Mondavi Center Executive Director Don Roth stands onstage in Jackson Hall

Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi Center, photographed in Jackson Hall (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Mondavi Center Set to Reopen

by | Sep 30, 2021 | Culture, Fall/Winter 2021-22, On Campus

Jackson Hall will have been dark for 19 months when the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts gets back to live shows. The 2021–22 season starts on Oct. 14.

“We consider this season to be something that is en route to normal,” said Don Roth, executive director of the Mondavi Center. “We’re on our way. This is going to be different than any season we’ve had before, but we’re getting there.” 

With the start of the pandemic, operations on campus were suspended and public events were canceled, including the rest of the Mondavi Center’s 2019-20 season, which had been underway.

In place of live performances, the center’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre hosted COVID-19 testing for the UC Davis community, part of the free Healthy Davis Together program. And virtually, the center launched HomeStage, live-streamed events with such artists as Yo-Yo Ma and Wynton Marsalis.

But the pandemic created an uncertainty that made planning difficult. An abbreviated season was announced in June 2020, only to be canceled five months later due to continued pandemic-related concerns.

“If we didn’t plan the season then it couldn’t happen,” Roth said. “I think people were accepting of that. We had to do our best to have a season if the pandemic allowed it and no one really knew.”

Now, Roth said the new season will deliver the excitement the Mondavi Center has been known for over the past 19 years.

Pianist Lara Downes

Pianist Lara Downes (Courtesy of Jiyang Chen)

The 2021-22 season features a variety of genres — music, theater, dance, speakers and more. Returning favorites include The Alexander Quartet, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Ballet Folklórico de México and Ronald K. Brown/Evidence. Speakers include David Sedaris, Fran Lebowitz and Heather McGhee.

Lara Downes, renowned pianist and former artist in residence at the Mondavi Center, appears May 6, with World of Change, a collaboration with composer Clarice Assad.

“I am so happy to be going back to the live environment and all the vibrations that exist within that,” Downes said. “I’m sure there will be some tears in these first performances.”

World of Change is the culmination of an idea to reflect on major concepts impacting people — climate change, renewal, rebirth.

“The piece has really formed itself around ideas of micro and macro shifts that we have all experienced during this time,” she said. “We’re having a wonderful time building a documentation of what we’ve been through and where we’re going because of it.”

Shows that reflect current societal issues were also important for the season. Beethoven’s Fidelio is adapted by Heartbeat Opera of New York with a Black activist wrongfully incarcerated.

“We believe the arts can help us better understand our world,” Roth said.

Some improvements to the facility are also in the works for this year. A digital sign will stand outside the ticket office to take the place of older signage.

Additional shows could still be announced. And pandemic-related requirements may continue to change for convening audiences. But the return of live performance promises the allure audiences have missed over the past few months, Roth said.

“As I look at the season, virtually every show has the potential to be quite the experience,” he said. “People have been in their houses for months, and now, opening night, they can see Arturo O’Farrill with 24 musicians onstage playing at the highest level. What could beat that?”

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