Social Buttons

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Love Letter to BAM

This January, playwright, collagist, and Richard B. Fisher Next Wave Award recipient Charles Mee returns to BAM for a fourth time with The Glory of the World. Here—in an excerpt from 2011's BAM: The Complete Works—Mee shares dynamic memories of America's oldest performing arts center:

Mee's The Glory of the World comes to BAM Jan 16—Feb 6. Photo: Bill Brymer

By Charles Mee

We live in a world these days where it’s taken for granted that BAM is one of the greatest cultural institutions on the planet. And yet, not long ago—certainly within my own lifetime—it was a big old dark neglected pile of stones right off Flatbush Avenue where no one I knew ever thought to go.

The first time I ever walked into the theater at BAM it was completely inadvertent. A friend had invited me to see a theater piece called The Photographer/Far from the Truth, inspired by the work of the 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge, whose obsession with animal and human locomotion led to developing a photographic means to project a series of images that had been captured by a set of still cameras: galloping horses, running bison, nude women descending staircases. I knew Muybridge’s work, and I thought it was great, but, of course, I knew no one could make a good theater piece out of it. Still, I went anyway, because I had nothing else to do, and I thought it might be kind of exciting to venture out into the unknown wilderness—and stop for some cheesecake at Junior’s.

BAMcinématek’s Best of 2015

Once again, the BAMcinématek staff indulges in its annual bout of list-making. And there's much to love: 2015 was an embarrassment of riches, both in the wealth of stellar new releases (several of which played on our screens) and the city's endless font of repertory discoveries. Here's the cream of our crop:

OUT 1: Noli me Tangere, Jacques Rivette

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 End-of-Year Reading List

Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom. Photo: Focus Features
Don't think of it as homework; think of it as getting a leg up on the upcoming BAM season while putting all those gift cards to good use.

Get lost in Arthur Rimbaud's labyrinthine Illuminations in advance of The Civilians' Rimbaud in New York, read Frank Rich's theater criticism to prepare for his appearance with Fran Lebowitz, get to know the legendary dancer behind the Mariinsky Theatre's upcoming tributes, and much more with this reading list related to BAM in 2016.

Monday, December 14, 2015

In Context: Sancho: An Act of Remembrance

Sancho: An Act of Remembrance, featuring actor Paterson Joseph, comes to BAM on December 16. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #RememberSancho.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In Context: The Hard Nut

Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Hard Nut comes to BAM on December 12. Context is everything, so get even closer to the holiday production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #TheHardNut.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Highly Anticipated Return to BAM

Next week, Paterson Joseph returns to BAM in Sancho: An Act of Remembrance—playing the BAM Fisher December 16—20. First seen on our stage as Brutus in the Royal Shakesespeare Company's 2013 production of Julius Caesar, Joseph reflects on his past BAM experiences and the joy of bringing African stories to Brooklyn stages.

Paterson Joseph in Sancho. Photo: Robert Day
by Paterson Joseph

After a month’s break, Sancho: An Act of Remembrance is about to have another outing in the United States. This time we’re playing two venues in Pennsylvania (August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh and Williams Center in Easton) and then a week-long run for our New York premiere at BAM.

I’m in need of a refreshment of my lines for Sancho, I realise, to my dismay. I certainly hope the feeling that I have the play sitting, intact, in the back of my head is not a false one. I’ll have to do a run in my head on the plane to the US from London . Hopefully, I’ll be sitting next to a sympathetic fellow passenger!

I feel very privileged to be able to play BAM again, as it is a well sought-after venue for any international theatre company. In 2013 I was part of the cast that took Julius Caesar there with the Royal Shakespeare Company. We were in the Harvey, a beautiful theatre built on the model of Peter Brook’s Parisian venue, Le Théâtre des Bouffe du Nord. All distressed walls and pillars, it gave our production, set in a fictional African country, a broken-down but holistic feel. As if the set, a copy of a rundown, African stadium, had always been a part of that space. Michael Vale, who is also Sancho’s designer, at his absolute best once again.

The audience came from all over New York and beyond; our talented company loved the time there. We were treated with such respect and support that I longed then to come back one day. I little dreamt that it would be so soon, and in a play of my own creation.

Finishing RSC’s Julius Caesar tour at BAM after playing the mecca of acting—Constantin Stanislavski’s Moscow Art Theatre in Russia’s capital—couldn’t have been a better way to end our fairy tale year exploring what the actor, John Kani of the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, described with reverence as, “Shakespeare’s African play...” Taking Sancho, the story of one of Africa’s greatest sons, to BAM will be a full-circle that I will be proud to complete.

