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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 BAM Blog Awards

The Nesquik bunny takes on the Apollonian Greek chorus in Alexandre Singh's The Humans

It wouldn't be a proper year's end at BAM without acknowledging, in award form, the onstage moments that gave us pause, wowed us completely, or reminded us that yes, sometimes what theater calls for is a flatulent Nesquik bunny that rules one half of the post-lapsarian universe. Without further ado, we present the 2013 BAM Blog Awards.

Best performance of a Gnarls Barkley song within an Ibsen play:
The actors in Thomas Ostermeier's An Enemy of the People

Best filmed portrait of an overlooked Nova Scotian island:
We Have An Anchor

Best fall from grace by a statuesque Greek chorus:
The Humans

Best big-band tribute to a boxing star:
The Sweet Science Suite, a tribute to Muhammad Ali

Best cryptic use of text from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
A Piece of Work (runner up: Sider)

Best performance by a piece of furniture in a lead role:
The table in The Table (runner up: the piano in Dark Theater)

Best performance by a dancer wearing a film projector:
Vicky Shick (Trisha Brown Dance Company) in Homemade 

Best use of a B.B. King sample by an Egyptian rapper:
El Deeb's "Masrah Deeb," performed in Mic Check: Hip-Hop from North Africa and the Middle East

Best enigmatic use of cardboard:

Best accompaniment to a series of Rube Goldberg contraptions:
Goldberg’s Variations

Best circular breathing technique by a flutist in a dance piece:
Flutist in Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's Cesena

Best onstage kneading of bread while speaking gibberish:
Not What Happened

Best evocation of post-coital languor by 25 naked men:
Powder Her Face

Best extremely elaborate metallic headdresses:
The Legend of Apsara Mera (runner up: And then, one thousand years of peace)

Best performance by a four-legged creature or two:
The sheep in And then, one thousand years of peace (runner up: the German Shepherd in An Enemy of the People

Best performance by a piece of clothing in a supporting role:
The suit in Peter Brook’s The Suit

Best use of magenta- and periwinkle-colored lasers in tribute to heavenly bodies:

Best use of moving walls to evoke varied psychological states:
David et Jonathas

Pinkest production:

Anna Nicole

Monday, December 23, 2013

BAMcinématek's Best of 2013

As at most film institutions, the tradition of the best-of-the-year list is alive and well at BAMcinématek, and this year we have a whole lot to celebrate. Our version of every cinephile's favorite parlor game does away with the usual listological parameters, so below you'll find us expressing a loose, free-floating love for the moving image with shout-outs to everything from repertory favorites and new releases to GIFs, TV, and Beyoncé's visual album. Enjoy!

Gabriele Caroti, Director
  1. Model Shop, Jacques Demy (Film Forum). I only rent convertibles—sorry, cabriolets—when I visit LA, and this movie is precisely why.
  2. Saxondale. I can’t believe I went eight years without watching this and I am thankful that this was the year. Steve Coogan plays an ex-70s arena rock roadie that runs a small pest control operation in an mid-size English town. He also goes to an anger management group and drives a muscle car. A TV show that aired for two seasons—and a mere 12 episodes.
  3. Without You I’m Nothing, John Boskovich (BAMcinématek). Sandra Bernhard’s one-woman show put on film in 1989—hilarious, moving, complex, difficult, probing, weird, of its time (yet timeless!), and most of all, badass.
  4. Computer Chess, Andrew Bujalski (BAMcinemaFest). I know everyone talks about the cinematography, but whoever production- designed this should get a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy.
  5. We Are The Best, Lukas Moodysson. 12-year-old pro riot grrrls in Sweden. Need I say more?
  6. Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach. I resisted seeing this film for whatever reason and it really struck a chord with me when I did. I think it was a G diminished 7th.
  7. Robert Palmer’s “Looking For Clues” video. Just watch it straight through and try to argue that 80s designer drugs didn’t go into making this—seriously. Also, this aired on MTV’s first day of broadcasting.

  8. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, Richard Pryor (BAMcinématek). The most self-lacerating and frank autobiopic I’ve ever seen (and the only film Richard Pryor directed).
  9. The Night of the Following Day, Hubert Cornfield (92 Y Tribeca). The title sequence is outta sight—and the movie ain’t so bad either. Why this film is not more well known is… understandable, actually. Thank you, Nic ‘n’ Nick.
  10. The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer. I wanted to take a 10-day-long shower after seeing this. And this is coming from someone who takes long showers!

Andrew Chan, Marketing Coordinator
  1. Before Midnight, Richard Linklater. Makes most films about the trials of long-term grown-up relationships from the past decade or so (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blue Valentine) look like child's play. It's hard to think of another contemporary romance that balances the equally legitimate desires, resentments, and anxieties of its characters with as much grace and lightness of tone. And I love the perversity of setting a film against a gorgeous Greek backdrop, then holing it up for its climactic 20 minutes in a drab hotel room.
  2. Museum Hours, Jem Cohen. With the influence of John Berger and Bruegel among its guiding lights, this little masterpiece is an uncommonly sensitive act of observation that finds an unlikely intersection between melodrama, art criticism, and travelogue. Cohen's richly textured mix of DV and 16mm deserves to be seen on the big screen.
  3. Stray Dogs, Tsai Ming-liang. This movie haunts my dreams. While most fans are enraptured by the agonizingly long final shot, my personal favorite occurs near the beginning of the film and features Lee Kang-sheng clutching a real-estate advertisement at a traffic median in the middle of a rainstorm, bitterly singing in classical Chinese as his nose drips with snot. Heavy, heady stuff, Stray Dogs is Tsai's most intensely moving work since What Time Is It There? more than a decade ago.

Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Winter Reading List

An image from Ed Piskor's Hip-Hop Family Tree

You probably already have a lot to read this holiday season: at least three day’s worth of critic’s top 10 lists, weird holiday kale recipes, instructions for assembling your nephew’s new toy (which, let's be honest, isn't half as cool as Legos). But for those cherished moments of idle time, during which your thoughts, we hope, will drift towards BAM, you’ll need something more substantial on hand. Enjoy this list of books, each related in some way to one of our upcoming Winter/Spring productions.

