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Thursday, January 31, 2013

What are we looking at?

Ben's been watching this 360 degree video, reading Snow Fall, and listening to the new Bob Dylan copyright fiasco box set. (And when we stopped by his office last week, he was in a heated conversation about copyright laws in general.)

Jessica is seriously enjoying the web layout on Literary Asses and, and last week she was sending this around, a send-up of Golden Globes fashion police.

I myself have been listening to various theories about "creak" or "fry" voice on two of my favorite podcasts, Professor Blastoff and Lexicon Valley.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The (Benefit of a) Suit

The Benefit dinner included several spectral suits floating overhead.
Nonhlanhla Kheswa (L) and William Nadylam (R), the well-dressed lead actors in The Suit. (All photos: Elena Olivo)
BAM’s annual Theater Benefit last week honoring renowned theater, opera, and film director Peter Brook and his production of The Suit got us musing about men’s fashion—and didn't the gents (and ladies) turn it out. At dinner, always fashionable BAM Executive Producer Joseph Melillo (photo below), outfitted in a Michael Kors suit (a change from his usual Hugo Boss), recalled Brook’s long history with BAM and his partnership with visionary impresario Harvey Lichtenstein, who served as long-time president and executive producer of BAM. Together, Brook and Lichtenstein masterminded the renovation of the Majestic Theater, now the BAM Harvey Theater, to host the director’s 1987 staging of the epic The Mahabharata.

Read on for more on Peter, Harvey, and this special evening. The Suit runs through Feb 2.

A Dancer's Perspective: Tamara Riewe of Trisha Brown Dance Company

by Tamara Riewe

Tamara (center) in I'm Going to Toss My Arms... Photo: Laurent Phillippe

The week of shows is upon us, our days of padding barefoot into the office kitchen to increase the line for the microwave are numbered. The office staff at BAM have been incredibly welcoming, kindly averting their eyes from our damp, rumpled rehearsal clothes as we inevitably corner them in the small yellow room, admiring their chic outfits and artfully tousled hair.

For the last month-and-a-half my company has rehearsed in the Attic Studio of the opera house in preparation for this show. Performing in New York City is always a big deal; the stakes feel higher here at home, with teachers, peers, students, and friends swelling the audience. This January marks my seventh year in the company, so I've had the pleasure/terror of performing at BAM before. I can still taste the sheer exuberance of dancing Glacial Decoy: the vast stage inviting us to take wing in our billowing white dresses, daring our limbs to devour the space as if chasing Rauschenberg's flitting photographs into infinity. To be perfectly honest, part of me had wanted to pull a George Costanza and leave on that high note, but plans were made to be broken. Especially when one has the chance to be a part of dance history: dancing the final creations of a choreographer as intriguing and lauded as Trisha Brown in a theater as storied and celebrated as BAM.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Laramie Project Cycle—A Return to Laramie

by Dan Bacalzo

Photo by Michael Lutch

It’s been more than a decade since Tectonic Theater Project first traveled to Laramie, Wyoming, in the wake of the brutal murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard. “We found a community that was devastated by both the crime and the national media onslaught that the crime generated,” says Moisés Kaufman, the artistic director of the company. “As a result of this, the citizens of Laramie were forced to engage in conversations about their town and about their beliefs that most communities don’t.”

This kind of soul-searching led to Tectonic’s best-known creation, The Laramie Project. The documentary theater piece, which uses the actual words of the people of Laramie, had its world premiere in Denver and debuted off-Broadway in 2000. It is an in-depth exploration of how a town responds to tragedy, including multiple viewpoints that offer a complex portrait of a community in crisis.

As the 10th anniversary of Shepard’s murder approached, Kaufman asked several members of the company to help create what was initially planned as a brief epilogue. However, it soon became clear that they were gathering enough material to make an entire second play, The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later, which is being performed at the BAM Harvey Theater along with the original as The Laramie Project Cycle from February 12 to 24, including weekend marathons including both parts.

Friday, January 25, 2013

BAMfamily: It's so much more than fun and games

by Jessica Goldschmidt

The BAMfamily season has officially launched. The 15th Annual BAMkids Film Festival is glimmering on the horizon like the yearly jewel of family fun it is. And amid all the kiddie-centric excitement, you might not realize the sweat, blood, and tears that go into programming a season of children’s theater, film, dance, and music. I mean, it’s just kids' stuff, right?

To use a word all-too familiar to parents the world over: No. It’s not just kids' stuff. It’s a careful process of seeking out, curating, scheduling, and presenting the best in international children’s theater.

