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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Two Generals, One Name

Illustration by Nathan Gelgud
Text by Claire Frisbie

…save for two pesky accents. One artist founded reggaeton, the other created the soundtrack for the Tunisian revolution. Only the latter is performing at Mic Check, BAM’s showcase of hip-hop from North Africa and the Middle East next Saturday.

A quick compare/contrast to avoid any potential confusion:

El Général will perform with Amkoullel, Deeb, and Shadia Mansour at Mic Check on Saturday, March 9 at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, and participate in an artist talk about hip-hop and political change on Thursday, March 7 at BAM Fisher.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tweet of the Week: The High School Play Edition

This week's Tweet of the Week comes from Kevin Carter (@shotintoeternit) who posted about performing in The Laramie Project in high school. Kevin is not alone: The Laramie Project is one of the most produced plays in the country, and has been performed in hundreds of high schools and colleges across the US.

Seeing a play after having worked on the production is often illuminating. As someone who is intimately familiar with a work, it's fun to chart the similarities and differences between a school production and a professional one. And you can probably recite the lines along with the actors if you've performed in it!

Have you ever gone to a play that you've previously performed in high school or college? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Before the Oscars: The Hammies

by Ben Cohen

Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis of Beasts of the Southern Wild at BAMcinemaFest 2012

You can blame the Academy Awards for all the hoopla associated today with awards shows. The red carpet, the long speeches, and the terrible jokes—the Emmy Awards, the Grammy Awards and the Tony Awards all came after the granddaddy Oscar.

Feeling left out, we decided that we at the BAM blog should give our own honors. But first, we need a good name. In honor of the BAM Hamm Archives, we present to you the first-ever Hammy Awards (affectionately known as the Hammies).

This inaugural Hammy will honor nine nominees who fulfill two criteria:
  1. They have all received an Oscar nomination
  2. They have appeared at BAM

Adam Phillips on Madness

by Violaine Huisman

A couple of years ago over the course of a season, the Harvey Theater showcased a stellar lineup of madmen. Geoffrey Rush performed the delusional Poprishchin in Diary of a Madman, Declan Donnellan directed Will Keen as a hallucinating Macbeth, and Derek Jacobi portrayed Lear losing his mind. Madness is eminently theatrical—but why?
We asked Adam Phillips to look into it. “Acting Madness,” the lecture he gave at BAM, is collected in his new book, Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life. Reviewing it in this week’s New Yorker, Joan Acocella observes: “Phillips pretty much does any damn thing he pleases.” We're pleased that this time he did it here.
In his discussion with the audience, Phillips explored the antithesis between Shakespeare’s sanity and Hamlet’s madness, which he addresses in Going Sane (2007). Would Shakespeare need to be the sanest man ever in order to invent so many mad characters?

By way of concluding, Phillips proposes a remarkable conundrum: “the person acting madness is always having to deal with the question, can a joke be better than its audience?” If you tell a joke and no one laughs, is the audience to blame, or is it not a good joke? If no one thinks it’s funny, can it still be considered a joke?

On Monday, Feb 25, Adam Phillips will be in conversation with Paul Holdengräber at the New York Public Library.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

In Context: The Laramie Project Cycle

Photo: Julieta Cervantes
The Laramie Project Cycle plays at the BAM Harvey Theater until Sunday, February 24. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Moment Work: The Laramie Project

by Tamar MacKay

Photo: Julieta Cervantes
On February 12th, the Tectonic Theater Project’s highly anticipated The Laramie Project Cycle began its run at BAM. The cycle is based on the events surrounding the murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay student, and the varied and complex community response of residents in Laramie, Wyoming. The Tectonic Theater Project conducted thousands of interviews in the small town, which, along with other source documents, were the basis of both plays. Rather than simply recreating scenes from these interviews, the group used Moment Work to build The Laramie Project Cycle, a technique that aims “to suggest, not recreate.”

