In the 21st century age of hyper-pop culture and grandiose experiences in the entertainment industry, it’s not all about bright lights and flashy photo ops. The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts will cater to the tastes of artistic introverts and extroverts with its performance palette for the 2016-2017 season.

The BMW of San Antonio Signature Series, the Tobin Dance Series, and the EDGE Series – which ranges from theater arts to dance performances to high-octane adult comedies – recently opened up to the public, and provides an opportunity to take on the full menu of options or choose a few favorites. Full season subscriptions are on sale now and individual tickets go on sale Monday, June 6 at 10 a.m., and can be purchased online or in person at the Tobin Center Box Office, 100 Auditorium Circle.

Lovers of the musical arts won’t want to miss the Tony-Award winning Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the groundbreaking production with a cross-dressing lead who tests the boundaries of the stage and the audience with a sensational approach to this musical revival.

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Aaron Zimmerman, Tobin vice president of marketing and programming, is especially thrilled to have Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater bring their worldwide tour to the H-E-B Performance Hall in spring 2017.

“Alvin Ailey leads one of the best dance companies in the world, absolutely the top,” Zimmerman said of the group that U.S. Congress designated as “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world.”

Equally as exciting to Zimmerman is the calmer, quieter side of the Tobin’s programming found at the Carlos Alvarez Theater – The Studio Sessions.

“The Studio Sessions was kind of a brainchild of VH1 Storytellers, bringing bigger name artists into an intimate space, so true fans can get a more up close and personal experience,” Zimmerman said.  “An artist is much more willing to be open.”

The Studio Sessions, billed as “Casual, up close, and personal experiences with amazing artists,” is to the traditional Tobin show at H-E-B Performance Hall what the ballad is to the high-energy dance number, the couch-surfer to the resort vacationer, the meditation to the sky-dive. In short, it’s an opportunity to breathe into the music and the maker.

According to Zimmerman it’s a chance for the artist and audience to get to know each other within a more amicable ambiance.

“The bigger the hall, the space, you do lose that connection,” he said. “You sit in the upper deck at Bon Jovi (and) you’re having fun, but it’s not the same.”

The vibe is so laid-back, Zimmerman said, that the shows often end up having spontaneous opportunities to be curious, like Q&A sessions following the performances.

“There’s sometimes a little meet and greet. (The musicians) will stay afterwards and take pictures, it’s a special experience,” Zimmerman said. “I think that nowadays people want to feel the artist that they’re coming to see and that’s what the studio allows.”

The evening of May 17 celebrated this feeling, along with the birthday of Bebel Gilberto, the evening’s performer, as she invited the sold-out Carlos Alvarez theater into her native Brazil and her wistful imagination for the first of this season’s Tobin’s Studio Sessions.

“We just came from Austin and my father (bossa-nova legend João Gilberto) reminded me that we lived in San Antonio when I was 5 years old,” Gilberto said with a smile. “So you could say that I am from San Antonio as well!”

Gilberto (pronounced “zhee-bear-toe”) opened up endlessly about her love for San Antonio – which she adorably pronounced as “Sah-nt Antonio” in her tender yet bright Brazilian accent – and connected with hometown fans in the audience.

“Who’s Brazilian in the house?” she asked, signaling the lights to pour onto screaming ladies in the back rows who proceeded to have a short conversation with Gilberto in Portuguese.

The feeling remained as sublime and radiant as the sunshine in the singer’s home country throughout the course of the evening, making it easy to fall in love with Gilberto who seemed to be just as enchanted and open with the crowd.

Bebel Gilberto performs at the Carlos Alvarez Theater. Photo by John David Scarcliff Photography.
Bebel Gilberto performs at the Carlos Alvarez Theater. Photo by John David Scarcliff Photography.

“You want to play by the rules OR do something special?,” she baited the audience, opening up her set list to the whims of the adoring souls before her. “Oh, Maza (guitarist), you’re so serious. Okay, we’ll do it by the plan.”

Gilberto maintained a beautifully playful friendship with her guitarist, as well as her own capricious nature, suddenly changing her mind as she was about to sing Eu Preciso Dizer Que Te Amo and called it “too sad,” prompting her to sing something more upbeat. Yet right after a bustling bossa, she felt bad and sat herself down to sing the tranquil ballad after all.

As she waved her arms in her beautiful sinuous expression that defined the feeling of flow for the evening, a particular audience member on the floor (who was 10 feet away from Gilberto at any moment) was caught in the energy and inspired by the music.

“It was breathtaking, I felt like I was transported to Brazil,” said Martha Martinez-Flores, a local creative designer who confessed she’d never actually been to Brazil. “But I felt like I was there, it was so intimate.”

Martinez-Flores and friends couldn’t stop giggling, such was the glee that was buzzing within them after the more than 90 minutes of pure connection with the artist. “It feels like we were in her living room, just hanging out as friends,” Martinez-Flores said. “She seemed to just be practicing, didn’t care if we laughed at her or anything, it was so natural.”

Zimmerman said that such an interaction doesn’t happen by accident.

“We’re handpicking these artists, people we believe in and that maybe you haven’t heard of them, or haven’t seen them in this setting,” he said. “Jack Broadbent, he’s the next Gary Clark Jr., but nobody really knows who he is. People will be blown away by this guy’s talent.”

Part of the musical experience, in Zimmerman’s eyes, is taking a risk and trusting that the people coming are worth stepping out for.

“We hope that people trust the Tobin enough that even if they don’t know the artist, they know we’re not going to sell them short,” he said. “These are special opportunities that people are going to resonate with.”

For all other information and to purchase tickets for the 2016-2017 series, as well as the Studio Sessions, visit www.tobincenter.org.

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Top Image: Bebel Gilberto performs at the Carlos Alvarez Theater’s “Studio Sessions” on May 17th, 2016. Photo courtesy of John David Scarcliff Photography.

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Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.