Cyril Nri and Paterson Joseph in Julius Caesar. Photo: Richard Termine
The other great advantage of playing BAM, of course, is the fact that Brooklyn is such a vibrant, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic borough of New York City. Walking down Fulton Street which leads to the Harvey was like walking down Atlantic Road in London’s Brixton, proving that Brooklyn is one of NYC’s biggest, most vibrant, Afro-Caribbean communities. I’ll be playing the BAM Fisher, where we held an electrifying symposium on Julius Caesar in 2013. What better place to end this year of Sancho than in America?

BAM Illustrated: A Love Supreme

Urban Bush Women's Walking with 'Trane (Dec 9—12) draws inspiration from John Coltrane's 1965 album A Love Supreme, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores the history and legacy of the album.

Monday, December 7, 2015

In Context: Walking with 'Trane

Urban Bush Women’s Walking with ’Trane comes to the BAM Harvey Theater December 9—12. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #UrbanBushWomen.

In Context: Alas, The Nymphs...

Alas, The Nymphs comes to BAM on December 9. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #AlasTheNymphs.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Meet Katy Clark

Katy Clark, BAM’s new president, answered some questions posed by Robert Wood about issues small and large.

Photo: Jesse Winter
First of all, welcome to BAM. All moved in? Favorite neighborhood lunch spots picked? 

All moved in at BAM, and soon to be moved into a new home in Brooklyn with my family. As for lunch, favorites so far would be soup and sushi from The Greene Grape and noodles from National! I also love Romans, Walters, and Madiba, all on DeKalb.

What were the first things you hung or unpacked in your new office?

Pictures of my family and pieces from the BAM Visual Art collection, including a Richard Avedon photo of former BAM leader Harvey Lichtenstein and a piece by the brilliant Shinique Smith. I also couldn’t forget a paperweight my son gave me and some of his art work. Or my little figurines of the band Wilco—Jeff Tweedy et al.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hard Nut Nuggets

L-R: Julie Worden, June Omura, Mark Morris, Lauren Grant. Photo: Susana Millman
Mark Morris Dance Group returns to BAM with The Hard Nut (December 12—20) choreographed by Mark Morris in 1991 to Tchaikovsky’s beloved Nutcracker, op. 71, with sets by Adrianne Lobel (after Charles Burns) and costumes by Martin Pakledinaz. Some members of the company shared anecdotes from the ballet’s history.

JUNE OMURA (MMDG company member 1988—2008; “Fritz” in The Hard Nut 1994—2015) Once, when the inimitable Peter Wing Healey was injured and the character of Mrs. Stahlbaum had not yet been thrillingly re-created by John Heginbotham, there were two memorable performances of The Hard Nut in Edinburgh when Mark Morris stepped into the role of my mom, uncomfortable high heels and all. Every character in the party scene has a different “track,” and Mark was already in it as a hilariously drunken party guest, so re-learning the scene from such a different perspective had to have been stressful, even for Mark. But after running through it a few times (I remember his directions to “Keep talking!” and “Tell me what to do!”), he was ready to go. I was naughty Fritz, and Mark was now my mother. Scary—for both of us!

Monday, November 30, 2015

BAM Blog Questionnaire: It Takes a Village

Steel Hammercoming to the BAM Harvey Theater this Wednesday, December 2—creatively explores the cost of hard labor on the human body and soul. We spoke with four individuals involved in this collaboration—two singers, a stage manager, and two playwrights—to better understand the process involved in creating this multi-hyphenate work of new music theater.

Steel Hammer. Photo: Krannert Center

How did you get involved with Steel Hammer? What is your contribution to the piece?

KATIE GEISSINGER (singer): I'd seen the concert Steel Hammer at Zankel Hall with Trio Mediaeval in 2009, and was longing to sing it. When Julia Wolfe called because she was casting a local trio, I jumped!

CARL HANCOCK RUX (playwright): Anne Bogart (and SITI Company) contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in writing text for a new piece she was working on based on the John Henry myth. I'd long been a fan of Anne Bogart and Julia Wolfe and was thrilled to accept the invitation. I wrote the "Migrant Mamie Remembers" monologue performed by Patrice Johnson Chevannes.

ELLEN MEZZERA (stage manager): I joined Steel Hammer a few weeks before we went to Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2014 as the production stage manager.

