World Premieres and Crosstown Collaborations Among Highlights of UH Mitchell Center for the Arts’ 2008-2009 Season

During its 2008-2009 season of events, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts will continue to bring adventurous creative talents to the city and deliver unique, provocative and cross-disciplinary programming. The center will explore major themes such as the investigation of classic works in contemporary contexts, revisiting romanticism and creative ways of approaching sustainability.

Among the season's highlights is the debut of "Lightning at our feet" on Oct. 29. Commissioned by the Mitchell Center with additional support from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), this striking new multimedia production sets Emily Dickinson's writings to an original music score and ethereal film projections. It also reunites noted composer Michael Gordon, co-founder of contemporary music collective Bang on a Can, with the creative forces of New York's Ridge Theater. The production will run for three nights in the UH Wortham Theatre before hitting the East Coast for the prestigious BAM Next Wave Festival.

"Lightning at our feet' is the Mitchell Center's biggest commission yet, and we are thrilled to host its world premiere," said Karen Farber, director of the Mitchell Center. "Houston audiences will be the first to witness this contemporary exploration of Emily Dickinson's life and work."

A series of events will surround the premiere of "Lightning" including an evening of Dickinson-influenced contemporary poetry readings organized by award-winning poet Mark Doty and co-presented by Inprint and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Also, Aurora Picture Show will screen films by Ridge Theater member Bill Morrison.

Another theme of the 2008-2009 season is "Damaged Romanticism," the title of a major fall exhibition at Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston. The Mitchell Center has developed a range of music and poetry events that expands on the exhibition's notion of traditional romanticism being tempered by contemporary life. Sarah Rothenberg, distinguished pianist and artistic director of Da Camera of Houston, will serve as the Mitchell Center's artist-in-residence throughout the fall, spearheading programs related to the theme. "Damaged Romanticism" includes two major concerts co-presented by Da Camera and the Mitchell Center.

The Mitchell Center will also co-present a new exhibition of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) next spring at Blaffer Gallery. Focused on the Texas oil industry, the exhibit will serve as a culmination of CLUI's residency with the Mitchell Center, which began in January 2008. Concurrent with the exhibition will be a range of public events including tours of Houston's Buffalo Bayou and a major symposium focused on the intersections between sustainability and the arts.

The Center's 2008 - 2009 schedule of events is as follows:

  • World premiere performance: "Lightning at our feet," 8 p.m., Oct. 29 - 30, Nov. 1
    A "song cycle" of poems and letters by Emily Dickinson, this large scale, cutting-edge production will feature films by Bill Morrison and music by Michael Gordon, under the auspices of the Ridge Theater.
    Additional related events are as follows:
    Oct. 22 - Dickinson-influenced readings by Mark Doty with guests Susan Howe and Alice Fulton
    Oct. 24 - Short Films by Bill Morrison, Aurora Picture Show
    Oct. 25 - Screening of "Decasia" by Bill Morrison and Michael Gordon, followed by an artist talk, Museum of Fine Arts Houston
  • Events: "Damaged Romanticism"
    Damaged Romanticism is a theme under which multiple activities will take place, all relating to the exhibition.
    Sept. 13-Nov. 15 - "Damaged Romanticism: A Mirror of Modern Emotion," Blaffer Gallery Raw emotions drive this exhibition featuring paintings, photography, sculpture and installations from 15 internationally acclaimed artists. All works are linked by their visual representations of how in the face of the disillusionment and failures of modern life, romanticism has been replaced by defiant optimism or "damaged romanticism."
    Sept. 25-27 - "Damaged Romanticism: Joan Tower" - A music festival featuring the composer along with guest pianist Melvin Chen presented at Dudley Recital Hall and Moores Opera House, UH
    Oct. 18 - "Epigraph for a Condemned Book" by Sarah Rothenberg, co-presented by the Mitchell Center and Da Camera of Houston presented at Cullen Theater at Wortham Center
    Nov. 8 - "Damaged Romanticism," a concert of virtuoso musicians featuring music related to the theme.
    This event is co-presented by the Mitchell Center and Da Camera of Houston, Moores Opera House
  • Exhibition: "Texas Oil: Landscape of an Industry," Jan. 17 - March 28
    Organized by the Blaffer Gallery in collaboration with the Mitchell Center, "Texas Oil," will showcase documentation, text and objects focused on 50 Texas sites that offer insight on how the oil industry has sculpted the terrain of the Lone Star State. The exhibition will be organized according to "upstream" and "downstream" functions of the oil industry, terms used to designate the phases of production before and after refining. An array of major public events is being planned in conjunction with "Texas Oil" including tours of Buffalo Bayou and a film series about oil.
  • Symposium: "Systems of Sustainability," March 27 - 29
    This three-day event at UH will explore the role of creativity in addressing sustainability, one of society's most pressing issues. Featured speakers and performers will include prominent artists, scientists, business leaders, activists and scholars. Part arts festival, part symposium, "Systems of Sustainability" will include performances, presentations and special events that offer creative and innovative responses to global change.

About the Center
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts cultivates interdisciplinary collaboration in the performing, visual and literary arts. From its base at the University of Houston, the center offers public events, residencies, and courses that fuse artistic disciplines, ignite dialogue, and present new ways of experiencing the arts in contemporary life. The Mitchell Center forms an alliance among five units at the University of Houston: The School of Art; Creative Writing Program, Moores School of Music, School of Theatre and Dance; and Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston. For more information about the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston, visit

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research, and service with more than 35,000 students.