Just ask Suzanne Youngerman, director of education and family programs and the brains behind our brand-new season of family-oriented live performance. “How do you take the BAM aesthetic and translate it into something for children?,” Suzanne asks. “I’m always looking. For years I’ve been looking, even though there hasn’t been much opportunity to actually book anything until now.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peter Brook—Wisdom from The Suit's director

by Alicia Dhyana House

Peter Brook. Photo: Colm Hogan
Peter Brook is considered theater royalty and so I was absolutely thrilled to interview the legendary director for an article I wrote for BAMbill about his current production, The Suit. Brook has paved the way for generations of theatermakers, including me, and has exhilarated theatergoers around the world with his daring innovations.

I was first introduced to Peter Brook as an undergraduate at San Francisco State University. My theater history professor, Mohammed Kowsar, was impassioned about this director and his enthusiasm rubbed off on me. Since that class I have seen as many of Brook’s productions as possible and I have a bookshelf dedicated to books written by or about this consummate artist.

Even in his late 80s, Brook still challenges conventional theater with his subject matter and execution. He vehemently searches for and tells human stories that are screaming to be told. Narratives that are universal, crossing borders in time and space. Brook teaches us that theater is as vital to our lives as the air we breathe. And The Suit (at the BAM Harvey Theater through Feb 2) is a stunning example of a tale bursting at the seams to be told and to be witnessed. And like life itself, it is both heartbreaking and uplifting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fresh Hamm: BAM’s Dirty Little Red Secret (The Socialists Are Running Amuck!)

by Louie Fleck

A curious artifact appeared on eBay, and BAM Hamm Archives was lucky enough to win the auction. It is a letter on Brooklyn Forum/Academy of Music stationery to the Honorable Bainbridge Colby requesting his participation in a symposium.

Colby was a special assistant to the United States Attorney General in an anti-trust action in 1917, and represented the US at the Inter-Allied Conference at Paris the same year. Wilson appointed him Secretary of State from March 23, 1920 and Colby served until March 4, 1921. He supported the ddddddddddd dddddddd and the League of Nations and established a precedent for NOT recognizing newly Communist Russia, which remained in place until 1933.

Confessions of a Motion Addict

Photo of Trisha Brown and Stephen Petronio by Lois Greenfield

Excerpt from a memoir by Stephen Petronio. Trisha Brown Dance Company appears at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House January 28—30, 2016. 

I met Trisha Brown in 1979 while working as stage manager for a Movement Research benefit performance. When she arrived, I greeted her at the theater door. She smiled as I took her white metal make-up case and led her to the dressing room. I hadn’t seen her work yet and I can’t remember the conversation—nothing much was said—but on that brief walk she completely won me over.

That night she danced Watermotor and a short excerpt of the work-in-progress that would become Glacial Decoy. I was floored by what I saw, not only for its exhilarating beauty. Her language was startlingly new—a twisted blend of wild-ass, intuitive sensuality, and cool rigor that I understood on a genetic level. I was instantly hooked and knew I’d found a home.

I was the first male in the Trisha Brown Dance Company where I stayed for seven years, from 1979 to 1986. A sweating, snorting bull in a china shop alongside of one of the most intelligent and silky bodies on the planet, I was duly challenged. Fortunately, Trisha had a kind of alchemical effect on me from the beginning. (I’m not alone in this respect). She continually asked me to think and dance beyond my grasp. More often than not, and to my great surprise, I found myself doing it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

2013 Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir performs at the 2013 MLK Tribute (Photo: Elena Olivo)

The 27th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was held yesterday at BAM.

A festive breakfast hosted by BAM, Marty Markowitz, Medgar Evers College, and Target kicked off the days celebration. NYC Comptroller John Liu, Council Member Letitia James, and BAM Board member Adi Shamir were among the guests in attendance. Also joining us were the talented young artists of Picture the Dream, an exhibition from Saratoga Center in BAM's Diker Gallery Cafe. The exhibit was made possible through support from the New York City Housing Authority and long-standing Presenting Sponsor, Target.

Following the breakfast, guests made their way into the Howard Gilman Opera House for musical performances by the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir and Kindred, The Family Soul. Keynote Speaker Harry Belafonte, Dr. King's close friend, actor, and activist, also addressed the audience.

The Doors of BAM

by Louie Fleck, BAM Archives Coordinator

No, Jim Morrison is not alive, hiding in some secret room at BAM. But since “people are strange,” and since I am a person—one who enjoys exploring all the most obscure and hidden nooks of BAM—I thought it would be interesting to guide BAMblog readers through a tour of some of the stranger doors at BAM.