KIA CORTHRON (playwright): Anne Bogart contacted me by email. I think we may have met in passing before that, but never formally. She asked me to be one of the contributing writers.

EMILY EAGEN (singer): I remember first discussing the piece with Julia Wolfe on the phone, and, when she described the connections the work makes between folk music and contemporary music, I got so excited! I can still remember that exact moment.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

In Context: Yimbégré

Souleymane “Solo” Badolo’s comes to BAM on December 2 with his work Yimbégré. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #SoloBadolo.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In Context: Steel Hammer

Julia Wolfe and Anne Bogart’s music-theater work Steel Hammer comes to BAM on December 2. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #SteelHammer.

Giving Shape to an Explosion: Sasha Waltz with Edgard Varèse

Continu. Photo courtesy of Alastair Muir
By Robert Jackson Wood

Sasha Waltz has a penchant for the spectacularly unnerving. In Gezeitenat BAM in 2010, dancers navigated a flame-licked bunker at the end of the world. The earth tore itself apart underfoot, threatening to swallow the dancers whole.

In Körper, at BAM in 2007, concrete walls towered as in some dystopian underground airlock. Human beings became strange inertial things, writhing in naked piles, pressed against glass.

In her latest work at BAM, Continu—playing the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House December 4 and 5—the world is no calmer. A volatile hymn to the creative-destructive potentials of desire, it begins by “giv[ing] shape to an explosion,” in Waltz's words, an “original violence” that is one and the same with conception itself.

And yet in place of the end-times pyrotechnics of Gezeiten and the concrete dystopia of Körper is a rather different recipe for the foreboding: a bare stage, along with the music of Edgard Varèse (among others).

Friday, November 20, 2015

BAM Virtual Reality: our first 360° video

By Ben Cohen

Today BAM launched its first-ever virtual reality video. Not all guinea pigs can climb a rope and hang upside down while doing splits, so we’re feeling pretty lucky that members of the Australian cirque troupe Circa let us aim our virtual reality camera at them during their run at BAM earlier this month.

Press play to be transported to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House stage, and experience what it’s like to warm up with these incredible acrobats.

We have been experimenting with a new 360-degree camera rig for several months and when we shot this video a few weeks ago, there wasn’t yet a good way to share this kind of immersive content with our audience. That changed nearly overnight when YouTube launched support for Google Cardboard and VR headsets. Facebook added native 360-degree video support a few days later. We don't have to keep this experiment to ourselves any longer!

(scroll to the end of this post for viewing instructions)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In Context: Continu

Sasha Waltz & Guests’ Continu comes to BAM on December 4. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #SashaWaltz.

So Many John Henrys

Photo: Michael Brosilow
By Robert Jackson Wood

It’s been said that you can never sing a folk song twice. Folk songs are living organisms, the argument goes, not reproducible objects, existing to perpetually renew the contract between universal myths and the gritty particulars of our lives. Sometimes, because songs migrate and the oral tradition gets creative, those particulars work their way into the songs themselves and variations proliferate. A Scottish glen becomes a Virginia holler, a silver dagger becomes a pen knife, rosy-red lips become lily-white hands. The details change so that the myths don’t have to.

Such is the case with the “The Ballad of John Henry,” whose 200+ documented versions form the basis of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe’s work Steel Hammer and its theatrical adaptation, which comes to BAM in December. The story of John Henry is a familiar one: a spike-driving railroad worker of Bunyonesque strength beats a steam drill in a contest to bore through a mountain, only to “die with his hammer in his hands.” That folk music historian Alan Lomax called the legend “possibly America’s greatest piece of folklore” is no wonder: the mythos of the railroad, man vs. machine anxiety, bootstraps individualism—the muscular American imaginary is there in its entirety.

But the details are predictably fuzzy. Was John Henry 5’1” or 6’1”? Was his wife Polly Ann or Sally Ann? Did his hammer shine like silver or gold?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

U-Theatre: Dancing Percussionists, or Drumming Dancers?

Photo: Lin Shengfa
By David Hsieh

Are the members of U-Theatre of Taiwan dancers who play percussion? Or drummers with fancy footwork? Or martial artists who also have modern dance rhythms in their bodies? Or full-body-movement musicians? Maybe the answer is all of the above. No matter what you call them, they are amazing. Their shows, which combine all the above elements, plus a modern theatrical flavor, have wowed BAM audiences starting with Sound of the Ocean (Next Wave, 2003). But this kind of integration of dance, music, and martial arts requires rigorous training. The company is known throughout Asia for living in semi-seclusion from the metropolitan Taipei area, and taking on marathon walking treks (sometimes lasting for days) as part of their training. Yang Meng-ju, one of the newest company members who makes his debut appearance at BAM on Nov 19 in Beyond Time, talks about his experience.

