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Monday, December 19, 2011

BAM Holiday Reading List

Reading with the family and pets is always encouraged.

Here we are as in olden days: knee deep in yule, decked halls, and viscous egg-based drinks that both terrify and delight. Debit cards have worn thin, as has patience for that drummer boy song, and nothing sounds more appealing than settling down on the couch for a long winter’s read. Here’s a list of 13 books, all related to recently past or upcoming BAM events or performances, recommended for fireside reading this holiday season.

Richard III  |  By William Shakespeare
Recommended reading for: Richard III (2012 Winter/Spring)

Granted, you probably won’t be able to get much out of this one if you read it while little Timmy is lobbing digital grenades in Call of Duty 3. But steal away at some point for some quiet time with Richard, Gloucester, and the rest of them so that, come the BAM production beginning in January, you spend less time trying to figure out whose winter is discontented and more time soaking up the fabulous Kevin Spacey.

Luna Park  |  By Kevin Baker. Illustrations by Danijel Zezelj
Recommended reading for: Brooklyn Babylon (2011 Next Wave)

If you caught Brooklyn Babylon last fall, you were treated to a beautiful tale, animated by Danijel Zezelj and accompanied by Darcy James Argue’s big band, about an elderly carousel builder tackling one final assignment in a future Brooklyn.Without ruining the story, let’s just say that the carousel ended up at its rightful if unintended place: on the beach at Coney Island. As it turns out, Zezelj’s gritty graphic novel Luna Park takes place there, too, and it’s a great way to get to know his other work if Brooklyn Babylon left you wanting more.

Incest and Agency in Elisabeth’s England  |  By Maureen Quilligan
Recommended reading for: 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (2012 Winter/Spring)
Ok, admittedly we haven’t read this one. But it sounds positively juicy, and might just be the perfect thing to read before seeing John Ford’s controversial ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, coming to BAM this March. According to the book, the play’s Annabella wasn’t the only sister in early modern England jonesing for her brother.

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare  |  By Stephen Greenblatt
Recommended reading for: Being Shakespeare (2012 Winter/Spring)

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re fans of the Bard’s work around here. And if proof were ever found that someone else actually authored them (as the recent film Anonymous claims), we’d probably just blink a few times and get to staging the next one. For the time being, though, we’re going to assume that Shakespeare was indeed Shakespeare, as does Stephen Greenblatt in his rich book. Read it to lay the foundation for Shakespeare biographer Jonathan Bate's Being Shakespeare, coming to BAM in April.     

Being an Actor  |  By Simon Callow
Recommended reading for: Being Shakespeare (2012 Winter/Spring)
It’s only fitting that the star of the upcoming one-man play Being Shakespeare is also the author of a book entitled Being an Actor. For the play, Callow plays a man who plays other men—Macbeth and Henry IV to name a few—while occasionally playing the man behind those men: Shakespeare himself. You see, then, why it’s good that he’s written the book on the subject. As for the book itself, it was apparently written in a three-week fit of inspiration, none too fast to garner Ian McKellen’s approval, who said that it was “the most honest book ever written about us all.”

The Artwork of the Future  |  By Richard Wagner
Recommended reading for: Götterdämmerung (The Met: Live in HD)
Germany, 1849:
revolutionary sentiment dripped from every pen, and none more so than Richard Wagner’s. Marx had finished his Communist Manifesto a year earlier, and Wagner—in exile because of his own participation in the revolutions—was busy on this breathless paean to the “complete artwork” and its place among the German folk. If said folk's revolution ultimately fizzled, the musical revolution flourished, resulting in works like the mighty Gotterdammerung, the final opera in the Ring cycle. Read Wagner’s manifesto while listening to Siegfried’s funeral music, and you might begin to feel as though you can raze Valhalla yourself.

