Spring at Harvard typically signifies Commencement, but before those robed scholars dart off into the wider world, the annual Arts First Festival happens.
For four days, this year from April 29 to May 2, Arts First invades the sidewalks of Harvard Square and 43 venues across campus, with hundreds of student performers and arts opportunities. Sponsored by the Office for the Arts (OfA), the festival boasts everything from the eclectic to the outlandish, with something for kids and adults alike.
Consider the ever-popular Sunken Garden Children’s Theater, which this year takes “The Ugly Ducking” to new heights during an outdoor performance by zany undergraduates. Not your cup of tea? What about “Fat Men in Skirts!!!?!,” which, according to the OFA Web site, is “a dark comedy by Nicky Silver that will make you rethink the nature of monkeys!!!?!” Yes, that’s the play’s actual description. Too avant-something? The Radcliffe Dramatic Club updates and revitalizes “Godspell.”
And then there’s music, sweet music. Goodbye Horses rocks the Cambridge Queen’s Head Pub; the Harvard College Madrigal Singers appear at Adolphus Busch Hall; and bluegrass from the Harvard College American Music Association will echo through the Yard. And those are just a few of the offerings.
Kicking off the festival is the presentation of the Harvard Arts Medal to Catherine Lord ’70 by President Drew Faust inside New College Theatre at 5 p.m. today (April 29).
Lord, a visual artist, writer, and curator who addresses issues of feminism, cultural politics, and colonialism, is the 17th distinguished Harvard or Radcliffe alum or faculty member to receive this accolade for excellence in the arts and contributions to education and the public good through arts. Past medalists have included poet John Ashbery ’49, composer John Adams ’69, M.A. ’72, cellist Yo-Yo Ma ’76, filmmaker Mira Nair ’79, and saxophonist Joshua Redman ’91.
Best of all? It’s mostly free. For a complete schedule and ticketing information, visit the Arts First calendar online.