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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In Context: The Legend of Apsara Mera

Photo: Anders Jiras
The Royal Ballet of Cambodia comes to BAM on Thursday, May 2 with The Legend of Apsara Mera. Context is everything, so get even closer to the costumes, the tradition, and more with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those who've already seen the show, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rodin and the Royal Ballet of Cambodia

By Robert Jackson Wood

Auguste Rodin sketching a dancer from the Royal Ballet in a Marseille Garden, 1906.

On May 2, the Royal Ballet of Cambodia comes to BAM for three shows as part of the Season of Cambodia festival. If any of you are artists or sculptors, prepare to be inspired. In July of 1906, the great French sculptor Auguste Rodin saw the Royal Ballet of Cambodia perform in France—once in Paris and several times that month in Marseille—and quickly became obsessed. “I contemplated them in ecstasy,” he wrote of the dancers after a binge of sketching that would produce over 150 of his most famous drawings in just a week.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Vox Populi, Vox Dei: Community Chorus Diaries, Volume Two

Heading into the final weekend of Julius Caesar, we present this second installment of community chorus member interviews.

Name: Charles Day
Age: 37
Neighborhood: Clinton Hill
Occupation: Administrative assistant

Last time you were on stage?
February 2011. I was one of the audience members interviewed during the show Interviewing the Audience at the Vineyard Theater.

Does being at BAM feel any different now that you’ve been on stage?
Yes! I’ve worked at BAM as an usher for years, and the only time I’m ever on stage is at the end of a show to keep the audience members away from the set. Performing here and being backstage has given me a whole new perspective. I have even more respect and admiration for the actors and stage crew.

How did you feel about Shakespeare before this experience? How do you feel now?
I’ve always marveled at Shakespeare. I’ve been reading along as the play is performed each night and I am constantly rediscovering more of Shakespeare’s genius.

Which would you choose: corrupt democracy or beloved monarch?
Although imperfect, I’d go with democracy every time.

BAM Design Studio: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry 2013

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry is officially in full swing, and the BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building is peppered with Whitman beards and blue guitars. Ryan Rowlett, Senior Interactive Designer at BAM, created this visual identity, which has been applied to everything from the website to subway posters, festival programs, pins, and more. Read on for the inspiration, process, and "graphic decapitation" that informed this design.

Describe the visual identity of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry 2013 in five words.
Interactive. Fluid. Puzzle-like. Painterly. Whimsical.

What inspired your design?

I looked through tons of Brooklyn-based designs from the turn of the century when researching possible identity directions for the festival; illustrations and designs from cultural events, advertisements, old ferry tickets etc., but in the end decided to approach Brooklyn as I see it today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dancing Myths—The Legend of Apsara Mera

by Marina Harss

Photo: Andres Jiras

In accordance with the tradition of Cambodian classical dance, The Legend of Apsara Mera, in the Howard Gilman Opera House from May 2—4, begins with a tribute to the dance teachers, who transmit the steps from generation to generation, and to the spirits, whose earthly embodiment the dancers are meant to represent. This art, with its symbolism of survival and renewal, is rooted in the past and closely linked to the sacred. During the Khmer Empire (802—1431), when it was first developed, dancers were seen as intermediaries between the temporal and spiritual realms, living embodiments of the apsaras—or celestial dancers. Their likenesses, carved in bas-reliefs on temple walls, reveal poses recognizable even today. With serene, hieratic expressions, they tilt their heads and gaze out at the world. Their legs are bent in a soft plié, fingers curled back from their palms like flower petals. Their harmonious poses speak of an art that aspires to timeless transcendence and cosmic beauty.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Are You Ready to Rock… at BAM?!

by Louie Fleck

A BAM ad from 1969

Rock music has been a big part of BAM—in stand-alone concerts, and as essential elements in multi-genre productions. With this week's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival, inquiring minds need to know more!

Mention BAM and you might think of groundbreaking Robert Wilson productions like Einstein on the Beach. But consider that his collaborator Philip Glass created his ensemble on a rock band template. And of other Wilson productions, Time Rocker's score was created by original New York rocker Lou Reed. What about The Forest? The name of that composer is David Byrne! We should also mention the three Tom Waits/Robert Wilson productions: Alice, Black Rider, and Woyzeck.

