Arts & Culture

International artistry graces Minnaert stage

This season, the Minnaert Center is thinking globally - and locally.

The center, a theater and gallery at South Puget Sound Community College that opened in early 2006, has a new series called World Stage that highlights international music and dance as well as global issues.

"This really matches our mission to provide opportunities for students to get exposure to cultural events from different countries," center director Cassie Welliver said. But although the arts and many of the artists are international, they are based in the region.

"The Northwest is full of people from other countries who have incredible things to offer," Welliver said.

"Name recognition is not the most important thing," she added. "Maybe there's genre recognition or maybe it's 'Hey, I've never seen that before.' "

Among the offerings are Chinese puppetry, Russian classical music, and a show of Brazilian music and dance. "There is not just one culture in Brazil," Welliver said. "It's not just Carnivale and samba."

World Stage replaces last season's series of touring artists and lecturers, which competed with the offerings at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts and didn't work financially at the smaller space in the Minnaert Center.

However, the center's jazz series will continue to feature touring acts, although it also will pair them with local musicians.

"Last year's series was good," said Michael Olson, who books the series. "This year's is a step up."

"It's selling like hotcakes already," Welliver said.

Among the featured artists and their local opening acts are:

n Jazz bassist Kyle Eastwood will open the series Oct. 11. Eastwood's second album, "Paris Blue," reached number one on the French jazz chart. And yes, he's Clint Eastwood's son. Local favorite Joe Baque opens.

n Singer and actress Shoshana Bean, who grew up in Olympia and went on to star in "Wicked" on Broadway, will return with an evening of jazz standards Dec. 7. Native Blue opens.

n Grammy-winning saxophonist Jeff Coffin will play Jan. 19 with the North Thurston High School orchestra.

n Pianist Eddie Palmieri, who has won nine Grammy awards and also has served as a bandleader for salsa and Latin jazz orchestras, will play April 1. "He's the number-one man in Latin jazz today," Olson said. LaVon Hardison opens.

The center also offers a lineup of theater featuring both students and actors from the community. The season kicked off last week with "Doubt," an intense drama about a nun who suspects a priest of molesting a young boy. There will be plenty of variety in the season, though: Next up is "Fiddler on the Roof."

The center is not offering a chamber music and piano series this year, Welliver said, although the college ensembles will perform and Bells of the Sound will be back with a holiday concert.

"The piano series is just a temporary discontinuation because the foundation didn't have any artists they could send us on dates we had available," she said. "We are booked so much this year that it was hard for me to fit in our own programming."

Theater Artists Olympia, Olympia Family Theater, the Capital Area Youth Symphony and Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia are among the community groups renting space at the center.