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Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College  Announces Major Funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Support New Choreographic Fellowships through the Live Arts Bard Commissioning and Residency Program

Spring 2014 Resident Artists of Live Arts Bard Announced

Mark Primoff

Image Credit: Peter Aaron '68/Esto

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – The second season of Live Arts Bard (LAB), a program of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, provides residencies for six American artists and ensembles making work that spans and transcends the fields of theater, performance, dance, music, film, and live art. Spring 2014 resident artists are Sarah Michelson, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Geoff Sobelle, and Nilaja Sun.  John Kelly and Robert Woodruff were LAB resident artists in fall 2013. 

In support of integrating artists in to the liberal arts college environment, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to support residencies for six choreographers over four years as part of LAB. The grant significantly expands the program’s capacity to integrate choreographers into the life of the College, with opportunities for choreographers to work with students in a variety of arts and non-arts disciplines.  Sarah Michelson will be the first choreographer to benefit as she begins a four-year fellowship to develop a commissioned work through a long-term co-creation process with Bard students and professional dancers.  The project will premiere at the Fisher Center in summer 2017.  Additional semester-long choreographic fellowships will begin in the 2014-15 season with Jack Ferver and Ralph Lemon.

“We’re deeply grateful for this generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation,” said Bard College President Leon Botstein. “It will enable Bard to expand on its commitment to offering rigorous programs in the performing arts for our undergraduates, while also supporting working artists through fellowships and the creative interactions that take place in a liberal arts setting.”  Gideon Lester, Bard’s Director of Theater Programs and LAB’s curator added: “It’s gratifying that a new model for combining pedagogy and professional art-making has received such a vote of confidence from one of this country’s leading philanthropies.”

LAB was created in September 2012 and is unique among campus-based residency initiatives in creating sustained engagement and mentorship at the intersection of student learning and contemporary professional practice, unrestricted by the bounds of traditional performing arts genres. Through LAB, a community of visiting artists and students work side by side to generate projects and new creative methodologies.  In addition to developing new work, LAB visiting artists teach (or co-teach) undergraduate courses in a variety of disciplines, mentor Bard students, and share their process with the College and surrounding community through discussions, workshops, showings, and performances of prior work. The artists of LAB’s 2012-13 pilot season included Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Annie Dorsen and Scott Shepherd, Jack Ferver, Kyle DeCamp, and The Music Tapes.

For the 2014 season, LAB has commissioned Episode 7 of Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s lauded multi-disciplinary serial Life and Times.  Episode 7 will take the form of a full-length film. Envisioned as a playful homage to the structure and form of Citizen Kane, the work will be developed and shot on location at Bard in the summer of 2014. The company will perform its Romeo & Juliet at the Fisher Center on Feb. 21-23, 2014 and company member Anne Gridley (a 2002 Bard alumna) will teach an undergraduate course in spring 2014.

Theater maker and performer Geoff Sobelle is teaching three undergraduate courses and developed a new touring version of the acclaimed work Elephant Room with collaborators Steve Cuiffo, Trey Lyford, and director Paul Lazar. The new version of Elephant Room premiered at the Fisher Center in December 2013.

Nilaja Sun will teach a course in solo performance in spring 2014 and work with Ron Russell (Epic Theater Ensemble) to develop Pike Street, a new theater work about a Lower East Side family during the ‘storm of the century.’ Sun performed her Obie Award-winning solo piece No Child… at the Fisher Center in October 2013.

John Kelly taught two undergraduate courses in fall 2013 and used his residency to develop a new installation version of his 2010 Ethyl Eichelberger Award-winning piece The Escape Artist.

In collaboration with Bard’s Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and Humanities, Robert Woodruff taught two courses in fall 2013 and developed an original production with students investigating Arendt’s writing.

