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VIRTUAL STAGE

The Staller Center for the Arts remains closed for in-person events.  We remain innovative in developing engaging films, performances, and educational content for you to enjoy virtually. As soon as it is prudent, we will reopen safely for our patrons and artists who yearn for live performances and the arts. Until then, please enjoy this monthly content from our Virtual Stage.

This month, we are proud to celebrate Women's History Month by recognizing and remembering some of our iconic and captivating performers that have visited the Staller Center in the past.

Be sure to check out our other virtual content:
Spring Films Series     Outreach Programming  Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery  Stony Brook Music Performances 

 


 

Audra McDonald

Audra McDonald is unparalleled in the breadth and versatility of her artistry as both a singer and an actor. The winner of a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award, in 2015 she was named one of   Time  magazine’s 100 most influential people and received a National Medal of Arts—America’s highest honor for achievement in the field—from President Barack Obama. Blessed with a luminous soprano and an incomparable gift for dramatic truth-telling, she is as much at home on Broadway and the opera stage as in her film and television roles. Alongside her theatrical work, she maintains a major career as a concert and recording artist, regularly appearing at the world’s foremost venues.

McDonald’s other theater accolades include five Drama Desk Awards, five Outer Critics Circle Awards, an Ovation Award, a Theatre World Award, Roundabout Theatre’s Jason Robards Award for Excellence in Theatre, a Rockefeller Award for Creativity, the Casting Society of America’s 2020 Marion Dougherty New York Apple Award and the Drama League’s 2012 Distinguished Performance and 2000 Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Awards. Besides her six Tony wins, she received nominations for her performances in   Marie Christine   and   110 in the Shade, eight NAACP Image Award nominations, and an Olivier Award nomination from her West End debut in   Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.

As one of today’s key cultural figures, in 2017 McDonald was inducted into Lincoln Center’s Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class, which also included Louis Armstrong, Yo-Yo Ma, Leontyne Price and Harold Prince. In 2014 she was named   Musical America’s “Musician of the Year,” a title previously bestowed on such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein and Beverly Sills. 

In June 2020, Audra McDonald and a coalition of professionals from across the theatre industry launched Black Theatre United, an organization whose mission is to inspire reform and combat systemic racism within the theatre community and throughout the nation. Emphasizing four goals—awareness, accountability, advocacy, and action—BTU works at the community and national levels to elevate anti-racist causes and support the Black community through various resources and initiatives. 

The illustrious performer last visited the Staller Center in April of 2018, closing her performance with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." A SB Statesman article noted: "After a second standing ovation, Maryellen Lubinsky, 67, of East Setauket tried to figure out the best part of the concert. 'How can you just choose a favorite part when it was all so good?' she said."

She also performed at the Staller Center in 2013 and 2007. 

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SUTTON FOSTER

One year ago, when concerts and live music was something many of us took for granted, Sutton Foster graced the Staller stage with Kelli O'Hara for the Staller Center's 2020 Gala. This was an unforgettable evening, starring a dynamic duo that came together for the first time ever, and it all happened on the Staller Center stage. 

In December 2021, Foster will co-star alongside Hugh Jackman in The Musicman on Broadway.

Sutton Foster is an award-winning actor, singer and dancer who has performed in 11 Broadway shows – most recently the revival of Violet – and originated roles in the Broadway productions of The Drowsy Chaperone, Little Women, Young Frankenstein, Shrek The Musical, and her Tony Award-winning performances in Anything Goes and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

She was first seen on television on Star Search at age 15, and has more recently appeared in   Bunheads , Psych, Johnny and the Sprites, Flight of the Conchords, Sesame Street, Law and Order SVU and Royal Pains.

As a solo artist, Sutton has performed all over the country as well as internationally with her musical director Michael Rafter… featuring songs from her debut solo CD “ Wish ” as well as her follow up CD, “ An Evening With Sutton Foster: Live at the Cafe Carlyle. ” She has graced the stages of Carnegie Hall, Feinstein’s, Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series, Joe’s Pub and many others.

