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Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Pina!

Photo: Pina Bausch by Peggy Jarrell Kaplan, courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts

Pina Bausch was born on July 27, 1940, and passed away in 2009. 
We miss her more than can be expressed.

Here are some suggestions for birthday gifts that we imagine she might have liked.

She had a thing for flowers in her productions, so we might tap for a 
surprise delivery to the rehearsal studio. 

McQueen's Vermeer Skull scarf

Frail as a wraith, Pina always looked like she was cold. Here's a nifty Alexander McQueen Vermeer Skull wool challis scarf that is gloriously dark and warm all at once.

There's no question she died far too young. However, she did have a sense of humor, so she probably might have appreciated this Yoshitomo Nara ashtray to accommodate her smoking habit.

Monday, July 23, 2012


We are really excited to have introduced the 5th version of Many thanks go out to the creative team at R/GA who partnered with us to create a site we are truly proud of. We are really excited about all the new features and we are sure that the experience of our site is going to make things a lot easier for you.  Here are some of the things we're really excited about.

1. The new genre organization. The variety of our programming is something we are really proud of, but making things easy to find definitely became a challenge. Now you can navigate our site by genre by using the left navigation or if you prefer, you can stick to programs by using the top navigation.

2. Today's films. We know a lot of you want to know what is happening today at BAM and with our constantly changing film schedule we have made it nice and easy and one click (or scroll) away in our Film section.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Grace Kelly—Too Everything

Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief. Photo courtesy Photofest.
by Leah Churner

“She’s too perfect, too talented, she’s too beautiful, she’s too sophisticated. She’s too everything but what I want.” This is James Stewart at the beginning of Rear Window, struggling to articulate his qualms about marrying his girlfriend and sounding fairly neurotic. When Grace Kelly enters the room, however, we understand.

Kelly was born in Philadelphia in 1929. Though she played WASP-debutante types in movies, she was actually Irish Catholic, and her family’s money was too new for the city’s social register. Still, her upper-middle-class breeding was a salient feature of her persona on screen and off, and to this end she cultivated her trademark white gloves and Oxbridge accent.

The Grace Kelly star persona had no overt flaws. Pale, blonde, thin, gorgeous, smart, and rich, she’d hit the genetic jackpot. If Marilyn Monroe bargained for affection by playing dumb and trashy, Kelly offered no tokens of self-deprecation to mitigate the threat of her beauty. On screen, people wanted to see Kelly punished for her perfection. Off screen, she didn’t need a pro like Hedda Hopper to smear her in the papers because her parents cut her down to reporters all the time. Her father regarded acting as “a slim cut above streetwalker,” according to Judith Balaban Quine, in her book on Kelly.

The films in BAMcinématek’s retrospective, Grace Kelly: The Cool Blonde (through July 26), together paint a mysterious picture. She usually portrayed versions of herself, so why is her personality so elusive? Also, she was a shrewd negotiator with the studios, picking and choosing her roles more freely than contemporaries. So why is her filmography dripping with schadenfreude?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Iconic Artist: Trisha Brown

With roots in the Judson Dance Theater of the mid 1960s, these days Trisha Brown can be found working with the Paris Opera Ballet, or choreographing operas such as L’Orfeo or Die Winterreise, or mounting retrospectives of her work in dance and visual art at venues like the Walker Art Center or MoMA. Since founding the Trisha Brown Dance Company in 1970, Brown has collaborated with some of the most forward thinking artists of the last 40 years, including Donald Judd, Yvonne Rainer, and Terry Winters.

Her first appearance at BAM was part of the two-day program Intermedia ’68. (The tagline in its promotional materials reads “Would you believe—in Brooklyn!”). The 31 year old Brown performed alongside Remy Charlip, Carolee Schneeman, Al Carmines, and Terry Riley, among others. It was an auspicious beginning to the long and fruitful relationship between Brown and BAM.

Over the years Brown has appeared on BAM’s stages regularly. For the inaugural Next Wave Festival in 1983, BAM presented the U.S. premiere of her seminal collaboration with Robert Rauschenberg and Laurie Anderson, Set and Reset, which is now part of the core curriculum in baccalaureate dance study in France, where Brown’s work has been warmly embraced. For the 1996 Next Wave, BAM presented the program Trisha Brown at 25: Postmodern and Beyond, a retrospective of her company’s work, with guest artists including Steve Paxton, Stephen Petronio, and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Baryshnikov danced again for Brown in the Spring of 2000 for the White Oak Dance Project’s first program for BAM, which included one of Brown’s earliest pieces, the solo Homemade. It is a testament to Brown’s silken, hypnotic movement that one of history’s greatest dancers humbly inherited the role.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Harvey Oral History: On the BAM Theater Company

Richard Dreyfuss and Rene Auberjonois in BAM Theater Co.'s Julius Caesar. Photo: Martha Swope
HARVEY LICHTENSTEIN: The BAM Theater Company that we started was much more a rep company, and really, after having worked for many years in the ‘70s with the Royal Shakespeare Company, I had a dream of putting together a repertory company that would play in rotating rep with BAM. We really tried to do that, because there had been a number of attempts to do a rep company in New York in the ‘20s and ‘30s and ‘40s and ‘50s, and they all had failed. A rep company never worked in New York. And even when Lincoln Center started at the Beaumont, before that, they had a downtown place before the Beaumont was ready, and they tried.