A Lover's Discourse: Fragments | By Roland Barthes
Recommended for: Jeffrey Eugenides / Eat, Drink & Be Literary
A major inspiration for novelist Jeffrey Eugenides, who comes to BAM in February as part of Eat, Drink & Be Literary, Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse is the most seductive and hilarious entry point imaginable into the often impenetrable world of French theory. Arranged as a chain of fragmentary musings on the most ridiculous totems, symbols, and gestures of unrequited love, this slim volume breaks down the melodrama of amour fou so methodically, you hardly know whether to laugh or cry. In prose that somehow manages to attack its subject with surgical precision while also mimicking the intoxicated illogic of infatuation, Barthes accomplishes a feat unprecedented in semiotic theory before or since: allowing the reader to stand both inside and outside a complex web of human emotion. —Andrew Chan

Today I Wrote Nothing: The Selected Writings of Danil Kharms
Translated by Matvei Yankelevich | Recommended for: The Old Woman
On February 2, 1942, in the psych ward of a Soviet hospital, Russian writer Daniil Kharms died of hunger. Had he concealed his belief (and others like it) that one could hide one’s thoughts simply by wearing a hat, he might have never been confined there. But such was the eccentric mind of this recently rediscovered master of the absurd. Kharm’s writings are dark, quizzical, and often hysterical, typically lasting no longer than a page. Pushkin trips over Gogol, men forget whether or not seven or eight comes first, and old women die inconveniently while losing their dentures. Experience the latter as interpreted for the stage by Robert Wilson, Willem Dafoe, and Mikhail Baryshnikov in The Old Woman, at BAM this June.  —Robert Wood

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey 
By Jill Bolte Taylor | Recommended for: Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet
Taylor, a brain researcher at Harvard, used her own recovery from a massive stroke as fodder for her research, and offers up her findings in this popular memoir (and equally popular TEDtalk ). Filled with lines like“My spirit soared free like a great whale gliding through the sea of silent euphoria” (which choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, inspired by Taylor’s text,  actually has his dancers speak in the work Orbo Novo), the book can verge on Dr. Feelgood. But all in all it’s a fascinating firsthand look at the two ways your one brain processes information: linear judgements and future worries on the left, here-and-now revelations and instinctive responses on the right.  —Jessica Goldschmidt

Hip Hop Family Tree | Ed Piskor
Recommended for: Poetry 2014: Birth of a Hip-Hop Nation
Ed Piskor’s Hip-Hop Family Tree, crammed with vignettes featuring the founders and luminaries from the world of rap, is a detailed comic-book history of one of the most popular genres in the world. Piskor’s graphic style is classic—the layout and coloring are like old-school newsprint—and his clarity and detail make the book rich and readable when it could be overwhelming. He puts his story in a precise socio-political context while offering funny anecdotes about how rappers and DJs teamed up, as well as hilarious caricatures of icons like Russell Simmons, diligently spelling out the latter’s lisp in cartoon bubbles as he records “the firtht gold rekkid in hip hop hithtory” with Kurtis Blow. —Nate Gelgud

"Christian Rizzo In Conversation with John Jasperse"
Recommended for: Lyon Opera Ballet
Two choreographers walk into a bar and...actually, they sit down and talk. Christian Rizzo, who choreographed the work ni fleurs, ni ford-mustang, to be performed by Lyon Opera Ballet at BAM in May, chats with fellow choreographer John Jasperse (Canyon, BAM 2011) in this interview for the website Movement Research. Rizzo is a French native known for working in visual art and fashion as well as dance, and here we learn about his views on art history (it goes much further back than Cunningham and Rauschenberg), about how there might be more talking about dance than actually doing it, and more. —Susan Yung

My Autobiography | By Charlie Chaplin
Recommended for: Charlie's Kid
Charlie Chaplin’s 1954 autobiography, recently reissued as a handsome paperback by Neversink, makes an excellent companion piece to the BAMkids production Charlie’s Kid, coming up in May. The book is a thick account of the screen icon’s life, but it moves quickly, powered forward by Chaplin’s crisp, humorous, self-aware way with words. In Bosley Crowther’s New York Times review of the book upon its original publication, the critic maintained that Chaplin wasn’t entirely truthful, so who knows if the funny and surprising anecdotes that pack the book actually happened. The important thing is that Chaplin tells his stories well, and readers get to spend enjoyable time with Chaplin the artist, not just the on-screen Tramp. —Nate Gelgud

The Interestings | By Meg Wolitzer
Recommended for: Meg Wolitzer / Eat, Drink & Be Literary
The title of this bestselling novel refers to sibling friends of protagonist Jules, among a group of lifelong pals who meet at an idyllic summer camp, which later morphs into a darker iteration of the rural. Jules struggles to define her modest, undistinguished life as successful and fulfilling by societal norms, despite being the emotional anchor of her clique. Wolitzer explores the lasting bonds, and occasional devil's bargain, of close relationships, as well as infatuation, fate, and the seduction of wealth. She comes to BAM in May as part of the Eat, Drink & Be Literary series. —Susan Yung

A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Film
By Raoul Walsh | Recommended for: BAMcinématek's Walsh/Scorsese series
This March, BAMcinématek presents a week-long series charting the influence of still-underappreciated classic Hollywood auteur Raoul Walsh on Martin Scorsese. One of the most ardently cinephilic of American directors, Scorsese has spent the last few decades as a leader in championing and preserving film culture. Walsh’s lavishly illustrated, lovingly annotated 1997 book A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies—a companion to his sprawling TV documentary of the same name—is a testament to his encyclopedic knowledge of the art form, filled with passionate and sometimes idiosyncratic readings of everyone from Kubrick and Fuller to lesser-known directors Ida Lupino and Edger G. Ulmer. —Andrew Chan

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Producers Council, and Fisher Award, Celebrations

The night of December 10th was an evening of recognition at BAM, celebrating both the opening night of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and the great patrons who make such a show possible.

