Social Buttons

Monday, April 30, 2012

BAM150—Boiling Down BAM's 150 Years on Film

Still of The Threepenny Opera from BAM150.

This weekend, my colleagues and I attended the Tribeca Film Festival premiere screenings of BAM150—a wonderful new documentary directed by Michael Sládek. Though BAM is steeped in risk-taking and adventurousness on stage, capturing this artistic spirit and institutional history on film was uniquely challenging (and, frankly, a little crazy considering a limited budget and the eight-month timeline).

I'm thrilled to say BAM150 is mesmerizing, due to both the drama and construction of the storytelling and the stunning camerawork by Room 5 Films' Greg Loser and Ramsey Fendall. BAM150 takes you backstage during a number of 2011 Next Wave Festival productions and "back-office" at a large performing arts organization. You hear from some of the artists who have not only helped make it great, but who also regularly sit in the audience. With moments from sublimely beautiful to slightly awkward, with a history of agonizingly difficult periods and giddy artistic successes, with laughs and gaffs and warts and all, this is BAM's story.

And there it was on a huge screen at Tribeca. The months of accompanying the filmmakers at odd-ball hours, the many artist agreements, the creative-budget-coding (just kidding, boss), helping to get things filmed that made no sense at the time—it had all paid off. In the theater I was surrounded by people who knew BAM, by people who didn't, and by film geeks who saw everything at the festival.

At a post-screening Q&A with the director, a woman from Manhattan said that BAM150 made her realize all she'd been missing by not venturing to Brooklyn (uh huh). Several others asked how a filmmaker could begin to sift through 150 years of history ("a film of subtraction," says Sládek). Another asked if the performers had issue with a film crew backstage (for the most part, no, but a German cast member in Threepenny Opera came offstage and tried to hand the film crew his props). As for the office cinema-verité scenes, eventually we did indeed—like the Loud Family—come to ignore the cameras following our day-to-night activities.

BAM took a leap of faith that what makes it unique and special would shine through in the hands of the right filmmakers and in a labor of love. And once again, the risk paid off.

—Sandy Sawotka

See BAM150 on Ovation TV on May 21 and 26.

Friends of BAM are invited to a screening and reception at BAM Rose Cinemas on Sunday, June 3, followed by a Q&A with the director.

A free public screening will take place at BAM Rose Cinemas on Monday, June 4 at 8:30pm, also followed by a director Q&A.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Many Faces of Jonathan Pryce

BAM 150th Anniversary Gala

On Thursday, April 12th BAM toasted its milestone 150 year anniversary with the BAM 150th Anniversary Gala. The landmark event, sponsored by JPMorgan Chase, raised over $1 million for BAM and received support from a range of renowned artists including John Turturro, Trisha Brown, Debra Messing, Q-Tip and Philip Glass.   

Click below for details and photo highlights from this truly historic night at BAM!
For Full Event Albums click here, here, and here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Caroline Creaghead on Get It Out There

Wyatt Cenac headlines the first installment of Get It Out There on April 25th.
BAM has joined forces with IFC to create a new comedy showcase that allows comics to experiment recklessly with humor while causing only minimal harm to themselves and others. Caroline Creaghead is our esteemed curator. Get It Out There kicks off April 25th and it’s free!

I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to present some of my favorite New York comedians on Wednesday on behalf of BAM and IFC. I'm especially humbled by this opportunity because... what do I know? I started circling around the scene post-Rififi, when the room that most recently served as New York comedy's epicenter for independent, and comedian-generated live shows shut down a few years back. After that, the scene scattered, and many seeds have sprouted here in Brooklyn.

People who should know say there's a comedy renaissance underway. Without decades of experience (unless you count the years I spent channel surfing as a kid, stopping at every brick wall backdrop), all I know is that there's more independent comedy happening, and with more interest and support comes more diversity and experimentation, allowing me to operate independently as a comedy producer. There are so many working comedians in Brooklyn developing their own presence outside of traditional structures that helping them advance their projects has become my day job.

