Zeiterion offers rich schedule for new season; membership more than triples

Photo by Frank C. Grace

By Robert Barboza, Hathaway News Service

NEW BEDFORD — All across the South Coast for the past week, people have been wondering about the mysterious roadside signs suggesting… It begins with a ticket. Today, the secret is officially out— the magic of a fantastic new season of high-quality performing arts begins when you buy a ticket to the Z.

This week, the black and white signs are sprouting bright red stickers urging motorists to check out www.zeiterion.org on the web to find out the complete details of the new season starting Saturday, Oct. 9, with beloved comedienne Lily Tomlin.

The list of performers includes internationally-known standouts in music, drama, dance- musicians such as jazz giants Wynton Marsalis and Chris Botti, and productions as diverse as the antics of the New Shangai Circus to actor Christopher Lloyd’s headlining of the classic drama, Death of a Salesman. The schedule also features famed fado singer Ana Vinagre performing in a new backstage cafe, classical guitar giant Odair Assad playing at a New Bedford church, a performance by the Ballet Grand Prix, and a strolling mariachi band at a neighborhood block party.

“We truly have something for everybody… and it all begins with a ticket, a ticket to the Z,” arts center Executive Director Katherine Knowles said at last week’s press conference previewing the new schedule.

The ticket is the key to “laughter, inspiration, great music, spectacular dance, and great American theater,” Ms. Knowles said in her recently-mailed sneak preview to members.

“There’s some new things we’re trying, such as the community block parties,” featuring an eclectic offering of mariachi, Cuban and New Orleans funk under a big tent in the street, she noted. “It’s good time music, with special food from that culture before the show, and dancing to good music to follow,” she said.

A classical concert series is offered in the sanctuary of the First Unitarian Church in the city, and on stage in the historic downtown theater will be the spectacular rare local appearances of the flamboyent Dance Cuba company, blues legends Hubert Sumlin and “Honeyboy” Edwards, a St. Patrick’s Day visit by WGBH’s Celtic Sojourn, doo-wop and big band groups, the always-entertaining Pirates of Penzance and A Christmas Carol.

Not to mention American humorist Garrison Keillor, the Imago Theatre’s ZooZoo for the young audience, the U.S. Air Force Band’s free Liberty Show concert… the list goes on and on, ending with folk music greats Richie Havens and Dar Williams next May 21.

And it all begins with a ticket. Get yours online at www.zeiterion.org, where you can also find information on memberships to the non-profit organization starting at $25 per year, corporate sponsorships, and the Z’s growing number educational programs.

Thirty-five percent of the organization’s budget comes from fund-raising, as ticket sales rarely cover artist’s fees, so widespread community support is critical to the effort to help make the city a performance arts mecca, Ms. Knowles said.
“We’re here to serve a region, and we can compete with anyone in New England in terms of the high quality of the talent we’re offering,” Ms. Knowles suggested.

“You don’t have to go to Boston anymore,” she added, just a few days after acclaimed cellist Yo Yo Ma’s performance. “We’re here, in New Bedford, with a breakthrough season. There’s more huge names than ever on the new schedule,” she is happy to report.

And the magic of live entertainment, a glittering theater, international talent? “It all begins with a ticket,” she insists, time and again.

View the 2010/11 brochure at http://issuu.com/929mediumstudio/docs/web_brochure?mode=embed&layout=http%3A

August 19, 2010 12:57 PM

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Mystery ads’ aim is to pique interest in ‘Z’
By Don Cuddy

NEW BEDFORD — The signs sprouted across Southeastern Massachusetts overnight. On roadsides from Seekonk to Marion and as far north as Lakeville, they all bore the same cryptic message: “It begins with a ticket.”

The next day, phones began to ring in New Bedford City Hall. The harbormaster in Dartmouth even fielded calls from people asking what it meant. Nobody knew. But it started people talking and that was the goal, said Katherine Knowles, executive director at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, which this week unveils its program for the 2010-11 season at the downtown New Bedford venue.

“It was really fun. The idea was to create a sense of anticipation,” she said of the thousands of signs that ‘Z’ board members, workers and supporters planted on SouthCoast highways and buildings. “When we were coming up with ideas to announce the new season, we asked ourselves what it is that happens when you walk in the door of the theater. It’s the excitement of waiting for that moment when the lights go down.

“Johnny Neiman, our superintendent, remembers when he was little his mother gave him a ticket to the ‘Z’ and it was so precious to him that he didn’t want to let the ticket-taker tear it in half,” Knowles said. “We wanted to do something to create a similar sense of anticipation in the community for our upcoming season.”

The campaign was also tailored to reach the growing number of people who have become inured to more conventional forms of advertising, Knowles said. Bombarded nonstop with images and information, people are tuning out, she said. “I attended a conference on arts fundraising and they were saying people don’t browse the Internet anymore. They just go to specific sites. … That people are leaving Facebook. Now it’s come full circle, where it’s about people talking directly to other people, like texting.”

The signs also offered a relatively inexpensive way to reach people who were not paying attention to mainstream media.
Having just completed five years at the helm of the theater, Knowles acknoledged that it has not become any easier to confront the challenges she faces every day.

“After the first two years, we were in a place I thought it would take us five years to reach, because the community response was so wonderful. But the last 18 months have been horrible because of the economy. It’s the same for everyone else, so why should we be different?” Layoffs have reduced the staff handling programming, marketing and finance to just four people, she said.

“However, I am proud of what we’ve accomplished,” she said. Membership has risen from 400 to 1,300.

Some 75,000 people attended shows last year. And if you include the Festival Theater and the symphony, 110,000 people walked through the doors last season. The theater has gone from 14 shows to 60, including its school programs, Knowles said.

“Our work with schools is largely invisible but it’s about 50 percent of what we do.

“We also attract a lot of our audience from outside the area, and I think we have done a lot to alter their perception of New Bedford.”

The new season opens Oct. 9 with a show by Lily Tomlin. An overview of the upcoming season will appear in the Arts & Entertainment section of Saturday’s Standard-Times and on SouthCoastToday.com.

August 17, 2010 12:00 AM

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