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Monday, October 31, 2011

Celebrate Halloween with The Mahabharata!

Still don't know what to be this Halloween? Maybe you can take a cue from the visual vocabulary of Peter Brook's The Mahabharata. As some Brooklynites may remember, Brook's undisputed masterpiece was performed at BAM over the course of nine spooky hours on Halloween night, 1987. So if you're hard up for costume ideas, hopefully these photos will serve as inspiration.

Photo: Martha Swope

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ivo van Hove reimagines Bergman

Many plays have been turned into films. Shakespeare’s texts have been reimagined by directors from Mel Gibson to Franco Zeffirelli, but contemporary minds are flipping the equation.

As a part of the 2011 Next Wave Festival the excruciatingly intimate, confined, and very red Ingmar Bergman film Cries and Whispers (1972) gets a very blue extreme makeover by Belgian director Ivo van Hove and his company Toneelgroep Amsterdam—and it’s not just the color scheme that’s different. Bergman’s tale of an artist dying of cancer, surrounded by her sisters at the end of the 19th century, was shot almost entirely within the walls of their family estate. Van Hove updates the setting, manifesting confinement within video screens, drawing us closer to the performers’ inner thoughts as the tragic and painful events unfold live.

Known for explosive and unconventional productions that take huge risks in metatheatricality—enhancing theater’s artifice—van Hove’s work has a distinct, aggressive style. Cate Blanchett says van Hove’s work is “everything you want theater to be, and he doesn’t shy away from the ugly or the profane.” (His blockbuster production of The Little Foxes at New York Theater Workshop last year was so brutal, lead actress Elizabeth Marvel literally drew blood during a performance.)

This isn’t the first film van Hove has adapted for BAM’s stage. Opening Night, in the 2008 Next Wave Festival, was one of the season’s hot tickets. Cassavetes’ drama about an actress losing her grip on reality walked straight off the screen and into the Harvey Theater, amid audience members seated onstage.

See how this adaptation (BAM Harvey Theater, Oct 25-29) of Bergman’s Cries and Whispers matches up with what you remember about the film.

What movie would you like to see performed live at BAM?

-Alexandra Siladi

Free Ticket+ Thursdays: The Infernal Comedy Edition

Photo: John Malkovich, by Nathalie Bauer
We're not gonna string you along: one of the only ways to get tickets to see John Malkovich in The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a serial killer is by entering Free Ticket+ Thursdays.

Most performances of the show are sold out. On those days, there are a few partial-view seats available, but let's be honest: would you rather tell your friends you saw partial Malkovich or the full Malkovich? Malkovich or Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich? Think it over...

This week's prize: tickets to The Infernal Comedy: Confessions of a serial killer + a Friends of BAM membership

Ivo van Hove returns to BAM

Guests with actresses in Cries and Whispers Halina Reijn and Karina Smulders
Tuesday night, Ivo van Hove returned to BAM with Cries and Whispers, an adaptation of the Ingmar Bergman film by his company the Toneelgroep Amsterdam. The Kingdom of the Netherlands joined BAM in celebrating the opening of this deeply felt and aesthetically striking production. Friends of BAM  at the Producer's Council level and above spent the evening with Mr. van Hove, the performers and representatives from the Dutch Consulate. Click below for more on this special evening!
Great Performances provided the bratwurst and pumpernickle while Fleurs Bella filled the Campbell Lobby at the BAM Harvey Theater with beautiful fall foliage. Brooklyn Gin collaborated with mixologist Angus Burton to create a Brooklyn Gin punch which was delightedly sipped by attendees.

Left to right: Ivo van Hove, Chris Nietvelt, company guest, Joeseph V. Melillo, Ferdinand Dorsman 

Director Ivo van Hove

Mr. van Hove sharing an anecdote with Joe Melillo

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Weekly FTT Recap: Favorite Brooklyn artists

Walt Whitman, whose beard could beat up your beard, wins.
Last week for Free Ticket+ Thursdays on Facebook, we asked you to share with us a few of your favorite Brooklyn artists. Without further ado, I present the top seven:

1. Walt Whitman
2. Jonathan Safran Foer
3. Paul Auster, Woody Allen
4. Jonathan Lethem, Jennifer Egan
5. Spike Lee
6. Nicole Krauss, Henry Miller, Arthur Miller,     W.H. Auden, Norman Mailer
7. Jhumpa Lahiri, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Steve Buscemi, Isaac Asimov, Aaron Copland,

Note that this strange fellow named "Me" was also nominated several times. But because we couldn’t find any documented evidence of his/her residence or his/her work, we opted to go exclude him/her from the list in order to preserve the integrity of our thoroughly scientific poll. But send us your screenplay, Me, and we promise to read it!

