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Thursday, April 30, 2015

About the Other Night: The Karen Gala

Photo: Kristine Bumphrey, Starpix
Oh what a night!

You don’t celebrate 36 years and a leader like Karen Brooks Hopkins with just any old party. You do it with dinner in a greenhouse, a champagne boat ride under the Brooklyn Bridge, a massive light show for all of Fort Greene, late night hot dog vendors, and a 2am dance off. And that’s not even including the main highlights of the night (Steve Reich! Mavis Staples! Rufus & Martha Wainwright! Illstyle & Peace Productions! Paul Simon! Laurie Anderson! The BAM Karen!). To paraphrase the guest of honor’s signature expression, the Karen Gala wasn’t a party, it was a crusade.

Duggal Greenhouse. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BAM Illustrated: A Karen Brooks Hopkins timeline

BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins retires this summer after 36 years of service. Her career and many achievements would be impossible to condense into a simple timeline, but we've done our best to include some highlights, key moments, and KBH favorites in the following illustration by Nathan Gelgud.

We realize this is a tad hard to read—click here (or on the image) for a larger version ...or swing by the Peter Jay Sharp Building to see the much bigger original version hanging in our third floor hallway.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Eat (Sandwiches), Drink & Be Literary: Joseph O'Neill

Eat, Drink & Be Literary, presented in partnership with the National Book Foundation, is back this week with the PEN/Faulkner Award-winning Joseph O'Neill. With a new season comes a new batch of food, beverage, and book-related questions for our featured authors. (Read responses from other EDBL writers here.)

What is your favorite sandwich?
Emmental and green olives. Neutral about the bread.

What is your favorite Brooklyn-based novel?
Pass. To answer that question would be to alienate 97% of American writers at work today.

When you write, do you write by hand or on the computer (…or typewriter)?
MacBook Air. 

A novel twist on the Emmenthal and green olive sandwich.
(Photo: Une Touche de Rose)
When you read, are you an e-book or a paper book person?
I'm papery in the extreme. 

What is your go-to beverage?
Black coffee from whichever deli is closest by.

What is your favorite Brooklyn restaurant?

What is the last live performance that really moved you?
Antony and Cleopatra, at the Public Theatre in 2014, with the wonderful Jonathan Cake as Mark Antony.

Joseph O'Neill will read from his most recent novel, The Dog, and talk with moderator Deborah Treisman at Eat, Drink & Be Literary on Wednesday, April 29.

Parsing Pure Evil

Noma Dumezweni and Matthew Marsh in A Human Being Died That Night. Photo: Jesse Kramer
By Eric Grode

A well-spoken evildoer in prison clothes, holding (and withholding) key pieces of information. An inquisitive young woman eager to pry open the prisoner’s brain, even at the risk of being engulfed by what spills out.

This confrontation has fueled many a suspense thriller, from Silence of the Lambs to The Blacklist. And the Fugard Theater’s production of A Human Being Died That Night (playing the BAM Fisher May 29—June 21), adapted from the 2003 bestseller by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, dives into this same sinister tableau after a brief prologue. But director Jonathan Munby said the piece is looking to do a lot more than just set pulses to pounding.

“Nothing feels simplified nor dumbed down, nor does the subject ever feel shrink-wrapped to fit the drama,” Munby said of the piece. Instead, it “has the power to enlighten and educate as well as to move and inspire audiences.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Executive Files: Preparing for a Princess

Conceiving, organizing, preparing, and attending galas go with the job description of the president of any arts institution. During Karen Brooks Hopkins’ 36 years at BAM—the last 16 as president—she has overseen plenty of those. And on April 28, 2015, she will preside over her last one in that capacity. BAM is putting on the Karen Gala to thank her for her tireless work in making BAM the crown jewel of a revitalized downtown Brooklyn. (It’s okay to gloat a little at galas—some would say it goes with the definition!) It will be “a gala to beat all galas,”—well, maybe except for that one time, when she held a gala for true royalty. This is her recollection of how the late Princess Diana came to BAM. (And dare we hope that someone someday will remember THIS gala as fondly?) 

Princess Diana with Harvey Lichtenstein at BAM.

by Karen Brooks Hopkins

The phone rang in the office. It was one of those gray mid-March mornings in New York when you are positive spring will never come and no one interesting will call, until it does. Anyway, the phone rang.

My secretary informed me that Brian McMaster, executive director of the Welsh National Opera, was on the line with important news from Wales. A ray of sunlight shot across the Brooklyn skyline. Perhaps… perhaps this would be the morning. This could be the call.

