September 13, 2017

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and Department of Music present A Festival of the Arts

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts and Department of Music will celebrate the opening of the new Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts complex with a multi-day Festival of the Arts October 5 through 8 on the Princeton campus.  The Festival, which is open to the public, will feature over 100 concerts, plays, readings, dance performances, art exhibitions, multidisciplinary presentations, film screenings, community workshops, and site-specific events at venues across the campus, most of which will be free.

“The creative and performing arts inspire innovative thinking and a deeper understanding of the human condition—they are tremendously important to the University, and an integral part of the education we provide to our students,” states Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “The opening of the new Lewis Arts complex is an extraordinary milestone for Princeton that will usher in a brilliant new era of arts scholarship, training, exploration, and performance. I am grateful to Peter B. Lewis, Peter’s family, and the other donors who helped us to realize this dream. I hope that the campus and local community will join us for the opening festival and for years to come at this splendid new home for artistic expression and imaginative activity.”

“At this pivotal moment in Princeton’s history, its physical campus, its curriculum, and its relationship to the wider community, we are throwing open our doors to celebrate the arts!” notes Michael Cadden, chair of the Lewis Center. “We want to share our excitement about this new chapter in the life of the University with friends near and far, from our past and from our present. The light-filled spaces of Steven Holl’s design of the new Lewis Arts complex will fire the imaginations of our current and future students, faculty, guest artists, and audiences. This is an arts laboratory worthy of Princeton’s status as a world-class research university – a symbol, in Paul Muldoon’s words, of ‘Princeton in the service of the imagination.’ We invite the world to come party with us – both in and around our new buildings and at events across a campus now fully mapped with arts venues.”  

“We are delighted to offer to the University, the Princeton community, and our many friends and guests a veritable feast of artistic delights,” adds Wendy Heller, chair of the Department of Music.  “We celebrate not only the opening of these beautiful spaces and what they promise our students for the future, but the extraordinary accomplishments of all of our students and faculty, past and present, in the performing and creative arts.”

The Buildings

lewis arts complex

The recently completed Lewis Arts complex will be at the center of a campus-wide Festival of the Arts at Princeton University to celebrate the opening of this new arts venue. Photo by Jaclyn Sweet

The new, multi-building Lewis Center for the Arts complex along Alexander Street and University Place, adjacent to McCarter Theatre Center, was designed by the award-winning Steven Holl Architects. The project represents Princeton’s major commitment to the arts by significantly expanding the performance, rehearsal, and teaching spaces for the arts in new state-of-the-art, purpose-built facilities. The new arts complex is named for and was made possible in part through a $101 million gift to the University made in 2006 by the late Peter B. Lewis, Princeton Class of 1955 and former University trustee. These new facilities supplement existing teaching, exhibition, practice, and performance spaces, allowing the University to realize its vision of a vibrant campus infused, edge-to-edge, by the arts.

The 145,000 square-foot arts complex comprises three technically advanced, sustainably designed buildings: the Wallace Dance Building and Theater, the New Music Building, and the Arts Tower. The Wallace Dance Building and Theater houses the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Programs in Dance, Theater, and Music Theater, as well as the Princeton Atelier, which have moved from 185 Nassau Street. The New Music Building enables the Department of Music to expand its instructional, practice, and research facilities, supplementing the Woolworth Center for Musical Studies. The Lewis Center’s Program in Visual Arts will present exhibitions in a new gallery in the Arts Tower while expanding at 185 Nassau Street. The Lewis Center’s Program in Creative Writing maintains its seminar classrooms and library in New South.

The Wallace Dance Building and Theater includes the Wallace Theater, a black box theater seating up to 150 in flexible configurations, and the Hearst Dance Theater, seating up to 120. Both venues feature state-of-the-art LED theatrical lighting, one of the first educational performing arts facilities in the region to adopt this technology. This building also includes several new dance and theater studios.

The New Music Building houses the Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room, providing rehearsal space for the Princeton University Orchestra and other ensembles, as well as space for chamber concerts. It also features  a jazz studies studio, among several specialized teaching facilities, and practice rooms equipped with dozens of new pianos from Steinway & Sons.

The complex also includes the CoLab, a flexible “white box” space for artistic and cross-disciplinary collaborations, and the Arts Tower, which includes the Hurley Gallery, administrative offices, and additional studios.

The three buildings are connected at ground level by the Forum, an 8,000 square-foot open indoor gathering space that will serve as as a lobby for the various arts venues in the complex and as an additional informal performance space. Above the Forum is an outdoor plaza with a reflecting pool. Skylights in the pool filter natural light into the Forum below.