And so we got David Jones, who was one of the directors with the Royal Shakespeare Company and who had come over a few years before that to do two productions with the RSC. It was Maxim Gorky’s Summer Folk and Love’s Labors Lost. Those were two terrific productions, the Gorky and the Shakespeare. We got to be friends, and during the course of that engagement and later, we began to talk about really trying to start a repertory company in New York.

JOHN ROCKWELL: He reestablished himself in New York, did he?

David Jones, director (seated), in rehearsal for The Winter's Tale.
LICHTENSTEIN: Yes, yes, yes. He’d never lived in New York. So he came strictly to start the BAM Theater Company, which would be a repertory company. His wife, Sheila Allen, who was a well-known actress, came and joined the company, and he put together a company. We opened that season with what I thought was a brilliant production of The Winter’s Tale. And that transformation scene at the end, where the statue of his long-dead wife, who he thinks is long dead, is brought to life, is one of the most incredible scenes in all of Shakespeare. And it was a terrific production. Whenever that scene took place, and I saw it almost every night, I would be in tears. Every night. It was amazing.

Walter Kerr was then the theater critic for The New York Times. He came, and the son of a gun fell asleep during the goddamn production and gave it a very mediocre, bad review. Much of it, he didn’t even see because he was asleep. And he can’t contradict me now because he’s dead. [Both chuckle.] But in any case, it was devastating. It was the first production that we were doing of a major thing. We’d raised almost a million dollars to start this thing, and it was a terrific production. It was a terrific production. And it got killed by The New York Times.

Boyd Gaines and Christine Estabrook in The Winter’s Tale. Photo: Ken Howard

(If you're hungry to know more about the BAM Theater Company, theatre critic Elisabeth Vincentelli will moderate a discussion with BAM Theater Co. veterans Austin Pendleton, Graciela Daniele and Rosemary Harris, this Monday, July 17, at 7 p.m. in the BAM Rose Cinemas. They will be joined by director Frank Dunlop.)     

Einstein on the Blog: "Who are these people?"

Music historian Richard Taruskin on the premiere of Einstein on the Beach at the Metropolitan Opera in 1976, from his Oxford History of Western Music:
The wildly enthusiastic audience, perhaps needless to say, did not consist of Met subscribers. Instead, it was as if the “downtown” New York arts scene—painters, conceptual artists, experimental theater hands, art-rockers and their fans, along with a scattering of curious “classical” musicians who felt distinctly like onlookers—had migrated northward and invaded the precincts of high art for a night. “Who are these people?” one of the opera house administrators supposedly asked Glass. “I've never seen them here before.” As Glass tells the story, “I remember replying very candidly, ‘Well, you'd better find out who they are, because if this place expects to be running in twenty-five years, that's your audience out there."

Friday, July 6, 2012

Daisies: An Epic of Anarchic Tomfoolery and Food Wastage

Following two young female protagonists on a marathon of decadent, unladylike behavior, Vĕrá Chytilová’s Daisies remains one of the Czech New Wave’s boldest acts of rebellion, a middle finger to the political forces that had worked to repress the country’s thriving arts scene throughout the 60s. At a time when Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel had already emerged as two of the industry’s most successful exports, and had even won Czech cinema unprecedented Oscar legitimacy with Loves of a Blonde and Closely Watched Trains, Chytilová courted the censors with this aggressively experimental dismemberment of film form. With its revelry in perverse gastronomic consumption, reckless nightclub-hopping, and the gleeful laceration of phallic objects, the film has won a cult following for its hedonistic sensibility, but the anger at the core of its proto-punk radicalism is pretty hard to ignore.

Much has already been made of Daisies’ anti-establishment, anti-patriarchal spirit, but the film is also a milestone collaboration between Chytilová and some of the most prominent Czech talents of the era. Among them are Jiří Sust and Jiří Šlitr, who composed the score, and Eva Pilarová, a jazz singer who Chytilová enlisted for a cameo in one of the film’s nightclub scenes.

Sust had a career writing music for such classics as Closely Watched Trains and Pearls of the Deep, while Šlitr became one of the most celebrated singer-songwriters in Czech pop music. Together they created a score as restlessly inventive as the film it accompanies. The music blends various Western popular genres (including rock and jazz) that the Czech government had long viewed as a threat to social order, but it also incorporates dissonant elements and sound effects that pay homage to musique concrète. Andy Votel details some of the fascinating history behind Chytilová’s collaboration with these artists in the liner notes of the soundtrack, available here.

