Weekend Showcase Introduces Audiences to Emerging Talent

The scene on the Green during the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal.

The scene on the Green during the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. Photo by Judy Sirota Rosenthal.

By Amanda May

After such a long winter, we should all be outside as much as possible this summer, agreed? The International Festival of Arts & Ideas is a perfect way to up your al fresco entertainment this June, and if you are in the mood for variety, the Weekend Showcase is a great option.

Each of the 20-plus performers will take the stage for 30 minutes or less. The showcase takes place on the lower green, on the Main Stage as well as the “Family Stage,” which is so named because of the family focused entertainment it offers during the week.

The Weekend Showcase will be happening on Saturdays and Sundays during the festival, starting at noon on Saturdays and around 2 p.m. on Sundays, continuing through the afternoon until the headlining artists take over (6-6:30 p.m.). The acts include music, dance, and even theatrical performances and will alternate between the two stages.

Melissa Huber, the festival’s Weekend Showcase producer, spoke with The Arts Paper about the history of the showcase and the selection process, and talked about which acts audiences can look forward to this year.

AM: How many years has the showcase happened?

MH: This particular incarnation has been around since 2009. It’s one of several ways that we have to provide opportunities for artists in Connecticut and the Northeast region. One of the things we really like about it is that we’ve been able to really spotlight each artist that appears on the festival’s stage. This grew out of a program we did in 2006, “Village of Villages,” which had many stages going on all afternoon long. It was very exciting, but sounds conflicts came up (at one point a rock band and gospel choir were playing at the same time). The Weekend Showcase allows us to spotlight each artist, providing some focus for their work.

AM: How many artists are involved each year?

MH: On average, we are able to provide 22-26 slots each year for this particular series. In the past three years, we have had around 68 applications (per year), so it’s getting nicely competitive. We have some nice choices, and it’s upping the ante a little bit in terms of what they’re sending us (video of applicants performing, not just audio).

AM: Are all of the acts local?

MH: It’s a really good opportunity for local performers, but we’ve also had performers out of Boston, New York, and New Hampshire. It just depends if they’re aware of it and apply.

AM: How do you let people know about the opportunity?

MH: The call for artists is on our website all year, and we do make a push through our own social media channels, and though press releases in Greater New Haven and Connecticut-based papers. We really want to make sure the folks in our backyard know about this opportunity.

AM: What do you look for in a performer?

MH: There are a few different criteria; we’re looking to offer audiences a broad swath of artists. We want to make sure we have dance, several musical genres (world music, folk, traditional, etc.). The showcase is reflective of our ethos of programming as a whole. All of the festival offers a broad artistic palette from which to choose. World diverse, but also a diversity of ages. We look both at younger artists just starting out as well as artists who we might know from another band, and they recently put together a new formation of artists. There is a certain amount of logistics with picking artists. For example, if your dance work is heavily video supported, it’s unfortunately not going to work. (This is a daytime stage). As a festival we continually struggle with it, but so far it works well as an outdoor stage.

AM: Do any acts repeat from year to year?

MH: We do have artists that repeat, for example, the New Haven Ballet has performed a couple of times and Rebecca Moore Dance has been (here) a couple of times. We have had people repeat, but … another piece of the game is to make sure it’s not the same lineup each year. We also use it as a viewing platform for ourselves, for our Noon to Night program. We like to introduce ourselves to new artists or new types of music (through the showcase) then use some of them in the next year’s “Noon to Night” program. (Weekend showcase artists do not collect a fee, while we have a modest budget for “Noon to Night performers.”)

AM: Who is the audience for the showcase?

MH: People should be looking for an afternoon of a wide variety of different work. … We encourage an all-ages outdoor summer fun show. We also encourage them to play their own original music.



      A three-person (Joe Gallagher Jr., singer/songwriter/guitar; Tony DiGiovanni vocalist/guitar; Chris Kilbourn, bass; Dan Michaud-drums) alt-rock group, blended with a fusion of other genres. In general they have a folk influence. On their ReverbNation profile they are listed as sounding like Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana, Staind, and Jason Mraz.

      Find out more at JoeGallagherJr.com and Reverbnation.com/loquemusic1.

    Bonsai Trees

        An indie-alternative rock band featuring Connecticut natives James MacPherson, James Cryan, and Nick Sokol. They have more of a hard rock influence and are one of the younger groups.

        Find out more at Bonsaitreesband.com.

      crb_harlows high res Kelly B. Taylor Photography
      Christa Renee Band

          This female-fronted band is based out of New Hampshire and has a Caribbean-influenced sound. They are: Christa Renee, vocals/guitar; Jeff Costello, drums; Pete Gustafson, bass; Josiah Erikson, keyboards; and Michael Ryan, percussion. On their ReverbNation site, they list their sound as similar to Blondie, The Police, Michael Franti and Spearhead, The Clash, and Bob Marley.

          Find out more at Reverbnation.com/christareneeband.

        The full Weekend Showcase schedule can be found at artidea.org.


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