Exciting entertainment from old favorites and innovative new artists, plus something extra to make the evening even more special: That’s what the MSU Riley Center will offer during its 2020 Spring/Summer Performing Arts Series.
Announced Thursday evening at the historic downtown Meridian venue, the season — which will kick off Feb. 6, 2020, with a concert featuring Lyle Lovett, will be the first under the leadership of the center’s new executive director, Dan Barnard, who said several elements were paramount to the selection process.
“We want to keep what’s working — because it’s working,” Barnard said. “And while we’re doing that we want to attract younger audiences and we want to attract a more diverse audience because we feel it’s our responsibility to serve the whole community and not just any one particular slice. And then fourthly, we want to book shows that are big enough that people will come from a long way away so that we can enhance cultural tourism.”
The Riley Center’s Victorian grandeur always adds an air of distinction to any event.
“Our audiences love the elegant treasure that is the MSU Riley Center,” Barnard said. “And they love brilliant performers like Lyle Lovett, Aquila Theatre, Bruce Hornsby and Sara Evans. We’re delighted to bring them back for return engagements.
“We also have some new treats in store: the energy and flamboyance of flamenco, the authentic roots music of Steel Betty and JEMS, and the astonishing creativity represented by Manual Cinema. Speaking of cinema, our new summer film series will screen four wonderful new independent films. Our guests can even get the inside scoop on what went on behind the cameras, thanks to appearances by the filmmakers.”
The season opens with “An Evening with Lyle Lovett”, the Texas singer-songwriter who inhabits a wide range of American musical styles with sharp lyrical insights and sly humor. Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling Company sponsors his appearance.
Two days later, the acclaimed British-American troupe Aquila Theatre presents an energetic, haunting version of George Orwell’s “1984,” adapted for the stage by Michael Gene Sullivan.
On Feb. 18, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana storms into town with “Reflejos Flamencos.” The exuberant style of music and dance known as flamenco originated in the Spanish region of Andalusia. Patrons can make the evening even more memorable with an optional pre-show dinner of tapas – traditional Spanish small-plate dishes – from Babalu Tapas & Tacos in Jackson.
An intimate evening with Hornsby follows on March 19. He has collaborated with everyone from Ricky Skaggs to the Grateful Dead, but this time he has opted for a more heart-to-heart presentation: just the artist at his piano, digging deeply into his introspective lyrics and pouring his emotions into his playing.
A creative technique no Mississippi audience has ever seen before will unfold on March 26, when Manual Cinema performs “Lula Del Ray.”
On April 18, Structural Steel Services presents Sara Evans, a country music superstar since she made “No Place That Far” the first of her five No. 1 country chart hits in 1998.
A May 16 concert by Steel Betty, a tradition-rooted “folk grass” acoustic trio from Austin, Texas, will include a couple of special extras.
Also in May, the Riley Center will begin its first-ever summer Film Series in the intimate Studio Theater.
“This is something new and will give a chance to be at a more leisurely pace during the summer,” Barnard said. “We probably will feature them in one of our smaller spaces to make it more of a jazz club format.”
The films are general admission events and tickets cost $12 per show; a Season Pass for all four films is $36. The movies scheduled are:
• May 28: The documentary “Fiddlin’,” with an in-person appearance by director Julie Simone.
• June 18: The romantic comedy “Song of Back and Neck,” with an appearance by writer and director Paul Lieberstein.
• July 16: The documentary “Gamble Rogers: Down at the Terminal Tavern,” with appearances by directors Bill Sykes and Melissa Shepard Sykes.
• Aug. 20: The dark comedy “Raising Buchanan,” with executive producer and star Amanda Melby.
Ticket prices vary per show. The series offers a range of season-ticket options that include discounted prices and other perks. If subscribers lose or forget their tickets, the Box Office will issue duplicates on the spot.
Unused tickets may also be donated for use by military families through the Riley Center’s Tickets For Troops program. For single or season tickets, call 601.696.2200 or visit www.msurileycenter.com.