Producers Council patrons sit down to dinner after the show. Photo by Beowulf Sheehan
The Producers Council Celebration is an annual event in which BAM gives something back to the members of one of our most important patron programs. In an attempt to combat the snow outside, the night began with hot cocktails in the lobby of the Harvey Theater before the doors opened. Then came the show: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a stage adaptation of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem. Leaving no line left un-rhymed, the great film and stage actress—and BAM vet—Fiona Shaw stars as the suffering mariner, lost at sea, and without a crew.

The Producers Council members weren’t the only ones being honored that night. Minutes after Shaw took her final bow, she climbed onstage once again, this time in a slightly different capacity. BAM President Karen Hopkins presented Shaw with the 2013 Richard B. Fisher Next Wave Award, represented by an artist-designed walking stick, for her artistic accomplishments, continued excellence, and commitment to the institution. 

Fiona Shaw accepts the Fisher Award. Photo by Elena Olivo.
After the awards ceremony, it was off to dinner at the Leperq Space, where all sat at tables awash with shells and sea-themed centerpieces. Among the crowd were a few notable names, including Shaw herself, show co-star Daniel Hay-Gordon, and set designer Chloe Obolensky, who received shout-outs throughout the night for her design not only of Rime, but of BAM’s first show in the Harvey: iconic BAM artist Peter Brook's legendary staging of The Mahabharata. Obolensky literally set the stage for the high quality of theater that has taken place in the Harvey’s brief but dense history. 

Daniel Hay-Gordon at dinner after the show. Photo by Elena Olivo.
From the first Hot Toddy in the Harvey, to last plate laid in front of a patron, the night was a huge success. BAM would like to thank Fleurs Bella for the décor, Elena Olivo and Beowolf Sheehan for their photography, and, most importantly, the members of the Producers Council for their continued support of the institution.

Take a look at the full gallery of photos from the night here and here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Crowd-Sourced Rime

Ladies and gentlemen, there are master orators in our midst.

In conjunction with Fiona Shaw's performance of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic tale of supernatural misadventures on the high seas, we put out an open call for readings of a particularly juicy part of the poem, and you answered. Brilliantly.

Submissions rolled in from Malaysia, Antarctica, and Wales, Santa Fe, Portland, and Harlem. Reading styles were just as diverse, tapping into everything from the stentorian to the whispered to the shouted-vigorously-across-the kitchen.

Hear a handful of the voices in our edited version of the poem (above), stitched together from selected readings and animated by our brilliant in-house team. Or browse through and listen to the individual submissions here on Soundcloud.

Don't forget that Tony Award nominee Fiona Shaw, who undoubtedly has the reading of readings, will be inhabiting Coleridge's woebegone sailor until December 22 at the BAM Harvey Theater.

Merce Cunningham for Camera

By Rhea Daniels

Courtesy of EAI

"The use of camera has extended the sense of what dance can be, how movement behaves, and further how we see it. The two media do not compete. Each abides in its own territory.”
—Merce Cunningham

The psychological preoccupations of choreographer Merce Cunningham were not evident in his dances for the stage. In his collaborations for film, however, we can do a bit of hacking into the mind of Merce. At their essence experimental and non-narrative, Cunningham and filmmaker Charles Atlas choreograph the movement of dancers and images that inspired future multimedia artists. Through the dance of camera and human body, a potential filament of narrative could be pieced together. Often in a Cunningham work for stage, though beautiful and incredibly artful, the concept of “What was Merce thinking?” does not even play a part in the experience.

Merce was famous among other things for “chance dance.” Elements of the dance came together through procedures like the roll of dice, for example. In Cunningham for film, we can imagine a different kind of inspiration that is less about chance process. Are those particular scenes of dance and art smashed together just by chance? Watching these films, I wondered, “Is he trying to tell us something that is not just about movement? The locations—a highway, a beach, then suddenly a dance studio, a dimly lit hallway, provide a peek into the larger context of the worlds in which Merce may have envisioned his dances. Whatever storytelling that may emerge is Merce-y in style: delightfully obtuse.

Courtesy of EAI

The Cunningham works for the camera may cleave the closest to Merce’s vision as time goes on. Now that Cunningham and his company are no longer with us, even skilled artists staging faithful reconstructions of Cunningham’s work won’t be able to capture all that Merce intended. And any dancer who has tried to learn a dance from archival video can probably express the frustrating experience of, say, when the dancer they were studying moves out of frame, or an unnecessary close-up on a random body part. The films Merce by Merce by Paik (1978) and Channels/Inserts (1982) are seminal experiments in dance for camera. Everything we see is what the artists wanted us to see at the angle and in the space we are supposed to see it. The filmic transitions cleverly capture the non-sequitors that often characterize Merce’s movement style. Seeing it on film it all makes even more sense. The “meta” experience of Merce by Merce by Paik is dance film strange and wonderful—Merce himself dancing in and seemingly on top of the film, at times. The film is an unconventional work of semi-biography; it’s possibly the most unadulterated Merce we have today.

Co-presented by Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), Merce by Merce by Paik and Channels/Inserts screen as part of Migrating Forms on Sunday, December 15 at 2pm. The screening will be followed by a discussion with artist Charles Atlas and Rebecca Cleman of EAI.

[Corrected December 17, 2013]

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Meet a Friend of BAM: Shelley

This month in Meet a Friend, we become acquainted with Shelley, a Prospect Heights local and, it turns out, a whiz with obscure dessert metaphors.

