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Friday, January 13, 2017

Martin McDonagh Weighs In

Illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores Irish playwright Martin McDonagh's thoughts on theater, music, literature, and more, drawing from interviews in BOMB, The Irish Times, The New Yorker, and The Guardian. See his pitch-black comedy, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, at the BAM Harvey Theater through Feb 5.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Frederick Douglass at BAM

By 1860, Brooklyn had become the third largest city in America. As a thriving port city with significant trades in sugar, tobacco, and cotton, but also the location of Weeksville, one of the earliest settlements established by free slaves, Brooklyn’s relationship to slavery is as complicated as the nation’s as a whole. Throughout this period, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass came to speak against racial injustice. A new book, Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn by historian Theodore Hamm, recounts his traverse in the “City of Churches” with many original source materials, including excerpts of his speeches. Many of Douglass’ messages resonate as much today as 150 years ago. And as part of this year’s Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., BAM has invited the multi-talented performer Carl Hancock Rux (The Exalted, Next Wave 2015) to read excerpts from the book, with Hamm providing commentary. Here, Hamm highlights Douglass’ four visits to BAM, which has served as the nexus for public gatherings in Brooklyn.

Frederick Douglass made four notable visits to BAM during the 1860s, its first decade of existence. Academy’s first location, on Montague Street near what was then City Hall (and is now Borough Hall).

Douglass’ first appearance—on Friday evening, May 15, 1863—was widely promoted, and also featured a performance by the Hutchinson Family Singers, a popular musical act of the era. Douglass delivered his speech “What Shall Be Done with the Negro?” to a packed house of 3000 people. As reported by Sydney Howard Gay (a key figure in the Underground Railroad) in the New York Tribune, “the beauty and fashion of the City of Churches were largely represented in the audience, with here and there a colored lady or a colored gentleman sitting in the audience,” thus illustrating Douglass’ call for racial equality.

“Can the white and colored people of this country,” Douglass asked, “be blended into a common nationality, and enjoy together, in the same country, under the same flag, the inestimable blessings of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I answer most unhesitatingly, I believe they can.” (Read the full transcript of Douglass' speech here.) After his well-received speech, the Hutchinson Family closed the performance by leading the audience in a chorus of “John Brown’s Body.”

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hope, Unwavering

Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir, 2016. Photo: Elena Olivo
By David Hsieh

There are years of triumphs and years of setbacks. There are years of prosperity and years of reckoning. There are years when the country is at war. There are years when the country seems lost.

But throughout the years, people have come to BAM to pay respect to a person who embodied integrity, perseverance, and an unwavering moral compass. They come to give thanks to a person who symbolized the stigmata they have borne and the spirit to rise above the worst human impulse. They come because they all share this man’s dream that freedom will one day ring in all the land. They come to pay tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Iconic Artist Talk: Declan Donnellan



On Wednesday, December 7, co-founder and joint artistic director of Cheek by Jowl Declan Donnellan joined Shakespeare scholar and Columbia professor James Shapiro for a conversation that reflected on Donnellan’s more than 20-year history at BAM. This talk was part of BAM’s Iconic Artist Talk series, which started during BAM’s 150th Anniversary celebrations. The series uses archival footage and images from the BAM Hamm Archives as a jumping off point for discussion, allowing audiences insight into the range of an artist’s work and relationship with BAM. Donnellan, who joins Peter Brook, Bill T. Jones, Laurie Anderson, and others in the rank of BAM Iconic Artists, made his BAM debut in 1994 with his direction of As You Like It. Since then, he has returned with six Shakespeare works, including last season’s The Winter’s Tale, among other seminal theater productions. In this dynamic conversation, Donnellan and Shapiro provided insight into six of Cheek by Jowl’s iconic productions—As You Like It (1994), Much Ado About Nothing (1998), Othello (2004), Cymbeline (2007), Macbeth (2011), and ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (2012)—and reflected on some of the fundamental truths of directing, theater, and human experience in the process.


