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2020 Banners at McNeese Season

February 13, 2020 | McNeese Public Relations
A member of the bubble bonanza fascinates a young girl with a large bubble

The 29th season of Banners at McNeese State University kicks off in March and this year’s entertainment features a spectacularly diverse lineup showcasing Haitian and Russian folk music, award-winning theatrical productions, documentaries, intriguing, informative lectures and legendary blues artist Taj Mahal.

The opening event on March 5 is a free lecture, “The Healing Power of Music,” by Steinway recording artist and TEDx Talk veteran Robin Spielberg, who will also perform on the McNeese campus two days later.

2020 theatrical offerings include “Wit & Wrath,” a one-woman production on the life and legacy of 1920s critic, poet and activist Dorothy Parker, which The Washington Post called “a smartly drawn piece.”

Visiting from Sweden, Elias Faingersh brings his captivating show, “Solo From the Pit,” in which he tells the story of his decision to leave a coveted position with the Metropolitan Opera, choosing to follow his dreams over comfort and security.

Master storyteller Paul Strickland commands the stage with an award-winning, hilarious and heartfelt collection called “90 Lies an Hour.”

This year, Banners offers a new outdoor concert series called “Pokes in the Oaks,” a free outdoor concert on the scenic lawn of the historic F.G. Bulber Auditorium. This family, friendly celebration offers live music, libations and some of the area’s favorite food trucks.

Two productions will provide exciting and educational programming for the whole family, with free 10 a.m. school shows booked for public, private and homeschool students. Guinness Book record-holder Jeff Boyer mixes comedy, music and interactive bubble magic through his “Big Bubble Bonanza” on March 20, and on April 3, musical comedy and gymnastics group JunNk uses various items commonly found in a junkyard to create a unique world of pure entertainment.

Returning to the Banners Series in 2020 is the 33rd Annual McNeese National Works on Paper art exhibition, curated this year by noted art critic Eleanor Heartney, as well as the McLeod Lecture Series, founded in honor of former legislator, judge and community leader Bill McLeod. This long-running series is dedicated to presenting timely as well as historical aspects of Louisiana politics and efforts to promote a climate of good government.

Several membership options are available. A basic membership includes two tickets to all performances and is available for $150. An individual membership to all events is $80.

Several flex memberships are also available. A Flex membership that includes four tickets to three separate performances is available for $200, while another Flex membership package includes two tickets to three separate events and is available for $100.

To see the full Cultural Season lineup, various levels of membership available or ticket prices for some of the events, check out the Banners website at or call the Banners office at 337-475-5123.

2020 Calendar of Events

Robin Spielberg

“The Healing Power of Music” lecture, Robin Spielberg – March 5

1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center, Downtown Lake Charles

7 p.m.

Robin Spielberg is one of America`s most beloved pianist/composers. As a Celebrity Artist spokesperson for the national American Music Therapy Association, Spielberg offers engaging talks, workshops and community outreach programs on the transformative power of music on healing as featured on her TEDx Talk. Spielberg’s impact extends beyond the stage as she continues to lead focused master classes, engaging workshops and multifaceted residencies in communities across the country.

Robin Spielberg (performance) – March 7

F.G. Bulber Auditorium, McNeese State University

7 p.m.

Robin Spielberg, a Steinway recording artist, is a prolific composer with 16 recordings to her credit and appearances on over 40 compilations around the world. As an artist with a multifaceted and successful career, Spielberg has performed in such prestigious environments as Carnegie Hall, (three times), the Seoul Arts Center, Mao Livehouse in Shanghai, on CBS Saturday Morning, PBS, Life Time Live and NPR.

“Beuys” lecture/film, with Christa-Maria Lerm-Hayes – March 11

Tritico Theatre, Shearman Fine Arts, McNeese State University

2 p.m.

Christa-Maria Lerm-Hayes is an art historian and curator currently working as a professor of modern and contemporary art history at the University of Amsterdam. Joseph Beuys is one of the most influential German sculptors of the post-World War II era. Beuys’s goal was to create social sculpture: nothing less than the transformation of Western culture into a peaceful, democratic and creative place. The 2017 documentary film, “Beuys,” will follow the lecture.

Dorothy Parker

“Wit & Wrath: The Life & Times of Dorothy Parker” – March 12

Tritico Theatre, Shearman Fine Arts

7 p.m.

In “Wit & Wrath,” Claudia Baumgarten, as Dorothy Parker, skewers, with martini in hand, her fellow writers at the Round Table, the Jazz Age, her tumultuous love and sex life and the cultural desert of Hollywood. “Wit & Wrath” is an edgy, fleshy, literary homage to Parker, the most widely read and quoted woman of the 1920s. It offers audiences the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the truly phenomenal, witty and outrageous Parker and her writings, which have stood the test of time.

Leyla McCalla

Leyla McCalla Quartet – March 13

F.G. Bulber Auditorium

7 p.m.

Deeply influenced by traditional Creole, Cajun and Haitian music, as well as by American jazz and folk, Leyla McCalla’s music is at once earthy, elegant, soulful and witty. She rose to fame during her two years as cellist of the Grammy award-winning African-American string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops.

“Solo From the Pit,” Elias Faingersh – March 14

Tritico Theatre, Shearman Fine Arts

7 p.m.

Sweden’s Elias Faingersh, “the golden trombone” of Europe, brings his award-winning, Off Broadway hit to Southwest Louisiana. Connecting stories from his life to the operas in which he performed, Faingersh guides the audience through a comedic crash course in finding operatic (and personal) meaning, as he recounts his decision to leave a coveted position at the Metropolitan Opera. This story is about the choices faced by most people — whether to pursue comfort and security or follow their dreams.