In 2011 she received an Honorary Doctorate degree from Ball State University where she also is on faculty as a teacher and advisor to the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Since March 2015, she stars in TVLand’s new series, “ Younger ” created by Darren Star.

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Kelli O'Hara

It was a full house for the 2020 Staller Center Gala on March 7. Tony award-winner  Kelli O'Hara  took the stage first, saying, "No one drank out of my cup, right?" O'Hara asked. "Thank you all for coming out tonight. This may be our last gathering." At the time, it wasn't easy to believe that we would not host another live performance for over a year. But on March 7, the crowd laughed, and the night went on with jokes, touching moments, and unparalleled singing.

O'Hara opened the Gala evening with an audience favorite, " They Don't Let You in the Opera. " The song tells of her start as a country girl who dreamed of becoming an opera star. She closed her solo performance with "La Vie En Rose." 

Sutton Foster joined O'Hara on stager, and together they performed for the first time on the same bill. Starting their shared time with " Sing, Sing a Song " by the Carpenters. They both had smiles on their faces and were openly thrilled about performing together for the first time. The audience enjoyed the performance just as much as the duo did. 

Foster took over the second half of the performance. Foster's facial expressions animated her performance. She thanked everyone for coming, "This is the first time I had a chance to perform with the amazing Kelli O'Hara, and this was thanks to the efforts of the Staller Center [for the Arts]." 

Stage and screen star Kelli O’Hara has established herself as one of Broadway’s greatest leading ladies. Her portrayal of Anna Leonowens in  The King and I  garnered her the 2015 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, along with Grammy, Drama League, Outer

Critics, and Oliver nominations. She reprised the role while making her  West End  debut, and performed a limited engagement at Tokyo’s Orb Theatre.

Kelli also received an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Katie Bonner in the hit web series  The Accidental Wolf . Other film and television credits include the second season of Netflix’s  13 Reasons Why All The Bright Places, Peter Pan Live!, Sex & The City 2 , Martin Scorsese’s  The Key to Reserva , Showtime’s  Masters of Sex , CBS All Access’  The Good Fight Blue Bloods, N3mbers , and the animated series  Car Talk

Other Broadway credits include  Kiss Me Kate  (Tony, Drama League, OCC nominations),  The Bridges of Madison County  (Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, OCC nominations),  Nice Work If You Can Get I t (Tony, Drama Desk, Drama League, OCC nominations),  South Pacific  (Tony, Drama Desk, OCC nominations),  The Pajama Game  (Tony, Drama Desk, OCC nominations),  The Light in the Piazza  (Tony, Drama Desk nominations),  Sweet Smell of Success, Follies, Dracula, and Jekyll & Hyde . She was awarded the prestigious Drama League’s Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre Award in 2019.

In 2015, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in Lehár’s  The Merry Widow  and returned as Despina in Mozart’s  Così fan tutte . Her concerts have gained international acclaim, spanning from Carnegie Hall to Tokyo. She is a frequent performer on PBS’s live telecasts, The Kennedy Center Honors and performs often alongside The New York Philharmonic.

Along with two Grammy nominations, her solo albums,  Always  and  Wonder in the World , are available on Ghostlight Records.

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Anoushka Shankar

In October of 2006, the Staller Center hosted Anoushka Shankar, daugher of the world-renowned sitar player, Ravi Shankar in the Recital Hall. 

Indian Classical Music is divided into Southern and Northern Classical, Hindustani and Carnatic, respectively. The differences between them lie in the styles of vocal execution, as well as instrumental accompaniment. In Hindi, microtone, or ‘Shruti,’ makes different compositions sound unique. There are 22 Shrutis.