Member since: November 2012

Where are you from? What neighborhood do you live in now?
I grew up in Louisiana, moved around the US and abroad, and now live in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

If you had to describe BAM to someone who had never heard of us using only metaphors that involve dessert, what would you say?
If reality TV is like a candy bar (and don't get me wrong, I enjoy a candy bar from time to time and almost anything on HGTV) then BAM is like a mixed berry pie. There's a variety in there, but every bite is both indulgent AND good for you. And when you're a member, the pie basically pays for itself (or makes itself)? It's as if BAM becomes your grandmother. The one that makes you put down your phone and engage with the world and then serves you pie to help you cope with the new things you've learned. Thanks, BAMma.

If the world was ending and you could only save one Iconic BAM Artist, who would it be and why? 
Reggie Wilson [whose Moses(es) was at the BAM Harvey last week]. I hardly have to think about it. I saw him perform in his show A Revisitation earlier this year at New York Live Arts and was mesmerized. I feel confident he could tell a creation story to build a new world I'd want to live in.

How far would you travel to see a show or film you really loved? What show/film would it be?
If I could travel back in time, I'd see the live 1977 performance of The Nutcracker with Baryshnikov. I watched the video on repeat as a little girl and if I could see it live, the dream would come alive for me as it does for Clara in the story.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Rime—Casting Nets and Spells

by Stan Schwartz

 Daniel Hay-Gordon and Fiona Shaw. Photo: Robert Hubert Smith
“I’ve found in the last 20 years of performing poems, audiences still love the direct connection of the unmediated human voice. I’m not sure if anything actually will ever match that as being the primary theatrical experience.”

The speaker is famed Irish actor/director Fiona Shaw, and although her voice was indeed mediated by the trans-Atlantic phone system, it still came through loud, clear, and with charm in a recent conversation from London where she was busy directing Benjamin Britten’s opera The Rape of Lucretia. True, Shaw has recently been directing opera, but she is still mostly known as the superb film and stage actor who, in addition to playing in classical theater (BAM audiences will recall her in the 2011 John Gabriel Borkman), has also made a side business of performing epic poems on stage. In 1996, Shaw wowed New Yorkers with her mesmerizing interpretation of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, and she returns to the BAM Harvey December 10—22 with her performance of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s classic 18th-century poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The production is directed by Phyllida Lloyd.

Coleridge’s poem concerns the tale of the titular and tortured mariner who kills an albatross which has guided his ship lost at sea, and the strange, supernatural events which ensue as a result: Death claims his entire crew but the mariner is condemned to continue living a life of haunted guilt, hence the proverbial albatross around his neck. The poem features a curious framework in which the mariner has stopped a guest on the way to a wedding and has forced him to listen to his tale. But that is only one of the poem’s many oddities, all open to multiple interpretations. One thing is indisputable however, and that is the poem’s visceral and hallucinatory qualities, rendering it ripe for theatrical adaptation. And there’s no doubt that Coleridge’s rhythms of repeated rhymes give the work an incantatory quality.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In Context: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Photo: Fiona Shaw, courtesy of Phyllida Lloyd

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner runs at BAM through December 22. Context is everything, so get even closer to Coleridge's famous ill-fated ocean voyage, the amazing Fiona Shaw, and more with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those of you who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Are You As Smart As a High Schooler? Rime edition

by Jessica Goldschmidt

Remember close reading? Thematic analysis? The difference between simile and metaphor?

Sure you do.

In preparation for this week's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (unofficially the first-ever poem in the English Romantic canon, for those of you taking notes), we invite you to pit wits with school kids and see where you fall. Below are a few sample questions from our Rime study guide, which we offer free to every class attending the performance at BAM (the complete and beautifully designed guide is available here).

English majors and Rime ticket holders, it's time to cram. And see how you fare with this sampling of questions. "Fear not, fear not thou Wedding Guest ... "

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Tere O'Connor

by Rhea Daniels

Tere O’Connor has been a major influencer on the American dance scene since the 1980s. He continuously finds inventive ways of creating and presenting work. Next week his company performs the last dance work of the Next Wave Festival with BLEED, the culmination of a two-year endeavor that collapses three of his dance works—Secret Mary, poem, and Sister—to form a new choreographic language. Tere took the time to answer a few Next Wave questions as the company prepares for its debut in the Fishman Space.

What is it about your works Secret Mary, poem, and Sister that made you want to blend and explore their themes in BLEED?

I don't look at "themes" necessarily in my work. I am interested in the specific ways that information accrues in a dance or through a series of dances, constantly blending and braiding potential readings. What rings through from memory as a dance continues? What lasts? How does what one expected to happen in the early parts of a dance hold up at the end? These ideas apply from dance to dance as well. In BLEED I am creating a situation where I can ruminate about this area of choreographic poetics and value it.

Which artist do you admire from a field other than your own?
Pier Paolo Pasolini (one of many).

What's the biggest risk you've taken?
Becoming a choreographer who works with a movement-centered practice in a non-commercial vein. For some reason, dance is perplexing for many, many people. But for me it is an escape from pragmatism, materialism, and a need that some of my fellow humans maintain—to believe there is an order to things. It is a risk because a choreographer who works with abstraction as a generative force needs to walk a fine line between explaining the work against a barrage of misunderstanding or letting the work be and hoping audiences will understand that dance might have other objectives beyond the explanatory.

Friday, December 6, 2013

ABT—Off Center: Nutcracker Memories

Kenneth Easter and Justin Souriau-Levine. Photo: Gene Schiavone
Giant gingerbread cookies? Skiing rats? It’s all part of a dancer’s annual Nutcracker ritual. Here, four Nutcracker veterans share some of their fondest and funniest memories.

Rachel Moore, ABT CEO
During the mid-1980s, American Ballet Theatre performed The Nutcracker at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles for three weeks each December. On New Year’s Eve, ABT dancers would take “liberties” with the choreography, with the idea that it would be a “Nutty Nutcracker.” One year, when I was a member of the corps de ballet and in the Snow Scene, Larry Pech, a member of the corps playing the role of one the Rats, made a special appearance. Dressed in his rat costume, Larry donned a pair of roller skates and ski poles, and went gliding through the snow scene, dodging us “Snowflakes.” It was a moment to remember!