If you think of BAM as a home for dance, you may recall that Trisha Brown tapped the Grateful Dead's "Uncle John’s Band" for her piece, Accumulation, and Bob Dylan’s "Early Morning Rain" for Line-Up.

From the Astrology Dept: Today’s Mystical Number: 37

Today, April 23, 2013, is a significant day, dear readers.

Today is the 37th anniversary of the birth of Aaron and Bryce Dessner, the curators of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, which opens Thursday in the Peter Jay Sharp building and runs through Saturday. 

Do you know how many acts are participating in CBF? 37!

Today also happens to be the 397th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. He just happens to be the author of Julius Caesar, which is currently being performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Harvey through April 28.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Brooklyn Brewery "Ghost Bottles" to Possess Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

by Dan D'Ippolito of Brooklyn Brewery

A sampling of the mythical Ghost Bottles,  rare beers not normally available to the public.

Are ghosts real? You bet. And at Crossing Brooklyn Ferry (April 2527) Brooklyn Brewery is coming with proof. But there’s no need to ring Dr. Venkman. These ghosts are far from frightening.

Each night of the festival at the strike of 6:30pm, for one haunted hour a member of the Brooklyn Brewery Parapsychology Unit will let loose from the cellared depths samples of a selection of Ghost Bottles, rare potables that only come out at night for the most sacred of rituals, tastings, and music/film festivals.

As apparitions, Ghost Bottles can take on many forms. None fully materialize in the commercial world; their presence is often unpredictable and their flavor mysterious. Some have been brought back from the aftermarket, others are doppelgängers or mutations of Brooklyn beers currently "living," and a few are said to dwell in the catacombs of Brewers Row, never seeing the light of a tasting room.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

5 Questions for David and Jonathas (Pascal Charbonneau and Ana Quintans)

Ana Quintans and Pascal Charbonneau as Jonathas and David. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
Canadian tenor Pascal Charbonneau and Portuguese soprano Ana Quintans portray teenage best friends in French Baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s opera David et Jonathas. About Ana Quintans, Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times said “I will not soon forget her final scene as the boyish prince,” and James Jorden of The New York Post said “tenor Pascal Charbonneau tore the heart with his delicately restrained account of David’s mourning.” We checked in with Pascal and Ana to see what their lives are like when not depicting these larger-than-life characters. They shared what they like to do off stage, what they’re listening to, and what they were like when they were teenagers.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Our Favorite Independent Record Stores in Brooklyn

Black Gold Records in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Inside you can get some pretty great music and a mean cup o' joe.

In honor of Record Store Day, we've created a guide to some of our favorite independent record stores in Brooklyn. Though RSD may be all about snapping up that limited edition 7" that will complete your immaculately-organized-by-the-Dewey-Decimal-System-and-protected-by-plastic-sleeves collection, we think the best record stores are the ones that facilitate the discovery of something new, whether it be a band, an album you never knew existed, an independent label, or album art that's worthy of a museum. Our staff weighed in on their beloved vinyl supplierslet us know your picks in the comments.

David et Jonathas Opening Night Party

William Lach and Kivlighan de Montebello who play Young David and Jonathas (don't worry, that's water!) with their parents at the Opening Night Party of David et Jonathas (Photo: Elena Olivo)

Renowned conductor William Christie and early music group Les Arts Florissants returned to BAM with David et Jonathas, a rarely staged opera by composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier. BAM was excited to welcome these remarkable artists back to the Opera House following their spectacular production of Atys in 2011.

William Christie (center) with guests (Photo: Elena Olivo)
Following the opening performance, BAM members at the Sustainers level and above joined the company for a French-themed reception in the Lepercq space. Delectable catering by Great Performances charmed guests with pomme frites in individual cones, Brooklyn Gin provided a specialty cocktail "Le Maudit," along with an assortment of Brooklyn Brewery beer. It felt like springtime with Fleurs Bella's magnificent cherry blossom arrangements.

We have many more exciting events coming up this Spring! Be sure to check them out.
Click below for more photos from the event.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Guest post: Amkoullel on "S.O.S."

Malian rapper Amkoullel came to BAM in early March as part of Mic Check: Hip-Hop From North Africa and the Middle East, where he performed a beautiful pared-down version of his track "S.O.S." Watch the performance below, and read on for his motivations for writing the song (in English and French).

