BYU has relished the visits of several renowned guest artists in recent years thanks to the annual BRAVO! series. This year is no exception, with actress and singer Kristen Chenoweth, American Idol runner-up David Archuleta and other distinguished artists coming to Provo.
The BRAVO! series hosts several unique, off-campus performing artists each year, inviting them to perform and teach workshops at BYU. Each series of performers and events is organized by BYU’s Performing Arts Series.
Presenter and producer of the BRAVO! series Jeff Martin said the Performing Arts Series looks at a variety of factors to determine which artists to bring to BYU. Martin said the best artists to invite are professionals who are active in the field today, will set a good example for students studying their related discipline and are willing to come to Provo with its unique location and culture.
“It’s not the right fit for everyone, but there are many artists who do come and really love what they see here,” Martin said.
Martin explained one season of the BRAVO! series can take up to two years to put together. Organizing the series can be challenging because it requires a process of negotiating contracts with the artists, reserving space in venues for performances and carrying out funding and marketing for the events.
The BRAVO! series often gives arts students an opportunity to work one-on-one with the artists who visit BYU. Martin said these artists often teach classes and workshops while they are at BYU, which is an important way to augment the training arts students receive in the classroom.
“It’s really wonderful for the students to have that opportunity to learn from these professionals who are out there making a living as performing artists,” Martin said.
Martin said he especially loves the Off the Map programming of the BRAVO! series. Off the Map features the work of theater groups from around the world, bringing some of the most exciting contemporary international performances to campus.
Off the Map is a great opportunity for students studying theater to experience shows that are different from the theater performances usually featured at BYU, according to Martin.
“It’s so fun to see the theater students respond,” Martin said. “It opens up their minds to the possibilities of what theater can be versus what they know it is.”
Martin organizes Off the Map by traveling to Edinburgh, Scotland every August and looking for theater companies that are doing exciting new work. He then selects a few artists who will come to BYU the following January to interact with students and perform their shows on campus.
The performances of these artists in the BRAVO! series benefits BYU because it brings new and unique professional artists to Provo, a city geographically isolated from the art of major metropolitan areas, according to Martin.
“I think it really opens up our worldview of the performing arts,” Martin said. “It allows us to be exposed to and learn from the way these professional artists do their work.”
Martin said he thinks the BRAVO! series provides its greatest benefit when audiences can both enjoy and learn from the performances.
“The BRAVO! series is not only entertainment,” Martin said. “It should help us to learn and experience things that we don’t normally experience.”