Some people (I'm lookin' at you, Bill Burr, you extremely talented sourpuss) see club comedy and so-called "alternative" comedy as mutually exclusive. I'm not convinced. Marc Maron, for example, has been touring the country's comedy clubs the whole time he's been growing his ground-breaking WTF Podcast into a popular enterprise that has ushered in dozens (hundreds?! There must be at least 90 out of LA) of comedy podcasts. They may not boast as many listeners as WTF, but they're proof positive that the market is there. People are looking for new comedy in new ways. There's an audience beyond club-goers, and in this hyper-connected age, it's utterly fascinating to watch as the comedians figure out how to reach them.

Louis CK, for example, said "f**k your brick wall" by not only skipping an expensive, flashy set but also wholly circumventing the system when he self-funded, self-produced, and self-released his latest special "Live at the Beacon Theater" last year. The result was unprecedented.

The point is these are exciting times for comedy not because of one emerging trend, but because of the innovative ways that comedians are finding to connect with audiences. Conveniently, there are more and more people receptive to new comedy. It means that there are countless opportunities for comedians to work on material in front of an audience, which is how you get good. Comedy clubs are no longer the only way to do that, and these days you can find present and future famous headliners working on new jokes in neighborhood bars any night of the week.

I haven't talked about the comedians who will be performing on Wednesday at the inaugural program, I know. The truth is that they are all much better at what they do than I am at describing it. What I am good at is building a show that is meant to be experienced live, with deft and surprising performances from some of our city's own pioneers of a very funny new frontier.

So trust me, come on Wednesday, and if not one of them makes you laugh, I’ll eat my hat.

—Caroline Creaghead

Friday, April 20, 2012

Art for BAM

Matthew Ritchie, Terce, 2012
For the past eight years, over 700 artists have donated works to be auctioned off in the BAMart Silent Auction to support BAM. These generous artists of various ages come from all places and work in many media; many are from right here in Brooklyn and have longstanding connections to BAM. This year over 100 more artists have joined us for this great cause and fun event, and you still have the chance to bid! But don’t wait, bidding ends Sunday, April 22, at 6pm EST!

This year our auction partner, Paddle8, created editorial content that delved deeply into our archives to highlight artists who have appeared on BAM stages and whose work currently can be bid on in the silent auction. These include Andy Warhol, whose Silver Clouds appeared on stage with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s RainForest, South African William Kentridge, whose Magic Flute had its US premiere at BAM in 2007, and Matthew Ritchie whose work appeared along side Bryce and Aaron Dessner of the National and Kim and Kelley Deal of the Breeders in The Long Count (2009). These incredible works by well-known and highly collectable artists are valued at well over $10,000 each, so we thought we’d highlight some more affordable alternatives by artists who call the borough of Brooklyn home.

Matt Saunders, Hertha Tiele (Stripes) #2, 2008
Matt Saunders, Hertha Tiele (Don Juan), 2008

If you like Warhol’s Polaroid portraits, have a look at the work of Matt Saunders. Saunders donated three small, silver gelatin prints depicting portraits of Hertha Thiele, a German actress noted for her starring roles in controversial stage plays and films produced during Germany's Weimar Republic. Could be perfect work for a diehard fan of BAMcinématek, too!

Laleh Khorramian, the empty stage of sophie and goya , 2005

Check out the ink drawings by Laleh Khorramian if you prefer the bold, gestural work of an artist like William Kentridge. Born in Tehran, Khorramian lives and works in Brooklyn, and like Kentridge, uses drawing and animation as a part of her practice. In this small, beautiful work, titled the empty stage of sophie and goya, we look out into the balconies of a theater, a common theme in her work, and something very fitting for an auction taking place in the lobby outside BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House.

Leif Ritchey, Sundance, 2011

If Matthew Ritchie is more your style, why not check out Leif Ritchey. With similar names, but no relation, and similar palettes in both these works—lush yellows with touches of blue—you can see Ritchey’s work in the group show New Traditionalists at Chelsea’s Martos Gallery alongside the wonderful B. Wurtz.

And if none of these are for you, but you still want to get your hands on some art by up and coming Brooklyn-based artists, check out the works by Eric Benson, Chris Gartrell, Sarah Greenberger Rafferty, Ryan James MacFarland, and Mariah Robertson.There's something for everyone.