Holl, an internationally renowned architect, is a 2012 American Institute of Architects Gold Medalist, who has designed landmark arts venues around the world, including the forthcoming expansion of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In 2014, he received the Praemium Imperiale award for his contributions to the development, promotion, and progress of the arts. 

The Lewis Arts complex anchors a 22-acre development, the largest undertaken in the University’s history, that also includes Cargot Brasserie and the Dinky Bar & Kitchen, located in two renovated former train station buildings and operated by Fenwick Hospitality Group. Additionally, residents and visitors can reach Princeton by train at the new Princeton Station, operated by New Jersey Transit. The station features a heated and air-conditioned indoor waiting room, outdoor plaza, bike share station, and a new Wawa convenience store. The renovations to the former train station buildings and the new Princeton Station and Wawa were designed by architect Rick Joy. The complex is surrounded by a park-like setting with extensive landscaped plazas, pathways and green spaces.

The University recently announced that internationally acclaimed artist Maya Lin has been commissioned to create work for the grounds adjacent to the new arts complex. Lin is a 2016 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and first achieved national recognition for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Arts Festival

Following are some highlights of the Festival with the full schedule and information about tickets available at Those interested in receiving email updates on the Festival schedule can sign up on the website.

amal kassir headshot

Poet Amal Kassir, a Syrian-American international spoken word artist, is one of 12 poets from around the world to be featured at the Princeton Poetry Festival. Photo courtesy of the artist.

The Festival weekend will open on Thursday, October 5 with the biennial Princeton Poetry Festival in the Berlind Theatre at McCarter Theatre Center, presented by the Lewis Center’s Performance Central. This unique poetry festival, starting at 12:00 p.m., will showcase poets from Canada, China, Cuba, Iceland, Macedonia, Northern Ireland, the Netherlands, Serbia, and the U.S. in a series of readings and panel discussions organized by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Princeton faculty member, and founding chair of the Lewis Center, Paul Muldoon. The Poetry Festival continues on October 6.

ensemble Barokksolistene playing

Norwegian Baroque ensemble Barokksolistene will be among the artists featured at the Festival. Photo by Tor Brødreskift

Princeton University Concerts opens its PUC125: Performances Up Close series with two performances by the Norwegian Baroque ensemble Barokksolistene under director Bjarte Eike on October 5. This series brings audience members on-stage with the artists in hour-long intimate performances. This “Double Deal” program offers an evening of theater and court music by Henry Purcell and his contemporaries at 6 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium. At 9:30 p.m. in the Forum, Barokksolistene presents an “Alehouse Session” as the space is transformed into a 17th-century English pub complete with beer and snacks, and the performance of popular drinking tunes of the time.

Premiering on Friday evening is a specially commissioned multimedia Fanfare Wave. This new work features original music performed on specially-made electronic instruments conceived by Department of Music faculty member Jeff Snyder and performed by the Princeton Laptop Orchestra (PLOrk), the Princeton University Brass Ensemble, Sō Percussion, the Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton, and the Brooklyn-based TILT Brass ensemble, combined with kinetic lighting, wave robotics, and rigging all interacting with the buildings’ architecture. Tony Award-winning lighting designer and Director of the Program in Theater Jane Cox and Assistant Professor in Princeton’s School of Architecture Axel Kilian are collaborating on the project with Snyder. The event will be repeated on Saturday evening.

On Friday afternoon, noted biographer and Princeton alumnus A. Scott Berg ’71 and author and editor Anne Margaret Daniel *99, who received her Ph.D. from Princeton, discuss recent work in print and on screen showcasing the legacy of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Princeton Class of 1917, in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street. Berg is a consulting producer on the Amazon Original Series, The Last Tycoon, and Daniel is editor of the recently published edition of Fitzgerald’s “lost stories.” 

playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

Two-time Obie Award-winning playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, whose new play Gurls, a contemporary adaptation of Euripides’ The Bacchae, will have its world premiere at the Festival of the Arts at Princeton. Photo courtesy of the MacArthur Foundation

On October 6, Gurls, a new riff on Euripides’ The Bacchae, by Obie Award-winning playwright and Princeton alumnus Branden Jacobs-Jenkins ’06, will have its world premiere to inaugurate the new Wallace Theater. Commissioned by the Lewis Center’s Program in Theater through the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Playwright-in-Residence Fund, the new play places this classic of the Greek stage in a contemporary setting – complete with a DJ, dance music, cell phones and live feed video. It will be directed by another Princeton alumnus and Obie Award-winner, Lileana Blain-Cruz ‘06. While the opening weekend performances of Gurls are currently sold out, a standby line will be formed 30 minutes prior to start time. Gurls continues the following weekend on October 12, 13 and 14.