Friday, November 13, 2015

In Context: Real Enemies

Real Enemies, from Darcy James Argue, Isaac Butler, and Peter Nigrini, comes to BAM on November 18. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #RealEnemies.

Intersecting Landscapes: An Interview with Performa's RoseLee Goldberg

More up a Tree—opening at the BAM Fisher next Thursday, November 19—is BAM's third co-presentation with Performa. We spoke with Performa's Founding Director and Curator RoseLee Goldberg to get the inside scoop on the origins of BAM and Performa's relationship, the future of performance art, and more.

More up a Tree in action. Photo: Monia Lippi

How did the BAM + Performa collaboration begin?

RoseLee Goldberg: Joe Melillo and I go back a long way, in fact to the early Next Wave Festival, in 1985. The programming that he and then president and executive producer of BAM, Harvey Lichtenstein, put together came directly out of the downtown scene and included many artists with whom I had been working at The Kitchen—Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Trisha Brown, Laura Dean, Meredith Monk, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane, and many more. Joe and I have maintained a close conversation throughout the years; he was one of the first people with whom I shared my earliest ideas about Performa 10 years ago. Let’s say we’ve been collaborators in spirit all along. 

RoseLee Goldberg. Photo: Patrick McMullan
Joe immediately said yes when I proposed a beautiful evening-length work by British artist Isaac Julien, Cast No Shadow, a Performa Commission featuring the work of choreographer Russell Maliphant which we co-produced with Sadler’s Wells in London and presented at BAM for Performa 07. Alexander Singh’s visually stunning and complicated play-musical-comedy, The Humans, another Performa Commission for Performa 13, was one of the first productions in BAM’s new Fisher space, and we’re onto our third project together, More up a Tree, Claudia de Serpa Soares, Eve Sussman, and Jim White’s collaboration. I can’t wait to see what we do next! 

Joe and I both have a high tolerance for risk, and total trust in the artists with whom we work, as well as a profound understanding of the details of producing. He has so much more experience than all of us, and I would ask him a million questions if only he had the time to answer them. Above all, it’s thrilling and very moving to have another person with whom one can share every aspect of what it means to place vital ideas in the middle of a community, and to bring people together through the arts to become more sensitive, more deeply caring human beings.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In Context: More up a Tree

Drummer Jim White, dancer Claudia de Serpa Soares, and artist Eve Sussman’s More up a Tree comes to BAM on November 19–21. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #MoreupaTree.

In Context: Beyond Time

U-Theatre’s Beyond Time comes to BAM on November 19. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #UTheatre.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Elvis Will Be in the Building

Elvis Costello comes to BAM on Nov 10 to discuss his new memoir, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink. Sandy Sawotka, our Director of Publicity and a self-proclaimed Elvis fan-girl, reflects on how the musician has impacted her life.

A fan is born.

1978: Elvis Costello’s first album, My Aim is True, is released—a musical eureka moment. Filled with anger, frustration, clever lyrics, great melodies, killer bridges*, and punchy, stripped down arrangements, it spoke to me and my friends in a profound and exciting way. We read about him in Trouser Press magazine and bought nose-bleed tickets for his show at the (former) Palladium on E. 14th St. Elvis played for maybe 30 minutes that night and stormed off the stage, we guessed ‘in character,’ and it really didn’t matter. I was hooked.  

Over the course of many tours and many albums, I moved through Elvis’ prolific musical explorations with him. He immersed himself in musical history and mined every style for inspiration—R&B, country, classical, folk, art song, the American Songbook—and I grew along with him. He wrote/performed with Burt Bacharach, Paul McCartney, Aimee Mann, Anne Sofie Von Otter, the Roots, and many other great musicians, creating music that perfectly melded their respective talents. And the best part is, he’s still doing that and I’m still eager to hear every new record. That’s a rare pop music relationship.

Monday, November 9, 2015

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Lindsey Turteltaub of Real Enemies

When Real Enemies comes to the BAM Harvey Theater November 18—22, audiences will be dazzled by hundreds of pieces of found video footage by film designer Peter Nigrini perfectly synced to an original jazz score by Grammy-nominated Darcy James Argue and his 18-piece Secret Society. The remarkable part? Each cue is called live, and there's no click track. Below, stage manager Lindsey Turteltaub explains more.