Free Ticket+ Thursdays happens weekly on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brooklyn Reel Estate: C.I., The Big Coney

This monthly blog column (blogumn?) will include musings on the neighborhoods covered in the Brooklyn Close-Up film series, featuring films shot in the Borough of Kings. First up: The Warriors and their home turf, the big Coney.

A simpler time!
Although I grew up in a suburb of Worcester, MA—a former beacon of the American industrial revolution best known as the birthplace of poet Elizabeth Bishop, rocketman Robert Goddard, and 60s radical Abbie Hoffman, far from the cultural fondue pot of New York City—I always had a bit of Brooklyn rumbling through my veins. Before moving to Massachusetts to marry my grandfather, my grandmother grew up in Bensonhurst and Bay Ridge. I would sit beside her on the arm of her chair and she’d tell stories of her Brooklyn life—church dances, subway trips with her girlfriend to sneak underage cocktails in Manhattan bars, and, most enticingly, summers spent on the teeming beaches of Coney Island, riding roller coasters and ferris wheels with magical names like Cyclone and Wonder Wheel. 

Forsythe's Staggering Works of Heartbreaking Genius

William Forsythe is one of those artists who crosses genres as easily as crossing the street. While known primarily as a choreographer, he has tried his hand in vastly different disciplines ranging from performance art to installation sculpture to computer imaging. Here are some favorite Forsythe projects:

Scattered Crowd, an installation created by thousands and thousands of white balloons, demonstrates that Ms. Belinda Carlisle was right: Ooh. Heaven Is A Place on Earth.

Monday, October 24, 2011

This Week in BAM History: John Wilkes Booth, October 1863

There has long been a tightly interwoven relationship between American politics and the theater. In fact, John Wilkes Booth—the man who assassinated President Lincoln at a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theater in Washington—was an acclaimed actor from the famous Booth family of actors (see my previous post on his brother, Edwin). Often cast as a leading man, Wilkes Booth was a 19th century heartthrob, as popular with the young ladies of the day as Ryan Gosling is now.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Four Questions for Clara Cornelius about BAM: The Complete Works

The cover of BAM: The Complete Works
Clara Cornelius is director of design at BAM and the designer of the recently published book BAM: The Complete Works.

1. Let’s start with the book cover. Can you tell us a little about what went into deciding on the photo?

The big challenge with the cover was trying to convey the aspirations of an entire institution in one take. We looked at SO many images. Literally hundreds. Ultimately, we felt this image from Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch's Vollmond  evoked the energy, spirit, and singularity of what BAM is. The image is raw, beautiful, and provocative, just like us.

2. It’s easy to forget that, while BAM’s visual identity has been somewhat consistent for the past decade or so, it has well over a hundred years of history and change behind it. While working on the book, what was the most striking thing you learned about BAM design of yore? 

BAM has a really interesting design history. There are some beautiful bulletins from the turn of the century, lovely dance cards with scrolling type (Fig.1), and engraved invitations. But the 80s are my favorite to look back on. There's some great collage work, and some really cool day-glo posters for shows like The Black Rider (Fig 3) and The Cave (Fig 2):

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Harvey Oral History: How I fell in love with modern dance

Harvey swag from the BAM Hamm Archives
Listen to Harvey talk about falling in love with modern dance—how he became a dancer himself, and how he was involved at the New Dance Group and Black Mountain College, where he first saw a Merce Cunningham/John Cage happening.

Harvey-InterestInDance by BAMorg

Check out this student project on Black Mountain College that features an early "happening" video (at 3:51) with Cunningham, Cage, and Robert Rauschenberg, all of whom Harvey studied with at Black Mountain.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New Old Things: Edwin Booth’s Hamlet

Edwin Booth
The Booth family of actors lived drama both on and off the stage. Household names to the 19th century sophisticate, the Booths were part Kennedy, part Sheen (Charlie, that is). The father, Junius Booth, renowned for his alcoholic outbursts, was hailed by Walt Whitman as “the grandest histrion of modern times.” His son, John Wilkes Booth, was the dashing leading man who became famous for killing President Lincoln (more on this next week). John Wilkes’ elder brother, Edwin, gained widespread acclaim for his Shakespearian chops, playing Hamlet thousands of times throughout his life.

