Houston, TX – Society for the Performing Arts (SPA), Houston’s leading performing arts presenter, is announcing a partnership with Arts Midwest and the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art to bring the international program Caravanserai: A Place Where Cultures Meet to Houston during the 2014-15 season. This program began in 2010 as an effort to establish a greater understanding between American and Muslim societies. Houston is one of four cities selected to host the fourth season of Caravanserai, featuring dynamic performance artists, filmmakers and musicians from Malaysia. The other host locations include the Piney Woods Fine Arts Association in Crockett, Texas; the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State University in Atlanta; and the University of Florida Performing Arts in Gainesville.
“SPA is proud to bring this critically acclaimed program to Houston and share in its innovative type of cultural exchange,” remarked Jordan Drum, SPA’s Director of Education and Community Engagement. “As one of the most diverse cities in the nation – with one of the most active arts communities – Houston audiences are sure to connect with and be inspired by this fascinating series of outreach events and performances.”
“The name Caravanserai was carefully selected for this program,” says David Fraher, president and CEO of Arts Midwest. “Historically, in the Far and Middle East, stopping places for caravans along trade routes were called caravanserais. They were safe places to sit around the fire, come together and exchange stories. The name evokes that imagery of travelers in a safe haven, in a place where cultures meet. We’re delighted that SPA is providing one of those stopping places for an exciting cultural experience.”
Three different artists will be featured as part of Caravanserai through a variety of public and private performances, as well as workshops and lectures, starting with the dynamic global-fusion band Diplomats of Drum in September and October 2014, followed by filmmaker and activist Pete Teo in January 2015 and ending with the U.S. premiere tour of Wayang Kulit: The Shadow Play of Kelentan in February 2015.
In addition, through partnerships with The Boniuk Institute at Rice University, Episcopal High School, the Children’s Museum, Awty International School, University of Houston and more, SPA will be offering hands-on educational workshops and performances for children and adults during each of the artists’ residencies in Houston.
About the artists and performances:
Diplomats of Drum celebrate musical and cultural diversity with festive performances that have been called “joyously Malaysian”; the band members describe their genre as “music without borders.” The 16 members of this unique percussion group reflect the melting pot of cultures in Malaysia, weaving their Malay, Chinese, Indian, Punjabi and Dyak identities into a vibrant musical tapestry. www.diplomatsofdrum.com
Public performance: October 2, 2014, 7:30pm at Asia Society Texas Center
Pete Teo is an award-winning musician, actor and filmmaker based in Malaysia, whose multimedia work is characterized by an ability to bridge the divide between popular and critical appeal. He will present 15Malaysia, an innovative project featuring short films by 15 Malaysian filmmakers who examine sociopolitical issues central to modern Malaysian society, from corruption and freedom of speech to racism, religion and cultural identity. www.15malaysia.com
Public screening: January 22, 2015, 7:30pm at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Wayang Kulit is an ancient form of puppet theatre, where the shadows of intricately carved leather puppets projected onto a screen act out the Ramayana – an age-old Hindu epic that has become a treasured folk tale across Malaysia. The single Tok Dalang, or puppet master, manipulates the puppets, narrates the story using more than 40 voices and leads a traditional folk music ensemble that provides the score and drives the rhythm of this unique theatrical experience. Led by experts from the Malaysian cultural preservation organization PUSAKA, this renowned shadow puppet troupe will make their U.S. premiere during Caravanserai. Watch their incredible performance by visiting www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sl1Lx67Z3ys.
Public performance: February 26, 2015, 7:30pm at Asia Society Texas Center
Additional dates, times and locations of public and private performances, as well as special events and workshops will be released in the coming months. Information regarding all Caravanserai performances can be found on the SPA website at www.spahouston.org/caravanserai.
About Society for the Performing Arts:
Founded in 1966, Society for the Performing Arts (SPA) is the largest independent non-profit presenting organization in the Southwest. Since its inception, SPA has sponsored more than 1,000 performances of the world’s finest music, dance and theater events, in adherence to the belief that the arts are fundamental to the overall enrichment and quality of life within the community. In addition to presenting artists, SPA seeks to provide a variety of learning experiences for adults and children through master classes, lectures and special student performances, as well as build relationships between the performing arts and other interests within the greater Houston area and throughout the state of Texas.
About Arts Midwest:
A regional arts organization headquartered in Minneapolis, Minn., Arts Midwest promotes creativity, nurtures cultural leadership and engages people in meaningful arts experiences bringing vitality to Midwest communities and enriching people’s lives.
About Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art Building Bridges:
The Building Bridges Program aims to promote the use of arts and media to improve Americans’ understanding of Muslim societies. The program seeks to support initiatives that use arts and media to highlight the diversity of Muslim populations around the world.