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Friday, April 29, 2016

Let's Get Critical: Part I

Photo: Mariel Kon

Of the many complaints hurled at the film industry over the past few years, perhaps the one most frequently heard is that a hugely disproportionate number of films released each year are targeted to a teenage audience. Critics and fans alike bemoan the recent explosion of superhero franchise films and dumbed-down comedies, and see filmmaking in the new century as reduced from an art form to the lowest common denominator. I wish that those who believe that the cinema is on the edge of being obliterated by CGI explosions could have witnessed the incredible work of the students of this year’s Young Film Critics program at BAM. To begin, we approached the idea of what a “teen” movie can be by exploring some of the greatest films ever made about that age. We went as far back as Jean Vigo’s scabrous short feature on the oppressiveness of life in school, 1933’s Zéro de conduite. We followed the portrayal of teen life in such classic films as Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Godard’s still-edgy Masculin-Feminin (1966) and George Lucas’ breakout feature, American Graffiti (1973). We also examined what Hollywood still appears to consider to be “outsider” voices with three recent movies that were first films for their respective directors: Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre, Justin Simien’s Dear White People, and Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station.

For those out there who fret over the future of film, in terms of both its content and its audience, the pieces in this series will testify to the imaginative power and sharp critical eye that teenagers can bring to bear on films worthy of their intelligence.

—Josh Cabat, Instructor

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In Context: La Verità

Contemporary circus maverick Daniele Finzi Pasca conjures a lush vaudevillian dreamscape in La Verità, an acrobatic homage to Salvador Dalí, coming to BAM May 4–7. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of related articles, sounds and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #LaVerita.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Gregory Doran on King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings

In a rich conversation with eminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro, Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Gregory Doran shed light on the four plays in King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings. Below are highlights from their April 7 talk.

Doran shares the greatest piece of advice he’s received as a director and leads us into his personal approach to directing and performing Shakespeare.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

In Context: Youssou NDOUR

The Dakar-born singer and composer returns to BAM May 20 & 21 with his longtime band, Le Super Étoile de Dakar, and a tribute to Senegalese drummer Doudou N'Diaye Rose, who passed away last year. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of related articles, sounds and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #YoussouNDOUR.

Embodying Shakespeare

Last week, Royal Shakespeare Company Associate Director Owen Horsley led a workshop on Shakespeare’s history plays in conjunction with the RSC’s presentation of King and Country this season. Horsley was joined by company actors Alex Hassell and Leigh Quinn to guide participants through exercises in verse, text, and movement with the aim of building confidence in approaching classical text. We sent BAM's Humanities Intern Nora Tjossem to attend the workshop and learn more. Below, she reports on her findings.

Photo: Nora Tjossem

By Nora Tjossem

The jitters of working with the Royal Shakespeare Company evaporated when Leigh Quinn began a warmup called “Playstation.” Her distinctive golden curls bounced as she did a modified running man and propelled us through various moves: Jump up if you get a golden star! Drop to the ground and do a stationary army crawl to go under a bridge! Break into double-time running-in-place if you get a fireball!

The RSC workshop Embodying Shakespeare at Mark Morris Dance Center lasted three hours and felt like 30 minutes. Beginning with acting games (“Playstation” was augmented with other serious exercises such as “Clappy-Clappy Sametime”), actors Leigh Quinn and Alex Hassell joined forces with Associate Director Owen Horsley to lead a group of 25 through the process of approaching Shakespearean text.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

In Context: Caetano Veloso & Gilberto Gil

Two major artists of the 20th century—Caetano Veloso, arguably Brazil’s greatest contemporary songwriter, and Gilberto Gil, the renowned Brazilian guitarist and singer who led the 1960s Tropicália movement with Veloso and others—come together April 20 & 21 for a celebration of music and friendship. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of related articles, interviews, and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #DoisAmigosUmSeculoDeMusica.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Dalí in New York

By Anna Troester

Salvador Dalí made his mark across 20th-century Europe and the US with his unique body of work and eccentric personality. Best known for his Surrealist paintings—at once evocative, dreamlike, and bizarre—Dalí immersed himself in writing, sculpture, and graphic arts, as well as architecture, jewelry, and set design. He collaborated with well-known artists in the film, theater, photography, and fashion worlds, including Alfred Hitchcock, Luis Buñuel, Elsa Schiaparelli, Christian Dior, and Walt Disney.

The Spanish artist spent eight years in New York City during the 1940s, where he engaged with new ideas, worked with high-profile American artists and institutions, and heavily influenced a city that was growing into an international art center. During this time, Dalí collaborated with the choreographer Leonide Massine on the ballet Mad Tristan, inspired by Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. The artist’s striking hand-painted original backdrop is featured in Daniele Finzi Pasca’s La Verità, a physical theater tribute to Dalí himself, at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House May 4—7. After the jump, peruse some of Dalí’s activities in New York of the 1940s, with an emphasis on the theater.

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Petra Reinhardt of Les Fêtes Vénitiennes

Les Arts Florissants explore the hedonistic side of the French Baroque with the rarely staged opéra-ballet Les Fêtes Vénitiennes, coming to the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House April 14—17. Gamblers, carnies, gypsies, and jilted lovers—baring lots of leg via scanty updates on period dress by designer Petra Reinhardt. We spoke with Reinhardt about her research process, designing for performers and the practicality of Venetian footwear.

How did you come to work with director Robert Carsen and scenic designer Radu Boruzescu? How did you collaborate with them on the costumes for Les Fêtes Vénitiennes?

I was working with Robert Carsen on a Magic Flute at Opera Bastille in Paris. At the final dress rehearsal, I had the honor to meet Radu and his wife Miruna, who had worked with Robert on many productions. I was immediately drawn to Miruna as an artist and human being, and after that one meeting, knew that she was an incredible person.

Miruna was engaged to design the costumes for Les Fêtes Vénitiennes, and talked to me about it. As I have a huge library about Venitian art and culture, and have lived in Italy and know Venice very well, I offered Miruna my books for her research. Sadly, Miruna passed away a few months later in 2014.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Henry V—Rebellion Broached

Shakespearean scholar James Shapiro describes how Shakespeare’s Henry V paralleled the Earl of Essex’s attempt to curtail rebellion in 1599. Henry V concludes Shakespeare's Henriad, currently running in four segments as part of the RSC's King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings at the Harvey Theater through May 1. 

RSC ensemble in Henry V. Photo: Stephanie Berger

In the Epilogue to Henry IV, Part II, for the first and only time in his playwriting career, Shakespeare shared with audiences what he was planning to write next:
If you be not too much cloyed with fat meat, our humble author will continue the story, with Sir John in it, and make you merry with fair Katharine of France. Where, for anything I know, Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already ’a be killed with your hard opinions.
But as disappointed playgoers soon discovered, Sir John Falstaff would not reappear in Henry V: Will Kemp, the comic star for whom Shakespeare had created the role, quit the company, and Falstaff’s part was written out of the story. Henry V would evolve in other ways as well, especially in response to unfolding events.

Troubles and Revolts

During the early months of 1599, as Shakespeare was finishing the play (and with it, the four-part historical sequence that had begun with Richard II), England was mired in what would come to be called the Nine Years’ War in Ireland. The war had taken a disastrous turn the previous August, when a column of 3,500 English troops, hoping to relieve the Blackwater garrison near Armagh, were routed by Irish forces led by Hugh O’Neill. The English soldiers ran for their lives and “were for the most part put to the sword.” An emboldened O’Neill and his followers were determined to uproot the New English settlers, and in the months that followed disturbing reports reached London of “four hundred more throats cut in Ireland” and of “new troubles and revolts.”