A technical rehearsal for Real Enemies. Photo: Lindsey Turteltaub

Marguerite Duras: Surviving—and thriving—against all odds

By Jess Goldschmidt

For more than 40 years of French history, Marguerite Duras was a cultural juggernaut. A novelist, playwright, filmmaker, essayist, Resistance fighter, staunch-then-lapsed Communist, and at times raging alcoholic, her personal, artistic, and political foibles captivated the imaginations of the French intellectual elite until her death in 1996 at the age of 81.

In every aspect of her life, Duras embodied a trés Français extremity—an obsession with eroticism, death, liquor, and life. She claimed a powerful sexual connection to her younger brother, Paulo. She left home at 17 to attend the Sorbonne. She worked alongside François Mitterand in the French Resistance, loathed Charles de Gaulle, had a child out of wedlock with her husband’s best friend, and made her living as a journalist for the leftist Observateur until she quit to write novels full time.

Despite the fact that her body of work includes countless plays, essays, and films, Duras is best known as a novelist. Her work was stylistically innovative and definitively minimalist—a fact that led her to be claimed by France’s nouveau roman movement, a wave of novelistic innovation championed and theorized by Alain Robbe-Grillet. Yet Duras defied classification. Her more than 50 novels at times feel like plays or poems: minimal character description and maximal dialogue, much of it written flat across the page, without attribution or punctuation. And most of her works center on female characters, probing their inner lives, loves, madnesses, and—almost especially—fears. “Only the stupid are not afraid,” she once proclaimed.

Duras’ gift for dialogue led her to experiment with theater and film scripts—the latter most notably in her collaboration with Alain Resnais, the classic Hiroshima mon Amour (1958). Yet unsatisfied with her role as a screenwriter, in the 1970s Duras turned her attention almost exclusively to film, working as a director on her own projects. Elusive and often alienating, her film work experimented heavily with image and sound, eschewing all constraints of narrative; she once said her goal as a filmmaker was to “murder the writer.”

She drank her way through liters of wine for every few pages of text composed until she entered recovery in 1982, and triumphantly escaped a five-month coma in 1988. She disappeared for years into a relationship with her muse, companion, savior, and sometime-servant Yann Andréa (a gay man 38 years her junior), then reemerged at the age of 70 with her most successful novel, The Lover, which sold a million copies and was translated into 43 languages. Living on the razor's edge, Marguerite Duras survivedand thrivedagainst all odds.

Duras' play, Savannah Bay, comes to the BAM Fisher November 11—14. Standby seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis the day of the show.

Jess Goldschmidt is an artist living in Brooklyn.

Friday, November 6, 2015

In Context: YOU US WE ALL

YOU US WE ALL, the pop opera from Shara Worden, Andrew Ondrejcak, and Baroque Orchestration X, comes to BAM on November 11. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #YOUUSWEALL.

In Context: Savannah Bay

Marguerite Duras' play Savannah Bay comes to BAM on November 11. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #MargueriteDuras.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

On the Hagoromo story, new and old

Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto in Hagoromo. Photo: Julieta Cervantes
By Brendan Pelsue

Hagoromo is one of the most popular Japanese Noh plays, performed frequently in Japan, lauded by modernists like Pound and Yeats, and often used as the representative Noh text in theater history surveys. 

Famous as Hagoromo is, its story is simple, an anonymous 16th century adaptation of a folk tale first recorded 700 years earlier: a fisherman steals an angel’s sacred robe (or Hagoromo) and then, moved by her purity and her suffering, finds the good grace to return it. In exchange, he witnesses the Suruga Mai, an angelic dance that accompanies the waxing and waning of the moon.

This plotting is spare even by Noh standards; it is, in the words of Noh theorist Kunio Komparu, “barely enough for a skit.” But the play’s bare scaffold of a story, combined with its potent thematic dualities (the human and divine, the fleeting and the eternal, the greedy and the gracious), may be the key to its endurance. It is one of the few Noh plays that can be slotted into four of the five genre categories that constitute a traditional full day Noh cycle. It is considered a god play, a woman play, a madness play, and a demon play––everything but a warrior play. It is, again in the words of Komparu, “an excuse for the music and dance.”