David Harper, BAMart Curator

BAM Iconic Artist: Bill T. Jones

Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane in their Secret Pastures, 1984. Photo: Tom Caravaglia
Many artists succeed by finding a niche and pursuing it with a singleminded focus. Others, such as Bill T. Jones, experiment in many forms within a broad genre such as dance-theater, and have the rare ability to move between strongly voiced narratives, kinetic poetry, and pure entertainment. It doesn’t hurt to be a charismatic performer seemingly chiseled from Apollonian marble. He founded Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane & Company (later Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company) with his late partner, Arnie Zane, in 1982, after studying dance at SUNY–Binghamton. For all their experimentation with accumulation, contact improvisation, and formalism, basic identifying facts about Jones and Zane (who died of AIDS in 1988)—black, white, tall, short, velvety, precise—provided immediate contextualization, whether desired or not. Their company members also became noted for their widely varying body types and distinct personalities.

Jones once said, “Arnie and I used to feel if you want to be in the avant-garde, really be a provocateur, you take your ideas from the preserved domain and carry them into the mainstream.” Even though Jones later said he had come to favor the preserved domain, his statement certainly resonates in his work’s broad reach. The pair incorporated social issues and narrative threads, collaborating with visual artists and musicians to add even more intriguing layers. One example, Secret Pastures, performed at BAM in 1984, featured sets by Keith Haring, costumes by Willi Smith, and music by Peter Gordon, encapsulating the BAM Next Wave Festival’s spirit of collaboration.

Jones has choreographed dances dense with formal experimentation and lyricism, from poignant solos to the rich group passages at which he so excels. Yet in the context of dance-theater, he is even better known for topical works addressing race, AIDS, cancer, murder, family bonds, and historical figures. One such work, Still/Here, which premiered at BAM in 1994, became notorious for provoking critic Arlene Croce to write about it despite refusing to see it, declaiming it as “victim art” and “unreviewable.” These productions show his skill at storytelling, dynamics, pacing, using space and movement—essentially, understanding what really works in a theater. And capping the pop culture / narrative thread of his career are highly acclaimed Broadway productions—he choreographed Spring Awakening and directed and choreographed Fela! One unerring consistency through this artist’s complex and varied output is his selection over the decades of remarkable performers. Many of his company’s dancers have become successful choreographers, developing their own style and extending a legacy of diversity and experimentation in form and content.

—Susan Yung

This text was excerpted from BAM: The Complete Works. Click here for more information on the book and here to purchase a copy. Bill T. Jones will participate in an Iconic Artist Talk at BAM on Monday, April 23.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Merce Cunningham!

Photo credit: Mark Seliger

April 16 would have marked Merce Cunningham's 93rd birthday. Here are some gifts that might have pleased him:

The I Ching
Who couldn't use a new copy of this well-thumbed text.

Swarovski Crystal Dice Set in Alligator Case
Sure, these are a little flashy for the humble choreographer, but who doesn't love sparkly things?

The 25-Year Retrospective Concert of the Music of John Cage
His partner's opus, no doubt a source of immense pride to Merce. In companion with:

Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones
Come on, who among us doesn't want a little peace & quiet sometimes?

Space Ranger Unitard
Even people who wear lycra and fleece for a living need some spice in their wardrobes.

Philosophy Soul Owner Exfoliating Foot Cream
Dancing is hard work, especially when it's modern and barefoot and Cunningham.

Menu for Merce, Chez Panisse, April 25, 1999
Chez Panisse prepared a special menu in honor of Merce's birthday, published in a collection: 
  • Shellfish and Fairview Gardens white asparagus salad w/ mustard blossom vinaigrette
  • Artichoke and spring garlic soups
  • Baked Northern halibut with morel mushroom hachée sauce, vegetable ragout and garden greens
  • Strawberry and orange sherbet bombe
Sounds like a wonderful spring-like celebration for an incomparable artist. Happy birthday, Merce.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tonight! The BAM 150th Anniversary Gala!