Moment Work, organically developed by the Tectonic Theater Project over several years, is a technique that they've used for several productions. The group’s work builds off of the ideas of Brecht and aims to create critical distance, rather than existing in a sphere of realism. The Tectonic Theater Project rejects the traditional scene, and focuses on moments—a different unit of theatrical time. Moisés Kaufman explains in his introduction to The Laramie Project:
“It is a method to create and analyze theater from a structuralist (or tectonic) perspective. For that reason, there are no ‘scenes’ in this play, only ‘moments.’ A ‘moment’ does not mean a change of locale, or an entrance or exit of characters. It is simply a unit of theatrical time, which is then juxtaposed with other units to convey meaning.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

BAM Alumni: Daniel Goldberg, Film Critic

by Nathan Gelgud

Photo by David Worthington

Every year, BAM Education offers the Young Film Critics program to high school students. It’s a series of free after school classes taught by veteran NYC film instructor Josh Cabatt. 

We recently started the 2013 sessions and found out that Daniel Goldberg, a YFC alumnus from 2005, is now a professional critic. He’s a staff writer at Slant Magazine, where he writes television reviews, and he’s currently working on a short film that he co-wrote and plans to direct once he raises the funds (find out more about that here). 

We caught up with Goldberg over email to talk about criticism, television versus film, and not watching The Wire.

What stuck with you about Young Film Critics?
I remember how detailed and constructive and precise the feedback was on my writing. The program taught me to write with authority rather than write for an authority figure. I got to try on this new voice I had never heard myself use before by becoming a critic. I remember the discussions and debates we had about what, exactly, the role of a critic should be. Today, sometimes I forget what an open-ended question that is, until I remember those discussions and humbly admit that the critic has a myriad of roles that are all somewhat up for debate.

Since you brought it up, what is the role of a critic? 
For me, the most important thing is to be honest and unapologetic. Reactions are instinctual. It's the verbalization of those reactions that requires thought. Sometimes it's tempting for me to carefully consider whether or not I like something, but I know that if I'm doing that I'm not being honest with myself. It usually means that I'm afraid to stand up for my opinions.

The Stagehand Chronicles: Your Love Is On Fire

by Tamar MacKay

Ginger and Bill Horton in front of the BAM Harvey Theater

In honor of Valentine's Day, we met with couple Ginger and Bill Horton, two of BAM's resident stagehands, who are both trained pyrotechnicians. They most recently worked as pyrotechnicians for Sō Percussion's Where (we) Live at the BAM Harvey Theater.

Bill began working at BAM in 1982, and Ginger began working here in 1988 (she left a few years later, and returned to BAM in 2003). They met on Ginger's first day working here, and began dating two weeks later. They have been together for 25 years, and have been married for 22.

BAM: Can you tell me a bit about your family's history at BAM?

Ginger: Well, both of our dads were stagehands, and they worked together at BAM.

Bill: They worked at BAM together 25 years before we did!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Laramie Sparkles: The Opening Night Reception for The Laramie Project Cycle

The Opening Night Reception for The Laramie Project Cycle took place on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.
(L-R) Special guest Emma Johnson of the Johnson Family Foundation, and Moisés Kaufman, artistic director of Tectonic Theater Project 
(Photo: Elena Olivo)
"Why does this play continue to be performed all over the country?"
Director Moisés Kaufman of Tectonic Theater Project shared this question with guests at last night's opening night reception for The Laramie Project CycleIndeed, The Laramie Project is one of the top 10 most performed plays in America and though it recounts events that happened more than 14 years ago—the brutal killing of 21-year-old Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998—the play clearly continues to be highly topical. Read more about the opening night reception and Moisés Kaufman's question below, and share your thoughts in comments!

BAMfans (all members in their 20s and 30s), Generation Advance, and the Producers Council were invited to attend the opening night party. To learn more about this and other membership opportunities please visit us at

Life with Richard Pryor: An Interview with Jennifer Lee Pryor

by Nellie Killian

This month we've been looking back on the best films of Richard Pryor in our series A Pryor Engagement, and we've been privileged to have some special guests (including Richard Pryor, Jr. and critic Armond White) speak to audiences about his lasting legacy in film and comedy. In this interview Pryor’s widow, Jennifer Lee Pryor, shares some of her fond memories about their relationship and his career.

How did you and Richard meet? You mentioned that it was while he was working on Richard Pryor: Live in Concert, had you seen him perform live before? 