Fiona Shaw Reads Eliot, Yeats, and Patti Smith

by Robert Wood

For those of you who think that poetry is better read than heard, or that our age is too cynical for public recitations of rhymed verse, or that those who feel differently must sleep in a beret and with a copy of Ginberg’s “Howl” under their pillow, we offer you… Fiona Shaw, coming to BAM next week to perform Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ("Water, water, everywhere," etc.).

Fans of Harry Potter will know her as the irascible Aunt Petunia Dursley. Fans of searching for meaning in a godless world will know her as Winnie, the woman buried up to her neck in mud from Beckett’s Happy Days (BAM 2008 Winter/Spring Season). All should know her as one of the most commanding actors they're likely to see on a New York stage.

Here, get to know her as sufferer of the cruelest month in Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” the laboring lover-poet in Yeats’ “Adam’s Curse,” the heartbroken wailer of Patti Smith’s “Wilderness,” and the celestial dreamer in Yeat's "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.”

1. “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot

Monday, December 2, 2013

Introducing the BAM + NADA Portfolio

by Jessica Goldschmidt

In 1987, BAM began commissioning artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Barbara Kruger to create limited-edition benefit prints. Now, we’re creating a benefit portfolio for the 21st century in collaboration with NADA—New Art Dealers Alliance—which is most definitely not nothing. It’s something. It’s a big deal, actually.

NADA was founded in 2002 as an alternative, nonprofit collective of contemporary art professionals. Together, BAMart—the visual art component of our organization—and NADA commissioned 12 of today’s most exciting visual artists to create a limited-edition print portfolio to benefit both organizations.

The portfolio itself is a work of art, housing prints in a variety of media in a beautiful archival linen folder. Check out the website to learn more about the project and the artists (in alphabetical order): Joshua Abelow, Sascha Braunig, Sarah Crowner, Alex Da Corte, Michael DeLucia, Christian Holstad, Zak Kitnick, Margaret Lee, Sam Moyer, Ulrike Müller, Zak Prekop, and Michael Williams.

To offer a glimpse into the process of these up-and-coming artists, we asked two of the portfolio’s participants (Zak Prekop and Sascha Braunig) to introduce themselves and their work to the BAM community. They graciously complied:

Friday, November 29, 2013

Producer's Note: The Multidimensional Akim Funk Buddha

by Darrell McNeill

Week ten of BAMcafé Live featured two different takes on Black American roots music, both of which overflowed with people attuned to good music and good vibes. New Orleans quintet, Water Seed, mixed a spicy soul/funk/jazz gumbo on November 22, bringing the crowd to its feet with infectious sounds from the Big Easy. An all-star assemblage of talent gathered for a musical celebration of the 60th birthday of jazz trombonist Earl McIntyre on November 23, covering a huge cross section of jazz from show tunes to Latin to hard bop to experimental.

Thanksgiving weekend marks the annual residence of award-winning hip-hop auteur Akim Funk Buddha and his “Hip-Hop Holiday.” The multidimensional Akim—rapper, beatboxer, singer, poet, dancer, martial artist, choreographer, dramaturge of movement theater and cultural ambassador—has collaborated with a galaxy of stars, including Bill T. Jones, Vernon Reid, Saul Williams, Daniel Bernard Roumain, and many others.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cross-Dressing at BAM: A Brief Survey

By Louie Fleck

Reinhild Hoffman's Callas, performed by Tanztheater Bremen

The 1861 bylaws of the Brooklyn Academy of Music contain a little-known, and oddly undocumented, regulation. Without getting into confusing legal jargon, BAM is required to present, on a regular basis, men in women’s attire and women wearing outfits normally associated with men. Whatever our forward-thinking founding fathers had in mind, we have gladly complied. Here is a quick historical scan of cross-dressing at BAM.

Cross-dressing has long been essential to storytelling history. In numerous Greek, Norse, and Hindu myths, sexual identities are switched, either as punishment or as a way to avoid detection.

Males played the female parts in Shakespeare’s original productions. But within the plays are numerous instances of characters switching genders to achieve a questionable goal or complicate the plot. Speaking of the Bard, in 2011, Ed Hall’s company Propeller blew the roof off of the Harvey Theater with a wonderful, over-the-top production of The Comedy of Errors.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Street Singing: Three Glimpses at 21c Liederabend, op.3

Who says that street art has to involve cans of Krylon or beat-up 6-strings?

In anticipation of this weekend's 21c Liederabend festival—a two-night extravaganza of dazzling contemporary vocal music featuring the biggest names in the New York new-music scene—we staged three short performances of music from the show at a few choice curbside locales around the borough. If you're more of an indoor person, you can catch these songs and others at the festival this weekend at the BAM Harvey Theater.

1. Christopher Burchett singing an excerpt from Paola Prestini's "Distance to the Market."

Shot in Williamsburg on Wythe Ave between N. 3rd St. and Metropolitan Ave.
Art by Faile

Producer’s Note: Water Seed and Earl McIntyre at BAMcafé Live

by Darrell McNeill

BAMcafé Live Week Nine of BAMcafé Live ran down two entirely different musical tracts linked by the warm enthusiasm they received by their respective audiences.

A packed house rocked out to party band Kidding on the Square, Friday, November 15, whose groove is in that odd intersection between Devo and Huey Lewis & the News. Besides moving the crowd and never taking things too seriously, KOTS is all the fun of a night out with all your friends without the walk of shame.

Poet/singer Tai Allen and an all-star band paid reverent tribute to jazz singer/composer/poet Oscar Brown Jr. Allen and company took classic pieces like “Sixteen Tons,” the original ” Chain Gang” (not to be confused with the Sam Cooke hit), “Dat Dere,” and some of Brown’s poems and placed them in contemporary  frames, opening a gateway from today’s listener to a still-looming figure in modern jazz.