There are probably over 1000 doors contained in the Peter Jay Sharp building, otherwise known as the Opera House at BAM. Since opening in 1908, this building has undergone countless renovations and modifications. For example, long gone are the horse carriage entrances that flanked the foyer on Ashland Place and St. Felix Street. Also, while still visible from the outside, the center set of doors at 30 Lafayette are no longer used, as there is an escalator behind those doors in the lobby.

Thomas Paulucci, Crew Chief, and I took a little tour and now we’d like to share a few of the “hidden” places with you…

Thursday, January 17, 2013

10 Things You Didn’t Know about Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Here at BAM we’re beyond excited that the legendary singer, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte will be the keynote speaker at our annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 2013 is a historic year—it’s not only the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation evoked in that speech. Jan 21, 2013 is also a historic day: Barack Obama with take the oath of office for the second time at the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

I can think of no one better to speak about civil rights and Dr. King’s legacy than Harry Belafonte. An incredible artist who has fought tirelessly against racism and oppression, he inspired Dr. King because he didn’t have to dedicate his life to a cause—his celebrity all but guaranteed him a privileged life. Yet he chose instead to use his fame and artistry to bring attention to the civil rights movement, and continues to devote himself to Dr. King’s vision by fighting to end inequality and injustice in all of its forms.

Most of us are familiar with Belafonte’s music—who hasn’t heard of "The Banana Boat Song? (Day-O!)"—but his life as a champion of human rights has been full of challenges and milestones. Here are 10 things I bet you didn’t know about Harry Belafonte:

In Context: Peter Brook's The Suit

Photo: Nonhlanhla Kheswa, by Johan

The Suit, Peter Brook's adaptation of South African writer Can Themba's biting short story, runs at the BAM Harvey Theater until Saturday, February 2. Context is everything, so get even closer to The Suit with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Suit—Love, Apartheid Style

by Alicia Dhyana House

William Nadylam & Nonhlanhla Kheswa-Réveil in The Suit. Photo: Johan Persson

Peter Brook is a theatrical prophet. For the past seven decades the contributions of this visionary British director have traversed theater, film, and literary worlds. Brook has spent a lifetime exploring his craft and the world in pursuit of stories eager to be told. Now in his 80s, Brook continues to extend the boundaries of theater by stripping down drama to its universal human essentials. His latest production, The Suit, hailed by The Daily Telegraph as “unforgettable” and “theatre as it should be,” arrives at the BAM Harvey Theater from Jan 17 to Feb 2.

Originally a short story by South African author Can Themba, The Suit is an intimate tale shaped by adultery and simmering revenge set in a Johannesburg township in the 1950s. “It could have only occurred to the incredible imagination to somebody living under oppression,” Brook said in a recent phone interview from his home in Paris. “It’s the story of a man’s oppression as a revenge on his wife who he loves dearly. It’s almost as if the author unconsciously dramatized what it was to be a young person loving a South Africa and at the same time burning with anger and fury because he was not being recognized.”

OMG, You've Never Seen...: BAMcinématek Confessions

All those hours we’ve spent in the dark, and BAMcinématek still harbors secrets about inescapable film classics and pop-culture favorites we’ve never seen before. The Vulture staff’s list of blind spots has given us the courage to confess some of the titles we’re most embarrassed (or, in some cases, downright proud) of having overlooked.

Florence Almozini
Program Director

There are so many popular, mainstream or "iconic" films that I have never seen. No James Bond (none, not even with Roger Moore who I like very much), no Lord of the Rings, nothing adapted from popular Broadway shows, pretty much no movies with super heroes, a very high number of Oscar winning films, etc... In my ideal world, I would have liked to say that I have never seen a Spielberg film, but unfortunately, that is not true. Then, looking into this a little further, I just realized that I have never seen a Tom Hanks film. Of course, I have seen some bits and pieces of several of his movies, from Splash to Saving Private Ryan, from Philadelphia to Sleepless in Seattle, and none of them made me want to see more. He is not believable as a romantic lead, an action man, a funny guy or whatever he is playing. I find him so bland that it is like he never existed. He is my invisible man of sorts!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Richie Reconsidered

By Darrell M. McNeill

Intellectual acuity aside, if Forrest Gump were written about a musician, you'd pretty much have to frame the narrative around Mr. Havens' career. Opening Woodstock? Check. Isle of Wight Festival? Check. Ed Sullivan? Check. Carson? Check. The original stage cast of The Who's Tommy? Check. Ubiquitous TV jingles? Check. Bill Clinton's 1993 inauguration? Check. Command performance for the Dalai Lama? Check. The Bob Dylan ode "I'm Not There?" Check. Cannes Film Festival? Check.