Belgium-based Rosas dance company performing A Love Supreme

Belgium-based Rosas dance company performing A Love Supreme, an evening-length dance work by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis set to music by John Coltrane. Photo courtesy of Rosas dance company

Also on October 6, the Lewis Center’s Program in Dance will inaugurate the new Hearst Dance Theater with a performance of A Love Supreme.  This evening-length work by internationally acclaimed choreographers Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Salva Sanchis is set to music by John Coltrane and performed by the Belgium-based Rosas dance company. Performances of A Love Supreme continue on October 7 and 8. In the event performances are sold out prior to show dates, a standby line will be formed 30 minutes prior to start time.

steven mackey playing guitar

Grammy Award-winning composer and Princeton Professor of Music Steve Mackey, whose opera for electric guitar, Orpheus Unsung, with production concept and direction by Mark DeChiazza, will be performed at the festival. Photo by Kah Leong Poon

On October 6 and 7, the Department of Music will present Orpheus Unsung in the Marie and Edward Matthews ’53 Acting Studio at 185 Nassau Street. This opera for electric guitar is composed by Grammy Award-winner and Department of Music Professor of Composition Steven Mackey in a production conceived and directed by Mark DeChiazza, and in collaboration with Jason Treuting of Sō Percussion. In this wordless opera, the Orpheus myth is shattered and re-made within a space that fragments story and identity.

Running Friday and throughout the weekend, theater artist Aaron Landsman and historian Alison Isenberg will present Walking Histories: Race and Protest at Princeton and in Trenton. This series of pointed, inquisitive and playful performance walks, created in collaboration with Princeton students, examines how issues of race and protest, in Trenton and on campus, are imprinted on Princeton’s buildings and grounds.

Beginning on Friday night and continuing throughout the weekend, the Forum will be the site for Theater for One, an innovative, mobile venue created by Tony Award-winning designer Christine Jones and developed when she taught a Princeton Atelier course at the University. It pairs one professional actor and one audience member for the performance of a short play in an intimate booth. The series of original plays to be performed will include several created in a collaboration between Theater for One and students in a spring semester intermediate playwriting course led by playwrights Naomi Iizuka and Lauren Yee. Princeton alumnus Noah Haidle ’01 and McCarter Theatre Artistic Director Emily Mann have also written plays commissioned by Theatre for One for the occasion.

dancer and drummer onstage

Photo courtesy Baker and Tarpaga Dance Project

On Friday at 8:30 p.m. the Lewis Center and Department of Music will co-present Declassified Memory Fragment, Baker and Tarpaga Dance Project’s 2015 dance theater work with live music inspired by ideas and themes centered on memory, history, and images of political and cultural realities affecting the continent of Africa.

Friday will also include a preview of the flexible, variable acoustics of the Lee Music Performance and Rehearsal Room in the New Music Building with an open rehearsal by the Princeton University Orchestra and an informal performance by the Program in Jazz’s Creative Large Ensemble, directed by Grammy-nominated Darcy James Argue.

Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8, will be the busiest days of the Festival and will serve as a festive open house with a wide variety of events planned to activate all the spaces at the Lewis Arts complex and venues across the campus.

Throughout Saturday, the Department of Music invites guests on an ArtWalk with Sō Percussion, which has commissioned Princeton alumni composers Seth Cluett, Quinn Collins, Lainie Fefferman, Judd Greenstein, Anne Hege, and Kate Neal to create works responding to outdoor public sculptures all across the University campus by Ursula von Rydingsvard, Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, Henry Moore, Tony Smith, and Doug and Mike Starn. This mobile event combines visual art and music for a multi-sensory experience.

The Department of Music will also present a Musicircus throughout the new Lewis Arts complex.  Originally conceived by composer John Cage, the Musicircus invites a diverse group of musicians to come together and simultaneously perform any music they choose to create an anarchic community piece.

Saturday’s events will also feature a Carillon Concert. Boasting one of the largest carillons in the world with 67 bells and a bourdon (G) weighing 12,880 pounds, The Class of 1892 Bells will be performed by University carillonneur Lisa J. Lonie, who will join the Princeton Laptop Orchestra and additional musicians in a special outdoor, site-specific performance at the Graduate College featuring new works written for this remarkable architectural instrument by Princeton composers Bora Yoon, Chris Douthitt, Matt McBane, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Molly Herron, and others.

The evening will include an eclectic concert by the Department of Music entitled “Princeton Music Mashup” that will feature several of the Department’s music ensembles such as the Princeton University Orchestra, the University Glee Club, Jazz Ensembles, Richardson Chamber Players, as well as alumni including the Carpenter siblings, and others in an hour of continuous music ranging from Bartók to Bernstein emanating from all corners of Richardson Auditorium.

