Ensemble members Nathaniel Stampley and Alicia Hall Moran from “The Gershwins’ Porgy & Bess” sing “Bess, You Is My Woman Now” outside the Science Center as part of the Common Spaces performance series, “The Chairs Revue.”

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Arts & Culture

‘Porgy’ in the park

3 min read

A.R.T. songfest opens Common Spaces season

Before cold temperatures arrive and snow inevitably blankets the Yard, the first weeks of the semester bring an outdoor reprieve. Common Spaces — an initiative that encourages community in and around Harvard Yard, and the project behind those colorful chairs festooning it — kicked off its fall programming today with a four-song set by the cast of the American Repertory Theater’s (A.R.T.) “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.”

The outdoor entertainment series, known as “The Chairs Revue,” takes place each Tuesday and Friday through Oct. 11 and features seasonal snacks and performances ranging from dance to juggling to music and more.

But “Porgy and Bess” was a special treat, drawing Harvard employees and faculty members from their offices, students from their dorms, and tourists and passersby alike — all curious to catch a sneak of what the sold-out show has to offer.

Actors Nathaniel Stampley, Alicia Hall Moran, Andrea Jones-Sojola, and Cedric Neal sang “I Got Plenty O’ Nuttin’,” “Bess, You Is My Woman Now,” “There’s a Boat Dat’s Leavin’ Soon for New York,” and the perennial favorite “Summertime.”

Graduate student Monica Velasquez was “walking out of class and heard the actors warming up,” and decided to take in the concert. “Harvard has always been the center of random things popping up,” she said. “It’s really quite nice.”

“I think anytime we can share the University’s great talent with students and employees is great,” said Harvard staffer Bob Fitta, reading in one of the chairs before the concert. “It takes a lot of teamwork and shows that we all work at a great place.”

Vice President for Campus Services Lisa Hogarty welcomed the listeners, who noshed on free apples and Goldfish snacks, and she dubbed the grassy area outside the Science Center the new Common Spaces plaza. Mia Walker ’10, assistant to A.R.T. Artistic Director Diane Paulus, next introduced the actors. “I performed with Common Spaces last year,” she said. “We did ‘Grease,’ and I feel nostalgic and grateful to be standing here.”

“This is the first event of the season, and the turnout was fantastic,” said Allegra Libonati, artistic associate at the A.R.T. and the curator of Common Spaces. “It’s so exciting to take pieces of theater that are inside and share them with the community — and especially to share ‘Porgy and Bess,’ which is sold out.”

The concert garnered nothing less than loud whoops from the crowd and, of course, a standing ovation.

Singer, guitarist, and Harvard staffer Lilia Halpern-Smith performs Sept. 13 outside Lehman Hall at 12:30 p.m. On Sept. 16, the ’Cliffe Notes — a subset of the Radcliffe Choral Society — perform outside Lehman Hall at 12:30 p.m.