INTERVIEW: On Stage at Kingsborough brings diverse programs to South Brooklyn

Anna Becker is the executive director of On Stage at Kingsborough in southern Brooklyn. Photo courtesy of the artist.

On Stage at Kingsborough will celebrate the holiday season with two special performances this month. On Sunday, Dec. 3, the performing arts presenter in southern Brooklyn will host Elad Kabilio, the Israeli ensemble 12th Night Klezmer and special guest star Daniella Rabbani for an evening of klezmer music and Hanukkah favorites. Two weeks later, On Stage, which is housed at Kingsborough Community College at 2001 Oriental Blvd., will present a performance of The Nutcracker by the State Ballet Theatre of Russia.

At the center of On Stage’s programming is Anna Becker, executive director of the arts showcase. She is the person responsible for bringing in top-notch artists to the thriving South Brooklyn scene.

“Over the next few weeks, we have two really wonderful holiday presentations,” Becker said in a recent phone interview. “This Sunday, we’re presenting a show called Eight Days of Klezmer, and that is brought to us by MusicTalks with the host Elad Kabilio. And he is the founder and artistic director of MusicTalks and also an award-winning cellist, and his group, the 12th Night Klezmer group, which is an all-Israeli ensemble, will be performing. They have a guest vocalist that we’ve actually had with us a few times before, Daniella Rabbani, and she’s a star of the [National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene] and a concert artist in her own right. And she’ll be singing some wonderful Hanukkah tunes, some beloved Yiddish songs, and then the band will also be playing some favorite Klezmer tunes as well.”

Becker said that the Dec. 17 Nutcracker will be a full-scale production with 40 talented Russian ballet stars, which sets it apart from the many other Nutcracker productions around town.

Although On Stage will take a well-deserved break around the New Year, they will be back with exciting international music and jazz concerts in 2018.

“An international artist that we’ve had a couple times before with really wildly enthusiastic crowds is the Russian saxophonist and international jazz superstar Igor Butman, and he will be here with his quintet,” Becker said of the Jan. 27 performance. “He’ll have some guest vocalists, including the jazz piano prodigy and vocalist Oleg Akkuratov, and he’ll bring some other surprise guest vocalists as well. And again this is his third time performing with us, and every time it’s really an incredible sensation when he comes with his musicians.”

For a different musical vibe, audiences can also check out the April 14 performance of Tango Lovers’ Gold Label.

“That will be a really stunning tango performance,” she said. “The first act presents a lot of the traditional tango dances that people know and love, and then the second act moves into more contemporary metropolitan tango, whereas the first act is more tango from the glamorous age of tango from the ‘40s and ‘50s.”

Igor Butman will play On Stage at Kingsborough in 2018. Photo courtesy of On Stage.

On Stage at Kingsborough also has a series of intimate jazz concerts at their Lighthouse venue, which overlooks the ocean. Audience members can enjoy some wine and cheese, plus the music of smaller jazz ensembles.

“We’ll be having a Valentine’s performance actually on Friday, Feb. 16 called For the Love of Jazz with Thana Alexa and Michael Mayo, again an all-Israeli jazz quartet called the MusicTalks Jazz Quartet,” Becker said. “Then in the spring, we’ll have a show called A Sophisticated Reunion, also in the Lighthouse, featuring three of the stars from Sophisticated Ladies on Broadway, the Tony nominee Valarie Pettiford, Terri Klausner and Ty Stephens. They’ll perform a lot of [Duke] Ellington numbers along with some other beloved jazz favorites.”

On Stage at Kingsborough is committed to bringing the world’s leading artists in various disciplines to southern Brooklyn. Becker and her team are not simply presenting concerts and dance performances that can be found across the river in Manhattan. Their programs are unique and speak to the themes of diversity and cultural exchange.

“Part of our vision is certainly to present the world’s leading artists in various disciplines,” she said. “If you’ve never seen tango before, or if you love tango, you know if you come here, you’re going to see the very best representation of that form from a leader in the field. And that goes for ballet or flamenco or tap dance. Also in our cabaret series, the same could be said. It’s meant to be really the masters of the form, but the other thing that’s important for us … is that you’re not going to come and see the same type of cabaret or the same type of tango or the same type of step dancing every time you come. You’re really going to see another variation of it, so that you get really a broad sense of what the performing arts can be.”

One time, Becker received this compliment from an audience member, and it has stayed with the executive director ever since: “She said, ‘I’ve always been curious about that particular art form. … But I thought if I came here, I would definitely see what it’s like by one of the leading artists in the field, so I would know what it is. And I could try it and be adventurous but secure that you’re going to be presenting a world-class representation of it.’”

Becker added: “We really encourage people to be adventurous in their choices and try different things, knowing that there’s certain things that they can count on here, and one is the high quality. Another is, yes, it’s entertainment, but there’s always a sort of narrative through-line or a dramaturgical structure or however you want to refer to it. There’s really a story going on, whether a word is spoken or not, so you feel like you’re seeing a complete performance in whatever genre we’re talking about.”

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

On Stage at Kingsborough continues with the Dec. 3 MusicTalks performance of Eight Days of Klezmer, followed by the Dec. 17 performance of The Nutcracker by the State Ballet Theatre of Russia. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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