We in the BAM Hamm Archives are thrilled to now possess programs from Edwin Booth’s final performances.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Richard B. Fisher Building: Time Lapse

Beam by beam, BAM's newest building is making its way up. Actually, it's well past the beam stage at this point; we haven't exactly hung the drapes or put out the welcome mats quite yet, but the dressing rooms, rehearsal studios, green roof, and main performance space are all taking shape nicely.

 Take a look. In the meantime, we'll hunt down some photos from inside the building.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

New Old Things: Thank You, Anonymous!

Thank you, Anonymous!

In our last “New Old Things” post we shamelessly asked you to search your attics and look for all things BAM. A few days later we got the following cryptic note in a plain brown envelope with no return address:

Enclosed was this program that documents one of the many Brooklyn “community” theater companies that presented its work at BAM. In 1937, the Gamma Players presented Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Free Ticket+ Thursdays: The BAM Book Edition

Bastien gets lost in the never-ending richness of BAM: The Complete Works. Photo: The NeverEnding Story, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Did you know that BAM will fit on your coffee table? It's true.

And did you know that a coffee table-sized BAM could be yours simply by entering Free Ticket+ Thursdays on Facebook?

Read more about BAM: The Complete Works here and enter to win today.

This week's prize: a copy of BAM: The Complete Works + VIP access to the BAMbook party for you and a friend + BAM Cinema Club membership

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Weekly FTT Recap: BAM to the Future

Marty and Doc gaze into the BAM future.
Last week for Free Ticket+ Thursdays on Facebook, we asked you where you thought BAM would be in the next 150 years. Here are some choice answers:

Clarrisa, a weary traveler, envisioned borough expansion:
“a branch in queens”

But Dave and Kyle had more ambitious growth in mind…

Hilary (this week's winner!) coined a name:

Amanda was cool with the moon, but envisioned ways for the audience to enjoy from Earth:
“Holographic Bridge Project. Shakespeare from space!!!”

When BAM wasn’t beaming images of Ethan Hawke and Kevin Spacey to Earth, Joseph reminded all that it would have plenty else to do:
“BAM will be super advanced and fly like rocket ships and shoot lasers and dominate the galaxy”

But the question of the earth vs. the moon didn’t matter much to Ross, since he knew that physical location would soon be irrelevant:
“BAM will be much less a place, more of a state of mind. Much in the way we store our data in the Internet's ‘cloud,’ BAM will be synonymous with culture and how we absorb it from the air and surroundings throughout our daily existence.”

Jacob had similar dreams of an incorporeal BAM, except with post-show dining options intact:
“The BAM building will still have its historic look, but movies will be projected directly to the audience's eyeballs. Then, after the eyeball film, the audience can take their hover boards over to 67 Burger.”

What wouldn’t remain the same, Sean suggested, was everything else: 
“I envision BAM as the last bastion of civilization in a post-apocalyptic world.

Matthew concurred bittersweetly:
“I'd like to see BAM as a shining bastion of arts in a decrepit Blade Runner-esque future of New York. As the world gets drearier and drearier, BAM still stands by offering glistening productions, social commentary by way of art, and incredible events to keep hearts and minds at peace even if things are crumbling both physically and culturally.”

Nothing would be crumbling for Kevin, who chose to entertain the utopian strain: “HD films streaming from neon networks suspended in the air into lush new opulent cinemas with glistening android waiters serving the finest foods and brews.”

Selma, also on board with utopia, put things in more World Historical terms:
“New York will be a city-state, [thoroughly] multi-cultural, […] and BAM will be the equivalent of the UN. [We will be] past the financial period of our history and the end of capitalism[, and] new models will arise in which arts and knowledge will be our major concern. BAM will be the future's Library of Alexandria.”

But all Margaret wanted was faith in sopranos to always hit their high notes:
“an all robot opera in 2161!”

Free Ticket+ Thursdays happens every week on Facebook.

