Release Date: April 7, 2014
BUFFALO, N.Y. — For two years, the University at Buffalo Signature Series has celebrated UB’s legacy of innovation and distinction in arts and letters with presentations by distinguished figures in theater, music and visual art.
The focal point of the series is “The Conversation in the Arts,” this year featuring theater director, visual artist and designer Douglas Fitch and Janne Sirén, the Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director of Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
The conversation will take place at 2 p.m. April 10 in the Black Box Theatre, Center for the Arts, UB North Campus. It will be free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.
Fitch is UB’s inaugural College of Arts and Sciences WBFO Visiting Professor and will be in residence at the university during the 2014 fall semester. He has led award-winning and innovative theatrical projects for major arts institutions across North America and Europe, among them Canada’s National Arts Center and the Royal Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra.
In fact, Fitch is nothing if not a collaborator with like minds. He designs whimsical and humorous spaces (tree houses, home spaces, offices); spectacular theatrical sets, costumes and lighting; and drawings, paintings and art installations.
In 2007, he co-founded Giants are Small, a theater and entertainment company whose acclaimed and wildly unusual productions have earned it a reputation as one of the most celebrated production companies in New York City.
The programs feature opera, puppetry, video projection, circus, iconic theater, family entertainment and ballet; recent productions include new, bright, off-the-wall interpretations of work by Stravinsky and Prokofieff; Elliott Carter, Virgil Thompson, Puccini, Engelbert Humperdinck and Kurt Weill; Czech composer, musical theorist and folklorist Leoš Janáček; and contemporary classical composer György Liget.
The company also is collaborating with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Juilliard School and with Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, on the humorous opera “Gloria: A Pig Tale,” which the groups calls “a rollicking tale of social expectations and aspirations.” The opera, for which Fitch serves as director/designer, will be performed May 29 through June 1 at the museum.
Fitch collaborates as well with artist Mimi Oka on Orphicorp, whose surrealist productions are known for employing edible media in experimental feasts, the sets sometimes serving as metaphors for what is on the plate. Their productions are impossible to describe in a few words, but are alarming, funny and, it appears, appetizing.
In April 2013, Sirén, a dynamic, passionate, multilingual art historian who then was directing the Helsinki Art Museum, began his tenure as 11th director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Later that year he was named the Peggy Pierce Elfvin Director, thanks to an $11 million bequest from the estate of Elfvin, an arts patron and longtime gallery board member.
Siren calls the Albright-Knox Buffalo’s “global asset” — the only one in the state outside New York City, and told the Buffalo News that from the moment he set foot in Buffalo, “it was sort of love at first sight.” He speaks of the city’s “very positive aura” and says he believes that art should be a primary player on the civic stage, the gallery “a place without walls, a very porous place,” and the whole city “a comprehensive cultural space.”
The month of April is filled with additional Signature Series events: