If anyone can get their act together, it should be musicians, storytellers, actors, puppeteers, acrobats, and the like. That’s proving true for the third year in a row, as the performer-run Bright Night Providence celebrates New Year’s Eve in 17 venues around downtown Providence, with more than 125 entertainers presenting more than 50 performances on the afternoon and evening of December 31 — from poetry slams to belly dancing.
Plenty of flash and bang will grab our attention, with a special mini-edition of WaterFire Providence blazing around the Waterplace Park basin, and two fireworks displays — one concluding the 5:30 pm opening ceremonies at the skating rink across from City Hall, and a larger display at midnight, both cascading over the State House.
Children’s activities have been increased, beginning with fiddle music and stories by Mary King and Melanie Cabell at 12:30 pm at the Providence Children’s Museum, and continuing with music and storytelling by Keith Munslow and Bill Harley, beginning at 5 pm at the First Baptist Church. Knife-throwers, a mentalist, and several magicians will also perform.
The headlining act this year will be the juggling duo the Passing Zone, performing at 6, 8, and 10 pm at the Providence Performing Arts Center (see sidebar).
For children of all ages, the Big Nazo rock ’n’ roll puppet extravaganza will rattle the rafters at the URI-Shepard Building. For those looking for a calmer experience, choral music by Ocean State Children’s Chorus, Narragansett Bay Chorus, and WomenSpiritRising will be offered at Grace Church.
The Banished Fools will provide roving music here and there. Other strains will include the traditional music of Sam Hill and Steve Jobe, Celtic music by Trouze Bras and Pendragon, and hip-hop by DJ Statik & the Neon Soul Collective, plus Atwater & Donnelly, Alec K. Redfearn, Michael Bresler, the Superchief Trio, Dave Howard and the High Rollers, and the Lucky Band. Improvisational comedy will be presented by Improv Jones, the Speed of Thought Players, and the Unexpected Company.
Fusionworks Dance Company will step lively. Installation art will be on view in Westminster Street storefronts, with light sculptures by Dorothy Abrams and a video installation by Phillip Krause.
Bright Night Providence was founded in 2003 when the city’s former New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night, was canceled. With only three months to prepare, clown and flea circus impresario Adam Gertsacov volunteered to organize performances.
"Most of the artists that we hire are not getting the salaries they could command elsewhere," Gertsacov pointed out. "A lot of them have said to me, ‘Listen, I want to be here in Providence. This is where I’m from. We don’t have to travel. We can be with our friends.’ Pendragon says, ‘We rarely perform here — we’re busy doing other stuff — so here’s a chance for our friends to see us.’ " Many performers are also contributing off-stage: Erminio Pinque of Big Nazo designed the posters, Josh Bell, from the Providence Mandolin Orchestra, has been helping out with the website, and Joanne Fayan of the All Children’s Theatre Ensemble is the volunteer coordinator.
Carrying on the procedure established in the first year of uncertain financial prospects, performers not only are working at a discount — even the headliners, the Passing Zone, are getting less than half what they could receive elsewhere — but their pay will depend on the success of the festival. By contract, if ticket sales and grants bring in less then the festival’s budget of around $80,000, the performers will receive less by the same percentage. A successful Bright Night will mean a small bonus for everyone, as was distributed in the first two festivals.
Based on brisk advance ticket sales, Gertsacov is hoping for a 10 percent increase over last year’s 15-18,000 attendance — which will depend, of course, on the weather. But it’s not all about money. "I watch the fireworks, but I don’t really watch the fireworks as much as I watch the people watch the fireworks," Gertsacov said. "Because to me that’s the real payoff. People going ‘ooh!’ and ‘aah!’ all at once. I really love that I’m partially responsible."
Tickets to Bright Night are $10 in advance and $15 (or 4 for $50) on December 31, available online at www.ArtTixRI.com, or at the ArtTixRI booth at 10 Dorrance Street, Providence. Tickets also may be purchased at BankRI offices and at East Side Marketplace, OOP! Marketplace, the Providence Children’s Museum, and the RISD Museum. The festival website is www.brightnight.org
Issue Date: December 30, 2005 - January 5, 2006
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