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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Grand Opening: The BAM Fisher

It's forgivable if you didn't notice. Save for a visit to Cesar's Empanadas truck, there aren't too many reasons to hang out on this particular stretch of Ashland Place. St. Felix is the more scenic route for getting from the subway to the BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building. And the construction itself, which took place between buildings and atop an existing structure (the old Salvation Army building), remained fairly hidden from view.

Yet if you walk south down Flatbush Avenue at night, and you look to your left between Lafayette Avenue and Atlantic Terminal, you catch a glimpse of something that wasn't there before: a set of big windows, glowing through the trees. Not much has happened in the windows yet, but beginning tonight, they'll be filled with things like audience members raising a glass to BAM commissions and world premieres, the silhouettes of dancers stretching on the barre, philosophers and artists talking about art and capitalism, community members hosting events, kids getting in touch with their inner choreographer, and any number of other celebrations. In short, BAM has a new building, and it opens today.

The balcony of the Fishman Space. Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford
It's an exciting space. Only a few steps through the lobby, past the striking 37-foot-long mural by Fort Greene artist JosĂ© Parlá and beneath the new digital signs, and you're in the intimate 250-seat Fishman Space, where row after row of seats can emerge from the wall at the mere touch of a button. They're movable—and removable—too. Buy a ticket to see Jonah Bokaer and you'll be sitting in the round, mere feet from Bokaer. Buy a ticket to see Pan Pan Theatre's All That Fall and you'll be sitting in a rocking chair, feet from whomever you like. Buy a ticket to see Bill Morrison's The Shooting Gallery and you won't be sitting in anything at all, since you'll be walking around the room shooting movies with lasers. That's the Fishman Space in a nutshell. All tickets are $20.

The staircase leading down to the lower lobby. Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford
Upstairs, above the state-of-the-art rehearsal studio and where BAM's education department is now based, you find BAM's first-ever dedicated classroom space, seemingly unassuming until you notice that the white board is actually a high-tech gadget that can save a teacher's notes in digital ink, and that the entire space is wired for web streaming and long-distance learning. BAM Education already serves over 25,000 annually. Throw in those who'll be tuning into BAM master classes beamed live around the world and you can only imagine what will happen to that number.

The Rooftop Terrace and Stutz Gardens
On the seventh floor, the elevator doors open onto a rooftop terrace overlooking Brooklyn. Stroll out a ways from under the retractable roof and you're flanked on either side by gardens (The Stutz Gardens, officially) filled with all sorts of native grasses and plants—Virginia Creeper and the like. Eventually, ivy will dangle overhead.  All of it contributes to the building's LEED Gold environmental rating—a remarkable thing for a theater to achieve—while creating yet another first for BAM: a breezy urban oasis, tailor-made for pre-show drinks and post-show contemplation.

The terrace faces southwest, out past the edge of Fort Greene towards the Statue of Liberty. The sun sets around 7:15pm these days, and most shows in the Fishman Space start at 7:30pm. Cocktails can be brought up from the lobby. You take it from there.

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