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Monday, December 9, 2019

Holidays at BAM: Cabaret and Beyond

Note: BAM's new Artistic Director David Binder chose A Very Meow Meow Holiday Show to kick off an annual holiday block. Check out the seasonal photos after the jump from the BAM Hamm Archives.

Meow Meow. Photo: Magnus Hastings
By Sally Ollove
with contributions by John Jarboe

“What is cabaret?”

Thank you for asking! Cabaret is a musical by Kander and Ebb that once starred Liza Minnelli. It’s a kind of table. It’s a brand of cracker that 70s suburbanites served at key parties. It’s an indulgence, a secret, a cult, a radical experiment in community building, a trust exercise between performer and audience. An ephemeral queering of traditional performance modes. It’s an artform whose audience is living and getting younger.

Even as audiences get younger, the world around them seems to be collapsing. I used to think of cabaret as a place of beginnings, but more and more I see it as a place of endings or, really, of post-endings. Post-narrative, post-theatrical, post-pretension, post-perfection. At its most basic level, cabaret is a performer sitting metaphorically (or literally) in your lap sharing their virtuosity, vulnerability, and some laughs. Cabaret began on the site of the failed Paris Commune uprising and has a history of flourishing as people who don’t fit into the mainstream struggle: in post WWI Germany, in Harlem during the Renaissance, in Midtown during McCarthyism, and downtown post 9/11. As Brecht, a hanger-on of the Weimar cabaret scene, said: “In the dark times. Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.” When everything else has fallen away, we’ll still be huddling around a piano with someone to help us laugh through tears and sing songs that touch us in deep and unknowable ways.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Perfecting the Vibe: Wisdom From Four Brooklyn Barbers

Interviews by Akornefa Akyea
Photographs by Sam Polcer

Written by Nigerian-British poet and playwright Inua Ellams, international sensation Barber Shop Chronicles, which comes to BAM Dec 3—8 for its US premiere—is set in cities across the African continent (Lagos, Johannesburg, Accra, Kampala, and Harare) and London, and conjures the sacred space where men—in this case Black men—come together not only for a good trim, but for necessary and unfiltered discussion on black masculinity, immigration, identity and more.

While the services provided at barber shops around the world are similar, each shop has its own unique atmosphere and distinct character. We visited four shops on Fulton St., home also to the Harvey Theater at BAM Strong, where the play will be performed, to find out how they foster a sense of community.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Africa Unite!: A Playlist Inspired By Barber Shop Chronicles

Photo: Marc Brenner
Set in barber shops across five cities on the African content (Lagos, Johannesburg, Accra, Kampala, Harare) and in a major city in its diaspora (London), Barber Shop Chronicles (Dec 3—8 at the Harvey Theater at BAM Strong) explores unfiltered stories about identity, displacement, and black masculinity. Within this rich tapestry of storytelling woven by playwright, poet, and spoken word artist Inua Ellas, is the popular music from the African continent; as the show pivots from city to city, the music—sometimes coming out of a speaker and other times produced by the actors on stage—reorients and guides us from shop to shop, and serves as a joyful and buoyant force in the production.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Barber Shop as a Sacred Space

Photo: Marc Brenner
By Matthew Allen

One of the bastions of unfiltered African-American discourse—the barber shop—is the setting for a Next Wave show. When contemplating where a Black man can have a safe space to express his feelings and engage in unbridled debate and dialogue, a business where one gets haircuts may be the last place that comes to mind, but it’s true. Making its New York debut on December 3 at the Harvey Theater at BAM Strong, Barber Shop Chronicles (Fuel/National Theatre/Leeds Playhouse) finds six cities throughout the African Diaspora united by two commonalities—getting a fresh trim and speaking your mind.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Future Unknown: A Conversation with Brett Story

Photo courtesy of Grasshopper Film 
By Lindsay Brayton

Brett Story is an award-winning filmmaker and writer based in Toronto. The Hottest August is her third documentary feature and screens exclusively at BAM Nov 15—27.

Beyond the Canon: In the Cut + Klute

It is no secret that the cinema canon has historically skewed toward lionizing the white, male auteur. Beyond the Canon is a monthly series that seeks to question that history and broaden horizons by pairing one much-loved, highly regarded, canonized classic with a thematically or stylistically-related—and equally brilliant—work by a filmmaker traditionally excluded from that discussion. This month’s double feature pairs Jane Campion’s In the Cut (2003) with Alan J. Pakula’s Klute (1971).

By Caden Mark Gardner

At the 70th Cannes Film Festival in 2017, directors of past Palme d’Or winners were invited back to celebrate the Festival’s history. At the center of one photo for this occasion was Jane Campion surrounded by an overwhelmingly male swath of contemporaries—a damning visual of the festival’s historic gender inequality. Sharing the top prize for The Piano in 1993 with Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine), Campion remains the only female director to win the award. The Piano went on to achieve world cinema renown, winning three Oscars, and reaping $140 million in global box office. That type of success is seldom replicated. Since The Piano, Campion’s works have been predominantly female-focused and specifically concerned with portraying femininity in relation to toxic masculinity and patriarchy, an impulse most recently realized in her limited run series Top of the Lake (2013—17).

Monday, November 11, 2019

“Poke fun in a way that makes you feel optimistic”: A Conversation with Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman, Marie-Laure de Noailles in Her Paris Salon, 2019, courtesy of the artist and Julie Saul Projects 
By Loney Abrams

Illustrator, author, and beloved BAM artist Maira Kalman generously partnered with Julie Saul Projects and BAM to release a new edition to benefit BAM’s artistic and educational programs; it’s available online through Artspace. Signed and numbered by the artist, the print was produced in an edition size of 75. Artspace’s Loney Abrams sat down with Maira Kalman to discuss Kalman’s most fascinating multi-disciplinary projects, where she finds inspiration, and her newest BAM benefit edition. Condensed highlights from their conversation are shared below.

Monday, November 4, 2019

What’s in a Name: When Eddy Became Édouard Louis

Photo: Sarah Walker

By Violaine Huisman

Édouard Louis was sitting very straight, looking deliberately into the interviewer’s eyes. I was sitting next to him, on the other side of a two-tone couch—part grey, part red. We were on the set of La Grande Librairie, a talk show about books, broadcast live in hundreds of thousands of French homes weekly.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Nudity and the Work of Dimitris Papaioannou

By Jess Barbagallo

Dimitris Papaioannou—creator of The Great Tamer and other works of virtuosic dance-theater spectacle since 1986— employs nudity in his live performances. Among other things. His stagecraft, in the lineage of Pina Bausch and Robert Wilson, could be described as anthropomorphic; he treats his sets like bodies too. Ideal in their beauty and mutant in their potential, his floors are always gamely ready to be stripped. They keep coming undone, erupting in raised anomalies designed to unmoor his dancers. I don’t normally conceive of stages as flesh, yet all metaphors point in this direction.

Friday, October 25, 2019

RIOPOP: An Inoah-Inspired Playlist

Inoah, a gravity-defying work from the mind of Brazilian choreographer Bruno Beltrão, comes to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House Oct 31—Nov 2. His company, Grupo de Rua, was founded in Niteroi, a municipality of the bustling state of Rio de Janeiro. With a mix of street style, athletic hip-hop, and weightless physicality, they express the energy of this region in a 50-minute, heart-stopping experiment. Before immersing yourself in this intoxicating, urban work, prep your mind and soul with the sounds of Rio de Janeiro!