Columbia Festival of the Arts

The Columbia Festival of the Arts brings amazing performances to town in June.

other mozart program magFor 30 years, the Columbia Festival of the Arts has served as both a community tradition and a regional attraction, with weeks of shows mixing local performers with national and international talent.

It’s also a great way for families to enjoy the arts together, particularly with one weekend dedicated to days full of free performances outside overlooking the city’s picturesque Lake Kittamaqundi.

This year’s Festival of the Arts—which is slated to take place June 14–30 at venues throughout Columbia—has once again collected an amazing range of performances and screenings, with shows that often can’t otherwise be found in this area, never mind in one place at the same time.

On one stage—or, rather above it—you can see costumed performers embark on an acrobatic, action-packed and amusing adventure while dangling from ropes. Elsewhere, you can laugh as one man plays Batman and countless other characters in a parody of the “Dark Knight” trilogy. And in a nearby theatre, you will marvel as an internationally acclaimed group transforms their bodies into shadows for a series of delightful vignettes.

All of that, and much more, will take place at this summer’s famed event in Howard County, with programs catering to everyone from families with young children to art connoisseurs.
That’s because each year’s festival kicks off with LakeFest, a free weekend of performances at the Downtown Columbia Lakefront beginning on Friday, June 15 and continuing through Sunday, June 17.

The show will kick off with music performed by the kid students at School of Rock Columbia and will continue on with family-friendly concerts by musicians from a variety of genres, plus nearly 60 arts and crafts vendors, festival food, a beer garden for the adults, and arts and music workshops with hands-on teaching opportunities
for children.

“The heart of the festival is LakeFest. People know the event. They see it as a community tradition,” says Dave Simmons, the festival’s programming manager. “Anybody of any age can attend. We’re committed to featuring diverse acts all weekend with all types of cultures represented onstage and in the audience.”

LakeFest isn’t to be confused with Columbia Association’s Lakefront Summer Festival, which also takes place at Lake Kittamaqundi and is scheduled this year to bring free concerts and movies, plus weekly dance session nearly every night beginning June 18—the Monday after LakeFest—and continuing into September (see sidebar).

fest fdr 2018

The headlining act at this year’s LakeFest is eVenti Verticali, an aerial theatre group from Italy performing their “Wanted” show. There will be four performances total:
at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Friday, June 15 and Saturday, June 16. The aerialists will please crowds with a visually stunning yet comedic spectacle of choreographed maneuvers set in front of animated backgrounds, including a martial arts match featuring Matrix-like music while the screen behind them simulates a fighting video game. Later, these characters will race through city streets, climb buildings, leap rooftops, and try to elude police during a heist. They also perform with video game backdrops such as Pac-Man and Super Mario Brothers.

The full schedule of events is at columbiafestival.org.
This year’s paid performances take place at venues near Downtown Columbia, including Monteabaro Recital Hall and Smith Theatre at Howard Community College, plus the Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School.

The festival concludes on Saturday, June 30 with Verba Shadow Theatre, a Ukraine-based troupe that has performed on major European televised talent shows and went viral on YouTube. Their online videos include takes on beloved movies such as “Titanic,” “Frozen,” “Star Wars” and “Love Story.” "Shadow is this universal language,” Simmons says. “It’s great for kids to see such wild imagination on the stage.”

ColumbiaFestial4 F9C85C31 AE97 4704 806707E0F8CF03E4 8f476962 9af7 4dae a6972cd54ffaf778This year’s other featured shows include:
· Dee Dee Bridgewater, a famed jazz singer who performed with many great names and won a Tony for her performance in “The Wiz.”
· Sprout Films, a collection of short movies by, for and about individuals with development disabilities.
· The Other Mozart, an award-winning play about the famed composer’s older sister, Nannerl, a musician who performed around Europe.
· Stoop Storytelling, a local series in which seven people get seven minutes to tell true stories from their lives. This show’s theme is “School Daze,” featuring educational experiences as told by school faculty, students and parents.
· “Maine Girls,” a short film about 13 immigrant and U.S. born teenagers and bridging cultural divides.
· One-Man Dark Knight, a parody of the most recent Batman movies by the same mind behind one-man shows satirizing Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
· Sundance Shorts on Four, featuring seven brief films from the latest Sundance Film Festival.
“We strive to offer something to everybody. That’s a challenge, but we work year-round to find things that will satisfy our audience’s taste for performances that might not be here,” Simmons says. “These are unique opportunities.”

Every year, Columbia Association’s free Lakefront Summer Festival is an annual institution that brings about two dozen family-friendly movies and about 50 concerts to the Downtown
Columbia Lakefront. This year’s festival begins Monday, June 18 and runs into September. A full schedule can be found at ColumbiaAssociation.org/lakefrontfestival

—David Greisman

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