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Thursday, December 27, 2012

BAM Winter Reading List

Martin and Kingsley Amis; photo by Dmitri Kasterine

Lo, the holidays are upon us. And with the holidays comes a little down-time at BAM, that rare period during which there’s nary an innovative Caesar, adventurous Faust, or aspiring Pina protégé anywhere in sight. Hopefully, you’re with some variant of kith and kin or warm-winter napping and missing BAM only a little bit. But in case you find yourself in need of some sort of BAM fix, we've put together a little winter reading list that might do something to ease the pain. Enjoy these readings, each related to an upcoming event in our Winter/Spring season.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012's Most Memorable Movie Moments

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Friday, December 21, 2012

A Thank You and a 150th Anniversary Wrap-Up

Photo: Merce Cunningham Dance Company, by Stephanie Berger

By Robert Jackson Wood

Wardrobe choices aside, let's focus on the "thanks" part, the part where we express our utmost gratitude to
you for making our soon-to-end 150th anniversary celebrations such a resounding success. Enjoy this post-party recap of some of the more memorable things that transpired over the past 16 months. And know that none of them would have been possible without you.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

We Can Start The Fire in Where (we) Live

by David Hsieh

The ethos of collaborative art is interesting—let’s just mix different genres and disciplines and see what comes out! But it can be challenge too, especially for the people who have to make it happen—the production team.

For the second of their four performances of Where (we) Live at BAM, Sō Percussion put a blacksmith on stage to add the banging on anvil to their percussive chorus (Yes, the invocation of the Anvil Chorus in Il Trovatore is deliberate.) Their collaborator is Marsha Trattner, a female blacksmith based in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Both sides are willing and game. But how does our production team create working conditions that will be able to melt down hard metal on stage but not burn down everything around it? That job falls to our Production Supervisor Paul Bartlett and pyrotechnician Bill Horton.

Before he could give it a go-ahead, Paul visited Marsha’s welding studio to see her forge. The main concerns for Paul were 1) If the fire was contained, and 2) If there would be smoke (if there is the risk of monoxide, ventilation would be called for.) Once he was satisfied, the question became logistics: How to get the forge on stage and how to get the fire going? That’s where Bill came in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From the Astrology Dept: Finding Love in Beckett and BAM

Illustration by Nathan Gelgud

Welcome to the first installment of “From the Astrology Dept,” a new advice column written by the BAMystic, the only known employee in the Department of Astrology at BAM. In “From the Astrology Dept” the BAMystic uses the divinatory tools of his trade—including Tarot, numerology, astrological chart readings, bibliomancy—whatever suits his whim—to address readers’ questions about romance, career, the artistic pulse of our abstruse and bewildering borough, and future events that may occur within the Academy’s walls. Have a question about where you should sit to attract the best fortune next time you see a movie at BAMcinématek? The BAMystic’s got you covered. Are you curious about how the stars will align during an upcoming BAM performance? The BAMystic will tell you. Please email the BAMystic at jbradshaw[at]bam[dot]org, or leave your question in the comments. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Dignity of Craft: Sō Percussion's artisanal collaborators for Where (we) Live

by Adam Sliwinski of Sō Percussion

When Sō Percussion conceives big projects of our own work, we always start with a source of inspiration outside of purely musical ideas. We look for a kind of libretto, but being rather non-linear guys, we quickly abandon the source and allow its discourse to inform our process. 

For Where (we) Live, that source was Jane Jacobs' manifesto of urban planning, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. We found in it an analogue to something that we had been thinking about for awhile: what about attempting a unified creation with multiple and sometimes chaotic inputs? In Jacobs' book, she rails against the well-meaning but (in her mind) hopelessly short-sighted urban planning of the 50s and 60s by the likes of Robert Moses, where whole communities and use areas were conceived together as one design. She claims that a truly vibrant city must have stages of growth, unplanned diversity, and mixed uses on every block.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Sensuous Rocker: An Irishman and Master Furniture Maker Provides Seating Commentary

The year at BAM draws to an aptly titled close this week with All That Fall, a darkly comic radio piece from legendary Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. This production from Dublin group Pan Pan Theatre Company seats audience members in their own personal rocking chairs—a staging that seemed to call for some context. And lucky for you, dear blogophiles, we traipsed the rolling hills of eastern Ireland to find you just the man for the job.

Charles Shackleton hails from Dublin, and is a master craftsman of handmade furniture—not to mention a champion crumpeteer, a devotee of Irish oats, a fountain pen enthusiast, and a descendant of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. He currently resides in Woodstock, Vermont, where he and his master-potter wife Miranda Thomas own and operate ShackletonThomas fine handmade furniture and pottery (visit their website here for more info and to ogle some gorgeous goods). We managed to pin Charlie down in between crumpet competitions to ask his expert opinion on the significance of the rocking chair. Here, for your enjoyment and erudition, his musings.