Tonight we are celebrating our 150th Anniversary! We look forward to seeing you there for the festive dinner, rollicking concert with Dr. John, and on the dance floor at the after party. Be sure to check back here in the coming days for photos and highlights from our big night!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sweet Enough to Eat: CandyBAM

For those who celebrate it, Easter brings to mind many traditions—but our favorite part has, and always will be, the CANDY. Even though we’re not entirely sure what Peeps are made of, we still gorge on them and those amazing Cadbury eggs when they magically appear on Duane Reade’s shelves this time of year.

So we thought it would be seasonally appropriate to share with you BAM’s most cavity-inducing project, CandyBAM. When BAM was undergoing renovations in 2002, we teamed up with the Public Art Fund and Brazilian artist Vik Muniz to transform the facade into something a lot sweeter and more whimsical than scaffolding or plain mesh. A Fort Greene resident himself, the BAM building always reminded Muniz of a cake—so he decided to transform it into a gingerbread house. He worked with Soutine Bakery on the Upper West Side (a truly dangerous place to live near because their pain au chocolat is to.die.for) to create an exact-scale replica of the building out of gingerbread and CANDY. There were windows made out of frosting, jelly bean arches, gummy bear cornices, and even an M&M frieze. He then created a giant blow-up photograph and wrapped the facade in it, creating a mouth-watering sheath for the building while it received the overhaul it needed.

Now, aside from asking what happened to the miniature gingerbread BAM replica (Who had the pleasure of eating BAM?), we can also evaluate the candy that Muniz selected to create CandyBAM. Once you get past the baskets and the green cellophane grass, the most important qualities in Easter candy are seasonality, originality and, of course, taste. We also assess the candy according to quintessential BAM qualities such as adventurousness, risk-taking, and aesthetic/formal rigor. So the next time you’re picking up something sugary at the bodega, ask yourself: Is this candy BAM enough? And please, indulge responsibly.

Candy #1: Gumdrops (the top of CandyBAM)

Easter-relevance / Seasonal Appropriate-ness?: 9
Color-wise, these scream Easter.
Adventurousness: 4
Flavor-wise, these are pretty predictable. Watch out for the greeen ones!
Aesthetically-pleasing and formally-rigorous? 7
Classic lines and well-rounded contours make the gumdrop an iconic and petite treat.
Total: 20 
The BAM bunny says: Eat it!

Candy #2: Frosting (used for the windows)

Easter-relevance / Seasonal Appropriate-ness?: 10
We think frosting is relevant 365 days of the year.
Adventurousness: 7
While frosting is pretty by-the-book for a gingerbread house, reproducing BAM's architectural minutiae, is pretty incredible.
Aesthetically-pleasing and formally-rigorous? 10
Frosting is the most malleable of desserts—and therefore has the most aesthetic potential.
Total: 27
The BAM bunny says: Consume in moderation

Candy #3: Jellybean Arches
Easter-relevance / Seasonal Appropriate-ness?: 8
Jellybeans nicely adhere to the easter-color spectrum
Adventurousness: 1
This is a tame treat experience unless you get some of those crazy flavors that we find pretty revolting. 
Aesthetically-pleasing and formally-rigorous? 4
Little candy beans that get stuck in your teeth is not our thing
Total: 13
The BAM bunny says: Save your calories for something else

Candy #4: Gummy Bear Cornices

Easter-relevance / Seasonal Appropriate-ness?: 0
Bunnies rule Easter, and second come chicks. Bears, unfortunately, do not fit in to this menagerie.
Adventurousness: 6
Not quite as badass as gummy worms, but still pretty fun to bite their heads off. Vik Muniz also took these amazing gummy bear photographs
Aesthetically-pleasing and formally-rigorous? 10
They are cute translucent bears that you can eat! ‘Nuff  said.
Total: 16
The BAM bunny says: Eat those little suckers.

Candy #5: M&M Frieze

Easter-relevance / Seasonal Appropriate-ness?: 7
They make them especially for Easter, in pastel colors!
Adventurousness: 4
This most perfect of chocolate confections is sadly, not very adventurous. But sometimes you just feel like a classic.
Aesthetically-pleasing and formally-rigorous? 10
Elliptically formed, M&Ms are scientifically engineered to melt in your mouth and not in your hand.
Total: 21
The BAM bunny says: Save some for us. Thank you.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Being Shakespeare Opening Night Reception

Simon Callow at the Opening Night Reception of Being Shakespeare now playing at the BAM Harvey Theater (Photo: Elena Olivo)
Wednesday night, the singular Simon Callow opened the one-man play Being Shakespeare at the BAM Harvey Theater. Written by Jonathan Bate and directed by Tom Cairns, the piece employs the fantastically dexterous Mr.Callow to explore the Bard's life and work through his many characters from Jacques to Henry V to King Lear.

