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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.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Surreal Theater

by Jessica Goldschmidt

Ah, Dada. How you never cease to thrill with your wild and crazy aesthetic antics. And how you manage to endlessly inspire new artists, like John Heginbotham, the inventive Mark Morris protégé and creator of this week’s Next Wave Festival Fishman Space presentation, Dark Theater.

Heginbotham’s work takes its inspiration from the 1924 ballet Relâche, which was, as Frances Picabia's inflammatory magazine 391 proclaimed, an “instantaneous ballet with two acts, one cinematograhic intermission, and the tail of Francis Picabia's dog." Envisioned by the Picabia, a French artist closely alligned with Dada and Surrealism, and with a score by Erik Satie, Relâche was performed in Paris by the notably zany, predominantly Swedish Ballets Suédois. Even the title of the ballet was a good old surreal joke: relâche is the word the French use on show posters to indicate “closed” or “canceled.”

According to this informative article from Performa, the Ballets Suédois was an anti-establishment multi-disciplinary performance company founded in 1920 by director Rolf de Maré, a devotee of Cubism before it sold for millions of dollars and a major bankroller for many of the most influential (and broke) Parisian Dadaists.

Who's Biting Whom? Jaws and An Enemy of the People

By Nathan Gelgud

Set your DVRs! Jaws 2 and Jaws 3 are on cable this weekend (channel 161 on Sunday), and you're probably in the mood for them because you just watched Jaws. We know you just watched Jaws because you just bought tickets for An Enemy of the People at BAM and you're doing your homework.

Oh, did you miss class that day? Let us catch you up.

While the most obvious literary predecessor of Jaws, the movie about the great white shark, is Moby-Dick, the book about the great white whale, another acknowledged influence on Spielberg's masterpiece is Ibsen's 1882 play

"Student rush tickets are available!"