In Ireland, the rocking chair is most often associated with babies and grandparents—often the latter knitting for the former, keeping an eye out whilst the parents were out working and doing chores. The rocking chair makes one think of the settle* and the open fire, perhaps with bread in the bastible* in the background.

Perhaps the rocking chair itself was the soothing device that allowed the young and old, at the entrance and exit doors of life, to feel some sense of peace and comfort—an ease that was not afforded to the younger and middle hard-working stages of life.

The slow rocking beat resonating with the pulse of the human heart makes the rocking chair one of the most anthropomorphic of objects. There is always a sense of timelessness and serenity associated with it, a feeling which belies the hard life and strife of the beautiful but raw Irish west, and the harsh economic and physical conditions associated with that region in particular.

The Suit: A Storybook Introduction

The Suit is opening the 2013 Winter/Spring season at BAM. The play, directed by the renowned Peter Brook, is adapted from South African writer Can Themba's witty, unsettling short story of the same name. Themba was a journalist, writing investigative pieces for Drum Magazine in addition to fiction in the 1950s and sixties. He was also a pretty cool-looking dude.

I haven't seen The Suit adapted for the stage yet, but I read the story and offer below a "storybook introduction." Don't worry, I don't spoil the end. We'll post the rest of the story after the run.

The story continues after the jump.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cooking in Alien Kitchens: Six Questions for Grey Mcmurray

Guitarist and songwriter Grey Mcmurray joins So Percussion for its upcoming show Where (we) Live, an exploration of home and creative community, playing at BAM from December 19—22. 

Photo: Grey Mcmurray, by Nathan West
On the Where (we) Live track “Strangers All Along,” you sing: “Who is this and is it time? What is this and is it mine?” Have you ever found yourself saying that on a gig or in the context of any other artistic experience?

I promise this gets to your question. Where (we) Live has a different guest performer / improviser / person-doing-what-they-do at every performance. Most of the time they are crafting their craft while we are ours, independently of one another, alongside one another. The resulting togetherness through not-togetherness gives an audience a picture of two actions—one group and one singular—happening together. Hopefully, if we gain the audience's trust and commit completely, a true inclusive moment could happen for everybody in the room.

At an early rehearsal we had a guest writer, and during an early version of one of her songs, she put those words in front of me. The rest of that track's words grew out of those lines. Those questions ["Who is this and is it time? What is this and is it mine?"], in different words, haunt every insecure interaction I have. I imagine that's a little true for everyone part of the time. So, yes, I feel that at every gig. And the amount of time I spend thinking about those questions is most of the time inversely proportional to how well things go.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Brooklyn Close-Up: The Wiz

Just a cursory glance at the roster of legendary talent behind The Wiz is enough to clue you into its prestigious position in black film history. Despite the enduring popularity of Cabin in the Sky, the original Sparkle, and recent big-budget successes like Dreamgirls, the African-American musical remains a small field of largely untapped potential. This ambitious, distinctly urban take on L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz—which had its first incarnation as a Tony Award-winning, Motown-bankrolled “Super Soul” Broadway production—remains one of the few black musicals to win a permanent spot in pop culture consciousness.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Post-Pina Pick-Me-Up: A Transcript of Our Twitter Q&A with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

If you’re suffering from Pina withdrawal like we are, we have a little treat to tide you over—well, at least until Pina (the movie) comes out on DVD. (Thank you, Criterion!) In conjunction with the Pina Bausch Legacy Iconic Artist Talk in October, we conducted a Twitter Q&A with three of the dancers—Eddie Martinez, Fernando Suels Mendoza, and Thusnelda Mercy. Below is a transcript of the talk, with expanded, more robust answers that didn't quite fit within the confines of 140 characters, along with some archival photos and video screened during the talk from the BAM Hamm Archives. Enjoy! And thanks to everyone who participated on Twitter; it was so much fun to relay your questions to the dancers in real time.

Eddie Martinez in Bamboo Blues. Photo courtesy of the BAM Hamm Archives.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Faust: A Love Story Opening Night Reception

Company Members and some BAMmies at the Opening Night Reception (Photo: Elena Olivo)
Last night, Vesturport Theatre and Reykjavik City Theatre returned to BAM with Faust: A Love Story,  an acrobatic and aerial re-imagining of Goethe's classic tale that takes the meaning of "daredevil" to new heights. BAM members from the Sustainer level and above were invited to celebrate the opening with the artists in the Campbell Lobby of the BAM Harvey Theater where the revelry continued into the night.

Read on for more about the reception!

Taking Notes: Sō Percussion's creative process for Where (we) Live

by Adam Sliwinski of Sō Percussion

Although just under an hour long, Sō's newest project Where (we) Live is dense, enigmatic, and chaotic. Some elements—such as the music—are straightforward, at least in the sense that they resemble work that we've been doing for years.

