtime patrons are now willing to take a chance on something new.”
Staller’s season opens with topically relevant Havana Cuba All-Stars Oct. 8, followed by Agatha Christie’s whodunit, “Murder on the Nile,” performed by Manhattan’s Aguila Theater. The hot Broadway duet, newlyweds Jarrod Spector and Kelli Barrett, entertain Oct. 22. But the season’s hottest ticket (so far) is comedian Janeane Garofalo’s Election Day preview Nov. 5. “She sold out in 10 minutes,” Inkles says, “and for the first time since I’ve been here” — 30-plus years — “we added a late show.”
Inkles wanted the Royal Winnipeg Ballet to revive its “Dracula” for a Halloween performance. “But they liked my idea so much, they’re doing it in Winnipeg,” he says. (Staller settled for a Nov. 19 show.) On the classical side, the Escher Quartet, formerly mentored by the SBU-in-residence Emerson String Quartet, performs the premiere of Emerson’s Eugene Drucker’s “Madness and Death of Ophelia” Oct. 28.
Kelli O’Hara, Tony-winning Broadway star who Inkles has tried to land for years — “she’s in one show then another before you can book her” — makes her Staller debut Dec. 10. (She plays Tilles April 29). And for the first time in 15 years, Staller’s gala spotlights a classical star, violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, March 4.
“Between Tilles and us, we’re the Lincoln Center of Long Island,” Inkles says.