Broadway veteran to direct Bermuda Festival
The Broadway veteran directing this year’s Bermuda Festival wants to take the event to new heights.
TJ Armand, unveiled as the festival’s new executive director this month, said he aimed to make the performing arts festival one of the top international events in the world through a mix of Bermudian talent and international artists.
He said: “Part of my goal is to invite people that when you hear their name, when you see their performance, there is no doubt their artistry is at the top level and it’s inspiring.
“If we want artistry at that level it is expensive, but it is something that we have to consider in the same way we consider sporting events. Bermuda has been terrific at hosting these international events and I think we need to see and support the arts the same way.”
Mr Armand said the festival had to be a draw for both residents and visitors. He added: “We are working with a lot of our sponsors, including the Bermuda Tourism Authority, to figure out exactly how to do that.”
Mr Armand said he had admired Bermudians in the performing arts for several years.
He said: “I have been going back and forth for a number of years, and my admiration just grew. It’s everything from the music literacy level of kids to what we actually saw on Broadway in terms of performances by Nick Christopher and Rebecca Faulkenberry.”
He added: “I realised that this is something that is very important for the country and Bermuda has a lot to be proud of. We have Flora Duffys in the performing arts space and they are performing on Broadway which is the top space. I think that’s inspirational.”
Mr Armand, an award-winning composer and lyricist, teamed up with Bermudian Carl Paiva to develop contemporary musicals on and off Broadway.
The pair were involved in the Broadway production of The Great Comet, a Tony Award-winning musical starring musician Josh Groban, and a Los Angeles production of Merrily We Roll Along. He became the executive director for the Bermuda Festival on May 1 and replaced David Skinner who is now chairman of the festival.
Mr Armand said next year’s programme will adopt the theme of Empowerment of Women in its selection of performances and artists. He added: “All of our guests, all of our artists, both local and international, are given a little homework to see what they can contribute with that theme.
“We will also have a featured artist along with the local performers. We can’t give names yet, but we want to find someone who fits the theme and who can put it in another category of festivals. That’s something that can bring some excitement to the island and inspiration to the community.”
Mr Armand said the festival will include the launch of an annual Shakespeare event and a Broadway concert series.
He added the organisers plan to launch a performing arts scholarship programme to support young Bermudians.
The On Stage Competition, where bands compete against other to win a place in the festival programme, will be held in November. Mr Armand said the event was one of the hits of this year’s festival and will also be used to announce the 2019 festival line-up.
The festival also plans to expand beyond its usual winter schedule with performances throughout the year.
Mr Armand added a membership programme will be launched to help support the festival and offer members unique opportunities — including the ability to watch rehearsals.
He said his own musical Sama — An American Requiem opened its rehearsals to the public while it was still being worked on. Mr Armand added: “We found that to be so successful. There were people following the show, and it was an unknown show, for years. They wanted to be a part of it and, hopefully we can give a similar experience to Bermudians.
“It’s especially important for the youth, for them to see behind the scenes what is going on.”