Week 10 ushers in popular New Orleans soul/funk quintet Water Seed on Friday, November 22, making only its second-ever swing thought the northeast, while an all-star assemblage of jazz talent gathers to celebrate the 60th birthday of jazz trombonist Earl McIntyre on Saturday, November 23. Representing strong for the sonically eclectic sounds that are New Orleans’ stock and trade, Water Seed is supporting its fourth release, Wonder Love 2, with a deep mélange of dirty grooves. Award-winning trombonist/tubaist/composer Earl McIntyre, a fixture in the Lincoln Center Latin Jazz Orchestra, has performed with some of the biggest names in all genres of music. Many of these figures (including Arturo O’Farrill, Renee Manning, Buddy Williams, Jimmy Heath, and TS Monk among others) will be returning the favor in a birthday musical celebration to Earl in the café.

Another music-rich weekend awaits. Hope to see you in the café this weekend…

Darrell McNeill is the Associate Producer of Music Programming at BAM. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Looking for Moses(es)

by Marina Harss

Photo: Julieta Cervantes

“Nobody knows what Moses looked like. That’s part of the fascination,” the choreographer Reggie
Wilson says with a laugh, discussing some of the ideas behind his new work, Moses(es), which will have its New York premiere at the BAM Harvey on Dec 4. The biblical story of the Exodus has been in the back of Wilson’s mind for years—who hasn’t heard about the burning bush and the crossing of the Red Sea?—but it acquired new layers of complexity when he traveled to Jerusalem in 2010 for a residency sponsored by the Foundation for Jewish Culture (now the American Academy in Jerusalem). Once there, he met Avigdor Shinan—a Moses scholar at Hebrew University who happens to be the uncle of one of his dancers, Anna Schon.

It was Shinan who coined the word “Moses(es),” evoking the many faces of the man who delivered
the Israelites from slavery. “Show me your Moses and I’ll tell you who you are,” Professor Shinan tells his students at the beginning of each semester, laying out a variety of images. Such reflections on the multifaceted nature of myth dovetailed with Wilson’s reading of Zora Neale Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain, a retelling of the Moses story as a Southern American folk tale. Among other things, Hurston’s book is an allegory of slavery and liberation in America. In his usual non-linear way, Wilson has pried this narrative apart, examining it from all angles.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Record Your Rime: A BAM Poetry Project

Admit it. You've always dreamed of being a swarthy sailor who sports a crossbow, gambles with death, and gets mistaken for the devil.

In celebration of Tony Award nominee Fiona Shaw's upcoming performances of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic account of bird-related misadventures on the high seas, we're partnering with the Poetry Foundation's Record-a-Poem project to collect your interpretations of (an excerpt from) Coleridge’s classic rhyme.

Don’t worry, sailor: this can all be done from the comfort of your own scurvy-free home. All we need is your lovely voice and your saltiest take on one of the great poems of the English language. You can listen to some of the submissions here.

In a few weeks, we’ll edit together a single crowd-sourced animated video featuring as many of your voices as possible and post to the blog. And if you participate through Soundcloud, your entire reading will be preserved as part of Record-a-Poem for poetry posterity.

UPDATE: Deadline for submissions for the animation was December 1, but we encourage you to continue submitting your Rimes.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

5 Questions for Janine Thériault of La Belle et la Bête

In Lemieux Pilon 4D Art's La Belle et la Bête, the actors interact with stunning projected imagery in a retelling of the age-old Beauty and the Beast story. We chatted with Janine Thériault who plays La Belle about her role and what it's like to perform with "virtuals."

1. How would you describe your character and in what ways do you identify with her?
This version of Belle (along with the play as a whole) is a contemporary take on the more archetypal fairytale version—so, although she is still very much the "Bringer of Light, Life, and Love" in the story, there are necessarily more shadows, uncertainties, and ambiguities in her. She's a very youthful person, with all that entails—including a decidedly impetuousness streak. She's also an artist in her own right, and has built much of her existence around her work. She's definitely a glass-half-full person. I certainly identify with her determination to see beauty, light, and wonder in life, and the struggle that this insistence can sometimes be. Her desire to use her art to bring this light is definitely something we share, what I aspire to do with my own [art]...

2. In the play you interact mostly with projections. Were the projections part of rehearsals from the beginning or were they added later?

Much later! Because my first show with this production was on tour, the stage and all the equipment had been sent ahead far in advance by ship, and I only got onto the stage with the projections in tech week! Thankfully for me, our intrepid assistant director knows the minutia of the virtuals inside out, and had me as prepared for what I'd be encountering onstage as I could be. But this late introduction gave me moments of being taken away by the magic of the show in that week—something that doesn't always happen in tech!

Monday, November 18, 2013

5 Questions for Beth Morrison and Paola Prestini

By Robert Wood

Beth Morrison
Paola Prestini
Beth Morrison, creative producer and executive director of Beth Morrison Projects, and Paola Prestini, composer and executive and artistic director of VisionIntoArt, are co-creative producers of 21c Liederabend, op.3, a two-night reimagining of the art-song recital, coming to BAM November 22 and 23. 

1. What inspired the original 21c Liederabend idea?

Beth Morrison: I received two degrees in classical vocal training from conservatories, and the Liederabend was always a beloved monthly event at which the singers got together to sing for each other, their friends, and the public. It was about focusing on communication through song. I loved these nights. When you leave conservatory, the Liederabend ceases to exist in the professional world. I wanted to bring this form into the 21st century and make it wholly of today and of the now. To do that, we needed all living composers that were writing for the voice, and we needed to create a multimedia context for our visual world. Paola and I came together to figure out how to do that, and we are now in our third incarnation (op.3) and so happy to bring the Liederabend to BAM.

Paola Prestini: This was Beth's baby, and I’m thrilled to have been on board since Op. 1! With the inclusion of my company, VisionIntoArt, we delved into a multimedia realm that Beth and I thought would amplify and further contextualize the Liederabend as a vibrant and important expression in today's time.