On Sunday, in addition to continued performances of Gurls, A Love Supreme, and Theater for One, events will include a work-in-progress reading of Song of Rome by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson, based on Virgil’s Aeneid and commissioned and supported by Princeton’s Humanities Council and the McCarter Theater. Princeton Sound Kitchen will present a contemporary music installation through the Lewis Arts complex in which audiences can experience an eclectic series of original compositions, staged in various locations by graduate student and faculty composers from the Department of Music’s renowned composition program. Also on the schedule is a work-in-progress presentation of a new adaptation of The Beggar’s Opera under development by Fiasco Theater. This classic piece of musical theater from 1728 is being brought to life for contemporary audiences, a process Fiasco shared with Princeton students in a spring semester Princeton Atelier course.

jim lee

Photo courtesy Jim Lee

Also on Sunday, alumnus Jim Lee ’86, world-renowned comic book artist, writer, editor and publisher of DC Entertainment (Batman, Justice League, Superman Unchained), will discuss his 30-year career in the comics industry and sketch favorite characters in the James M. Stewart ’32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street.

Douglas Gordon’s 1993 art installation 24 Hour Psycho inaugurates the new Hurley Gallery in the arts complex. The work consists entirely of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic yet disturbingly violent and controversial 1960 film Psycho slowed down to approximately two frames per second and exhibited as an object in space. As a result, a full viewing of the film lasts exactly 24 hours. This installation marks the 24th anniversary of the artwork, which will be screened continuously for 24 days, beginning September 29 through October 22. The installation was important to Gordon’s early career and is noted for introducing themes common to his work, such as recognition and repetition, time and memory, complicity and duplicity, authorship and authenticity, darkness and light.

The Lewis Center’s Program in Visual Arts will present House of VIS, a group exhibition of recent work by juniors and seniors in the program, curated by faculty member Jeff Whetstone and opening September 25. The show will be on view in the Lucas Gallery at 185 Nassau Street, with a reception on October 4 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m., and run through October 22.

Throughout the weekend an exhibition by Steven Holl Architects on the design and development of the complex will also be on view in the CoLab. The exhibition opens on September 15 and runs through November 1. On the Thursday afternoon of the festival at 4:30 p.m. in McCosh 10, University architect Ron McCoy; American architectural critic and educator, and contributing editor for Vanity Fair magazine, Paul Goldberger; and Princeton University Art Museum director James Steward will discuss the architecture of Steven Holl, including its relationship to contemporary design, its meaning, and its potential for shaping and reshaping the experiences of diverse users.

During the weekend, performances of McCarter Theater Center’s collaborative production of A Red Orchid Theatre’s Simpatico by Sam Shepard continues, following its opening on September 8. Two Princeton University Art Museum exhibitions will also be on view during the festival. Transient Effects: The Solar Eclipses and Celestial Landscapes of Howard Russell Butler and Clarence White and His World.

dyane harvey leads african dance class

Festival participants will have an opportunity to participate in a number of activities including an African dance master class with faculty member Dyane Harvey-Salaam. Photo by Crystal Liu

Other events planned for the weekend include a Jazz Jam session in which all campus and community members are invited to join celebrated saxophonist and Program in Jazz Director Rudresh Mahanthappa and students from the University Jazz Program; a site-specific generative sound installation in the Princeton Chapel, Of Matter and Mass, a spatial acoustic sound installation by graduate student Bora Yoon, featuring the sounds of nature and music reflecting the Liturgy of the Hours in the changing light and color of this sacred space; TouchTones, an original, adult-themed theatrical presentation by Program in Theater faculty member Brian Herrera; community dance master classes; open dance rehearsals; a community reading of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy for piano, vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra, welcoming musicians of all ages and levels; L’Avant Scéne, Princeton’s French-language student theater company, in scenes from a new translation of Phèdre; and dozens of other events currently being created by Princeton faculty, guest artists, students and staff.

The Festival is presented by Princeton’s Department of Music and the Lewis Center for the Arts and is produced by Mara Isaacs of Octopus Theatricals.

The most up-to-date listing of Festival events is available at

To learn more about the Lewis Center for the Arts and the more than 100 public theater and dance performances, exhibitions, readings, screenings, concerts and lectures presented each year by the Lewis Center, most of them free, visit: To learn more about the Department of Music’s renowned music programs and ensembles, and to experience its diverse range of concerts and lectures by accomplished students, award-winning faculty and celebrated guest artists, visit

Additional Media Coverage

Princeton University opens Lewis Arts Complex” — by Ilene Dube, for WHYY Newsworks

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