Virginia Arts Festival takes to the streets this spring

David Nicholson
Contact Reporterdbnicholson@dailypress.com | 757-247-4794

The Virginia Arts Festival has put Hampton Roads on the national map as a spring destination for arts and cultural events.

In recent seasons, director Robert Cross has been working to make the annual festival more inclusive to the residents of the region. "How do we make the community feel more a part of the festival?" was one way he posed the question in a recent interview.

The solution may be the series of outdoor events, many of them free, scheduled during this year's run, which opens Friday and continues through May 30. The 19th festival will present more than 70 performances in venues from Williamsburg to Virginia Beach.

The events that bracket the festival offer good examples of what Cross is trying to achieve. Prior to the Friday performance of Ballet Hispanico at the Roper Performing Arts Center in downtown Norfolk, the city is closing off three blocks of Granby Street for a pre-performance Latin-America street party.

The festival's final offering will be a free World Arts Celebration on May 30 at City Center in Newport News.

"We'll have artists and food vendors that represent the different international communities that make up the city," says Cross. "We're making it a party."

City Manager Jim Bourey asked Cross to help the city stage the celebration. In an email response, Bourey said, "We anticipate this will be a day the city can join together and gain a better appreciation of one another and the strength of our city."

Several other free community events will complement the performers coming to town:

Granby Street Block Party, 5 to 8 p.m. April 10 — Prior to the Ballet Hispanico performance, the city of Norfolk is closing off three blocks of Granby Street for a Latin festival. The band Bio Ritmo will perform and street vendors will add to the Latin flavor celebrating the festival's opening night.

Attucks Community Day, noon to 7 p.m. April 12 — The Fuzz Band and other groups will entertain throughout the day at this community fair held in the Church Street Park. The event is tied to the 4 and 7 p.m. performances of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra led by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis in the Attucks Theatre.

Bartok & Chihuly, April 18-19 — The production of Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle" for two performances in Chrysler Hall will feature oversized glass sculptures created by artist Dale Chihuly. The festival has teamed with the Chrysler Museum of Art, which will bring its Mobile Glass Studio to Scope Plaza two hours before each performance. Nearby at the museum, an exhibition titled "Chihuly in the Garden" will feature the artist's outdoor sculptures in the Memorial Garden.

Strange Fruit in Norfolk, 9:30 p.m. April 14-19 — Audiences exiting the performances of "Major Tom" and "Bluebeard's Castle" will encounter Strange Fruit, a theatrical troupe that performs atop tall, flexible poles. The Australian performance art company will set up on the green lawn opposite the Virginia Arts Festival headquarters at 440 Bank St.

Tattoo Hullabaloo, 4:30 p.m. April 23-25 and 11:30 a.m. April 26 — Three hours before each Virginia International Tattoo performance, Scope Plaza in Norfolk becomes a street fair with performances, bagpipers, dancing, Celtic merchandise, food and craft beers.

Polyglot Theatre, 5:30-7:30 and 9:30-10:30 p.m. May 1-2; noon -2 p.m. and 4-5 p.m. May 3 — Another Australian import, Polyglot involves kids and families who take balls of soft elastic and create patterns around 24 tall poles. Kids can explore and bounce while costumed players weave through the crowd. Their antics take place in the Town Center plaza in front of the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts in Virginia Beach.

TRADOC Band, 7:30 p.m. — The Army band returns to City Center in Newport News for a patriotic outdoor concert. Gates open at 5 p.m. for picnicking.

World Arts Celebration, throughout the day, May 30 — Fountain Park at City Center in Newport News celebrates with food and music the multi-cultural communities that make up the city.

Many of those attending the free outdoor events will also purchase tickets for performances happening at the same time, arts festival officials said. A few events in smaller venues already have sold out, says Cross, who adds that "all the pieces are coming together" for this year's festival.

Want to go?

There are several ways to get tickets to the 2015 Virginia Arts Festival. Check in advance as some performances have sold out.

By phone: 757-282-2822

Online: vafest.org

By mail: Pick up a festival brochure, fill out the order form, and mail to Virginia Arts Festival, Attn: Box Office, P.O. Box 3595, Norfolk, VA, 23514.

In person: Visit the festival box office at 440 Bank St., Norfolk.

Festival highlights

Dance

•Ballet Hispanico, 8 p.m. April 10, Roper Performing Arts Center, Norfolk

•Pilobolus, 7:30 p.m. May 19, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia Beach

Classical Music/Opera

•"Bluebeard's Castle," with sets by Dale Chihuly, 8 p.m. April 18 and 3 p.m. April 19, Chrysler Hall, Norfolk

•"An Evening of Mahler," 7:30 p.m. May 5, Robin Hixon Theatre, Norfolk

•Stravinsky's "The Soldier's Tale," 8 p.m. May 8, Roper Performing Arts Center, Norfolk

•Attacca String Quartet, 7 p.m. May 10, The Parlor, Norfolk

Jackie Evancho, singer, 8 p.m. May 16, Chrysler Hall, Norfolk

•Anonymous 4, 7 p.m. May 17, Christ & St. Luke's Church, Norfolk

•Cantus, 8 p.m. May 20, St. John's Episcopal Church, Portsmouth

Family

•Virginia International Tattoo, 7:30 p.m. April 23-25 and 2:30 p.m. April 26, Norfolk Scope

•Disney's "Fantasia," with Virginia Symphony. 8 p.m. May 2 and 2:30 p.m. May 3, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia Beach

•U.S. Army TRADOC Band, 7:30 p.m. May 25, City Center, Newport News.

•World Arts Celebration, May 30, City Center, Newport News

Festival Williamsburg, A Baroque Celebration & More

•Coffee Concert, 10:30 a.m. May 21, Williamsburg Winery

•Cantus, 7:30 p.m. May 21, Bruton Parish Church

•Quicksilver Ensemble, 10:30 a.m. May 22, Williamsburg Winery

•Eileen Ivers, Irish fiddler, 8 p.m. May 22, Williamsburg Lodge

•The Handel & Haydn Society, 8 p.m. May 23, Williamsburg Lodge

•Nicholas McGegan Conducts Handel, 7 p.m. May 24, Williamsburg Lodge

Folk, Pop & World Music

•Roseanne Cash, 8 p.m. April 11, Roper Performing Arts Center, Norfolk

•Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, 4 and 7 p.m. April 12, Attucks Theatre, Norfolk

•Red Molly, 8 p.m. May 1, Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, Virginia Beach

•Inti-Illimani, Chilean folk troupe, 8 p.m. May 7, Norfolk Academy, Norfolk

•Audra McDonald, Broadway singer, 8 p.m. May 15, Attucks Theatre, Norfolk

Theater

•"The Rime," 7:30 p.m. April 30, Robin Hixon Theatre, Norfolk

•"Major Tom," 8 p.m. April 14-19, Robin Hixon Theatre, Norfolk

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