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October 2021

Michael Alexander

There is lots to cover this month, from our upcoming season, to COVID-19 safety planning, and all the other activities Public Programming manages on behalf of Caltech.

The pandemic remains at the top of our minds. As we prepare this e-newsletter, the campus is reviewing its policies regarding hosting arts events with unmasked performers on stage. Safety is our top concern and guides all programming decisions. We will be sharing updates in upcoming newsletters as soon as we know when we can welcome you back to Beckman Auditorium.

In the meantime, we continue to work on our Science Journeys presentations, which feature Caltech graduate students speaking on their areas of research, and the Behind the Book author series. Both of these event series will be virtual. Even though the Science Journeys series is targeted for students in grades eight to 12, I have found these events to be exceptionally interesting, and I am sure many of you will too. Because schools are still adjusting to the return of in-person instruction, we will not premiere this year's series until January.

Our Behind the Book series continues with two exciting presentations in October and November. This month's event, featuring "Poems of the Planets" by educator/poet and Caltech graduate Eric Garen (BS '68), will be our first that focuses on a book aimed at middle-school students. The program, however, is being planned for an audience of parents, teachers, librarians, and others who buy or recommend books for young people (including holiday books). We'll get to hear how Eric got the idea for the book, and learn how he worked with his Caltech science adviser, Katherine de Kleer, during the writing process. De Kleer will also participate in the program. Though this series is archived for on-demand viewing, I encourage everyone who can to watch live and participate in the Q&A that is part of every Behind the Book event. You can register on the event web page. (Please note the information about our November Behind the Book event elsewhere in this newsletter.)

The pandemic has also given us time to review the more than 55-year history of the performing arts program, and we assume there are some patrons who have been coming since its inception! They will likely remember that Beckman has hosted many of the greatest names in the performing arts, some before they gained that status. They will also remember that some of the artists who have graced our stage explored new areas in the performing arts: some going on to greatness and others falling into the "one-time wonder" category. The excitement of seeing exceptional, cutting-edge artists established the original audience that positioned Caltech as one of the county's leading performing arts programmers. As public gatherings resume, I hope we can excite a new generation of audience members to become devotees of the series as our original patrons did years ago.

Some of the programs planned for 2021-22 have their roots in community-based traditions. Many of the folk-dance companies on the Beckman stage in the early days were the result of artists carefully combining the dance and music from various communities with sophisticated choreography, musical arrangements, lighting, and other theatrical elements in order to create exceptional art experiences for audiences. Hip-hop dance has been around for decades, and a few dance artists across the country are finding innovative ways to move this "fun-to-watch" street art—many of you have probably seen exhibitions along the Venice Beach Boardwalk—to the stage with considerable artistry. Los Angeles-based Versa-Style is one such group and has captured a multigenerational and multicultural national audience as part of this effort.

With the safety of all involved as our primary concern, Caltech is establishing specific policies for all its public events. We encourage audience members to visit our website for the most current policies, which already require everyone entering campus facilities to be masked and fully vaccinated.

We will keep you updated with any changes to campus event policies.

Until then,

Michael Alexander
Director, Public Programming