The Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia may not be the first place we think of when we talk about world culture, but one program is attempting to change that. The Performing Arts Series at Shepherd University brings acts from across the globe to the Eastern Panhandle. I had an opportunity to talk with Racheal Meads, the Director of Student Activities at Shepherd University, about the importance of the Performing Arts Series at Shepherd University (PASS) and how it can positively impact our community.
The mission of the Performing Arts Series at Shepherd University is to feature a high quality and diverse array of artists while providing educational opportunities in the process. Rachel Meads said of the PASS events, “Communities where you do not have a healthy, thriving learning and cultural environment often do not have people wanting to live there.”
Rachael was enthusiastic about the impact of the PASS events on the community as a whole:
PASS is a great cultural resource for learning. It is also a good economic driver. People come to see and experience these performances. They stay in hotels and attend the restaurants. We also have an outreach program for schools and each have an educational component. They are geared for elementary levels because there is not a lot of funding in this area.
Shepherd itself is a regional center…we have extremely limited theaters and arts centers [in the region]. Most that we do have are bringing in local and community. Very few sites have the capacity for national and professional events. If we do not offer those opportunities, then they will not be available. There is not another site that could have supported the Tamburitzans. They do not have the technical capacity or equipment.
She also discussed the importance of events such as the Appalachian Heritage Festival that happens in the fall and the Appalachian Studies Association Showcase Concert happening in March of 2016. “I want kids to have a sense of identity and pride; see themselves reflected in a positive way on stage and in the community.”
After the showcase concert, the last event for the year will be the Teatro Hugo E Ines. From Shepherd’s PASS website:
“Peruvian puppeteers Hugo and Ines create characters through imaginative use of knees, feet, elbows, and props. In Short Stories, using an amazing mix of mime, dance and puppetry, the characters of Teatro Hugo e Ines play out the poetic moments of daily life.”
Rachael shared excitement when describing the events they are lining up for the next year. “We will have a circus arts company from Australia as well as the Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars. Our events focus on diverse populations and exposure [so that] we do not compete with the local and community arts centers.”
The cost of the events are affordable at $15 general admission; $10 senior citizens/Shepherd staff; $5 for kids under 18. Free to Shepherd students with valid Rambler.
Learn more about the Performing Arts Series at Shepherd University on their website.
The Duquesne University Tamburitzans performed at The Shepherd University Frank Arts Center on February 20, 2016. The audience filled the auditorium and represented community members from all age groups. The mission statement of the Tamburitzans is dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the cultural heritages of Eastern Europe and its neighbors through performance, while awarding scholarships to talented and deserving student performers. During the performance, the audience received education on the cultural heritages, rituals, and artistic expressions from the countries of Croatia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine, and Latin regions. The ensemble is comprised of full time students from Duquesne University. The students participated in all aspects of the show, wearing cultural appropriate clothing, partaking in cultural dances, and playing authentic songs from their respective regions.
The stage show was incredible and nothing I had ever seen before in my life. In between the set changes, information was shared about the rich cultural history of each region through video and audio recordings. There was casting call information available in the foyer for students interested in joining the ensemble. I look forward to the day that I can see this show again and will keep an eye on their tour schedule.
Visit their site to learn more about The Tamburitzans.
To book the Tamburitzans, you can visit River City Artist Management.