But a few other elements are very new to us. We purposefully set it up that way, bringing people whom we admire into the room without steering them too strongly towards a specific purpose. Each of our core collaborators was given the power to influence the outcome of the project.

Choreographer and performance artist Emily Johnson (who was honored with a Bessie Award for Oustanding Production this year) is our "note giver." She sits quietly at a desk stage left, listening and watching. When it strikes her, she writes notes down on little scraps of paper and hands them out to any of the other performers during the show. We offered her complete latitude with regard to what instruction she might pass, and when.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Simple Instruments, Complex Listening: Michael Gordon's Timber

Mantra  Percussion rehearsing Timber

I begin by disclosing that my percussion career ended somewhere after eighth grade when I ceased playing the marimba, timpani, and (sometimes) snare drum under the tutelage of my amiable band teacher, Mr. Hasler. (He was awesome and let us form a “jazz” band which played a bangin’ version of "Satin Doll" at our school’s spring arts festival in 1990.)

Yet Timber had all of the right elements to pique my attention: Michael Gordon, an avant drum circle, 2 x 4s, ancient lore, Michael Gordon, a clever pun title, Michael Gordon, and Mantra, a young, fearless, experimental percussion ensemble that I’d seen and loved at ISSUE Project Room.

After watching a couple of rehearsals, it is clear that these elements combine for a completely fresh, deep listening experience. As the piece progresses, the swelling and ebbing volume is warm and dense, filling the room to the ceiling with wood-induced overtones that emit a surprising electronic sound, reminiscent of William Basinski’s “The Disintegration Loop.” It begins to feel like meditative breathing, rooted in cyclical poly-rhythms under a metered ritardando that go in and out of sync, challenging the ears to decipher when the time signatures change among the players.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December Staff Pick: Meet Me In St. Louis

This Month's Pick: Meet Me In St. Louis 
Picked By: Matt Bregman, Vice President for Development

1. Why Meet Me in St. Louis?

First, let me claim some straight ally cred by telling you that Judy Garland is in it, and that should be reason enough! She is fabulous here—at the height of her brilliant genius powers. Second, Margaret O’Brien plays an adorable little girl who loves nothing more than talking about death. Third, if you aren’t moved when Judy sings “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” you should put down your popcorn in shame and leave the theater immediately. (Or give the popcorn to me. I love that song and I’m usually a little hungry.)  But wait, there’s more! “The Trolley Song” at no additional cost!

2. What makes it unique?

Does it have to be unique? Is it okay if it’s just great? It was made in 1944 and doesn't seem even slightly dated. It is beautiful and funny without being silly or sentimental.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Faust: Ideas For a Daring Date

Vesturport Theatre's Faust: A Love Story. Photo: Eddi

BAM dares you to partake in a curated day centered on Vesturport Theatre’s production of Faust: A Love Story. In the spirit of this thrilling, aerialist production in which our protagonist makes a pact with the devil, we selected a few bold ideas that will take you to new heights—literally and figuratively.

    • You’ll start at STREB S.L.A.M. (the STREB Lab for Action Mechanics) in Williamsburg, where you can take group or private classes in PopAction, tumbling, trapeze, tightrope, and a variety of other daredevil techniques.
    • Next, dash over to nearby Gwynnett St. for adventurous modern American cuisine, with a menu that includes whiskey bread, main courses that fuse interesting and rare ingredients, as well as damningly delicious drinks and desserts.
    • Your adventure continues as you attempt to make it to BAM via the infamously unreliable G (for "gamble") train.
    • Assuming you make it to BAM (via the G or a desperately hailed cab), you’ll catch Faust: A Love Story, the Vesturport Theatre’s visceral, high-flying reimagining of Goethe’s classic story, featuring horror-film imagery and Nick Cave’s dark, moody score.
    • We hope we don’t have to bargain with you to try Cocoa Bar’s chocolatini after the show—it’s sinfully delicious and a soothing nightcap to a day of daredevilry.
    Can you think of other adventurous activities and restaurants? Please comment below!

    STREB S.L.A.M. is located at 51 North 1st Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
    (718) 384-6491,

    Gwynnett St. is located at 312 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
    (347) 889-7004,

    Faust: A Love Story, plays at the BAM Harvey Theater, located at 651 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY, 11217,

    Cocoa Bar is located at 228 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215
    (718) 499-4080,

    Friday, December 7, 2012

    Who ignited the promise of art in you? BAM staff weighs in.

    We spend a lot of time here at BAM focusing on the power of art—how it broadens perceptions, changes minds, opens hearts. But it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how and when that power becomes a part of someone’s worldview, changes the way they think and live.

    So we decided to ask BAM friends and fans about the first time the world of creativity opened up for them. To kick things off, we posed this question to a few BAM staffers: Who ignited the promise of art in you? The responses we received were thoughtful and passionate, and we’re thrilled to share them with you here.