This “excuse” may sound trivial, but it isn’t. Noh is a performance form where prescribed music and movement come together to create a sense of yugen, the sorrowful and “profound sublimity” that exists beneath hana, or surface beauty. To achieve this meditative state, mundane perceptions of time and event must be stretched, altered, or suspended. The simpler the story, the more room the form’s techniques have to work.

The dance-opera version of Hagoromo we are creating for BAM does not attempt to recreate those Noh techniques––we’d come up very, very short. Instead, our work, to my mind, has been to take our expertise in fields ranging from dance, to new music, to contemporary visual art, to puppetry, and stretch it over the simple scaffold that has made Hagoromo so enduring.

Hopefully, that will allow us to create a contemporary piece that lives up to another lofty thought from Kunio Komparu: “A Noh play… is not the telling of a series of events but an exploration, an evocation, and indeed a song of praise.”

Brendan Pelsue's libretto for Hagoromo comes to life November 3—8 in the BAM Harvey Theater.

Monday, November 2, 2015

BAM Illustrated: 5 Conspiracy Theories

Real Enemies (Nov 18—22 at the BAM Harvey Theater) explores America's fascination with conspiracy theories through found footage by film designer Peter Nigrini and music by Darcy James Argue and his 18-piece Secret Society. The show draws from hundreds of theories, and we asked writer/director Isaac Butler to expand on five of his favorites, illustrated below.

In Context: Opus

Opus, from the dazzling Australian troupe Circa, comes to BAM November 4. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #CircaOpus.

In Context: Epiphany: The Cycle of Life

Epiphany: The Cycle of Life, the exuberant ode to life from VisionIntoArt and Young People's Chorus of New York, comes to BAM November 4. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #EpiphanyCycle.

Friday, October 30, 2015

In Context: Hagoromo

featuring celebrated dancers Wendy Whelen and Jock Soto, comes to BAM November 3. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #WendyWhelan.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Nathan Boyle of Circa

Nathan Boyle
Australian troupe Circa makes its BAM debut next week with Opus, a jaw-dropping combination of physical feats accompanied by live music by the Debussy String Quartet. Performer Nathan Boyle spoke with us about the piece, its challenges, and more.

How did you get involved with Circa? What is your experience in physical theater?

I saw CIRCA, one of Circa's shows at the Sydney Opera House in 2008. I didn't know what to expect; I knew it was contemporary circus and that was it. After watching that show, I immediately thought "I will work for this company one day." After finishing my Bachelor in Circus Arts in 2010 at NICA (the National Institute of Circus Arts), I was immediately hired by Circa and have been with the company ever since.

How is Opus different from what you’ve done in the past? What can the audience expect to see from you during the performance?

Firstly, the music is live. We have the amazing Debussy String Quartet accompanying us throughout the entire show. This is the first time I wasn't performing to recorded music, so it took a while for me and the other performers to adapt to the slight changes in tempo from night to night as it’s performed live. It’s organic and varies slightly on how the musicians play on the night. The audience can expect to see an absolute fusion of acrobatics and classical music. The quartet isn't just shoved to the back of the stage—they move throughout us, sometimes blindfolded, sometimes with assisted acrobatic lifts, all while continuing to play the music from memory. You have to see it to believe it!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Spike Lee's Bamboozled—15 Years Later

Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, Spike Lee’s Bamboozled is among the director’s most polarizing works—a furious, uncompromising satire that finds the racist traditions of blackface and minstrelsy in contemporary media. This Wednesday, BAMcinématek welcomes Lee for a post-screening conversation about Bamboozled and its legacy, followed by a nine-film series that explores race and media across a wide range of periods.

Writer-curator Ashley Clark, whose monograph Facing Blackness: Media and Minstrelsy in Spike Lee’s Bamboozled is now on sale, spoke with us about the enduring resonance of the film and the urgency of its contemporary context.

Of all the Spike Lee films you might have written a book on, what in particular drew you to Bamboozled, and were there specific aspects of its critical reception that you were seeking to address or change?

Spike Lee has made a number of very knotty, awkward films that are resistant to a concrete interpretation. When he makes films that don’t go down well with critics, including Girl 6, She Hate Me, and Miracle at St. Anna, I think they’re still always very interesting, with lots to unpack. Of all his films that are not critically acclaimed, Bamboozled is the most fascinating. There’s so much to dig into aesthetically, politically, and tonally. A lot of critics at the time said it was a mess, and they didn’t give Lee enough credit for his deliberate artistic choices, like shooting on digital video, and the seeming randomness of the editing. None of this is by accident, and I wanted to dig into it as a piece of experimental filmmaking and argue for the effects of its technical approach.

