|I remember the conversation with you when we (Japan Society) produced a tour of Aoi/Komachi (*written and directed by Takeshi Kawamura) for the spring of 2007, and I was trying to get you on board. We talked about the various angles to look at this production from, such as women’s issues and Japanese pop culture issues, in order to involve academic departments of Dartmouth College. You must have involved many other departments outside of the arts in Anne’s production, didn’t you?
Yes, the sociology, geography, history and religious departments were involved. Also the Tucker Foundation, which is not an academic department but a center for community service that assist students going to help the community, was involved.
Talking about involvement of areas other than arts departments, another good example is from last year. We commissioned Merce Cunningham. Merce spent time on our campus only in the final week of tech and the world premiere, but during that week his company members were all over the campus, demonstrating motion-capture technology, abstract mathematics and its relationship with movement, etc.
Dartmouth’s Studio Art Department interacted with them, and did a display of the graphics of Robert Rauschenberg because there was a new Rauschenberg backdrop in the piece. Even the classes came in during the day in the rehearsal, just to look at the backdrop and used it in teaching. And Merce was there, so the head of the John Cage Trust came to have a special talk with Merce. So many events were going on that week. In the Computer Science department, students spent the whole summer creating a 3D animation based on a drawing of a bird that Merce Cunningham had made.
The Computer Science faculty hooked up sensors so that dancers danced, with motion capture, and the bird would dance as an interaction.
We have a huge number of relationships with faculty members all over the campus, not just in the arts. Each year, probably more than 20,000 people interact with the visiting artists outside of the performances. That includes community people, not just students. Tremendous numbers of ancillary events take place.
You mentioned that HOP does promotion for student productions. In fact, I saw HOP’s website, and saw student concerts and performances of world-class professional groups (i.e. visiting artists) listed side-by-side.
All the events in our building that are open to the public must be “Hopkins Center events,” and we are in-charge of the marketing for them, except for some lectures or academic symposiums.
In Dartmouth College, there are several professionally-directed student ensembles: the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, the Wind Symphony, the Glee Club, Handel Society, World Music Percussion Ensemble, etc. Those are not taught by academic people or faculty members but led by professionals who are all Hopkins Center employees. That’s what we call co-curricular, because it is not part of the College curriculum and not for credit—it is extra-curricular. And we are the managers of all those professionally-led student ensembles. In a way those are resident companies of the Hopkins Center. I manage their performance dates, we do marketing, we manage the performances and we sell the tickets. They are promoted side-by-side with professional performances. We take kind of a producing role in helping and mentoring additional student productions, too.
For student music ensembles, who makes the decisions about what works to perform?
Their professional director; that is, each of the conductors of the respective ensembles chooses what to play based on their talents, interests and inspirations. Also they choose works based on students’ talents and capabilities and often their decisions are not made until a very late stage. So if you look at our season brochure, some of the student programs are vague. They say, “We’d like to do Mahler but we are not sure. Do we have enough brass players...?” So making a thematic season with them is very challenging.
Then, wouldn’t you prefer to promote student programs separately from visiting/professional artists’ programs in order not to mix the quality standard?
People in the community know what are students programs and what are visiting. And there are huge crossovers in the audience between who goes to see student programs and who goes to see visiting artists. And Dartmouth Symphony performances always sell out—there is a very large community audience that comes to their performances. The same community members will come to a recital by the tenor Ian Bostridge. People know the differences and enjoy both. So I don’t think we lose anything by presenting both.
To accommodate such performances of student ensembles in a season together with your many visiting artists programs, must make scheduling complicated.
Yes, it is. Dartmouth has a quarter system so we have four quarters (9-10 weeks each). If you look at our calendar, the visiting artists are concentrated very much in the very first month of each quarter—when we have visiting artists’ performances almost every day. And then in the 2nd month of each quarter, it’s mostly student performances, because by then they are ready to perform. For example, this spring, we will start the term in the end of March. So all of the April programs are visiting artists’, and then May is mostly student performances—and then they will graduate (laughs). It’s tricky, but once you get used to it you understand what you can do with things.
Have you set this as the regular pattern during your 14 years of working here?
The pattern was already set when I got here, since HOP has been around almost 50 years. But the most challenging thing for me is the space issue. We have two major spaces: one is the 900 seat concert hall and the other is a 480-seat dance and theater space. The dance and theater space is the only space that the Theater Department can produce in. I only get it for a brief window at the beginning of the quarter. So a very challenging part of my job is to find suitable touring dance and theater companies/artists whose schedules exactly fit the dates I have. I have these challenging windows four times a year.