    Want to join the conversation? Share your story with us! You’ll even be entered to win some stellar BAM prizes: season tickets, gala invites, free movies, the works.

    Hope you enjoy our stories, and looking forward to reading yours!

    Wednesday, December 5, 2012

    Fresh Hamm: Glenn Branca and Thurston Moore at BAM, 1983

    While digging through the archives recently, we stumbled upon an exciting document: a photo of Glenn Branca’s ensemble performing his Symphony No. 3 (Gloria) at BAM in January 1983. In the late 70s and early 80s, Branca, one of the spearheads of the noisy (and often confrontational) No Wave scene, was developing his signature sound, characterized by the assaultive force of overdriven electric guitars. His ensembles played in all the hippest downtown venues of the day: the Mudd Club, the Kitchen, the Performing Garage, and Danceteria, among others.

    In ‘83 it seems that Branca brought all his friends out to Brooklyn. In the photo Branca is conducting (we imagine him flailing about in his trademarked convulsions), and you can clearly spot a young Thurston Moore seated at a keyboard. While it’s hard to identify the others precisely, we do know that the ensemble also included such No Wave steadies as Michael Gira of Swans, Barbara Ess of Y Pants, Margaret DeWys of the Theoretical Girls, and Moore’s Sonic Youth band-mate Lee Ranaldo.

    Photo: Tom Caravaglia

    Tuesday, December 4, 2012

    Celebrating the BAM Producers Council

    This year's annual Producers Council Celebration took place Friday, November 30, 2012
    (Photo: Etienne Frossard)
    Last Friday we hosted the Producers Council Celebration, an annual event to honor the support of this group of committed BAM patrons. The evening began with cocktails in the Dorothy W. Levitt Lobby in the Peter Jay Sharp Building, followed by a Caribbean themed banquet dinner in the BAM Lepercq Space. After dinner, guests moved into the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House for the first night of Red Hot + Cuba, an all-star tribute to the music of our island neighbor.

    During the Celebration, Producers Council Co-Chair Adam Wolfensohn warmly greeted his fellow Producers Council members and introduced BAM President, Karen Brooks Hopkins, and BAM Executive Producer, Joseph V. Melillo. The two BAM leaders personally expressed their thanks to the Producers Council members for their generosity and continued support of BAM, emphasizing that "You help make it all possible."

    Keep reading for more photo highlights and check out the full event album here. For more on the benefits of joining the Producers Council, click here.

    Monday, December 3, 2012

    Trojan Women (After Euripides) Opening Night Reception

     Trojan Women cast members Katherine Crockett, Brent Werzner, and Ellen Lauren (Photo: Elena Olivo)
    Last week, SITI Company, under the direction of Anne Bogart, proudly returned to the BAM stage with its thrilling production of Trojan Women (After Euripides). The magnificent actors mingled with BAM Producers Council members in the Campbell Lobby of the BAM Harvey Theater to celebrate opening night.

    Read on for more about the event and check out the full web album here!

    John Cage at BAM

    by Cory Bracken

    BAM's Joseph V. Melillo and John Cage, 1980 (Photo: Robert Boyd)

    John Cage was a musical and cultural powerhouse, having forever changed our perception of art through creations that urged us to reflect on what we think music is, and what we think it can be. A California native, Cage moved to New York in 1942 where he lived and worked for much of his life. His arrival reunited him with modern-dance luminary Merce Cunningham, whom he met in 1938 at the Cornish School in Seattle. Much of Cage’s creative output was a result of collaborations with Cunningham, his life partner and a choreographer whose appearances at BAM were legendary, so it is no surprise that Cage graced the BAM stage several times in his career. To celebrate his centennial and acknowledge his ever-present pioneering spirit in Brooklyn’s creative community, here is a look back at Cage’s rich history with BAM.

    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    The Making of Trojan Women: Part 4

    At the Getty Villa. Photo: Craig Schwartz
    The fourth part of a blog series about the creation of SITI Company's Trojan Women.

    Day 24 – Brent Werzner (Poseidon)

    We started rehearsing the play inside, from the top, before we moved outside to try our first run-through. As always it is a challenge to find myself back in the theater and working Poseidon’s prologue after last working in the amphitheater. It takes some winding up before hitting a stride today. I enjoy what Anne [Bogart] brings to my attention, examining the “knitting” of the moments. She challenges me to be more aware of my breath, my choices. During this first portion of rehearsal we really examine the moments when the Trojan Women learn their fate as decided by the Generals of the Armies of Greece­—what was decided by the drawing of the lots, and also Kassandra’s vision.

    Now we’re outside. (I understand one of the final conversations at the pool yesterday was a discussion on how it had been a great day and how we should really do a run-through tomorrow.)

    Cue dramatic drums.