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2014 Arts Medal Ceremony with Margaret Atwood (4 p.m., Sanders Theatre)
If the HUDS menu ever strikes you as something out of “Nineteen Eighty-Four” or “Never Let Me Go,” you’re not alone. The Canadian author Margaret Atwood MA ’62 set her 1985 dystopian masterpiece “The Handmaid’s Tale” in a future vision of Harvard (minus the tourists and plus some public executions on the steps of Widener). On Thursday, Atwood will receive the 2014 Harvard Arts Medal from President Faust. Atwood, also known for writing 2003’s equally dystopian “Oryx and Crake,” will discuss her life and works with host John Lithgow ’67. This is an opportunity to see a perennial Nobel Prize contender who’s still producing great works (see 2013’s “MaddAddam”) in conversation with the voice of Lord Farquaad—what’s not to love? Tickets are free but required for entry.
The Freshman Musical: 'HERO' (7 p.m., Agassiz Theatre)
Tywin Lannister, Simon Cowell…what’s the difference, really? “American Idol” meets “Game of Thrones” in this year’s Freshman Musical, “HERO,” running May 1 to 4 in the Agassiz Theatre. The show, directed by James M. Graham ’17, follows five contestants as they compete in front of a panel of three judges to see who can get the most medieval. “HERO” features an original book by Jacob D. Rienstra ’17 and music composed by Mayer M. Chalom ’17—in fact, as you may have guessed, everyone involved in the show is a freshman. Check out what Harvard’s youngest can do when left to their own devices! Tickets are $7, but students with a Harvard ID get in free on opening night.
An Afternoon with Speak Out Loud (2 p.m., Science Center C)
Harvard’s spoken word student group hosts guest poet Megan Falley, a professional writer and performer. A two-time winner of the Write Bloody Open Book Competition, Falley has one poetry collection published, with another slated to be released this fall. She also teaches an online poetry course called “Poems That Don’t Suck.” Come to Science Center C on Thursday to hear some poems that don’t suck, or even to perform your own during the open-mic session. Either way, this is a unique and informal opportunity to learn about spoken word and slam poetry, which are growing more and more popular and prominent both at Harvard and on the national stage. No tickets required.
Haydn’s 'Paukenmesse' and C.P.E. Bach’s 'Magnificat' (8 p.m., Sanders Theatre)
It’s the 300th anniversary of the birth of the Notorious C.P.E. (a.k.a. “Bachie Smalls,” the son of the slightly more prominent Johann Sebastian Bach)—what better way to celebrate than to join the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus and the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston for a performance of the composer’s underappreciated 1749 “Magnificat”? Director of the Harvard University Choir and Choirmaster of the Memorial Church Edward Elwyn Jones will also lead the two musical groups in a performance of Joseph Haydn’s “Paukenmesse,” or “Kettledrum Mass,” an anti-war masterpiece that predates the seminal hit by the Black-Eyed Peas, “Where Is the Love,” by just a couple centuries. Tickets are $10 for students.
Party on the Plaza (5 p.m., Science Center Plaza)
Join your friends, classmates, and absolute strangers on the Science Center Plaza for music and a non-HUDS dinner on Friday night. First, get alt-western with the alt-country sounds of the Cantab Cowboys, then get ambiguously funky to the creative collaborations of the ambiguously named Alex, Luke, Chris, and Friends. Finally, The Love Experiment, composed of Harvard alums and bandmates from The New England Conservatory of Music and Berklee College of Music perform neo-future-soul, a genre that should have more prominence than it does. If that isn’t enough to convince, you, two words: free t-shirts. Tickets are $17 for townies but free for Harvard students.