In Hindustani music, Shankar’s forte, the main musical dialogue or movement is called ‘Raag,’ composed from any of ten parent scales: various combinations using the seven basic notes, known as the ‘Saptak’: Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha and Ni. Variations of notes, ‘Vikrit’ or displaced notes include sharp,’Tivra,’ and flat, ‘Komal.’

Sitarist, composer, producer: Anoushka Shankar is a singular, genre-defying figure within the classical and contemporary, acoustic and electronic world music scenes. Her dynamic and spiritual musicality has garnered several prestigious accolades, including seven Grammy® Award nominations, recognition as the youngest and first female recipient of a British House of Commons Shield, credit as an Asian Hero by TIME Magazine, two Eastern Eye Awards for Music and a Songlines Best Artist Award. Anoushka has the notable honour of becoming the first Indian musician to perform live at the Grammy® Awards.

During her twenty-five years as a live, touring sitarist, Anouska has come to be known for her deeply emotional and fiery playing style, surprising and inventive instrumentation, and intense rhythmic interplay. Whether it’s Carnegie Hall in New York or the psytrance festival Boom in Portugal, the Sydney Opera House or Glastonbury, Anoushka is equally at ease presenting classical Indian ragas with tabla accompaniment, soloing with world-renowned orchestras like the Berlin, London or New York Philharmonic, or live-looping with her pedal-board over a screeching bass, sharing her passion for the spirituality and depth of the sitar whilst breaking it out of the constraints of cultural expectations.

Anoushka studied the sitar and Indian Classical music from the age of nine exclusively under her father and guru, the late, legendary Ravi Shankar, and made her professional debut at the age of 13. By twenty, she had toured the world extensively and made three classical solo recordings for EMI/Angel Records: Anoushka, Anourag and Live at Carnegie Hall. With the latter she became the first Indian woman to be nominated for a Grammy® award, and the youngest-ever nominee in the World Music category.


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Storm Large

Storm Large visited the Staller Center in 2015 and again in 2019, performing to sold out Recital Halls both times. Her powerhouse voice blew audiences away and got the entire house up on their feet. In 2019, she closed with a riotous version of   Bohemian Rhapsody,” getting the audience up on their feet and singing along. 

Storm Large: musician, actor, playwright, author, awesome. She shot to national prominence in 2006 as a finalist on the CBS show   Rock Star: Supernova  , where despite having been eliminated in the week before the finale, Storm built a fan base that follows her around the world to this day.

Storm spent the 90s singing in clubs throughout San Francisco. Tired of the club scene, she moved to Portland to pursue a new career as a chef, but a last-minute cancellation in 2002 at the Portland club “Dante’s” turned into a standing Wednesday night engagement for Storm and her new band, The Balls. It wasn’t long before Storm had a cult-like following in Portland, and a renewed singing career that was soon to be launched onto the international stage.

Highlights of the 17-18 season include debuts with the San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Vancouver, Jacksonville, and RTÉ National Symphonies, as well as return engagements with the Houston, Toronto, and Toledo Symphonies. Storm and her band, Le Bonheur, continue to tour concert halls across the country. The 16-17 season included debuts with the Atlanta, Baltimore, and BBC Symphony Orchestras, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, as well as return engagements with National Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Recent highlights include engagements with the New York Pops, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, Memphis Symphony, and the Knights, as well as performances at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. She joined Michael Feinstein as special guest on the Jazz at Lincoln Center Popular Song series, as well as with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey, and the Pasadena Pops.

Storm made her debut as guest vocalist with the band Pink Martini in April 2011, singing four sold-out concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. She continues to perform with the band, touring nationally and internationally, and she was featured on their CD,   Get Happy  . Storm has also sung with Grammy winner k.d. lang, pianist Kirill Gerstein, punk rocker John Doe, singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer George Clinton.

She debuted with the Oregon Symphony in 2010, and has returned for sold out performances each year thereafter. Storm made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2013, singing Weill’s   Seven Deadly Sins   with the Detroit Symphony as part of the Spring for Music festival. The   NY Times   called her “sensational,” and the classical music world instantly had a new star.