Briefly, to provide some historical background: We had been negotiating to bring the Welsh National Opera to New York since the summer of 1987. It takes a long time with opera, and the WNO’s production of Verdi’s Falstaff, which we hoped to bring to BAM, was large and expensive, making the negotiations extremely complex. We (BAM & WNO) had reviewed the budgets at least 500 times. It was clear the only way this project could happen was if someone like the Queen herself opened the production with a royal gala. Well, we couldn’t have the Queen, but what about the young, beautiful, and vivacious Princess of Wales, who, it turned out, was the patron of the Welsh National Opera!

This was it. This was our plan. We had to convince the Princess of Wales to say yes. If she would come, the gala to end all galas would be launched. BAM Opera, a new program initiative of the Academy would be inaugurated with her visit. Bankruptcy would be avoided. The company could come to New York. All would be well. It was a long shot. After all, how many times in history has the future Queen of England come to Brooklyn?

Monday, April 20, 2015

In Context: Mark Morris Dance Group

The musically minded Mark Morris Dance Group returns to BAM April 22—26 with two programs representing two decades of the company’s diverse, passionate approach to contemporary dance paired with live music. Context is everything, so get even closer to the performance with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Filmmaker's Film: Vertigo

"Here I was born, and there I died.": The Vertigo Effect screens at BAM Apr 16—30.
Photo: Paramount Pictures/Photofest

By C. Mason Wells

In 1958, Alfred Hitchcock’s 45th feature Vertigo was released to largely mixed reviews. This story of acrophobic San Francisco detective Scottie (Jimmy Stewart) hired to trail mysterious blonde Madeleine (Kim Novak) was tagged “basically only a psychological murder mystery” by Variety. Writers ranging from the Young Turks of Cahiers du Cinéma to Andrew Sarris to Robin Wood had begun to make the case for Hitchcock as a consummate film artist during the 1960s, but critical consensus took far longer; Vertigo failed to place in Sight and Sound’s once-a-decade critics’ poll until 1982. In 2012, it climbed to the number one slot and the title of Best Film of All Time, knocking Citizen Kane (1941) from its 50-year reign atop the belltower.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

20 years of BAM Design Celebrated over 100 Days

by Clara Cornelius

The BAM look is identifiable anywhere. As the Creative Director at BAM, I find myself talking to a lot of people about our identity. A friend recently described it as "all cut off and hard to read, but, like, in good way.” Similarly, most people who I talk to about BAM's design say they recognize it when they see it, that it's "all chopped up" and they "like how it's hard to read."

Our visual identity was created in 1995 by Michael Bierut, a partner at Pentagram. He was tasked with creating a cohesive graphic identity for the Next Wave Festival, which went on to define the design for BAM as a whole. The core of the concept, from Bierut himself:
Fragments of News Gothic type obscured behind wide stripes became the basis of the Next Wave look, used on all festival posters, advertisements, invitations, and brochures. Practically, this design system allows for the use of very large type, even in cramped applications such as newspaper advertisements. More poetically, the use of type stepping from behind horizontal lines suggests the next big thing coming over the horizon. 
I've seen the design evolve and grow beyond the benchmarks of Michael's original concept--we've pushed and pulled at it, testing its limits to keep it relevant to new generations. Sometimes it is hard to read, but that is often the point.

So here we are 20 years later, and the beautiful, flexible system that Michael Bierut conceived in 1995 is still going strong. To celebrate our design anniversary, we will be participating in another Bierut-derived concept, The 100 Day Project, by showcasing 100 different ways his identity has been applied.

The project was inspired by a workshop Bierut taught at Yale, and has since evolved into a popular social media “event,” thanks to Elle Luna and The Great Discontent. This is the second year of The 100 Day Project, and starting Monday, April 6, we (and the rest of the internet) will post a photo a day highlighting our project. Be sure to follow us on Instagram at @BAM_Brooklyn and the hashtag #100daysofBAMtype.

Clara Cornelius is the Creative Director of BAM.

Friday, April 3, 2015

In Context: Ghosts

Uncouth family relations. Malicious infections. Upended Victorian mores. Considered shockingly indecent when it premiered in 1882, Ghosts haunts the BAM Harvey Theater April 5—May 3. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A new look for “BAM This Week”

We heard you loud and clear. Your lives are busy and it’s not that you don’t want more film, theater, music, dance, and opera in your lives—it’s just hard to schedule it all.

Enter the updated BAM This Week. Our weekly newsletter has a new clean look with day-by-day selected highlights of what’s going on here over the next seven days. We hope you like the new format, and welcome your feedback in the comment section below.

Now, for the changes:

Wednesday is the new Thursday

We’ve sent out our weekly newsletter on Thursdays for over a decade now. But if you’re anything like us, you start thinking about and planning your weekend around mid-week, so we’ve pushed the send date to Wednesdays. BAM This Week now covers events taking place Thursday through the following Wednesday and will arrive in your inbox every hump day.