March 23, 2003

Columbia Festival of the Arts

5575 Sterrett Place, Columbia. Information: 410-715-3004, or

With its name artists that run the gamut of music, theater and dance, Columbia Festival of the Arts is the region's biggest extravaganza. In its 16th year, the festival will run over three weekends from June 13 through June 29.

Founded in 1988 as a local grass-roots effort, the festival now showcases only national and international performers, drawing on average 35,000 festival-goers to its indoor and outside events.

The program blends headliners, rising stars and cutting edge performers in a variety of theatrical programs and master classes. Recent performers have included Aretha Franklin, Marcel Marceau, Bobby McFerrin, Twyla Tharp Dance, the Washington Ballet, Israel's Haifa Festival Orchestra, and Olodum, a Brazilian music group.

"We try to put on a well-diversified program of different genres -- music, theater and dance and within that a culturally diverse program," said Steward Seal, the festival's executive director.

This year, the festival will feature 15 to 18 performances, ranging from Mikhail Baryshnikov and jazz artist Wynton Marsalis to the Afro-Cuban hip-hop music of Yerba Buena and the Aquila Theatre touring classical theater troupe.

Mainstage events will be presented at Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts, Smith Theatre at Howard Community College and Merriweather Post Pavilion.

The festival also offers popular master classes with artists. "We try to interact with the community with the master classes," Seal said.

Choreographer Rennie Harris is creating a dance theater piece with 25 middle school and 25 high school students in Howard County. During the six-week project, Harris is working with students to create a work based on their lives that will be presented June 17. "We're all very excited," Seal said.

Because of budget concerns however, the festival stopped presenting free, multiday lakefront activities last year. This year's operating budget is $1.2 million to cover performers' fees and salaries for four full-time staffers and contract workers, and it pays for space rent, marketing and other needs.

"The program takes all year to plan and to raise the money" Seal said. Funds are generated by corporate sponsors, individual sponsors, members, grants, ticket sales and merchandise sales. A corps of 250 volunteers will join the preparations in a few weeks.

The roster of performances includes:

Baryshnikov, who will dance solo at 8 p.m. June 28 and at 2 p.m. June 29.

Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at 8 p.m. June 25.

Composer and pianist Phillip Glass at 8 p.m. June 21 at Jim Rouse Theatre.

Aquila Theatre, a producer of touring classical theater, which will present A Midsummer Night's Dream at 8 p.m. June 14.

The comedy of Second City's national touring company will be presented at 8 p.m. June 19.

Reno will present her comedic show, "Rebel Without A Cause, Reflections on Sept. 11" at 8 p.m. June 26.

Dayton Contemporary Dance Company will perform "Flight Project" at 8 p.m. June 27. The five-piece program of new works will explore the concepts of invention and flight in a contemporary world, celebrating Dayton, Ohio, natives Orville and Wilbur Wright. The troupe also will present a master class.

African-American poet Sekou Sundiata will perform "Blessing the Boats," an evening of poetry, prose and monologue at 8 p.m. June 20.

Choreographer Rennie Harris and his company Puremovement will present a new version of hip-hop dance in "Facing Mekka." Harris also will lead a dance theater workshop integrating music, theater and dance for a local student project June 17.

Yerba Buena will perform at 8 p.m. June 28.

Leahy, a family of nine brothers and sisters from Ontario, will perform a fiddle-driven act of music, dance and song featuring Celtic, folk, rock, pop, country and classical at 8 p.m. June 13.

The Del McCoury Band will perform bluegrass at 8 p.m. June 20.

Tickets: 800-955-5566, or A per-ticket charge will be added to all phone and online orders. Tickets ordered by phone or online up to 10 days before the event will be mailed.

Celebration of the Arts in Howard County

Howard County Arts Council. Information: 410-313-ARTS (2787), or

The Howard County Arts Council knows how to throw a party. For the past five years, the council has celebrated the arts with an annual gala that features visual, performing and culinary artists.

The sixth Celebration of the Arts in Howard County will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. April 26 at Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts in Columbia. Tickets are $75 and $50.

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