Beauty, Ever Ephemeral

by Brian Scott Lipton

Beauty and the Beast may be a tale as old as time, but that hasn’t stopped artists from finding their own ways of telling the story of the shy, beautiful girl who falls in love with the ugly monster who is really a prince. Now, Lemieux Pilon 4D Art co-founders Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon are delivering their own take. La Belle et la Bête, at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House November 21 to 23, blends elements of the classic 18th-century fairy tale with 21st-century technology.

Enchanted by Jean Cocteau’s classic 1946 film, the pair decided to dig deeper into the story’s history. “We first read the version written for children by Mme. De Beaumont in the 1750s. It’s very popular in France,” says Lemieux. “Then we found out that it was based on a short adult novel by Mme. de Villeneuve, written 15 years earlier. It was to prepare women to marry a rich but ugly man. All of these bedtime stories our parents tell us, they became our myths. And there’s always a moral. They’re designed to tell us how to live and often tell us the tragic destiny of ourselves.”

Using plot details from both versions, Lemieux and Pilon, whose production of La Tempête was seen at BAM in 2006, crafted their own story. “Our beast is not an ugly old man, but a man who was in love and abandoned by that love. He’s kind of sexy but disfigured,” says Lemieux. “The beauty is a woman from today; she’s a young, intelligent, visual artist, who has issues dealing with the death of her mother. Like the beast, she’s kind of hurt herself. The fact is we all have some sort of drama in our lives. So we have these two characters who are broken, meet against all odds, and fall in love. And that leads to the questions we want to explore: Is it still possible to fall in love without the idea of conventional beauty? Can we look beyond appearances in a world where images are so important? Is it possible to go deeper and see what’s inside another person?”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Producer's Note: Kidding On The Square and Tai Allen at BAMcafé Live

by Darrell McNeill

A nod to masterful performances from American Candy, Jeannie Hopper’s Liquid Sound Lounge live music crew, and The Irrepressibles since the last dispatch.

Last week brought two divergent but well-noted performers to the Lepercq stage: indie rocker Jenny Owen Youngs and soul-jazz poet Mala Waldron. Youngs and her trio charged the stage with giddy, danceable, sudsy anthems, while pianist, singer, and poet Waldron soothed the crowd with plaintive and thoughtful pieces.

This weekend marks the return of popular working-class party band, Kidding on the Square on Friday, November 15, a group for whom there is never enough cowbell. Irreverent, goofy funk and self-effacing wit is the KOTS stock in trade, with a mission to bring the uninhibited to the dance floor. On Saturday, November 16, poet/singer Tai Allen brings a star-studded cast of musicians to pay tribute to quintessential jazz singer and tunesmith Oscar Brown, Jr. Tai is a fixture on the underground music scene and his take on this musical legend will be nothing short of inspirational.

Hope to see you in the café this weekend…

Darrell McNeill is the Associate Producer of Music Programming at BAM.  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Philip Hulford of Hofesh Shechter Company

Hofesh Shechter Company in Sun. Photo: Gabriele Zucca
Hofesh Schechter Company's exuberant Sun takes the Opera House stage from Nov 14—16. Philip Hulford, rehearsal assistant and dancer originally from Bolivia and now based in the UK, answered a BBQ in the busy days leading up to opening night. Thanks, Philip!

Which artist do you admire from a field other than your own?
Andy Serkis—he is brilliant physically and theatrically. Humble, smart guy, I would love to have the opportunity to work with him.

What's the biggest risk you've taken?
Hmmm, probably the decision to start dancing. Before I even considered dance I was skateboarding, snowboarding, playing video games, and I don't know what I expected from the future!

When I was 17 I decided I needed to get away. I did a Christian kind of bible course with a charity called "Youth With a Mission" in Colorado. During one of the teachings I was completely unfocused and struggled to be present in the class. I was away with my thoughts. One recurring thought I had was to move, specifically to study some dance. I don't know, I just sensed it was the next step... little did I know what a trip God would take me on! Completely random thoughts, but I believed it was the right step to make.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Art Shading Into Theater—Alexandre Singh interviewed by Steve Cosson

Flora Sans, Sanna Elon Vrij, Sanne den Besten, Gerty Van de Perre, Amir Vahidi, Philip Edgerley. Photo: Sanne Peper 

Alexandre Singh's
The Humans comes to the BAM Fisher on Nov. 13. Singh, best-known as a visual artist, has taken on no less than the creation of the universe in this theatrical production, based on Aristophanes. He spoke with Steve Cosson, who directed ETHEL's Documerica earlier in the Next Wave Festival, as well as last year's production of Paris Commune by The Civilians.
Steve Cosson: What can you do in theater that you’ve never done before? 
Alexandre Singh: This isn’t by any means unique to theater, but this is the longest project I’ve worked on in terms of research and development. Definitely the most fully developed in terms of the script, visual elements, the work with the actors, the chorus, the costumes, the dance. Everything. It was such a pleasure to really be able to flesh out an entire world, and to do so with such talented and imaginative collaborators.

SC: In creating this show were there any aspects of theatrical norms that you were consciously avoiding or working against?
AS: I can’t really say that I’m familiar enough with contemporary theater to know what its norms might be. Not that I’ve chosen to be deliberately naive about it. I couldn’t tell you for that matter what the norms in visual art are either. Sad to say: I spend almost all my time squirrelled away, scratching out my own work. But there are a few what I might term "stylistic" choices that I’ve come across and that I did avoid in this play. I’m not a fan of video projection in theater. I wouldn’t rule it out, per se, but I think it’s quite difficult to reconcile with the materiality of the world on stage. I also much prefer live music and foley to prerecorded sound for much the same reason. What attracts me to theater—and this may seem surprising given the apparent exuberance of The Humans—is its potential to be simple and direct.

SC: Do you consider The Humans to be theater? Or performance? Or is that distinction important to you?
AS: They’re just such broad terms. With regards to The Humans: it’s theater—because, well—it’s a play. Certainly there’s dance and music there as well as certain strong visual ideas that are present throughout. But all of those things are woven into what is at its heart: a quite orthodox piece of theater. Of course when you sit down on any given night to watch it: that’s "a performance."