LAB is curated by Gideon Lester (Director of Theater Programs, Bard College) and managed by Bob Bursey (Senior Producer, Fisher Center) and Caleb Hammons (Associate Producer, Fisher Center).  A report on the first year of LAB is available at:


John Kelly is an artist who works in performance and visual art. Originally trained as a dancer with American Ballet Theatre, the Harkness House for Ballet Arts, and Charles Weidman, he also studied painting and drawing at Parsons School of Design, and traditional painting techniques at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts School. He trained in Decroux corporeal mime at the Theatre de’l’Ange Fou in Paris, trapeze and tight-wire with the Pickle Family Circus in San Francisco, and voice with Peter Elkus at the Academia Musicale Ottorino Respighi in Assisi, Italy. Kelly has received two Bessie Awards, two Obie Awards, two NEA American Masterpiece Awards, an American Choreographer Award, a CalArts/ Alpert Award in Dance/Performance, a Visual AIDS Vanguard Award, and the 2010 Ethyl Eichelberger Award. His visual artwork has been shown at MoMA, Alexander Gray Associates, The New Museum for Contemporary Art, PS 1, and others.

Sarah Michelson’s choreographic work has been presented and commissioned by BAM, PS 122, The Kitchen, The Whitney Museum of American Art, MoMA, Danspace Project, Movement Research, The Walker Art Center, On the Boards, ODC Theater, and Chapter Arts, Cardiff, Wales; and has toured to Cutting Edge Festival, Frankfurt; Venice Biennale; SommerSzene, Salzburg; Tanz im August, Berlin; and Zuercher Theater Spektakel, Zurich. Michelson has been awarded two Bessies, a Doris Duke Artist Award, the 2012 Bucksbaum Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Award, and the 2006 Alpert Award in Dance.

Nature Theater of Oklahoma is an award-winning New York art and performance group under the direction of Pavol Liska and Kelly Copper. Since Poetics: a ballet brut, their first dance piece created as an ensemble, Nature Theater of Oklahoma has been devoted to “making the work we don’t know how to make, putting ourselves in impossible situations, and working from out of our own ignorance and unease. We strive to create an unsettling live situation that demands total presence from everyone in the room. We use the ready-made material around us, found space, overheard speech, and observed gesture, and through extreme formal manipulation and superhuman effort, we affect in our work a shift in the perception of everyday reality that extends beyond the site of performance and into the world in which we live.” Nature Theater of Oklahoma received a 2013 Obie award for Life and Times. Copper and Liska are both recipients of 2013 Doris Duke Artist Awards and the 2013 Alpert Award in the Arts.

Geoff Sobelle is the artistic codirector of rainpan 43, an artistic partnership with Trey Lyford bent on absurdist actor-created performance works. With R43 he has cocreated and performed in all wear bowlers (an existential clown play), Amnesia Curiosa (a surgical séance), machines machines machines machines machines machines machines machines (a Rube Goldberg–kinetic junk sculpture–catastrophe), and Elephant Room. Sobelle received a 2006 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, an Independence Foundation Fellowship, and two grants from the Philadelphia Theatre Initiative. He has been nominated for three Barrymore Awards, including the prestigious F. Otto Haas Award for an emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist, and was named Best Theatre Artist 2004 in Philadelphia magazine. Since 2001, Geoff has also been a company member of the Pig Iron Theatre Company, an Obie Award–winning, ensemble-based physical theater company. Sobelle is a graduate of Stanford University, and trained at École with Jacques Lecoq in Paris. He is a card-carrying member of the Society of American Magicians and the Magic Castle in Hollywood.