The Malian people are currently facing great problems because they have been abandoned by their politicians.

Sadly, the majority of politicians in Mali don’t have a fiber of patriotism. Maybe I’m wrong in saying that, but it’s an opinion shared by the majority of the Malian people. This belief is enough to create terrible consequences that affect the behavior of the community.

We, the Malian people, feel left to our own devices—without justice, without protection, without education, without being recognized for years of hard labor and sacrifice for the country—living without the strong rule of the law. This general disillusion destroys hopes, dreams, and the desire for a collective ideal. Filling one's pockets, no matter how, becomes the only necessity.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

If You Like…: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Edition (Part Two)

by Jane Jansen Seymour

In the second of a series, here are two more bands from the Brooklyn music scene that will be appearing at this year’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry at BAM from April 25 to 27. These groups are just another point of pride for the borough among many others in the vast line up.

If you like Foals, check out Here We Go Magic

Here We Go Magic (Saturday, April 27) delivers songs like waves of thought, seemingly simplistic on the surface but actually complex arrangements of guitars and percussion, similar to Foals, Real Estate, and Beach Fossils. Singer/songwriter Luke Temple flaunts his folk music background within an indie rock structure, alongside core members Michael Bloch on bass and drummer Peter Hale. (The group branches out into a quintet when touring.) Its fourth album, 2012’s A Different Ship, was created under the watchful eye of Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, as rhythmic patterns receive a similar treatment in both bands. Key tracks such as “Make Up Your Mind” and “How Do I Know” seem to have a life all their own, while gamely inviting the audience along for the ride. 

In Context: David et Jonathas

Marc-Antoine Charpentier's David et Jonathas—conducted by William Christie and performed by Les Arts Florissants—runs at BAM until Sunday, April 21. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production 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.

An exclusive evening with the RSC

L-R: At the BAM Next Society Celebration: Shakespeare Society Artistic Director Michael Sexton; BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins; Bank of America BAM Trustee Jeff Barker. (Photo: Elena Olivo)
On Monday night, members participated in an exclusive program co-presented by BAM and the Shakespeare Society, in which Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro and actors from the Royal Shakepeare Company's Julius Caesar explored characters from the play through scene work and discussion. Guests left feeling extremely moved by the program which was entitled "Brutus and Julius Caesar: The Nature of an Insurrection." The Next Society Celebration, an annual event for this special group of BAM patrons, followed the program.

Company members Chartwell Dutiro, who plays the mbira in the live band onstage, with
Ray Fearon (Mark Antony) at last night's event. (Photo: Elena Olivo)

Read on for more about the event!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Vox Populi, Vox Dei: Community Chorus Diaries, Volume One

“The voice of the people is the voice of God.” So says the proverb, and so say we here at the BAM blog.

In this spirit, we’ve conducted interviews with the community chorus members now gracing the Harvey stage in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Julius Caesar.

With every production, the RSC casts its Roman public anew from the local community. Here, these unique New Yorkers share their favorite moments, personal stories, and insights on this remarkable tragedy of the commons.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Foto Friday: The Soothsayer

Photo by Richard Termine

Theo Ogundipe, who plays the Soothsayer in the Royal Shakespeare Company's Julius Caesar, gets covered with clay before opening night on Wednesday at the BAM Harvey Theater. This look was inspired by the Nuba men of South Sudan, who cover their bodies in ash and clay for traditional wrestling matches.

Watch an interview with Theo about his character after the jump, and follow BAM on instagram (@BAM_Brooklyn) for more behind-the-scenes photos.

Accessing BAM’s Past: Cataloging Performing Artists for Better Browsing

by Sarah Gentile

Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers, 1938

You may already know a lot about the iconic artists that make up BAM’s history. But what if you don’t know much about who you’re looking for? What if you want to look for dancers, but you don’t know their names? So much of the 150-year story of BAM comprises the work of thousands of different performers. These performers may have only graced the stage at BAM a few times, but if performers came to BAM, they were artists worth knowing.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Et ego, Brute.

"Et tu, Brute?"
Paterson Joseph, who plays Marcus Brutus, and the cast of Julius Caesar. (Photo: Elena Olivo)
To kick-off our event-filled month of April, we welcomed the world renowned Royal Shakespeare Company back to the BAM stage with its much anticipated production of Julius Caesar. This vibrant production is directed by Gregory Doran with an African inspired set and features an all black cast, including a chorus of community members. 

