For its fifth season, the EKU Center for the Arts has programmed a lineup mixing some of the classics of the performing arts center repertoire along with some new offerings that executive director Joel Aalberts thinks will keep the center on the cutting edge of current offerings.
"We have a little bit of everything," Aalberts says from his office. "Every year, things come to you, and some go away, and it all works out in the long run."
Among the offerings Aalberts is particularly excited about is the Sept. 13 presentation of The Princess Bride, an Inconceivable Evening with Cary Elwes, which will include a screening of the film and a discussion with Elwes, its star, about the experience of the 30-year-old cult classic.
"We've all had that shared experience of The Princess Bride, and now we'll experience it in a new way," Aalberts says.
Aalberts came to the EKU Center in 2013, and says even his realtor was regaling him with praise for the American Spiritual Ensemble. So one of the other events Aalberts is particularly excited about is pairing the Lexington-based group of internationally acclaimed singers with opera superstar Kathleen Battle for her program The Underground Railroad on April 16.
"One of the show's requirements is a gospel choir, and they are very excited to have this opportunity," Aalberts says of the ensemble, led by University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey.
Aalberts is also excited to bring in The Illusionists, Live from Broadway, for two performances Nov. 7. The show, featuring seven of the world's best illusion artists, has received rave reviews, and videos from the performances are huge hits on YouTube.
On the flip side, the season also features classic shows that have gone through performing arts centers around the world, such as Blue Man Group, the Chieftains, Mummenshanz, and Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight.
Aalberts acknowledges that with EKU being a young center, he is interested in bringing some of the classic shows of the genre to its stage, particularly the Holbrook classic, which the actor is still presenting at 90 (he will be 91 when the show comes to EKU April 30).
In his second full season of programming the center, Aalberts also claims a success in performances that were presented with the audience and performer on the stage.
"Carrier Newcomer said it was the best atmosphere she's performed in, and Ben Sollee said the same thing," Aalberts says of two performers in the setup, which this year has been redubbed The Mainstage Lounge.