Live performance to celebrate diversity at The Lyric Thursday night

BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 30, 2006 – Virginia Tech is teaming up with the Lyric Theatre to present a live performance entitled, “Open the Window,” on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 8 p.m.

Open the Window brings rap, soul, dance, theater, spoken word, jazz, and blues to the historic Lyric Theater in downtown Blacksburg as artists from Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia join to celebrate diversity and community.

Featured acts include: Elise Witt: Witt combines her theater and dance backgrounds with her diverse musical experiences (from 20 years of choral singing with Robert Shaw to studies with Ysaye Barnwell, Bobby McFerrin, Rhiannon, and Fred O.) to create a synthesis that calls in elements of Alexander Technique, Tai Chi, Skinner Releasing, and other body and voice systems. Witt has performed everywhere from New York's Carnegie Hall to festivals in Nicaragua and South Africa. Her music is as colorful as her background. The Raleigh Times says of Witt, "Her performance is like a suitcase plastered with stickers from around the world… populated with interesting characters both heroic and comic.” Witt sings in 12 languages including songs in Kiswahili, Japanese, Danish, Hebrew, English, and sign language.

Ann Kilkelly and Footnotes: Ann Kilkelly is a jazz-tap dancer, writer, director, choreographer, and award-winning professor of theater arts and women’s studies at Virginia Tech. She directs Footnotes, a jazz-tap company of Virginia Tech students, faculty, and community members. Jazz-tap is one of very few dance forms to originate in the United States. Its roots are in African vernacular dances and polyrhythms, and Celtic and English foot patterns and body positions, with influences from Native American and South American cultures.

M.U.G.A.B.E.E. (Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction): Brothers Carlton and Maurice Turner are musicians, singers, rappers, songwriters, producers, engineers, poets, and teachers. M.U.G.A.B.E.E. does it all, and does it very well. Their venues include hip hop, jazz, spoken word, rhythm, and blues, rap, soul, reggae, and classical. The Turners deliver explosive performances with well-layered and constructed grooves, and thought-provoking lyrics.

Hush Harbor: Hush Harbor is an Occasional Choir directed by Carolyn Dixon. Community members are welcome to join workshops and then perform with the group during the “Open the Windows” performance. Witt will conduct a singing workshop free and open to the public on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 7:30 in Room 104 of the Performance Arts Building.

During the week, artists will be in residence in classes and at performances in the New River Valley and in Roanoke. Sponsors include The Office of Multicultural Affairs, VT Advance, the Theatre Arts Department, and Alternate R.O.O.T.S with support from The Virginia Tech Women’s Center, Multicultural Programs, Gilbert Linkous School, and the Crossing Borders program in Roanoke. Tickets may be purchased through the UUSA Ticket Office by phone at 540 231-5615, at the Box Office in Squires Student Center, or online at General admission is $8. Students and seniors pay $5. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

This event is part of the third annual Mid-Atlantic Conference on the Scholarship of Diversity, which will be held Thursday, Feb. 2 and Friday, Feb. 3 at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. The Thursday session opens at 1 p.m. with a keynote presentation by Dr. Robert Jones, senior vice president for System Administration at University of Minnesota. Jones, who spearheaded efforts to provide access to education for international students of color, will focus on the recruitment and retention of minorities. Virginia Tech’s Lucinda Roy, chair of the English Department, will deliver the closing keynote at the Friday luncheon.

This year, the conference has been expanded to include a session for business and industry entitled Voices and Visions: Building and Sustaining a Diverse Workplace. Wendy Zomparelli, president and publisher of the Roanoke Times, headlines this session, which begins at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 2. The pre-conference also features a panel discussion with Mary Connerly (author and Virginia Tech professor in the Pamplin College of Business), Ben Davenport (Rector, Virginia Tech Board of Visitors), Kevin McDonald (Director, Virginia Tech Office of Equal Opportunity), Dan Smith (Editor, Blue Ridge Business Journal), Letitia Smith (Human Resources Director, The Roanoke Times), and John Wright (Virginia Tech Coordinator, Disability Outreach & Advocacy).

For more information on the conference, visit:, or call (540) 231-5182.