Sir Patrick Stewart, who was in the first RSC production to come to BAM in 1971, A Midsummer Night's Dream, with Gregory Doran, artistic director of the RSC and director of Julius Caesar. (Photo: Elena Olivo)

BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins and Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo spoke at the event, welcoming the company and patrons. Laura Egodigwe from Bank of America, Gregory Doran, and Catherine Mallyon, executive producer of the Royal Shakespeare Company spoke at the party as well. Among the many guests in attendance, was long-time BAM supporter, actor, and friend Sir Patrick Stewart.

Read on for more about the Opening Night Reception and for more information about our many upcoming events!

Gardens Fit for a Sun King: William Christie's Jardins de Thiré

by Jean Frisbie

If William Christie equals the rediscovery of French Baroque opera, then Christie's Jardins de Thiré in Vendée should equal a garden where Louis XIV would feel at home. Although Christie is best known for 17th and 18th century French music, the gardens that have encircled his home since 1986 in western France, Le Bâtiment, are another of his passions. It’s no coincidence that his early music ensemble is called Les Arts Florissants (even though the name derives from a pastoral chamber opera by Charpentier).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

If You Like....: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Edition

by Jane Jansen Seymour

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry returns to BAM April 25 to April 27, a music and film festival curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National. Music fans may know the headliners (The Roots, Solange, and TV on the Radio), but they may not be as familiar with some of the other artists appearing during the three-day event. The musical offerings cross genres and configurations, from solo singers to full-fledged ensembles. Here are video performances by two CBF bands (both will play in the Howard Gilman Opera House) with ties to Brooklyn, to give a taste of what's in store.

If you like Pete Yorn, check out Phosphorescent

Phosphorescent (Saturday, April 27) is the musical project of Alabama native Matthew Houck, now based in Brooklyn. He’s a heart-on-your-sleeve troubadour who could be compared to Sea Wolf, Pete Yorn, or Jason Pierce of Spiritualized—indie folk hardened by a rock sensibility. This singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer just released his fifth album as Phosphorescent, Muchacho. The past three albums have been recorded in a studio at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, with ultra spare arrangements highlighting the raw vocal power of Houck’s expressive baritone. Most of the songs were written during a trip to Mexico, after a self-proclaimed “freak out” when his personal life seemed to be crumbling—just a man and his guitar capturing waves of emotion. Luckily for audiences he clearly revisits the scene during live gigs.

Monday, April 8, 2013

In Context: Julius Caesar

The Royal Shakespeare Company's Julius Caesar opens this Wednesday, April 10, and runs until April 28. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought in the comments.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Miyazaki: The Merch

by Andrew Chan

The world of anime god Hayao Miyazaki practically bursts with ethereal imagery, kooky creatures, and richly imagined storylines, so it’s no surprise his films have taken on a life of their own far beyond the big screen. Since the Oscar-winning filmmaker became a phenomenon in the late 1980s with family-friendly fantasies like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service, the toy and costume industries have wasted no time in churning out a panoply of wacky merchandise influenced by his most iconic characters.

Gearing up for our eight-film tribute running through April 14, we at BAMcinématek have enjoyed losing ourselves in the surreal delights of Miyazaki-land. Our research has uncovered a veritable galaxy of blogs and Tumblrs, fan art, and cute-but-confounding artifacts, including dinnerware and, no joke, topiary.

The field of Totoro-inspired paraphernalia in particular is a gift that keeps on giving. The late, great Roger Ebert called the film “one of the five best movies” ever made for children, and more than any other Miyazaki hero, the cuddly roundness of the titular rabbit-like spirit lends itself to all manner of kid-friendly toys, knick-knacks, and furniture.

It was difficult to pare the list down to a mere five examples, but here is what’s available to the fan who wants to eat, sleep, and dream Totoro.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Karaoke Wonderland

by Jessica Bell

photo by Jorge Rodriguez

Last night at the BAM Fisher, nearly 250 people gathered to experience the ultimate version of artist-centric karaoke. The project, CKTV, organized by Cleopatra's and artist Chris Rice and presented by BAMart, in its third iteration, is a cross between performance art and good old fashioned hipster fun.

