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The Joy of Discovery

By From the Lowell Sun

By Nancye Tuttle


Simple and succinct, it's the word Chris Brown has chosen to describe this season's Discovery Series at UMass Lowell.

"This is our best season yet -- that's why we're calling it WOW! In this, our 22nd season, we're thrilled to present a selection of shows guaranteed to excite, delight, amuse and challenge," said Brown, the series director.

Broader audience appeal is a plus this year.

"We're going in new directions designed to entice families in with children of all ages, from very young to discerning teens. There are many potential audiences we can tap with shows that appeal to all ages," she noted.

Brown has one goal as she plans her season.

"I want to present real live people who are doing incredibly creative things. I am looking for artists that make the human connection from the stage to the audience. That connection transcends any age," she said.

She's especially pleased with her discoveries this year. The series opens Sunday, Oct. 8, at 2 and 4 p.m. with innovative young illusionist Jason Bishop, who combines magic with modern-day technology in a fast-paced, mind-boggling show.

"Jason brings a lot to the stage, and since he came out of a foster home, he always makes room for foster kids at his shows," said Joan Sherman, the series publicist.

Tween girls will sit up and take notice on Sunday, Nov. 2, when Rounder Records singing sensation Girl Authority takes center stage for shows at 2 and 4 p.m. For added fun, Durgin Hall, the series home, will have a dance floor so everyone can join in the fun.
"This is a show that girls will really love," said Brown.

The series brings holiday classic The Nutcracker back to Lowell for the first time in several years on Sunday, Dec. 7, with performances at 2 and 4 p.m.

"It's a one-hour version of the timeless ballet, performed by the New York Theatre Ballet. It's a nice, manageable Nutcracker that people can feel comfortable bringing their 4-year-olds to. It starts in black and white, then, as they enter the world of the Nutcracker, it explodes into bright colors," said Brown.

After a winter break, the Series returns on Sunday, March 1 with CSI: Live! Based on the hit TV series, the show brings crime-solving, ground-breaking forensic technology and plenty of audience sleuthing to the Discovery stage in a show at 2 p.m..

Billy Jonas and his band of re-percussionists explode on stage Sunday, March 29, at 2 p.m., in a a Stomp-like extravaganza, using recycled cans, cylinders, buckets and anything that will make noise, including the audience.

Bringing the series to a close is a musical adaptation of the popular kids' book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day on Sunday, May 2, at 2 p.m.

"It's a show where the audience can learn to laugh and sing along, even on the worst of days," said Brown.

Besides the regular season, Brown answered her patrons' call for a production for older kids. On Sunday, April 9, the Discovery Series presents the Roseneath Theatre of Toronto's production of Spirit Horse at 2 p.m.

"Through innovative staging and live music, it tells a story of a First Nations (Native Canadian) family whose life is disrupted by the gift of a wild white horse," said Brown.

Due to the staging and the intimate nature of the program, seating will be limited to the main floor.

Ticket prices remain the same as last year -- $12 for single tickets. With a subscription of four or more shows, the price drops to as low as $10 a show.

"You may see our featured artists at other New England venues at more than twice the price. We and our sponsors are committed to affordable family fun," said Brown.

Subscriptions are on sale. Beginning Monday, Sept. 8, single tickets to Discovery Series shows and the Spirit Horse special performance go on sale in advance by Visa or MasterCard by calling the box office at (978) 934-4444 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets are also available at the box office in Durgin Hall up to one hour before concert time on day of performances.