A member of the bubble bonanza fascinates a young girl with a large bubble

Jeff Boyer’s Big Bubble Bonanza – March 20

F.G. Bulber Auditorium

7 p.m.

World-famous Guinness Book of World Records-holding master bubble wrangler Jeff Boyer takes bubbles to the max with big bubble flair! Mixing comedy, music and interactive bubble magic, Boyer engages and delights audiences of all ages. Contact Banners to reserve student seats for the 10 a.m. school show.

Flying Balalaika Brothers – March 21

F.G. Bulber Auditorium

7 p.m.

For nearly 20 years, this feisty group has entranced audiences with its unique blend of electric rock n’ roll with Russian, Ukrainian and Croatian folk music. The band’s eye-catching interactive performances feature instruments like the contra-bass balalaika, a triangle-shaped behemoth of a stringed instrument. The Flying Balalaika Brothers’ high-energy shows feel more like a block party than a performance.

“American Epic” documentary screening – March 29

Stokes Auditorium, Hardtner Hall, McNeese State University

3 p.m.

Join Banners for a special screening of this fantastic doc produced by Robert Redford, Jack White and T-Bone Burnett, featuring Banners Series alumni The Americans, Lost Bayou Ramblers and Pokey Lafarge, as well as blues legend Taj Mahal, who will perform on May 1 as part of the 2020 Banners Series. Admission to the screening is free and seating is limited.

Pokes in the Oaks outdoor concert – April 2

Lawn of F.G. Bulber Auditorium

4:30 p.m.

Pokes in the Oaks is a family, friendly fete on the McNeese campus. This free outdoor concert will feature live music, libations and scrumptious food truck fare. Kick back on the beautiful oak-lined lawn in front of the historic F.G. Bulber Auditorium and celebrate our Southwest Louisiana community. Bands and food truck lineups coming soon.

JunNk – April 3

F.G. Bulber Auditorium

7 p.m.

JunNk is a music and comedy group that uses various items commonly found in a junkyard to create a unique world of pure entertainment. From bottles as panpipes, watering cans as trumpets, PVC didgeridoos and flip flops used to play well-known tunes, as well as mesmerizing break-dancing and gymnastics, and all with a sprinkling of clever humor and boundless energy, the JunNk show consistently delights audiences of all ages and nationalities. Contact Banners to reserve student seats for the 10 a.m. school show.

McLeod Lecture Series: “Hands Across the Great Divide” – April 19

1911 Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center

7 p.m.

The McLeod Lecture Series, founded in honor of Bill McLeod, former legislator, judge and community leader, is dedicated to presenting timely as well as historical aspects of Louisiana politics and efforts to promote a climate of good government. This year’s participants, distinguished Louisiana academics, journalists and political figures, pool their collective decades of experience, expertise and finely honed observations to assess our current communicative dysfunction, discussing potential solutions to our inability to discuss our differences and building strategies to regain temperate discourse and unifying policies.

“90 Lies an Hour,” Paul Strickland – April 23

Benjamin Mount Theatre, Central School Arts & Humanities Center

7 p.m.

Multi-award-winning storyteller Paul Strickland brings to the Lake Area his original one-man show, “90 Lies an Hour,” a hilarious and heartfelt collection of stories never heard outside of the trailer park until now. Strickland’s Ain’t True and Uncle False live in Big-Fib Trailer-Park cul-de-sac, which is a trailer park in the shape of a cul-de-sac in a town called Big-Fib. It’s a small community way down south… just off the coast of “factual.” In fact, if you leave “factual” and head due south you’ll pass “Big-Fib” on your way to “Bald-Faced.” Obviously, if you get to “Bald-Faced” … you’ve gone too far.

Orchestre Les Mangelepa – April 24

F.G. Bulber Auditorium

7 p.m.

Originally from the Swahili speaking Eastern Congo, Les Mangelepa was formed 40 years ago in Kenya. The group has released more than 13 albums and penned some of East Africa’s best-loved songs. At its peak the orchestra kept fans busy producing hit after hit; from Zambia to Uganda and from Kenya to Tanzania, the group’s brilliant arrangements and superbly crafted songs kept East Africa marching to the beat.

“Inside the Creative Mind,” Rus Blackwell – April 30

Squires Recital Hall, Shearman Fine Arts, McNeese State University

7 p.m.

Join acclaimed stage and screen actor/director/educator/producer Rus Blackwell as he gives an intimate insider glimpse of the passions, challenges and journeys of the creative soul. With over 80 film and television credits, Blackwell’s body of work includes the Cinemax series “Banshee,” “The Walking Dead,” “Monster” with Charlize Theron, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and HBO’s “Recount.”

Jeff Boyer’s Big Bubble Bonanza – March 20

F.G. Bulber Auditorium

7 p.m.

A brilliant artist with a musicologist’s mind, blues legend Taj Mahal has pursued and elevated the roots of beloved sounds with boundless devotion and skill. A 2017 Grammy win for the album “TajMo,” his collaboration with Keb’ Mo’, brought his Grammy tally to three wins and 14 nominations and underscored his undiminished relevance more than 50 years after his solo debut. Using traditional country blues as a starting place, Taj Mahal perfumes the pot by mixing a spicy concoction of Afrocentric roots music, a blues gumbo kissed by reggae, Latin, R&B, Cajun, Caribbean rhythms, gospel, West African folk, jazz, calypso and Hawaiian slack key.

Persons needing accommodations as provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act should contact the ADA Coordinator at 337-475-5428, voice; 337-475-5960, fax; 337-562-4227, TDD/TTY, hearing impaired; or by email at