All told, between 1965 and 2008, Mr. Havens has released 21 studio albums, two live albums, and six best-of compilations. Until 2011, he averaged a minimum of 200 live dates a year. Add his political, environmental, and human rights advocacy work, and you have the rare man who has outpaced his legend through the sheer grind of nonstop work.

This makes it a bit easier to understand the anomaly of Havens being so well-known and loved, but not necessarily a household name—no doubt, due to his humility and humanity. He once told the Denver Post, "I'm not in show business; I'm in the communications business. That's what it's about for me."

This outlook would suffice were it not for the following: he is directly connected to—and in some cases directly responsible for—many of the biggest names in popular music over the last 40-plus years (at least twice before 1974, Bruce Springsteen OPENED for Havens). Yet he is not in the same discussion as these greats.

Monday, January 14, 2013

BAM Illustrated: Nico

On Wednesday (Jan 16th), John Cale gathers a gaggle of musicians to pay tribute to one of his frequent collaborators, the incomparable Nico. Inspired by Cale's longtime collaboration with Nico and the way he's brought together a host of contemporary performers for this show, we bring you an illustrated "Biography by Association" of Nico, a quick look at her life and many of the people she's known and worked with.

Tweet of the Week: The Far-Flung Places Edition

Our tweet of the week comes from Zain @zainyk who calls himself a "sufjanaholic" and is flying in from London to see Planetarium.

We at BAM are amazed when people travel across oceans to see a performance here, but we understand the lure of the art pilgrimage (and are sometimes tempted by the rare show in an exotic locale).

How far would you travel to see your favorite artist? How far have you traveled to see a performance? Let us know in comments!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

What are we looking at?

Here are some internet stops we're making around the offices at BAM.

Susan has advised that when we're looking for sartorial inspiration, wondering what to have for lunch, or just want to match our outfits to our meals, we should be stopping by Coffee & the Newspaper.

Christoph Niemann’s illustrated remembrance of Maurice Sendak led Claire to revisit Terry Gross’s beautiful, heartbreaking interview with Sendak from 2011 about his work, growing old, children, life ... (Claire has also been procastinating a bit lately.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Close-Up: "Malaika" and Peter Brook's The Suit

Photo: Nonhlanhla Kheswa, by Johan Persson

By Robert Jackson Wood

Of the many reasons to see Peter Brook’s upcoming adaptation of Can Themba’s The Suit  (see this illustrated storybook for a nice introduction), the inspired use of songs—all of them performed live on stage—is certainly one of the best. Schubert lieder and the Billie Holiday/Nina Simone vehicle “Strange Fruit” are among the selections, as is the gripping song “Malaika”—“Angel” in Swahili.

Written in the 1960s by the Kenyan songwriter Fadhili Williams (although some still contest its authorship), “Malaika” concerns a young man who is in love with a woman but can't marry her because he has no dowry. Williams recalls:
When I was in school I had a girlfriend, and to me she looked like an angel. Her name was Fanny, but I nicknamed her Malaika (“Angel”).  I wanted to get married to her, but you had to pay a dowry to get married and I didn’t have that kind of money; my father passed away when I was two years old, so he could not help me. So he was married by somebody else who had the dowry, the parents. And the only thing I could do to make her remember me is by playing that song. […] Even though there was her husband at home, listening to the radio, she could hear that song, because she knows her nickname, and the husband won’t know who is this Malaika.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Tweet of the Week: The most memorable production

Our tweet of the week comes from Sophie Gilbert @sophieGG, who calls The Suit, "the most memorable production I've ever seen."

What was the most memorable production you've ever seen? Does memorable necessarily equal the best? Let us know in the comments!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The 2012 BAM Blog Awards

Best case for not taking the stairs at BAM:
an elevator ride with Brazilian dance troupe Grupo Corpo

Usually on the BAM blog, we resist the urge to play favorites. But because nothing is quite so seductive as that august literary genre, the end-of-year best-of list, we've recently had a hard time keeping our opinions to ourselves. (Read our list of memorable 2012 movie moments here, and last year's winners here). Here, then, is another impeccably reasoned, utterly objective critical assessment of the past year—the 2012 BAM Blog Awards, commemorating  our favorite stage (and a few more screen) moments from 2012.