Friday, January 6, 2017

In Context: The Beauty Queen of Leenane



Ireland’s esteemed theater company Druid makes its BAM debut with this 20th anniversary revival of Martin McDonagh’s Tony Award-winning pitch-black comedy abd the first in a trilogy of plays set in the sodden Irish backwater of Leenane. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BeautyQueenofLeenane.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Savage Beauty

Marty Rea and Aisling O'Sullivan. Photo: Aaron Monaghan
By Brian Scott Lipton

I was recently in a restaurant where a baby shower was taking place, the young mother-to-be beaming at the center of a table festooned with balloons proclaiming “It’s a Girl.” I was tempted to ask her if she’d ever gone to the theater.

Obviously, many mothers and daughters have long and happy relationships. It’s just that you don’t see them that often on the stage. In fact, many of the 20th century’s greatest playwrights have shone their spotlight all too brightly on this most complex and difficult of familial situations. Take Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, where the self-sufficient Amanda Wingfield gets repeatedly frustrated with her handicapped, painfully shy daughter Laura (“Oh! I felt so weak I could barely keep on my feet! I had to sit down while they got me a glass of water! Fifty dollars’ tuition, all of our plans—my hopes and ambitions for you—just gone up the spout, just gone up the spout like that.”) to Marsha Norman’s devastating “’Night Mother,” where mom Thelma faces, not always effectively or politely, the possibility of depressed daughter Jessie committing suicide.

More recently, we’ve witnessed Tracy Letts’ devastating August Osage County, during which eldest daughter Barbara finally loses her patience after one of her drug-addicted mother Violet’s nastiest outbursts, tackling her to the ground and loudly announcing what she erroneously believes is a now-permanent shift in their power dynamic. (“You don’t get it: I’m in charge now!”)

And then there’s perhaps the most toxic of all mother-daughter relationships—the one between elderly Mag Folan and her 40-year-old spinster daughter Maureen in Martin McDonagh’s The Beauty Queen of Leenane, a Druid production at the BAM Harvey Theater from January 11 to February 5.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Give the .gif of BAM!


via GIPHY

2016 has been an exhausting year for all of us, but we still have hope. Here's to you, our audiences, for remaining so inquisitive, engaged, and adventurous through it all. To express our appreciation, we looked to some of our favorite moments from BAM's history for new ways to keep our season bright.

Using GIPHY, spread the spirit and send these festive .gifs to friends and loved ones via Facebook, Twitter, or text. Happy holidays, and cheers to 2017!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Watery Magic Onstage


Lothar Odinius and Olga Peretyatko in The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. Photo: Jack Vartoogian

By David Hsieh

L’Amour de Loin, the first opera by a female composer presented on the Metropolitan Opera stage in over a century, will be shown at BAM Rose Cinemas this Saturday (Dec 10) as part of the Met: Live in HD series. The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, with librettist Amin Maalouf, drew from a 14th-century troubadour legend as a source. It tells of two lovers pining for each other across the vast ocean, which in this Robert Lepage production is embodied by 28,000 LED lights.

In a New York Times interview, Lepage explained why he went for the illusion of water: “Water is like doing a show with young children and animals and insects. It will do what it wants, and you don’t have any control over it.”

We at BAM know that Lepage speaks from experience, because this recognized theater wizard and BAM Iconic Artist (coming back this Spring!) has put real water on our stage before. That was The Nightingale and Other Short Fables (2011 Winer/Spring Season), an opera production consisting of several short Stravinsky music theater pieces. For The Nightingale, a fairy tale set in ancient China, Lepage adopted a Vietnamese water puppetry tradition with performers immersed in a pool of 12,000 gallons of water. The custom-made water tank was sunk in the orchestra pit. What the audience saw was a luminescent surface where small boats glided by, a puppet fisherman hauled in his nets, and birds darted above it—an experience that The Wall Street Journal called “spell-binding.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

In Context: Amplified




The Dublin Guitar Quartet and composer Michael Gordon redefine what the guitar can be as an ensemble instrument. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #Amplified.

In Context: CITIZEN





Choreographer Reggie Wilson returns to BAM with a brand new work inspired by African-American figures throughout history who chose not to leave their home country in spite of pervasive racism. CITIZEN is a dense and timely work, so to give you greater insight into the production, we’ve compiled resources below. Start with Wilson’s introduction, reading list, and our BAMblog piece for context, then explore the other links for a more in-depth experience. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #ReggieWilson.