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Upcoming Believer Festival to explore ‘here + after’

The topic to be explored: Where we are now and what might happen next.

The methodology to be used: Everything from a dance piece tailored for Red Rock Canyon to literary, cultural and artistic encounters in downtown Las Vegas.

That’s the mission of the fourth annual Believer Festival, which is scheduled from April 30 to May 2 at sites in and around Las Vegas.

The Believer Festival — named for “The Believer,” the literary and culture journal published by the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at UNLV — is described by BMI as “a roving celebration of writing, music, film, comedy and visual arts.”

Scheduled to participate this year are: Poet Kaveh Akbar, author and essayist Kristen Arnett, author Marie-Helene Bertino, The Moth artistic director Catherine Burns, author and UNLV English professor Maile Chapman, transmedia artist Stephanie Dinkins, author Lisa Ko, novelist Jonathan Lethem, Las Vegas writer T.R. Witcher, artist and sculptor Damián Ortega, novelist Ahmed Naji, and Krista Tippett, creator and host of the radio program/podcast “On Being.”

Also scheduled to participate are entertainer Jean Grae and indie folk pop band Y La Bamba. Artists Salome Asega and Chase R. McCurdy will contribute original work to the festival.

The festival also will include the performance of “an original, site-specific piece” at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area created by choreographer Annie-B Parson, co-founder of Brooklyn’s Big Dance Theater, and featuring local dancers. Parson’s co-creation with David Byrne, “American Utopia,” concluded a four-month Broadway run Sunday and is scheduled to return in September.

This year’s festival also will include a live taping of the Peabody Award-winnning radio show/podcast “On Being” with Tippet and Burns.

More information, additions to the schedule and tickets will be available through believerfestival.org.

This year’s theme is “here + after,” and participants are being asked “interrogate the future while conducting an experiment in collective presence.” That interrogation likely will include exploring such areas as artificial intelligence and technology, says Sara Ortiz, festival director and co-curator.

The theme implies a look at “both the now and what comes next,” Ortiz says, with the goal of offering artists and participants an “entry point or a point of intersection” between now and the future. That, Ortiz adds, is likely to offer “many different topics (they) can take on.”

“We’re really kind of sharing these themes … and are really excited to see what (their) narratives are about,” Ortiz says.

Joshua Wolf Shenk, artistic and executive director of Black Mountain Institute, says the theme centers around “how do we imagine, prepare for, prepare to survive the future,” with the festival serving as a “a very unusual experiment in that collective presence that is activated by art and performance and conversation.”

The festival again will include an afternoon of programming — including book signings, readings and discussions — centered on The Lucy and The Writer’s Block in downtown Las Vegas. That, Ortiz notes, is “the only part of our festival that’s static for a few hours. Normally we’re this roving celebration of music and art and literature.”

Shenk says the festival and its theme will be incorporated into an upcoming issue of The Believer. And as

the festival continues to grow, the challenge has been to maintain its intimate character, Shenk says.

“It’s designed like a narrative. There’s a very deliberate beginning, middle and end,” he says, and all of the invited guests share “an earnestness and an interest in the festival not as a place to perform at people but to really join in something. That’s really important to us.”

Festival partners and presenters include: “Neon Lit,” a performance collective of UNLV graduate students; Area 15; Meow Wolf; Nevada Museum of Art; Creative Capital; The New American Economy; and Las Vegas’ The Lucy and The Writer’s Block. Support also is provided by the College of Liberal Arts at UNLV and The Rogers Foundation. The lead festival sponsor is the Eleanor Kagi Foundation, a Lynn M. Bennett Legacy.

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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