By Hugh Garbrick
The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center was alive Friday and Saturday night with visitors going to performances at the NextNOW Fest, which exposed students and members of this university to a world of creative expression.
Through the doors of The Clarice, the Grand Pavilion Stage was immediately visible because of its lights and sounds during a performance. On both sides and behind the Grand Pavilion there were separate halls, theaters and studios with distinct performances going on like The Soul Rebels, The Districts and CupcakKe.
Megan Pagado Wells, one of the organizers of NextNOW, said that one of the goals of the event is to foster the creation of community for new and returning students.
“I think we could frame the mission in a lot of different ways, but for me it’s all about building and creating community through art,” Wells said.
Organizing NextNOW requires extensive planning and a team of dedicated workers which consists of The Clarice staff and student curators.
“The staff of The Clarice is about 50 people and that’s across everything from finance management to production to marketing and creative guest experiences,” Wells said. “In addition to that, we have students who work with us in all of those areas.”
In total, Wells estimated the number of people needed to make NextNOW work is between 150 and 200 people.
On Friday, about 30 minutes before NextNOW was scheduled to begin, a storm arrived and unloaded an outburst of rain accompanied by lightning, causing the outside events to be cancelled, a first for NextNOW.
During the storm, Wells said, NextNOW staff coordinated with UMPD to have The Clarice function as an “evacuation site” for the soccer game scheduled for that evening, which was cancelled because of the storm.
One group that performed at NextNOW was The Soul Rebels, a band from New Orleans made up of two trumpeters, two trombonists, two drummers, one saxophonist and one sousaphonist.
Paul Robertson, a trombone player for The Soul Rebels, said that the group covers a range of genres from jazz, hip-hop, reggae and rock. According to Robertson, he and The Soul Rebels have traveled the world twice, visiting many countries and performing with acts such as Metallica, Green Day, Nas and Marilyn Manson.
“Just experiences that we are just blessed with,” said Robertson of his experiences with The Soul Rebels.
NextNOW also gave visitors a chance to open their eyes to new perspectives with nonmusical performances like the Human Library. Readers at the Human Library got the chance to check out human books, or in other words, participants got to talk to people from different backgrounds.
A few of the available human books were “But You Don’t Look Sick,” “Being Bi-Racial Down Under” and “Living with Palsy.”
NextNOW wrapped up with the silent disco on Saturday night, which was an event where listeners wore headphones, which blasted music, and danced in front of the Grand Pavilion stage. To an outside observer without headphones, the silent disco looked like a dance party without music.
Diamond Fisher, a senior theater major, is a fan of the silent disco. It was her fourth time attending.
“I mostly came for the crafts, the music, the silent disco and last night CupcakKe,” Fisher said. CupcakKe is a rapper from Chicago who performed on Friday in the Kay Theatre during NextNOW.
Coming away from NextNOW, Wells said, “I hope that people step out of their comfort zone and try to experience a kind of art that they haven’t experienced before. The festival has a really eclectic lineup and that’s intentional because we want this to be kind of a creative playground where they can test out a lot of different things.”