The other major thing: many critics said it was unnecessary and dated—that everybody knew blackface wasn’t funny and not politically correct. But Lee used controversial, brutal satire to make the point that, even if we don’t have actual blackface minstrelsy today, a lot of the stereotypes from that supposedly bygone era persist in mainstream entertainment. Maybe it was difficult for people to look honestly at where we were in 2000, and to see that some of these issues were, and remain, in full effect, particularly in institutions, where there is a terrible lack of diversity at gatekeeper level, and what the fallout from that inequality can be, representationally-speaking.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hagoromo—Taking Flight

Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto. Photo: David Michalek
By Susan Yung

At a recent rehearsal for Hagoromo, Chris Green talks to a group of performers as one man cradles Wendy Whelan, appearing paler than usual and remarkably lank, limbs akimbo at slightly bizarre angles. One of the world’s most beloved ballerinas suffering from exhaustion? Not to worry—Green is the project’s puppet designer, and this Wendy was one of two puppets. And even though the puppets are not in their finished states, the working models feature silicon skins cast from Whelan, including her face, so it’s still a bit unsettling despite the knowledge that it’s a doppelganger.

Life Cycles

In an exuberant ode to life filled with live music, Epiphany: The Cycle of Life (coming to the BAM Fisher November 4—7) sends its audience roaming through labyrinthine tunnels of video, light, and reflection to celebrate the ecstasies of existence. Here, filmmaker Ali Hossaini shares some of the experiences that helped incubate this new multimedia choral work.

On inspiration...

Epiphany came from reflection on mortality. I was with my mother when she died. As she became inanimate, her environment came alive—it seemed almost merciful. The balloons above her bed were talking. The walls breathed. I tried to imagine a world full of grace, a world where everything flows. Guided by spiritual traditions from Tibet and elsewhere, I began exploring her experience with a camera.

When our mothers die, they leave a cord that connects us to the numinous beyond. Every person on the planet grasps that cord, and I wanted to create a requiem that celebrates all our mothers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

In Context: The Exalted

The Exalted, featuring Theo Bleckmann and Carl Hancock Rux, comes to BAM on October 28. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #TheExalted.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fresh Hamm: Seeing Eye Screenings—Avant-Garde in 1943

Photo documenting a "seeing eye" screening for the blind, at BAM in 1943.
BAM is known for artistic experimentation, in particular since the Next Wave Festival began in 1983.

But did you know that 80 years before that, it hosted such events as this "seeing eye" screening of the Warner Bros.' musical film, The Desert Song, for residents of the Industrial Home for the Blind in 1943? As the film screened, a narrator described the unfolding events over a loudspeaker system. And prior to the start of the film, audience members received braille programs.

This is one of thousands of photos and artifacts which document BAM's history both onstage and as a cornerstone of daily life in Brooklyn.

The back of the photo with a description of the event.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Real Enemies—Shadow History

Real Enemies comes to the BAM Harvey Theater November 18—22, with music by Darcy James Argue, films by Peter Nigrini, and text and direction by Isaac Butler, who shares his thoughts here.

Darcy James Argue and his 18-piece band Secret Society. Photo: Noah Stern Weber

As of this writing, the Real Enemies team has just returned from developing the piece at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. People know Virginia Tech for many reasons—its unique limestone, football team, and engineering program are all legendary—but more recently, Tech and its environs have been in the news because of a spectacular act of violence. In late August, Vester Flanagan shot and killed two former colleagues on live television in the outskirts of Roanoke, less than 30 minutes from our hotel. Shortly thereafter, he released footage of the murder filmed from his own point of view, and then killed himself during a car chase with police.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sankai Juku—Cosmic Dance

Courtesy Sankai Juku

By Tanya Calamoneri

Now one of the best known artists in the avant garde dance form of butoh, Ushio Amagatsu founded Sankai Juku—who come to BAM later this month—in 1975 in Tokyo. A cultural councilor at the French Embassy in Japan invited the company to Paris in 1980, and French audiences smartly fell in love with its work. Sankai Juku has booked nearly bi-annual engagements at Théâtre de la Ville in Paris ever since, and splits its time between Paris and Tokyo. The company also tours extensively, contributing significantly to butoh’s global recognition.