In 2007, Storm starred in Portland Center Stage’s production of   Cabaret   with Wade McCollum. The show was a smash hit, earning Large glowing reviews. Her next endeavor, the autobiographical musical memoir,   Crazy Enough  , played to packed houses in 2009 during its unprecedented 21-week sold out run in Portland. Storm went on to perform a cabaret version of the show to critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Adelaide Festival in Australia, and Joe’s Pub in New York. Her memoir,   Crazy Enough  , was released by Simon and Schuster in 2012, named Oprah’s Book of the Week, and awarded the 2013 Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction.

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Natalie Merchant

 

Natalie visited the Staller Center in 2014. It was her first time at Stony Brook and she performed to a sold out house.  Merchant performed a 16-song setlist followed by an encore of "Break Your Heart," "Wonder," "Carnival," and "Kind & Generous."

Merchant became a household name in the 90's as a member of 10,000  Maniacs, but enjoyed even greater success as a solo artist. " Her literate, socially conscious songs established her amon the preeminate women in pop music, while her solo debut -- 1995's Tigerlily -- helped pave the way for a number of female performers in a pre-Lilith Fair market.

In February, Merchant celebrated 20 years since recording her third solo album, Motherland.  Until the pandemic shut down live performances, Natalie was touring the country. Until her tour can resume safely, she continues her virtual tour. For more information visit her website at nataliemerchant.com. 

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PAST performers ...

February

This month, we are proud to celebrate Black History Month by recognizing and remembering some of our iconic and captivating performers that have visited the Staller Center in the past.

 


 

Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dance Theatre of Harlem visited Stony Brook in March of 2014. During their performance at Staller, the piece "New Bach," was performed, which was created for Dance Theatre of Harlem's 30th anniversary as an homage to George Balanchine, the group's dance "godfather." 

The show also included "When Love," with music by Philip Glass, and "Dancing on the Porch of Heaven," which was originally choreographed for the Royal Swedish Ballet and was set to the music of Arvo  Pärt. The performance also included "Return," choreographed for 12 dancers and blended classical ballet and the gritty drive of soul music, danced to the music of Aretha Franklin and James Brown.

Now a singular presence in the ballet world, the Dance Theatre of Harlem Company tours nationally and internationally, presenting a powerful vision for ballet in the 21st century. The 17-member, multi-ethnic company performs a forward-thinking repertoire that includes treasured classics, neoclassical works by George Balanchine and resident choreographer Robert Garland, as well as innovative contemporary works that use the language of ballet to celebrate African American culture. Through performances, community engagement and arts education, the Company carries forward Dance Theatre of Harlem’s message of empowerment through the arts for all.

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Big Sam's Funky Nation

Our audience will never forget when Big Sam's Funky Nation brought them all to their feet during their performance at Stony Brook in the 2017/2018 season.

When you think of New Orleans, the city’s foremost flambeaux-lit traditions of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street, voodoo, Po’ boys, beads, gumbo, and second line undoubtedly come to mind. You can also count Big Sam’s Funky Nation amongst those NOLA treasures.

Known for a boisterous blend of funk, jazz, rock, and hip-hop, nothing short of seismic live “experiences , and a whole lot of Southern charm, Big Sam’s Funky Nation might very well be The Big Easy’s best kept secret.

No other place could birth such an undeniable, unpredictable, and downright unique collective.

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Wynton Marsalis

The Jazz World's most gifted trumpet player visited the Staller Center in November of 2019, but it wasn't his first visit to Stony Brook. Wynton Marsalis has graced the Staller Main Stage four different times in the Center's history. His first visit was in 1993, and again in 2003, 2008, and 2014. During each and every visit, Marsalis wowed the sold out full houses.

