Randall Presswood, the Executive Director of Performing Arts & Programming at Bloomsburg University wants you to break out of the winter blues and warm up with the Latin music and salsa dance stylings of the Havana Cuba All-Stars this Friday night at the Haas Center for the Arts. We sat down with Randall to find out a little more about this exciting event and other things going on with the Celebrity Artist Series.

Art of PA: So I understand you have a big event coming up this Friday, can you tell me a little more about it?

Randall Presswood: Yes, the event is called A Fiesta Cubana and it features The Havana Cuba All Stars which are made up of some of Cuba’s greatest musicians and dancers. With rhythms and melodies from the cha cha to the rumba, from “Son Cubano” style to the salsa, the All-Stars will showcase a wide variety of Cuban beats. The group is inspired by and dedicated to promoting the entire tapestry of Cuban music through a fresh, contemporary lens.

In their upcoming “Asere”—or “Friendship”—tour, the All-Stars will be backed by three of Cuba’s finest dancing couples. With the greatest dancers and musicians of Cuba working in tandem, the American encore of the Havana Cuba All-Stars’ tour will be a spirited spectacle of song and dance, exemplifying Cuba’s greatest musical traditions.

AoP: Wow that sounds like an awesome evening of music and dance! But I understand this isn’t the first time the group has been to to the states?

RP: That is correct. The group actually went on tour from 2016-17 after the United States opened up its relationship to Cuba. They have been on our list of desired artists to book and things came together for Friday’s performance. This time around they are bringing an added bonus of five dancers which should help liven things up for the show. They also have a few workshops planned for the afternoon before the show.

AoP: Oh really? Can you tell me more about these workshops?

RP: Absolutely. On Friday from 2:15 – 3:15 we are inviting area percussion students and the general public for a free workshop in the Haas Music Room on Latin percussion. Students will be able to see how Cuban percussion is formulated and played. Then from 3:45 – 4:45 the dancers from The Havana Cuba All Stars will host a salsa dance workshop. This event is also open to the public and the only prerequisite is you must be at least 12 years of age or older and dress appropriately for lots of movement. There is no prerequisite and dancers of all skill levels are invited. Both workshops are free to attend.

AoP: That is really awesome. So essentially you can have an entire afternoon and evening of Latin music if you really wanted to?

RP: That’s the plan. Learn a few new moves, grab a bite to eat at one of the great Bloomsburg restaurants and then join us for the concert in the evening.

AoP: That sounds like a perfect afternoon and evening. This event must have been in the works for quite a while to make everything fall into place.

RP: Actually this event was put together in about the time we normally have to do just the planning for a typical performance. We were asked by the President of Bloomsburg University to add a show for the spring semester and got to work and lined everything up in about 8 weeks. For some of these tours, the stars have to align and we have to look at the travel schedule for an act to make the trek to Bloomsburg worthwhile.

AoP: Wow, 8 weeks is not a lot of time, but glad it all worked out.

RP: Yeah, this is not our first time having to work fast. Our normal schedule with the Celebrity Artist Series has us hosting anywhere from eleven to eighteen events per year. With the new University President, our programming is sort of on a hiatus but we hope to keep bringing big acts to our area.

AoP: Yeah, I took a look at some of your past history of shows and was quite impressed! Are their any shows you are particularly proud of?

RP: The Celebrity Artist Series is celebrating it’s 34th year of activities and looking back, it always makes me smile when we are able to bring Broadway performances before they go to Broadway.We did that with The Illusionists, and we were able to be first run venues for hits such as, Bullets Over Broadway, American Idiot, and Elf the Musical to name a few.  In fact, we were the 3rd stop for the Bullets tour.  Broadway to Bloomsburg, and back.  We’ve been fortunate to have this as our producing method for a number of years.  But it was not without hard-work.   I’ve worked with the Broadway producing agents for 20 years to develop this terrific relationship. It’s the same caliber of performance without the on-broadway price. We’ve had sell out shows and featured some great names like Carol Channing, Marcel Marceau, Emanuel Ax, Roberta Flack, and many more. On average we’ve entertained anywhere from 7,500 – 10,000 patrons and bring close to $250,000 into the local economy.

AoP: Wow! That is quite the impact. Are most of those in the crowd from Bloomsburg?

RP: Actually no, When we hosted The Illusionist, we had people come from 19 different states to see the show. It was impressive that people all the way from Michigan, and even Florida made the trip to see a show in our theater.

AoP: That is simply incredible. So if anyone would like to check out Friday’s performance how would they do it?

RP: Tickets are easy to get. You can order them by phone by calling 570-389-4409, online at cas.buzz, or at the box office until 8PM the night of the show. Tickets are just $26 for the general public, $20 for seniors 65 and older, and $13 for children under 12 years of age and also Bloomsburg University students. The show is Friday February 8, 2019 @ 7:30PM at the Mitrani Hall Bloomsburg, PA. We hope to see a lot of your readers in attendance.

AoP: Thanks! Let’s get out of the winter blues and warm up with some Cuban music and dance!

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