Butoh emerged in 1959 in Japan, instigated by Tatsumi Hijikata, whose work was a provocation to modernity in general and specifically to the Western-lead reconstruction of Japan following World War II. In his 1960 essay “Inner/Outer Material,” Hijikata describes his performances as “bodies that have maintained the crisis of primal experience.” His work was grotesque, erotic, inflammatory, and rebellious. Sometimes dancers would flail wildly. Other times, they would stand completely still—though not serenely—held in place like an insect in amber, crushed by images, sensation, and histories. Rather than a specific dance grammar, butoh utilizes images to initiate movement. The dancers transform their sense of time, space, shape, and relationship based on a string of image poetry that propels them to move.

In Context: Refuse the Hour

William Kentridge’s phantasmagoric investigation of time, Refuse the Hour, comes to BAM on October 22. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #WilliamKentridge.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Modern Cinema's Holy Grail

Photo courtesy Carlotta Films US
By Stephen Bowie

Jacques Rivette’s OUT 1: Noli me Tangere (1971) is so much a thing of legend that longtime cinephiles recall its infrequent screenings like concerts: Le Havre in ’71, Rotterdam in ’89, New York City (Queens, though!) in ’05. Next month, BAMcinématek revives OUT 1, all 775 minutes of it, via the world premiere of a new digital restoration. Its eight parts will screen several times, in pairs (for a more movie-sized experience) and also as a two-day marathon (for the binge-watchers).

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Martin Zimmermann, hero in a paradoxical world

Photo: Augustin Rebetez
By Thomas Hahn

Martin Zimmermann is that phenomenally pliable mime around whom twist and wind the absurd frescoes and circus disciplines of the Zimmermann & de Perrot duo. After having recently roused the delighted audience to tumultuous applause at the Théâtre de la Ville, the mime with a ballet dancer’s body is already back in Paris with a solo to say "Hallo" at the Théâtre de la Ville – Les Abbesses.

Their last piece remains indelibly fixed in our memory: Hans was Heiri, performed in Théâtre de la Ville in 2012 and again in 2013. Zimmermann has now created his first solo. But what does "solo“ actually mean? Just as in the previous blockbusters, the stage setting here does not simply serve as decoration, but rather takes part as a full-fledged actor. In constant motion, it is an ally of the director, but a formidable adversary for the figure.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Maya Beiser on All Vows

This Wednesday, cellist Maya Beiser is joined by bassist Jherek Bischoff, filmmaker Bill Morrison, and others in All Vows, a convention-flouting survey of her musical personality, featuring music by Nirvana, Michael Gordon, Glenn Kotche, and more. A note from Beiser follows.

Photo: Justin Knight for MIT

In All Vows, I explore the dichotomy and multifaceted interaction between the physical, external world we inhabit and the landscape of our mysterious inner selves. A humble, intensely personal lament, Kol Nidrei—translated to All Vows—is a prayer about human imperfection, about stumbling and making mistakes. The words of the prayer are meant for no one other than the person who utters them, but the melody of the prayer is aimed at everyone—the words divide, and the music unites. My show, All Vows, is an exploration of that idea; language, words, actions, can bridge or separate us—music, any music, is purely spiritual, as it has no obstacle in entering the soul. In juxtaposing the ancient prayer of the Kol Nidrei, with reimagined Classic Rock, I aim to show that tradition is not sacred. That if there is a heuristic value to the music, whether rock or ancient laments, breaking away from its original form will strengthen its inner emotional meaning, rather than detract from it.

In Context: Umusuna: Memories Before History

Japanese Butoh troupe Sankai Juku comes to BAM October 28—31 with Umusuna: Memories Before History. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #SankaiJuku.

Friday, October 9, 2015

BAM Illustrated: Learning to Love Noir

Visual artist Stan Douglas and screenwriter Chris Haddock bring film noir to the opera house stage October 14—17 with Canadian Stage's Helen Lawrence, a high-tech theater production featuring live filming and blue screen. In anticipation of this cinematic piece, illustrator Nathan Gelgud reflects on noir and how he came to love the many films and faces that embody the genre.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Poetry of the Absurd—An Interview with Hallo's Martin Zimmermann

Somewhere between Beckett and Buster Keaton, Martin Zimmermann's Hallocoming to the BAM Harvey Theater on October 15—pits shape-shifting human against animate architecture, teetering on the threshold between collapse and order. One year ago, Gwénola David sat down with Zimmermann to learn more about the broken walls, breached skylights, and sculptural echoes of his creative mind.

Hallo's Martin Zimmermann. Photo: Augustin Rebetez