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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Ellen Burstyn—Up from the Depths

by Dan Callahan

Ellen Burstyn in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Courtesy Photofest.

When she attended her first acting class with Lee Strasberg in 1964, Ellen Burstyn was 32 years old and was working on television under the name Ellen McRae. She was born Edna Rae Gillooly in Detroit, and it had taken her a lot of time and trouble to pull herself out of her hardscrabble milieu to become Ellen McRae, a pretty actress and model who smiled a lot. She was being limited by the girlish roles she was given on TV, and she sensed that instinctively, but it was only when Strasberg told her in his class that it was alright to make a mistake that her people-pleasing ingénue mask cracked and fell away. What was underneath that mask would take time and patience to excavate.

There are not many actors, let alone actresses, who fully come into their own at the age of 40, but that’s what happened for this singular and path-finding actress, who took the name Ellen Burstyn in 1970. Only years of study with the most demanding acting teacher can possibly account for the performance that first made her name: Lois Farrow in The Last Picture Show (1971). Lois is worldly, kind, bored, smart, limited, hopeful, funny, free, boxed-in. In every moment of her work in The Last Picture Show, Burstyn presents one facet of Lois and then its opposite.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Remembering Pianist Otto Gruenbaum

by Jan Carr

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2014 runs from the evening of April 27 through April 28. As we at the BAM Hamm Archives catalog the years during and leading up to WWII, we’re struck by the number of émigrés who escaped from Europe and performed at BAM. Some names are quite familiar: Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Mrs. Béla Bartók, some less so.

A pianist named Otto Gruenbaum is listed in a busy program of seven acts opening the fall 1940 season. An Internet search revealed that Gruenbaum has a page in the Encyclopedia of the United States Holocaust Memorial, and it tells a harrowing story. Gruenbaum was born in Vienna and studied at the Vienna Conservatory of Music. When Germany annexed Austria, he cleverly escaped by entering a piano contest in Belgium, then quickly made his way to the US. While he was here, he played the 1940 concert on the Music Hall stage. But after being in the US only a few years, he was required to “either join the US Army or be deported as an enemy alien.” His story ends thus: “Otto was stationed in Germany at the end of the war. A day before he was to return to America, he was killed. The cause of his death is still under investigation.”

It’s chilling to think that Gruenbaum escaped so narrowly, but was then sent back. As we catalog, it’s staggering to realize how many stories, some sad and disturbing, march across the stages at BAM, and how many we’re not even aware of. We wish we could have heard Gruenbaum’s concert. But in remembrance, we catalogued his name.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Red Shoes: from Louis XIV to Christian Rizzo

by Raphaele de Boisblanc

Red high heel shoes cover the set of Christian Rizzo’s ni fleurs, ni-ford mustang performed by the Lyon Opera Ballet (May 7—9 at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House). Many stories and works of art have involved this iconic footwear in the past. Below is a short list of our favorite red heel cameos in history, art, and pop culture. Please add any we may have left out in the comments!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Eat (Sandwiches), Drink & Be Literary: Daniel Alarcón

Illustration by Nathan Gelgud
In the second of our popular series on the favorite sandwiches of Eat, Drink & Be Literary authors, we present Daniel Alarcón, featured on April 23.

This Peruvian-born, Alabama-raised writer's most recent book is titled At Night We Walk in Circles.

His favorite sandwich is... drum roll please....The Cubano! ("So much meat!")

The traditional recipe for this toasty marvel contains savory roasted pork plus ham, gooey swiss cheese, crunchy pickles, pungent mustard and/or mayo, all on a grilled loaf of cuban bread.

There are infinite variations; one of the most irresistible (and, okay, pricier) versions is at The Spotted Pig. April Bloomfield's version contains slow-roasted port, thinly-sliced prosciutto, Gruyère cheese, chopped cornichons, and pickled jalapeños on crusty bread.

The Spotted Pig's Cubano.
And if you're looking for something closer to BAM, Habana Outpost boasts an award-winning Cuban sandwich.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

How Green is BAM Fisher?

by Rebekah Gordon

BAM's newest building, the Fisher, is also our most eco-friendly, meaning we worked with the architects to build and run a building that uses less materials and energy. Here's what makes it so very green:

BAM gets the gold. The BAM Fisher is the first theater in New York City to be certified LEED Gold in the new construction category. LEED® stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. A LEED rating shows when a building is particularly sustainable—a bit like seeing the recycle sign on a bottle or can.

Raise the roof. Did you notice the front (or façade) of the building when you pass by 321 Ashland Pl.? It’s been the same since 1926, when it was a Salvation Army. The next time you visit, notice the recycled materials everywhere, like the steel in the columns—more than half is totally recycled! The construction team recycled and reused the old building’s infrastructure and simply built new floors on top. Watch a time lapse video of the construction here.