Read on for more highlights from the event and for a full Event Album click here.

Free Download: Cornelius Dufallo and Patrick Derivaz

Photo: Cornelius Dufallo 
Cornelius Dufallo is best known as the frontman of new music quartet ETHEL, which was at BAM a few years ago with the Next Wave Festival production Truck Stop. The music was a bright, bustling Americana, composed in collaboration with undersung musicians from rural communities all across the country. For his BAMcafé Live gig with producer-performer Patrick Derivaz, Dufallo leans more towards the dark and experimental, piling loops, drones, overdubbing, and harmonics over subterranean bass lines for a study in tone color and other subtleties.

"Middle Ages," Cornelius Dufallo and Patrick Derivaz

"Not Sure Yet," Cornelius Dufallo and Patrick Derivaz

Download the tracks here: (Middle Ages) (Not Sure Yet)

And catch Dufallo and Derivaz live this Friday night at 10pm at BAMcafé Live.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hey, did you find my underwear in the balcony? The Living Theatre, 1968

The Living Theatre—whose performances have engaged (or antagonized, depending on who you ask) audiences from New York to Lebanon since the late 1940s—was in residence at BAM in October of 1968. Fresh from a self-imposed exile in Europe, the Living Theatre performed many of their hallmark pieces, including Paradise Now, and the Obie Award-winning Frankenstein. While this group of free radicals sought to enlighten BAM’s audiences to the spiritual utility of marijuana, free love, and non-violent revolution, BAM President and Executive Producer Harvey Lichtenstein was busy collecting stories to tell for the enlightenment of future generations of theatergoers. The following is from an oral history conducted with Lichtenstein in 2009.

LICHTENSTEIN: With the Living Theatre there are numerous stories. [Laughs.] I come in after a performance of, say, Paradise Now, and I walk in the morning into the lobby, and one of our guards stopped me. He said, “Mr. Lichtenstein, Mr. Lichtenstein, what’s this group you have here at night? Who are they?” I said, “It’s a theater group called the Living Theatre.” He said, “They do theater?” I said, “Yes.” I said, “Why are you asking?” He said, “Well, you know, we go through the theater in the morning and we clean up and stuff, and when I go up in the balcony”—this was in the playhouse—“when I got up in the balcony of the playhouse, it’s full of underwear,” he says. [Laughs.]

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Westward, Ho! BAM expands with MAM

Breaking BAMnews

April 1, Brooklyn—BAM announced plans for the opening of a satellite Manhattan branch, called MAM (Manhattan Academy of Music), to be tentatively located on the Highline "UltraNorth"—west of Madison Square Garden overlooking the scenic train yards between West 30th and 33rd Streets.

Finally, after 150 years, and apart from a handful of off-site performances including the equestrian theater troupe Zingaro, BAM has decided to export its elusive cultural cachet to the island to its west. Manhattan dwellers can more easily access the cutting edge culture they've flocked across the East River to see.

“We feel that with the adventurous programming that will be presented by MAM that Brooklynites are ready to venture into Manhattan for an evening at the theater, and will see that there are great restaurants throughout Brooklyn’s neighbor to the west,” said BAM’s Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo.

Brooklyn/Queens residents can rest assured that they'll have safe passage home—the MAMbus will conveniently depart from MAM after each curtain, making eight designated stops, from LIC to Red Hook and hotspots between. (Note: Red Hook riders will be charged a fee of $28 to cover the cost of gas and artisanal salted caramels.) MAM will also be a short walk from Penn Station, one of the city's largest transportation hubs, right behind BAM's nearby Atlantic Avenue nexus.

Although not yet unveiled to the public, rumor has it that the slogan/jingle for the new venue will be David Bowie's "Suffragette City," specifically the lyric, "Wham, BAM, thank you MAM."