For 29 years, the Columbia Festival of the Arts has brought together dance, music and theater a couple of weekends each summer, hoping to bring attention to the Maryland city and its growing arts scene.
Last year, the powers-that-be decided to change up the format and instead of holding the event strictly in summer, scheduled four festivals throughout the year, representing each season. Its first-ever Fall Festival will be held this weekend, Oct. 2-4, with the theme of “British Invasion.”
“I came on board when this whole strategic plan to break out of the mold was beginning and last year was our transitional year so now we’re doing these seasonal and everyone is looking forward to our first Fall Festival,” Todd Olson, the festival’s executive director, says. “We chose British Invasion because it was a theme that was fun for us. The people in Howard County have a great cultural curiosity and we expect a great turnout.”
Over three days, more than a dozen music, opera, and comedy events will take place at multiple venues around Columbia, and there’s plenty of plays to attract theater lovers.
Example? Gerald Dickens, the great-great grandson of Charles Dickens, will present a one-man show of Great Expectations, performing every character from the literary masterpiece himself. A show at 10 a.m. on Oct. 2 at the Slayton House Theatre is designed for students, while the 7 p.m. show is open to all.
“I love Great Expectations and the book happens to be on the reading list at Howard County Public Schools, so we thought this was a great opportunity for our area students,” Olson says. “My wife had originally seen this guy years ago doing A Christmas Carol, and we were excited to learn he did a great deal of his great-great grandfather’s work.”
On Oct. 3, the New York City-based Neo-Futurists present Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at the Slayton House Theatre beginning at 7:45 p.m., with the goal of performing 30 plays in just one hour’s time.
“They are sort of a cross between Saturday Night Live and experimental theater, and they literally perform 30 shows in 60 minutes, written and ripped from the headlines,” Olson says. “The names of the plays are strung across the stage on a big clothesline and the audience shouts out what number of play to do next. Only in that moment do the actors on stage know what’s coming next.”
A staged reading of 41 N 50 W, Robert Neal Marshall’s original play about the the events that transpired immediately after the Titnaic sank near her last reported position of 41 North 50 West, will be held at noon at the Rouse Company Foundation Student Services Hall at HCC.
The title is “the exact longitude and latitude of where the Titanic went down and is based on the hearings of the Titanic that happened after the sinking,” says Olson, who is directing the reading. “It covers a lot of new material and direct testimonies from witnesses and survivors, including those who raced to help The Titanic.”
At 2 p.m. on Oct. 4 at the Rouse Company Foundation Student Services Hall at HCC, the first-ever reading of Columbia Voices will be performed.
“Last year we commissioned a play from Silver Spring playwright Gwydion Suilebhan and he is writing about the founding of Columbia, which in 2017 will be celebrating its 50th anniversary,” Olson says. “We are going to present scenes in progress and have a talk back with people from Columbia afterwards—many of whom were here when it was founded. And maybe some of that conversation will wind up in the next iteration of this play.”
There is definitely more to enjoy such as an opera from Hub Opera Ensemble, music of the Beatles and afternoon high teas. Details and tickets.