"My favorite part of his visits was always the time he took to visit with music students at Stony Brook," says Paul Newland, Outreach Director. Wynton Marsalis always hosted a meet and greet with aspiring music students and young fans during each of his visits to the Center. 

Marsalis recently released his new album,  The Democracy! Suite. The new album proves that the joy and beauty of jazz can bring us all closer together.  “Jazz music is the perfect metaphor for democracy,” says famed trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. At a time when America—and indeed, the whole world—finds itself at a crossroads, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer has been inspired to write a poignant and buoyant work, The Democracy! Suite. 

“The question that confronts us right now as a nation is, ‘Do we want to find a better way?’” Marsalis says. The music of The Democracy! Suite may be instrumental, but it speaks for itself, urging us onto action—to get out of our seats and fight for the world we believe in.

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Mavis Staples

Grammy Award-winning legend Mavis Staples teamed up with multi-platium recording artist Joan Osborne on their national tour, "Solid Soul," and performed at the Staller Center in October 2015. 

From her early days with the iconic Staple Singers when she was on top of the charts with songs like the #1 hit "I'll Take You There," to her recent albums with Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Ben Harper and Hozier, Staples has been a leader in American R&B music. 

Staples launched a new album in 2019 titled We Get By, which continues to convey her sense of moral authority, and showcases her powerful voice and joyful and generous disposition.

"I'm the messenger," Staples says, "that's my job -- it has been for my whole life -- and I can't just give up while the struggle's still alive. We've got more work to do." That message lies at the heart of We Get By,  Staples’ spectacular twelfth studio album and first full-length collaboration with multi-GRAMMY Award-winner Ben Harper. Backed by her longtime touring band, Staples breathes extraordinary life into Harper’s compositions on the record, delivering roof-raising performances with both a youthful vigor and a commanding maturity. The arrangements here are spare but weighty, matched by Harper’s suitably lean and thoughtful production, and Staples seizes the opportunity to showcase her remarkable and continued evolution as an artist, one still growing and exploring more than half a century 

into her storied career. We Get By  is undoubtedly a timely collection, arriving such as it does in the face of deep social divisions and heightened political tensions, but like everything Staples touches, it’s also larger than any particular moment, a timeless appeal to the better angels of our nature that’s universal in its reach and unwavering in its assurance of better things to come.  

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Savion Glover

In 2018, Savion Glover tapped his way into the hearts yet again. Savion Glover is a Staller fan favorite, making visits here in our 2006, 2009, 2011, and 2015 seasons.

Glover and his ensemble take tap dancing to new heights as they perform on an amplified platform to music by John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Prince, Stevie Wonder and Shostakovich. Savion Glover was joined by Marshall Davis Jr. and three accomplished female tap dancers.

Glover is a virtuosic tap dancer who made his Broadway debut at the age of 12 in  The Tap Dance Kid, followed by  Black and Blue. He later worked with director George Wolfe on  Jelly’s Last Jam and  Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk, for which Glover won a Tony Award for choreography. A teacher as well, he has established the Savion Glover Productions Hoofers Club – School for Tap in Newark, New Jersey. He is also known for appearances in a variety of television and film projects. In the 1990s he became a regular on “Sesame Street,” where he introduced a whole generation to tap dance.

Glover is committed to teaching the history and art form of dance to younger generations. 

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Soweto Gospel Choir

Soweto Gospel Choir visited the Staller Center in 2018 and performed to a full  house of excited and engaged Stony Brook students, local school groups, children and families.

Soweto Gospel Choir was formed to celebrate the unique and inspirational power of African Gospel music. The choir draws on the best talent from the many churches in and around Soweto. The choir is dedicated to sharing the joy of faith through music with audiences around the world.

Their latest album commemorates the birth of Nelson Mandela. Their repertoire is a mix of South African songs and "world music," or American or reggae, that carry spiritual messages. There is a breathtaking cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" available on youtube, where group members take turns as soloists.

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