Don’t miss the special week-long run of Janus Films’ new 35mm print, starting tonight at BAMcinématek! At both the 6:50 and 9:15 screenings on Friday and Saturday night, Daisies audiences will have a chance to win copies of the soundtrack from Finders Keepers Records and the “Pearls of the Czech New Wave” DVD set from the Criterion Collection.

Take a listen to a snippet from the Daisies score below:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Secret BAMlife of Allen Ginsberg

Ginsberg at the Hydrogen Jukebox premiere
Everyone’s favorite 20th century Whitman progeny was quite the scenester during his 70 years on this planet. From Eastern spiritual leaders like Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche to downtown transgressives such as Arthur Russell, Allen Ginsberg was a key ally to dispossessed visionaries, hopeless outsiders, and the über-chic. Everyone knew him, and everyone had an opinion on him.

During his expansive globetrotting Ginsberg collected many friends, enemies, and admirers—and he made a few stops at BAM along the way. Below is a timeline with Ginsberg’s key BAM moments. If readers are aware of any other Ginsberg-BAM connections, please chime in and let us know.

1969. Poetry reading in the opera house with musical sets by The Band and Joy of Cooking.

1971. The Chelsea Theater Center’s production of Kaddish, a dramatization of Ginsberg’s second book of poetry, which dealt with the mental breakdown and eventual death of his mother, Naomi. Ginsberg was particularly impressed with Marilyn Chris’ performance of Naomi. So were the critics: she received an Obie, as well as awards from the Drama Desk, a Variety Best, and a Drama Critics Circle Award.

1969 ad from the Village Voice

1973. Ginsberg, along with Julian Beck and Judith Malina of the Living Theatre, attended the opening of Robert Wilson’s The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin, which began at 7pm and ended at 9am. “We all stayed for the whole thing,” Ginsberg recalled. (They were three of about a dozen people who stayed for the entirety of the premiere.) This was Ginsberg’s introduction to the world of Robert Wilson, with whom he would later collaborate on the apocalyptico-musical theater piece, Cosmopolitan Greetings.

It has been rumored (though not confirmed) that Ginsberg attended BAM’s production of Einstein on the Beach with none other than Andy Warhol…

1989. Ginsberg was a host at the Next Wave Festival Gala Benefit, which celebrated the 10th anniversary of New Music America with musical performances from the Kronos Quartet and Moondog, who guest-conducted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. Other hosts included Steve Reich, the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, and Laurie Anderson.

1991. Hydrogen Jukebox, an operatic collaboration with Philip Glass and stage designer Jerome Sirlin, is performed during BAM’s spring season just a few months after the Persian Gulf War. Made up of poems from Ginsberg’s vast body of work, the libretto for Hydrogen Jukebox circles around many of Ginsberg’s key themes, such as alienation and the longing for community:
Too late, too late
the Iron Horse hurrying to war,
too late for laments, too late for warning—
I’m a stranger in my country again.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Stuffed chickens, backyard bathtubs, roller skates, pilled blankets: these are just a few of the homespun discards featured in Robert Rauschenberg’s work. As a young artist in New York in the 1950s, Rauschenberg would roam the streets around his studio, picking up everything from yesterday’s funny papers to worn out car tires and use them in his assemblages. In line with many of his Black Mountain contemporaries, Rauschenberg sought to close the gap between art and life by incorporating into his artwork the textures of American detritus.

Monday, July 2, 2012

BAMcinemaFest: And the Memory Lingers On

Now that the fourth edition of BAMcinemaFest is officially over, now that the final Q&As have been moderated and the posters have been taken down and the last ping-pongs have been volleyed, nostalgia is beginning to set in at the BAMcinématek office. A valedictory melancholy... You probably feel it too, so come reminisce with us as we look back on the beautiful friendships we were able to make happen with the help of the good people at Reverse Shot and a few filmmakers who were willing to wander around, chat about their films, and basically just act the fool with us at some of our favorite spots around Brooklyn.

Same time next year!

Mike Birbiglia (Sleepwalk With Me) and Jonathan Lisecki (Gayby) tell gay baby jokes at Frank's Cocktail Lounge in Fort Greene

Ry Russo-Young (Nobody Walks), Tim Sutton (Pavilion), and Keith Miller (Welcome to Pine Hill) frolic at the DUMBO waterfront

The Safdies (The Black Balloon) sell Ample Hills ice cream and get into a dispute with a customer

Craig Zobel (Compliance) and Glenn McQuaid (V/H/S) have a late-night, after-hours skulk in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery

Documentary duos Brian M. Cassidy & Melanie Shatzky (The Patron Saints) and Jessica Wolfson & Paul Lovelace (Radio Unnameable) shoot some pool, roll some gutter balls, and discuss their filmmaking partnerships.