SUNY Oswego's mix of performances during the 2017-18 Artswego Performing Arts Series will include a Grammy-nominated Afro-Caribbean, an ancient Persian tale told as an acclaimed shadow play, cabaret-style "The Lavender Blues" and a highly regarded ballet company.

On Tuesday, Sept. 19, Latin band Tiempo Libre, three times nominated for Grammy Awards, brings its distinctive take on timba -- a genre that blends Cuban music with salsa, American R&B and funk with the strong influence of Afro-Caribbean folkloric music -- to Hewitt ballroom at 7:30 p.m.

A highlight of the college's 2017 ALANA (African, Latino, Asian, Native American) Student Leadership Conference, Tiempo Libre offers "dance music of sophistication and abandon," the New York Times wrote, encouraging audiences to move to the dance floor.

Tiempo Libre's touring schedule has taken it to destinations as diverse as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and jazz clubs, as well as festivals from Rochester to Jakarta.

One of the group's well-regarded albums, "My Secret Radio," pays homage to Tiempo Libre's teenage years in Cuba, when the government forbade its citizens to listen to American music. "A landmark recording in the sense that Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' was approximately 50 years ago. Nothing short of miraculous!" raved the Latin Jazz Network. Other CDs include "Panamericano," "Bach in Havana" and "O'Reilly Street."

To kick off the college's spring semester, Artswego will present "Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic" at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23 in Tyler Hall's Waterman Theatre. Based on the 10th century "Shahnameh" (the "Persian Book of Kings"), the production by Guggenheim Fellowship-winning filmmaker and visual artist Hamid Rahmanian features puppets, costumes, masks, scenography and digital animation, all of which will come to life in a "live animation" shadow casting technique perfected by shadow master Larry Reed on a cinema-size screen.

Thanks in large part to a grant from Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Oswego joins large cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Pittsburgh in presenting this action-packed, mythical tale of star-crossed lovers. Puppeteering International Magazine calls the production "a feast for the senses."

While the original work by Persian poet Ferdowski is nearly 60,000 verses -- now the national epic of greater Iran -- Rahmanian's "Feathers of Fire" runs 70 minutes, featuring themes of war and romance vividly told with graphics inspired by Persia's visual tradition. The epic has also been adapted to a coffee table book, an audiobook and an intricately executed children's pop-up book.

Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola described it as: "One of the great epics of all time and my favorite 'Shahnameh' brought to life in a spectacular fashion by Hamid Rahmanian with shadow puppets design and cinematic wizardry."

Activist cabaret

Writer, singer, performer and activist Sarah S. Kilborne will present a cabaret-style evening of stories and songs titled "The Lavender Blues: A Showcase of Queer Music Before World War II" at 7:30 p.m. March 7 in Sheldon ballroom. The one-woman show features the songs and spoken stories of groundbreaking musical artists of the early 20th century who were gay, bisexual or transgender.

"People commonly believe that the LGBT movement began in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots, but a hundred years ago, queer men and women were claiming their identities in the public sphere -- and singing about it, too," Kilborne writes on her website.

Featuring music from Vaudeville, the Harlem Renaissance, Tin Pan Alley, the Weimar Republic and more, "The Lavender Blues" employs Kilborne's multiple talents to tell and sing stories of pioneering artists who sang -- boldly for the time and daring even for today -- about sexual and gender fluidity.

"Sarah's show is an eye-opener whether you are straight or LGBTQA -- it's a glimpse into a world and music you don't know. It is as entertaining as it is educational, and funny," wrote English graphic novelist and screenwriter Neil Gaiman.

Kilborne graduated from Yale University with a degree in philosophy and has been a fellow at the Five College Women's Studies Research Center. Her work has been featured on NBC's "Today" show, C-Span, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Slate, The Daily Beast and more.

The Artswego season finale brings Houston Ballet II, a stellar array of young dancers from around the world, to Waterman Theatre at 7:30 p.m. March 24.

The second company of the nation's fifth-largest ballet, Houston Ballet II performs a range of dance works such as excerpts from the great classics like "The Sleeping Beauty," "Coppelia" and "The Nutcracker," in addition to contemporary dance works by artistic director Stanton Welch. Works from notable choreographers such as George Balanchine, John Neumeier and August Bournonville enrich the company's repertoire.

Houston Ballet II tours nationally and internationally. Destinations have included Mexico, China, Hungary, Guatemala, Germany and Switzerland, where Houston Ballet II performed at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne dance competition four years ago.

Broadway World called the troupe "the next class of ballet superstars," while Playbill wrote, "They are the crème de la crème."

Besides the educational and culturally broadening experiences of the shows, the performers themselves provide substantial time interacting with the college and, often, the greater Oswego communities. Details of residencies -- master classes, workshops and more -- will be announced.

Tickets for the performances are available at any SUNY Oswego box office, online at or by calling 315-312-2141. Parking is included in the price of a ticket.

For more information on these or other visual and fine arts events at SUNY Oswego, visit