Nilaja Sun is an actor, playwright, and teaching artist most known for her Obie award winning solo piece No Child… which had its initial off-Broadway run at the Barrow Street Theatre from July 2006 to June 2007 and was recently revived there in an extended run. For her creation and performance of No Child... and its subsequent national tour, Sun garnered 21 awards including an Obie Award, a Lucille Lortel Award, two Outer Critics Circle Awards (including the John Gassner Playwriting Award for Outstanding New American Play), a Theatre World Award, the Helen Hayes Award, and two NAACP Theatre Awards. It was named the best one-person show at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. No Child… is published and has been licensed to over 45 theaters nationally since 2008. In 2010, Sun was awarded the soloNOVA Award for Artist of the Year by terraNOVA Collective. She has also been seen on 30 Rock, Law & Order: SVU, Unforgettable, Louie, The International, Rubicon, and in 2012, she will be seen in the independent films Nature Calls and Hairbrained. Sun was recently awarded a NYSCHA commission to create a new solo piece with Epic Theatre Ensemble. A native of the Lower East Side, she is a Princess Grace Award winner, an active board member of the International Theatre and Literacy Project, and has worked proudly as a teaching artist in New York City since 1998.

Robert Woodruff has directed over 60 productions across the United States at theaters such as Lincoln Center Theater, Public Theater, Brooklyn Academy of Music, American Conservatory Theater, Guthrie Theater, and Mark Taper Forum, among others. Most recently, he directed Battle of Black and Dogs at Yale and Madame White Snake for Opera Boston, which will premiere in Beijing in October. Recent work includes Ifigeneia in Aulis with Toneelgroep Amsterdam and Philip Glass’s Appomattox for the San Francisco Opera. Internationally, his work has been seen at the Habimah National Theatre in Israel, Sydney Arts Festival, Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival, Edinburgh International Festival, Hong Kong Festival of the Arts, Jerusalem Festival, and Spoleto Festival USA. Early work includes many premiere productions with Sam Shepard, including the Pulitzer Prize–winning Buried Child. Woodruff has taught at the University of California–San Diego, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and Columbia University. In 1976 he founded the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, a forum for new American drama which still flourishes in the San Francisco area. From 2002 to 2007, Woodruff was artistic director of American Repertory Theatre. He was named a 2007 USA Biller Fellow by United States Artists.


Bard College is a four-year residential college of the liberal arts and sciences with a 150-year history of academic excellence. From a 540-acre park-like campus in the Hudson River Valley, the College offers the bachelor of arts degree with concentrations in more than 40 academic programs in four divisions: Arts; Languages and Literature; Science, Mathematics, and Computing; and Social Studies. Bard also offers dual-degree options, including the undergraduate program at The Bard College Conservatory of Music, in which students earn both a bachelor’s degree in music and a B.A. in another field in the liberal arts or sciences. Among Bard’s distinguished faculty are three Grammy Award winners, six MacArthur Fellows, 14 National Science Foundation Grant recipients, 29 Guggenheim Fellows, and recipients of the French Legion of Honor, Tony Award, and Pulitzer Prize. Over the past 30 years, Bard has broadened its scope beyond undergraduate academics. The College operates eight graduate programs and encompasses a network of regional, national, and global satellites. Bard has built such programs as the Bard Prison Initiative, which grants college degrees to New York State inmates, and the Bard High School Early Colleges, where students earn a high school diploma and an A.A. in four years. Bard’s philosophy sets a standard for both scholarly achievement and engagement in civic and global affairs on campus, while also taking the College’s mission to the wider world.

Bard’s longtime support of the arts led to the construction of the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Since opening in 2003, the Frank Gehry–designed Fisher Center has established itself as a major performing arts center. The Center’s programs, such as the popular and critically-acclaimed Bard SummerScape and Bard Music Festivals, draw thousands of people to campus each year, demonstrating Bard’s commitment to the production and presentation of outstanding performing arts. Its world-class facilities provide an extraordinary environment for performers and audiences and give Bard’s students and faculty an exceptional space in which to create, work, and learn. The Center’s mission is to create an innovative model for college-based presenters while serving as a home for generations of artistic leaders. For more information about the Fisher Center at Bard College go to


Major funding for Live Arts Bard choreographic fellowships is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The development residency and performances of Elephant Room are funded in part by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Theater Project, with lead funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The project is partially supported by a grant from Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, a program developed and funded by The Heinz Endowments; the William Penn Foundation; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency; and The Pew Charitable Trusts; and administered by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.


January 14, 2014

This event was last updated on 01-22-2014