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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last-minute BAM-inspired Halloween Costume Ideas

by Chris Tyler

We’re throwing a FREE Halloween party this Friday and costumes are highly encouraged (there will be prizes!). Still haven’t planned yours? Take your inspiration from recent BAM programming with some of these easy-to-assemble costumes:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In Context: The Object Lesson

The Object Lesson runs at BAM from October 5—8. 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.

The Object Lesson—an interview with director David Neumann

by Morgan Green

Where making art is concerned, David Neumann believes that “the free flow of ideas should always be encouraged rather than obeying some hierarchical relationship that supersedes creative freedom.” His track record indicates a healthy disrespect for said hierarchical structure: David Neumann, a choreographer, trained as an actor and is now directing The Object Lesson in the Next Wave Festival.

I caught David on the phone as he dashed between rehearsals to ask about his work with Geoff Sobelle on The Object Lesson. In addition to being a highly sought-after multidisciplinary collaborator, he is also a terrifically nice guy.

David Neumann’s BAM debut was in 1991 when he danced in the Warrior Ant directed by Lee Breuer.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gabriel Kahane on Sunshine Noir

“Los Angeles understands its past... through a robust fiction called noir.”
—Mike Davis, City of Quartz

Chinatown (Paramount Pictures/Photofest)

by Gabriel Kahane

A great deal of ink has been spilled about film noir since its inception some three-quarters of a century ago, much of it flowing from the pens and toner cartridges of critics with credentials far beyond mine. It is, however, a great honor and privilege to have worked closely with Nellie Killian to co-curate this Sunshine Noir festival for BAMcinématek in conjunction with BAM Next Wave’s presentation of my LA-centric piece, The Ambassador, and so I would offer just a few words about noir as I see it: that is to say, as a native Angeleno who’s lived in New York for a bit more than a decade.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Birds With Skymirrors—The Last Dance on Earth

by Brian McCormick

MAU in Birds With Skymirrors. Photo: Sebastian Bolesch

Visionary and provocative, fearless, endless, and beautiful: the work of Lemi Ponifasio requires a letting go of expectations, and having patience to inhabit timeless space; clocks have no place here. His creations transcend genres, mastering a palette that mixes dance, theater, and ceremony, and draws from visual art, politics, philosophy, race relations, history, tradition, and myth. His work has been compared to that of Robert Wilson and Pina Bausch—and in strictly formal terms, he would agree.

What distinguishes MAU, Ponifasio’s community of collaborators from his native Samoa, New Zealand, and the south Pacific, is their transformation of the theater into a ritual space of striking urgency. The name MAU, taken from the Samoan independence movement in New Zealand, means “a declaration to the truth of a matter, or revolution, as an effort to transform.”

“I don’t just make theater for those who love it,” Ponifasio explains. “Theater often deals with the human, phenomenal world. I’m not trying to tell a story. I’m not interested with the superficial, but the cosmological. I’m inviting people to take time to stop and commune in that place—to suspend time, and dissolve space. If you can imagine a garden without flowers, this is what you will experience in a performance by MAU,” he adds. “It is like a Zen garden, where you contemplate your own existence. You are the flower, and you are open to find your own truth.”

Friday, October 24, 2014

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Zvi Sahar of Salt of the Earth

Zvi Sahar is an actor, director, and puppeteer living and working in Israel. He comes to the BAM Fisher Oct 28—Nov 1 with Salt of the Earth, a story told with puppetry and hand-painted miniature sets combined with live film-making, projected video, and a thousand pounds of salt. Sahar’s creative company, PuppetCinema, investigates the relationship between puppetry and live-action film-making.

Which artist do you admire from a field other than your own?
David Bowie, William Kentridge, Quay brothers.

Which artist do you steal from most often?
Ayah, my 3 year old daughter

Any advice you've gotten and ignored?
“Don’t touch that!”

What's the biggest risk you've taken?
Left an active career as an actor in Israel and came to NYC for three years to explore puppetry. Those were probably the most productive and interesting years I've spent as an artist in my career. Scary as hell, but worth it. The next biggest risk was moving back to Israel.

What food are you looking forward to eating while in Brooklyn?
Ribs at Fette Sau, and a lemon tart and coffee at Colson Patisserie in Park Slope.

What ritual or superstition do you have on performance days?
I used to have a few... Today, I have none and feel much more free. So I guess...having no ritual is my ritual.

What inspired you to create Salt of the Earth?
One day my wife, Daphna, came home with a small blue book and said: “You have to read this.” The book was The Road to Ein Harod and, in a way, I’ve been reading it for the last two years.

On Pina Bausch and Killer Heels

Kontakthof at BAM, 2014. Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Pina Bausch's Kontakthof is at the Howard Gilman Opera House through Nov 2. We asked Brooklyn Museum's chief designer, who designed the exhibition Killer Heels, his thoughts about high heels and the legendary German tanztheater choreographer/director.

By Matthew Yokobosky

Christian Louboutin. Pumps, 2007. © The Metropolitan
Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY
To see a performance by Pina Bausch is always a memorable experience. Even years later, they live on in your mind. You can even describe them to friends, which is unique among avant-garde theater works, because she used set and costume elements that can be easily identified: a waterfall, an enormous boulder, a mountain of carnations, long silk dresses, or high-heeled shoes, for example. It was Pina Bausch’s ability to give those familiar objects a twist of the unexpected that created those memories.  