“We’re really excited to be able to do this project here at BAM,” said curator and Cleopatra's member Bridget Finn. CKTV was originally conceived as a whimsical experiment to explore what happens when artists are given the green light to self-produce and reinterpret longstanding karaoke hits. The end result? More than 70 charming and provocative videos projected on a screen in the form of a curated playlist.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Art of Karaoke

by Claire Frisbie

Stills from CKTV

For many, karaoke is little more than a tipsy excuse to belt out Journey lyrics, but for others it’s a carefully honed skill, a craft, a true performance. The New York Times Magazine recently made a case for karaoke as an art form, and this month, BAMart pays tribute to an oft-overlooked—but absolutely key—element of the popular pastime: the karaoke video. A staple the world over, karaoke videos add a touch of kitsch and surprise to the overall singing experience.

Karaoke grew in popularity in the US and Asia right around the same time as MTV and music videos, so there was a natural desire to marry the two. But companies like Pioneer Electronics and Sunfly lacked the rights and funds to use official music videos for most songs, and thus opted to create their own.

Julius Caesar: The Bard With More Bounce

by Heather Neill

Jeffery Kisson, Jude Owusu, Ricky Fearon and Mark Theodore. Photo: Kwame Lestrade

“Cowards die many times before their deaths: The valiant never taste of death but once.”

These lines, spoken by Caesar, were marked and signed by Nelson Mandela in the collection of Shakespeare’s plays secretly shared by the ANC prisoners on Robben Island. Some years ago, director Gregory Doran met Mandela and saw the legendary volume, its cover hidden under pictures of Hindu gods.

Doran traveled widely in Africa and was aware of the familiar post-colonial pattern of a popular hero becoming first leader, then dictator, precipitating military coups and civil war. “This is,” he says, “exactly the story of Julius Caesar.” Candidates for a modern-day Caesar, from Bokassa to Amin to Mugabe, immediately came to mind. He also knew that the play had been translated into a number of African languages and was perhaps the most frequently performed Shakespeare play on the continent.

In the markets Doran noticed items of ju ju magic displayed next to household goods. The Soothsayer who warns Caesar is not unlike the sangomas or witch doctors found in Africa, where a belief in magic is still part of everyday life, much as it was in Shakespeare’s England.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

BAM Illustrated: Junot Díaz's “Miss Lora"

On Wednesday, Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Díaz will join us at BAM for Eat, Drink, & Be Literary. In honor of his short story "Miss Lora" (an entry in his most recent book, This Is How You Lose Her) winning the Sunday Times Short Story Award last month, we've adapted that story into a short comic. To translate Díaz's story into a new medium, we've taken a few liberties with details and dialogue. How'd we do? Let us know in the comments.

Monday, April 1, 2013

BAM announces the world premiere of Baby Einstein on the Beach

BAM is pleased to announce that the producers of this fall’s Next Wave Festival will partner with their colleagues in BAM Education to present Baby Einstein on the Beach, drawing a super cast of toddler talent including an advanced Baby Mozart violinist culled from an international audition, as well as the most magnetic Brooklyn kids representing the borough and its tireless parents. Several shifts of children will populate each five-hour performance. In keeping with the original vision of creators Robert Wilson and Philip Glass, wherein the audience is encouraged to get up and move about, the cast itself will grab snap-naps as necessary on the stage as the floor is custom fabricated with cushioned rubber matting.

Dovetailing the avant-garde mission of Next Wave with the curriculum of BAM Education, Glass' hypnotic score proves a natural tool for teaching kids how to count and concentrate seriously while doing so. (By the end of workshopping, frustration-induced crying outbursts were nearly nonexistent.) Choreography by the cutting-edge kids' dance company Lucinda's Child deftly mixes kids' natural instincts for skipping back and forth relentlessly, until the point of exhaustion. As with the original production, Baby Einstein blurs the boundary between monotony and transcendence. White make-up meant showtime, not playtime; those innumerable face-painting expeditions (sans tiger stripes) really paid off.

BAM Executive Producer Melillo said: "BAM is thrilled to present the youngest ever cast of Einstein. The addition of regular bouts of adorable yawns was more than I'd hoped for." The show is directed by Benjamin Lyons, a veteran of avant-garde children's theater and performance art and former off-Broadway child star.

Tickets go on sale in two weeks. Please note, no children under one-and-a-half years old permitted without adult accompaniment.