Brooklyn film, close up and illustrated

While BAM celebrates 150 years of performances, BAMcinématek is comparatively a wee babe—a spry 12 years old. Yet we’re continuously celebrating history—the current and past glories of The Seventh Art flicker on our screens daily—so we’re contributing to the sesquicentennial party by celebrating the county of Kings, and its place in the history of motion pictures (an art which did not even exist when BAM first opened its doors!).

To that end, we’ve commissioned Brooklyn artist Nathan Gelgud, a mustachioed Mets fan with a charming Southern drawl, to create a limited edition poster celebrating 90 years of Brooklyn film history.

A movie lover who created silkscreen prints of Godard and Truffaut films, including a delightful poster for a re-release of Truffaut’s Small Change, Nathan contributes to The Believer and the all-comics newspaper Smoke Signal, and moonlights as a film critic. We encourage you to visit his terrific blog here:

So, without further ado, we present you with Nathan’s musings on a few figures connected to the illustration, followed by the poster itself.

Monday, October 10, 2011

This Week in BAM History: Between Sun Ra and Philip Glass

Ad from the Village Voice, October 1969
As the 1960s drew to a close, the varying tastes of the psychedelic hippie and civil rights crusader dovetailed across two nights at BAM. On October 10th, 1969, jazz prophet of the outer limits Sun Ra, and the always explosive if precise poet and dramatist LeRoi Jones (who would soon discard his imposed moniker and become Amiri Baraka) graced the opera house stage at BAM. As if this weren’t enough to glut even the most insatiable cultural epicure, the following night brought an even greater bounty as The Band (known then as the backing band behind Bob Dylan’s breakthrough into electric rock) and the legendary Beat poet Allen Ginsberg took the stage. These two nights in Brooklyn stand as a convergence of some of America’s most radical minds, in what was surely one of the last great near-trysts of a tumultuous era.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lin Hwai-min and Cloud Gate Dance Theatre

By Robert Wood

Lin Hwai-min comes to BAM from October 12—15 with Water Stains on the Wall, a choreographic exploration of calligraphy.

Photo: Lin Hwai-min, by Chen-hsiang
Lin Hwai-min wears the East well. His choreography—a distillation of movement from the martial arts, ancient practices like Qigong and meditation, calligraphy, and other eastern traditions—combines elements so lyrically and seamlessly that it often seems as natural to the dancers as breathing itself. That would be the easy interpretation, anyway: Hwai-min, “Taiwanese to his core,” has translated that authenticity into works which speak to the essence of the island itself. It’s a lovely idea. But the truth is much more interesting, if far-travelled.

Lin Hwai-min—though born in Taiwan—actually came to Taiwanese culture by way of the West.

“In those years,” he recounts, speaking of the 60s, “the West meant the best. Tours in Taiwan, going to the US and eventually getting a green card was the goal for many young people. Reading Time magazine was a must for snobbish college students. The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez were our idols.”

The same went for dance. There was never a Fisher-Price tape recorder playing Peking Opera tunes by his childhood bedside, but there was the classic British ballet film The Red Shoes— which, after an initial viewing, Hwai-min claims to have watched 11 straight times.

Salinger, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald were also on the bill. (Hwai-min was a bestselling writer by 23). But as he recalls, the charm of the West—as least as represented in popular culture—had a shelf life. Disillusionment with the actual West as compared to the imaginary one led Hwai-min to begin reconsidering his preconceptions about the US and, eventually, about Taiwan as well. It was only then that he began looking eastward.

Way eastward. Post-Beatles and Time magazine, and after a whirlwind rediscovery tour around Taiwan, Hwai-min formed a dance troupe—Cloud Gate Dance Theatre—and named it after the oldest known dance in Chinese history. He stowed away the techniques he’d learned at Martha Graham’s studio, favoring movement directly linked to the Taiwanese experience. He had his dancers running through riverbeds, pushing and carrying rocks, in solidarity with the grueling labor of Taiwan’s original immigrant farmers—all to dispense with the cultural imaginary and reconnect his choreography to the bodily real.

38 years later, you can still feel the riverbed in Hwai-min's movement. The surface flows, but a calm, centered core beneath that surface—the wellspring of the meditator—always remains. It's only fitting that his latest work is about calligraphy, another practice so reliant upon the centered body to achieve its elegant, flowing effects.