Going to see a performance where women wear high heels is, of course, not unique. But, I remember sitting at BAM one fall watching her company dance in high heels and thinking about how interesting it was to watch what was essentially a modern dance work, and yet none of the performers were barefoot or wearing “dance shoes.” And it was not ballroom. The way each performer slipped the heels on and off over the course of hours kept blurring the zone between modern dance, ballroom, and in a sense ballet, since the high heels gave the performers an incredible feeling of lift, balance, and an exquisite body shape that can only be created by raising the heel of the foot. I felt that she had substituted the high heel shoe for the ballet shoe.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

My Sweet Memories of Angels in America

by Louie Fleck

Louie Fleck in the early 90s.
In 1993, I was making music in my little West Village home studio and producing multi-image slides for Fortune 500 companies. A good friend of mine told me I should not miss the most important play to ever hit Broadway: Angels In America by Tony Kushner. I went to see the first part: “Millenium Approaches,” and was blown away. I had never seen theater before that was this epic, moving and compelling. A close look at the program revealed that my friend, Scott Lehrer, was the sound designer. The next time I saw Scott, I begged him for an opportunity to assist on the second part, “Perestroika,” which was about to begin rehearsals. As fate would have it, Scott needed some help for a few weeks, so I was hired to work on my first Broadway show as assistant sound designer.

When it was actually time to begin, the show was terribly behind schedule on several different fronts. The script wasn’t finished, and it was timing out long, at about five hours! Instead of having me work at the Walter Kerr Theatre, where the show was installed, Scott sent me home to create some sound effects. I spent some time working with samples and synthesizers to create cues called for in the script as “musical thunder.” This was for the very first scene in “Perestroika,” right after the cliffhanger in “Millenium Approaches.” The angel has just descended from above and Prior Walter (Stephen Spinella) is fighting with what he thinks is a hallucination. The angel (Ellen McLaughlin) reacts by arguing back and throwing thunderbolts. Absolutely thrilling! I created more cues for a few days and presented them to Scott. He thought they were fine, but the next step was to see if the director, George C. Wolfe, would like any of my sound effects.

Pina Bausch's Kontakthof—Innocence Regained

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch performs Kontakthof from Oct 23 to Nov 2 in the Opera House. BAMcinématek will screen a documentary called Dancing Dreams on Oct 27, including a Q&A with one of Bausch's best-recognized dancers, Dominique Mercy. Writer Marina Harss will moderate the talk; here, she recounts some of the dance's storied background.

Tanztheater Wuppertal in Kontakthof. Photo: Laurent Phillippe

By Marina Harss

“When I see them, I see myself,” says the choreographer Pina Bausch with a note of wistfulness as she watches a group of teenagers rehearse in the film Dancing Dreams. The 2010 documentary, directed by Anne Linsel and Rainer Hoffman, chronicles the year-long process of teaching Bausch’s 1978 work Kontakthof to a group of 40 local kids between the ages of 14 and 18. Many of them admit to never having heard of Bausch until the audition. From the beginning, though, it’s clear that Bausch’s approach to art is, equally, an approach to life. “Dare,” coaxes Bénédicte Billet, one of two devoted dance captains charged with teaching the steps and the intentions behind them, “let yourself go.” “I don’t know if I can do it,” a girl responds, fear, embarrassment, and a slight resistance registering in her eyes and cheeks.

The setting of Kontakthof—which translates roughly as “contact zone”—is a dance hall, a large unencumbered space that at certain points becomes a battleground, at others a torture chamber, and at yet others a place of hope and attraction and nascent love. The music consists of sentimental German ballads and tinny tangos from the '20s and '30s. Men and women, dressed in party clothes, pair off, flirt, slow dance, mistreat one another. A girl is poked and jabbed until her eyes spill over with silent tears. Two women dance a sweet, carefree jitterbug in tandem. A couple undresses, with aching slowness, each staring at the other from across the room, giving full meaning to the expression “to undress with one’s eyes.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Source: An Interview with Director Daniel Fish

by Morgan Green

The first time I worked with Daniel Fish, I was an intern on his production at the now defunct Incubator Arts Space. The full title of the piece was: Tom Ryan Thinks He’s James Mason Starring in a Movie by Nicholas Ray in Which a Man’s Illness Provides an Escape From the Pain, Pressure and Loneliness of Trying to Be the Ultimate American Father, Only to Drive Him Further Into the More Thrilling Though Possibly Lonelier Roles of Addict and Misunderstood Visionary. At one point in this production every evening, actor Christina Rouner would turn to actor Thomas Jay Ryan and dump several gallons of milk over his head. It was my job each night to mop up this milk, scrape away the calcified residue from between the floorboards and repaint the stained portion of the set. I was the milk girl. The play was powerful, the concept strong, the cast excellent, and the mop pungent.

Ryan Hatch, Culturebot writer, aptly described Daniel’s work as “something actually, categorically new taking place... some unfamiliar idea about the theater.” This was true of Daniel’s work then and it is true now.

Daniel Fish is a rigorously inventive American auteur director at BAM for the first time this week with The Source (Oct 22—25). This piece uses the content leaked by Private Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning to WikiLeaks. It is a convergence of Ted Hearne’s music, Mark Doten’s libretto, Daniel’s direction, and video made with Jim Findlay. I had the chance to talk to Daniel earlier this year about the piece.

The Source. Photo: Ed Lefkowicz