‘Fault’ (Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., squash courts in Murr center)
Who do you blame when it was no one’s fault? If you’re having a bit more of a tortured weekend, this workshop production is opening during Arts First, with the goal of developing towards a summer theater festival in New York. A 60-minute production written and directed by Lily R. Glimcher ’14, “Fault” follows psychologist Dr. Freeman as he realizes that his patients’ stories mirror some of his own childhood trauma. As his three patients work through their pain, the line between patient and doctor is blurred as Freeman begins to confront his own demons. Nothing like a little emotional digging to get your weekend started! Reserve your free tickets by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, number of tickets desired, and showtime.
'SEESAW' (10 a.m., Science Center Plaza)
A dance installation choreographed by Dance Director Jill Johnson in collaboration with student choreographers, “SEESAW” considers and discusses artifice and agnosia through dance and was conceived and created using crowd-sourcing and improvisational technologies. It also uses texts by Confucius and René Daumal to provide governing ideas for the improvised passages of the piece. Though it originally premiered in November 2013, the performance promises to be just as original and unique this time around. Tickets not required.
Dancefest on the Plaza (1-5 p.m., Science Center Plaza)
This all-afternoon showcase highlights the range and diversity of Harvard’s student dance groups—this year’s lineup features the largest number of groups in the history of Arts First! New additions include the Harvard Breakers and Passus: Harvard College Step Team. Program A, which runs from 1-2:30 p.m., includes well-known groups like Bhangra, TAPS, the Harvard Ballroom Dance Team, and the Harvard Radcliffe Modern Dance Company. Program B, from 2:30 to 5 p.m., features performances from the Harvard Ballet Company, the Asian American Dance Troupe, and the Expressions Dance Company, among many others. It’s rare to see so many different types of dance from all over the world united in one afternoon, so Dancefest is one of the stand-out events of this year’s Arts First. No tickets required.
IGP Dinner Party Show (6:30 p.m., SOCH)
The Immediate Gratification Players, Harvard’s premier long-form improvisational comedy group, would like to treat you to dinner and a show. The entirely improvised performance will take place alongside a catered dinner. The IGP recently opened for Kathy Griffin and hosts an annual improv comedy festival that draws college performance groups from across the country. Known for their yellow and red neckties, the IGP are excited to both feed and entertain you, sort of like a date but hopefully less uncomfortable. No tickets required: reserve your free seat at immediategratification.com.
'1812 Overture' (3 p.m., Lowell House Courtyard)
Students who leave the same-day 1 p.m. Russian bell-ringing concert jonesing for more Eastern European percussion are in for a treat: the Lowell House Society of Russian Bell Ringers will be performing again later that same afternoon, this time playing one of Tchaikovsky’s most iconic pieces of music, “1812 Overture.” Fitting for a piece of music that commemorates the Russian defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Borodino, this performance will feature simulated cannon fire as one of its highlights. Admission to this outdoor concert, a long-standing Lowell House tradition, is free of charge—bring a lawn chair or a blanket and sit outside in the courtyard to enjoy the music.
Vijay Iyer: Jazz on the Plaza (2 p.m., Science Center Plaza tent)
As a MacArthur Fellow, a Grammy nominee, and a member of the Harvard faculty, jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer is about as decorated as they come. This summer, his sextet is set to perform at the renowned Newport Jazz Festival; for Arts First, the group will give a taste of what they will be performing their free of charge. Graham Haynes, Mark Shim, Steve Lehman, Haris Raghavan, and Tyshawn Sorey will be joining him in a star-studded jazz concert.
'Symmetry Breaking' (10 p.m., Farkas Hall)
Ever wondered what art had to do with Higgs bosons (or what Higgs bosons were in the first place)? “Symmetry Breaking” can help you find out. The project is a creative thesis by Mariel N. Pettee ’14, a joint concentrator in physics and mathematics whose accolades include being named one of the OFA’s “Emerging Choreographers” and having interned at CERN. “Symmetry Breaking” takes the form of a piece of installation art that lets viewers wander the gallery space freely, ensuring that each visitor will have a different experience of the piece. Combining music, movement, poetry, and, of course, science, “Symmetry Breaking” has something for everyone.
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