Taiwan becomes Taiwan only from a distance. The river rivers with ease only over its secret stone. Take a look. And come see the show.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Contact Sheets from the BAM Hamm Archives

Isabella Rossellini, circa 1978

There is something beautiful about holding a contact sheet.

As a practice, the printing of contact or proof sheets began in the 1930s, and they were used as a way for professional photographers to quickly edit a large number of shots, and for amateur and student photographers to study their own work. Many of the photographers working with digital cameras these days (which is to say, most photographers) will instead use Photoshop or Lightroom to make digital contact sheets. But the processes of editing and study have changed in step with technology, and contact sheets as we know them have become a thing of the past.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Free Ticket+ Thursdays: The William Forsythe Edition

Passivity gets you nowhere. Photo: I don't believe in outer space, by Dominik Mentzos 

There are two ways to get free BAM stuff:
  1. Lie down on the floor surrounded by balls of gaffer tape and hope that free BAM stuff miraculously falls into a cardboard tube connected to your mouth.
  2. Enter Free Ticket+ Thursdays on Facebook.
The choice is yours. Answer our simple question for your chance to win.

This week's prize: Tickets to I don't believe in outer space + a Friends of BAM membership

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Weekly FTT Recap: Favorite Things About Brooklyn

"Oh to realize space! The plenteousness of all, that there are no bounds..." —One-time Brooklynite Walt Whitman. Photo by Ken Stein 

Last week in Free Ticket+ Thursdays, we asked you to list some of your favorite things about Brooklyn.
Here are some choice answers:

Keith, seeing the need for green, said…
“the great tree to person ratio”

But Kyle—and with him, Alia, Dilhan, Hilary, Erin, and Elena—saw the need for blue…
“feeling calm under the bigger, darker, quieter, and cooler sky”

Dave said to hell with color and saw only the need for Babs:
“Barbra Streisand [was] born here”

Chiming in from Bedford Ave, we had Agis…
“the hipster girls :)”

Chiming in from someplace where lots of drugs are being done, we had Sarah:
“the BQE, which is like a roller coaster you can off-road on”

Meredith said it was silence…
“It's quiet and the kids only scream at recess”

Tim, too, albeit a louder kind of quiet:
“the disturbing silence of industrial Bushwick late at night”

Patrick, just back from Nicky's, said:
“brownstones and autumn trees and banh mi and sitting outside the main branch of the library smoking [while] admiring Grand Army Plaza as tourist buses pass”

Quincy, reeking of sulfur and Jacques Torres chocolate, reveled in the sense of possibility…
“Brookyln is like a chemistry lab with the entire periodic table. You can make anything here.”

Whereas Beth was satisfied with what was already here:
“BAM, bike lanes, beer gardens!”

Free Ticket+ Thursdays happens every week on Facebook. Enter to win free stuff.

Robert Wilson's Brechtian Legacy

Threepenny Opera. Photo: Lesley Leslie-Spinks.

Tonight BAM presents the U.S. premiere of Robert Wilson’s critically acclaimed version of Bertolt Brecht’s and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, which will be performed by the Berliner Ensemble—the company Brecht himself cofounded with his wife, Helene Weigel, in East Berlin in 1949. This marks the debut of the renowned Berliner Ensemble at BAM, which will feature Stefan Kurt as Mack the Knife. It is also the 21st production of Robert Wilson’s to be presented by BAM (and it just so happens to fall on Wilson’s 70th birthday). While some may think Brecht’s politically charged theater incongruent with Wilson’s aesthetic, Wilson’s Threepenny has in fact been a long time coming.

In the late 1960s BAM president Harvey Lichtenstein got wind of Robert Wilson, who at the time was living in Soho and developing a sort of commune/theater ensemble called the Byrd Hoffman School of Byrds (which was named after Byrd Hoffman, the Waco schoolteacher who had helped Wilson overcome his early speech impediments). Lichtenstein recalled thinking, after seeing Wilson’s The King of Spain at Anderson Theater on the Lower East Side, “I don’t know what the hell this thing is, but it’s really astonishing.” Lichtenstein gave the opera house to Wilson, and in the week before Christmas in 1969 BAM presented The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud, a three-hour “silent opera,” and the first of Wilson’s works to appear at BAM.