Photo courtesy of the BAM Hamm Archives

Friday, April 18, 2014

Record Store Day 2014 Contest: The Music of William Onyeabor

Tomorrow is Record Store Day, and we're honoring a record collector's favorite: 70s Nigerian psychedelic funk artist (/enigma) William Onyeabor, whose music will be celebrated at BAM on May 2 & 3 as part of the Red Bull Music Academy Festival.

So while you're queuing up to buy records, we invite you to participate in our contest. Post a photo to Instagram or Twitter of a William Onyeabor record OR a record by any of the artists participating in ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor (see full list below) with the text "I want to go to the #WilliamOnyeabor tribute @BAM_Brooklyn on May 2 or 3! #RSD2014" for a chance to win tickets to the show, plus some awesome Onyeabor swag, courtesy of Luaka Bop.

Luaka Bop's Record Store Day release: William Onyeabor remixes, featuring many of the artists performing at BAM in two weeks.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Fresh Hamm: Do You Recognize this Building?

Do you recognize this building?

It's the BAM Fisher, our newest location and performance space at 321 Ashland Place. When this photo was taken in the 1930's, the site was home to the Salvation Army office for greater Brooklyn.  According to Salvation Army archivist Tyler Boenecke, the building contained a gymnasium, classroom, space for a women's group called "Home League," and a "Songter" room for singing groups.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Christian Rizzo on love, doubt, and David Bowie

French choreographer Christian Rizzo has a professional background in rock music, fashion, and visual art, and draws from all these experiences and more in his work. The following is a selection of his thoughts on the foundations of his choreography.

Christian Rizzo
The presence of another person engenders a question whose answer could be love, which for me is the essential reaction to all creation. The artist James Lee Byars said, "Beauty is the response, not the

To doubt is to begin without knowing the rules, to throw all the dice, and it allows me to avoid posturing and repetition. When I begin, I may have an idea and it is what it is, but the work doesn't exist yet. During the creation process I concentrate on a transformation revealed through the movement of the body, the music, and the lighting. I am interested in opposition. I work in the space between the action and its opposite. 

BAM Board Chairman's Dinner

Last Thursday, we were honored to host the 13th annual BAM Board Chairman's Dinner, a celebration of the work of BAM's most passionate advocates. Hosted by Board Chairman Alan Fishman and his wife, Judy Fishman, the event has become one of BAM's favorite traditions.

Alan and Judy Fishman welcome guests to the 13th Annual BAM Board Chairman's Dinner
This particular evening was especially significant, as it included the dedication of one of the iconic arched windows in BAM's Lepercq Space in honor of BAM Trustee Richard Feldman. During the 2013 BAM Ignite Gala, Richard was named the recipient of the first Ignite Award in recognition of his incredible contributions to arts education at BAM.

The plaque reads: "This iconic BAM window is dedicated to Ignite Award recipient Richard E. Feldman in recognition
of his tireless support for arts education at BAM. June 4, 2013"

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fresh Hamm: A Prima Donna and Schnapps

When the BAM building at 176-194 Montague Street was destroyed by fire in 1903, many programs and playbills dating from our incorporation in 1861 to 1901 were lost. In an effort to rebuild some of the history that was lost we at the BAM Hamm Archives have been using the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Online to research those years. (A big thank you to the Brooklyn Public Library for working with us!) The Brooklyn Daily Eagle has given us some fun finds.

For example, did you know Brooklyn had a Prima Donna?

Brooklyn bred soprano Susan Strong delighted audiences across New York and around the world, prompting the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to praise her as "Brooklyn's Prima Donna." Shortly after returning from a period of intense study and critical acclaim in Europe, Strong starred in Faust here in November 1896.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lifetime Lear—A pass to every King Lear produced at BAM and Theatre for a New Audience, forever

Limited quantity available beginning April 2, 10am
April 1, 2014, Brooklyn—Brooklyn Academy of Music and Theatre for a New Audience will offer a special pass that includes a pair of seats to every production of William Shakespeare's King Lear presented by the Fort Greene cultural neighbors, beginning January 2015 until the end of time. Additional Brooklyn venues to be announced.
BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo said, "We are thrilled at the prospect of offering true 'Learheads' guaranteed access to the many future productions of this essential tragedy." Added TFANA Founding Artistic Director Jeffrey Horowitz, "The Bard would surely approve of this profound pledge of loyalty to one of his finest works. Now and forever!"

This current season, each presenter will have had a run of King Lear. BAM's, in January/February, by Chichester Festival Theatre, directed by Angus Jackson, and starred Frank Langella. TFANA's, which runs through May 4, is directed by Arin Arbus and stars Michael Pennington. (This production is not included in Lifetime Lear.) The enduring popularity and relevance of this play catalyzed the idea of creating Lifetime Lear. Other notable King Lear productions at BAM, approaching 20 in number since 1862, include portrayals by Edwin Booth, Ian McKellen, and Derek Jacobi.