Images of America: Fort Greene  |  By Howard Pitsch
Recommended reading for: everything BAM!
Let's face it: it’s a big deal when burgers at Five Guys replace the mattresses at Sleepy’s or Blue Bottle coffee moves in to rewrite the rules on proper blood-to-caffeine ratios. BAM’s soon-to-open Richard B. Fisher building will be another exciting neighborhood addition, and all of this change has us wondering about Fort Greene’s days of yore. For the comprehensive scoop, read Fort Greene native Howard Pitsch’s engrossing history, where you can learn who General Fowler was (currently playing host to pigeons in the park across from the Smoke Joint), see pictures of BAM’s Lepercq space when it was grand a ballroom, and so much more.

The Weimar Republic Sourcebook  |  Edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg
Recommended reading for: The Threepenny Opera (2011 Next Wave)
In the eye of the great mustachioed hurricane that was Kaiser Wilhelm II and Hitler, German culture flourished. But so did an egregiously speculative kind of bourgeois capitalism. Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera was both a product and critique of that conflicted society (and not a bad work of musical theater, either). Read The Weimar Republic Sourcebook if your time with Macheath and Polly was too short-lived. Einstein, Rosa Luxemburg, Thomas Mann, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, and others will pick up where they left off.

Recommended reading for: 2012 Tribute to MLK
On January 16, BAM will present the 26th installment of its Brooklyn tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., the borough's biggest celebration of the great civil rights leader. 44 years after his death, Dr. King's message of love and tolerance has lost none of its relevance, although the ways we conceive our racial identities certainly has. That's the point of writer Touré's book Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness?, which considers how insufficient traditional identity politics can be in pinning down the nuances of black cultural allegiances. Read it with an eye towards the upcoming MLK celebration, where NYC school chancellor Dennis M. Walcott will speak and Toshi Reagon will perform

Open City  |  By Teju Cole
Recommended reading for: Eat, Drink & Be Literary
Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole is one of the authors coming this season to Eat, Drink & Be Literary, and we're extremely excited. His novel Open City recounts the lonely experiences of a Nigerian immigrant and psychiatrist in Manhattan, but it's also a book about walking and the bittersweet experience of seeking council with New York City from its sidewalks. Take to the streets with Julius, the main character, when your relatives have you pining for a more lyrical sense of dislocation, or you get homesick for a little vagabonding through the Upper West Side.

Mark Morris  |  By Joan Acocella
Recommended reading for: Mark Morris Dance Group (2012 Winter/Spring)

New Yorker dance critic Joan Acocella wrote an early-career biography of choreographer Mark Morris long before Morris had his own dance center in Fort Greene. In other words, Morris was already an institution long before he had a building in his name. Part life story, part critical study, Acocella's book takes a nuanced, intelligent look at those early years while providing plenty for today's fan to chew on. Music, thematic elements, and technique are all broken down, giving readers a wealth of things to look for in future MMDG performances.

The House of Mirth  |  By Edith Wharton
Recommended reading for: The House of Mirth
Coming up in the Spring, BAMcinématek will be doing a series featuring director-screenwriter Terence Davies’ 2000 adaptation of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. You know what’s coming: you’ll go to see the film with some friends and inevitably end up at a local bar discussing whether book or film better captures the social mores of turn-of-the-century New York. Our advice is to do your homework now, so you can be particularly dismissive of your friends’ opinions later. Another possible topic of discussion: the motivation behind casting Dan Ackroyd in a dramatic role.

Decreation: Poetry, Essays, Opera  |  By Anne Carson
Recommended reading for: Supernatural Wife (2011 Next Wave) and Decreation (2009 Next Wave)

Two shows over the past two seasons have made use of the work of poet-essayist Anne Carson: choreographer William Forsythe’s 2009 work Decreation (a take on Carson’s essay by the same name) and last season’s Supernatural Wife (which used Carson’s translation of Euripides Alkestis). If you’re envisioning for yourself a particularly pensive holiday season, lost in lyrical labyrinths about the soul and self’s undoing, then hunker down with Decreation. Sappho, Simone Weil, and Beckett will all be there to provide food for thought in this ingenious blend of poetry and prose, heavily invested in that “ancient struggle between breath and death.”

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