Water, Great Connector

by Rob Weinert-Kendt

Photo: Simon Kane
Theater is found not only in words and action but also in space—in the way humans move through it and occupy it, the way our physical environment brings us together and keeps us apart. As our contemporary lives have become more isolated and modular—awash in cheap, disposable conveniences and screens everywhere, delivering bits of information, connecting us less to each other than to the means of communication themselves—theater artists attuned to these changes have plenty of fresh material.

Britain’s Filter Theatre seems particularly alert to the way we live now. In shows like Faster and Silence, as well as in freewheeling adaptations of classics, the company has employed a pared-down, seam-showing aesthetic. As co-artistic director Ferdy Roberts describes it, “The idea is that the rehearsal room ends up onstage.”

That’s certainly true of the look and feel of Filter’s intimate but wide-ranging work Water, which debuted at London’s Lyric Hammersmith in 2007, was revived in 2011 at the Tricycle Theatre, and comes to the BAM Harvey from November 13 to 17. A transatlantic mystery with climate change as a thematic backdrop, Water has characters staring into laptops, moving hurriedly through desolate airports, speaking through disembodied microphones, or, if they’re feeling particularly forward, addressing us directly with a slide presentation on the molecular structure of H2O. The world around may be warming, but the world of Water feels distinctly chilly.

Monday, November 11, 2013

King of New York—Remembering Lou Reed at BAM

by Susan Yung
Lou Reed during Songs for 'Drella (1989).
Photo: BAM Hamm Archives

"Ordered sound is music," Lou Reed said in his last video interview, at Reed, who died recently at 71, had a way of reducing complex thoughts and feelings to their essence, as he did so eloquently in his songs. In The New Yorker, Patti Smith remembers him as "a complicated man." Lou, whose name was both a cheer and a loving jeer, has been tagged as "the poet of New York," and by David Bowie as no less than "the king of New York." He was famous for never sugarcoating, neither his lyrics nor in interviews. "He was curious, sometimes suspicious, a voracious reader, and a sonic explorer," Smith wrote.

In three productions at BAM—Songs for 'Drella, Time Rocker, and POEtry—Reed expanded on his core body of rock music, from the Velvet Underground through solo projects, that had gained him a huge following. Songs for 'Drella (1989) reunited Reed with fellow VU co-founder John Cale, and was a paean to Andy Warhol, who had died two years earlier. Even in such a short span, Reed's frank perspective found its way into his fond, sometimes sardonic lyrics in tribute to the wigged artist. It was a powerful, intimate song-cycle performed movingly by Cale and Reed—part-time conspirators, but mostly wry observers, of Warhol's Factory.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Apocalypse 101

by Rhea Daniels

Photo: Jack Vartoogian

For his 21-dancer apocalyptic extravaganza, And then, one thousand years of peace, Angelin Preljocaj takes his choreography to the end of the world. Not satisfied to tell your standard Armageddon tale, Preljocaj drew inspiration directly from the Revelation of St. John the Divine.

Biblical scholar Elaine Pagels describes the work’s final volume as “the weirdest book of the Bible.” As she says: “There are no stories in it or ethical teachings… it’s not what one expects of biblical books on the whole. Basically it’s visions—it’s dreams and nightmares.”

Written approximately 60 years after the death of Jesus, St. John claimed that the visions of war and disaster foretelling the end of the world came to him when he was in an ecstatic state, when the heavens opened up to him and the voice of God spoke to him.

It has been suggested by biblical scholars and historians that the scenes of destruction that John describes are events that would occur shortly after his writing in the first century—things that he could well have predicted without the help of a revelatory vision from God. Going by this explanation, the Apocalypse happened in the First century. The imagery is so adaptable, yet so visceral, that according to many modern artistic interpretations not only has the apocalypse already happened, it is happening and is going to happen.

In Context: Dark Lark

Photo by Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang
Dark Lark runs at the BAM Fisher through November 9. Context is everything, so get even closer to Kate Weare's titillating production with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those of you who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

By the Books: Kate Weare’s Dark Lark

by Jessica Goldschmidt

NBA coach and 11-time champion Phil Jackson assigns reading material to his players to maximize performance, enhance personal development, and give them something to do instead of hitting gentleman’s clubs until the wee hours before game nights.

For possibly more dramaturgical reasons, inaugural BAM Fisher artist-in-residence Kate Weare does the same. Weare assigned her dancers relevant reading material during the creation process of her newest work, Dark Lark—though because the show is a meditation on sexual fantasy and the stage as a space for social self-creation, the texts Weare landed on are probably much more scintillating than anything Phil Jackson would have chosen to inspire his Lakers.

Below you’ll find a short compilation of Kate Weare’s non-required reading, with selected quotes to get you thinking about the politics and cathartic promise of desire, the nuances of role play, and the therapeutic potential of sexual fantasy.

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Enemy of the People Primer: The Coming Insurrection

By Jessica Goldschmidt

Thomas Ostermeier’s An Enemy of the People takes some liberties with Ibsen. David Bowie songs, chalkboard walls, empty hipster aesthetics… and a new ending.

Well, maybe not new. But different.

Ibsen’s 1882 play closes with an impassioned speech by his beleaguered hero about the supremacy of the individual over the tyranny of the majority. Ostermeier’s play replaces this monologue almost entirely with text from The Coming Insurrection, a polemic put out by The Invisible Committee in 2007. You can read about the tract’s background and context (and how unfortunately useful it seems to have proven for Glenn Beck) at the informative Wikipedia page. Or, if you’re feeling the need to shake up your perspective on pretty much everything, give the whole text a read for free. (It’s lengthy, but fascinating.)

But if you’re strapped for time and looking for a little insight, we offer a smattering of quotes, and invite you to peruse them and use them to think through Ostermeier’s (and Ibsen’s) work, which runs through this weekend at the BAM Harvey.