I had just returned from Texas (August 1977) where I had been singing with a friend in clubs around the Austin area. I was broke and needed work. My friend Lucy Saroyan (William’s daughter) was seeing Richard as well as being employed by him as a “creative consultant.” Richard had recently purchased a home in Northridge, California that needed decorating. I met him and was hired to work in collaboration with Lucy decorating this house.

I fell in love the minute I met him… no joke. I worked for him for six months before we began actually dating. During that time, he married and divorced Deborah. We began dating in January of 1978. And that’s when he began work on Richard Pryor: Live In Concert. I fell in love again when I saw him on stage. I worked with him on that, going to the Comedy Store every night, taking notes and honing it and when he had an act, we shot it; it’s my favorite stand-up concert and is the film that allowed him to crossover to white audiences. In Live In Concert, Richard was strong and vulnerable and brilliant and in love while turning all the pain and struggle into comedy, which was his genius.

From the Astrology Dept: The Planets and Planetarium

Dear BAMystic,

I recently learned about the upcoming performance of
Planetarium—the collaboration between Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, and Nico Muhly—and that it’s happening in the first week of spring. How will the planets align the night it premieres?

Curious about Our Planets

Monday, February 11, 2013

March On! Art Opening

Last Tuesday, March On!, BAMart's spring exhibition organized by Dexter Wimberly, an independent curator, and BAM's Visual Art Curator David Harper, celebrated its opening in the Natman Room off the lobby of BAM's Peter Jay Sharp Building. The art is inspired by the upcoming 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Many stayed for the full three hours of the opening, where the room was filled with a lively atmosphere and guests enjoyed complimentary beer kindly donated by Brooklyn Brewery. The exhibit features work from nine artists, several of whom were in attendance last night including Delphine Diallo Diaw, Ali Santana, Derrick Adams (recently seen in the BAM Next Wave Festival), and Kimberly Becoat.

Read on for a more detailed historical context of the show by Jessica Bell (BAMart assistant) and a perspective on what to look out for when you visit. We also posted a few photos from the event on Facebook. Check them out here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tweet of the Week: The Infinite Regression Edition

Our Tweet of the Week comes from Karen Backstein @KarenatashaB, who poses a question we think
Trisha Brown might enjoy immensely. Karen tweets about Homemade, Trisha Brown's 1966 piece in which a home-movie projector, strapped to the dancer's back, also projects a film of the dancer onstage. The solo, beautifully revived by Vicky Shick for the company's recent run, is inventive, funny, and thought-provoking. Trisha Brown is known for her innovative use of technology; she lends it an agency of its own when she says, "Technology became a collaborator in the choreography." We like to think of all the dancers who have stepped into this role (including Mikhail Baryshnikov) watching films of films, and then dancing with their cinematic doppelganger behind them as they themselves are filmed for posterity. It may not be infinite regression, but it certainly is infinitely engrossing.  

Can you think of any dance pieces that use technology in an interesting way? 

Vicky Shick dancing Trisha Brown's Homemade. Photo by Stephanie Berger.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Richard Pryor's Greatest Hits

by Andrew Chan

In anticipation of BAMcinématek's hiatus-breaking, 18-film tribute to legendary comedian Richard Pryor, we’ve spent the past week collecting some of his most memorable one-liners on Twitter. But it’s important to clarify that quippy quotability was only a part of his complex legacy. With a style that encompassed autobiography, social commentary, and imaginative flights of storytelling and mimicry, Pryor reset the political and emotional parameters of American comedy in such a radical way that when the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts established the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in the late 1990s, he was an obvious choice to be its first recipient.

Growing up in his grandmother’s brothel in Peoria, IL, Pryor inherited an arsenal of profanity that would become a natural part of his speech and comic persona, and one of his trademarks was the perfectly timed deployment of the “f” and “n” words. As one of our program’s special guests Hilton Als noted in an in-depth New Yorker profile published in 1999, Pryor was the first black-American spoken-word artist to avoid the trap of pandering to white liberal tastes, and his repeated use of the “n” word (often to chilling effect) was part of this racial forthrightness. But it was the way he matched his outrage with flashes of vulnerability that allowed audiences of all races to connect with him.

A Pryor Engagement” (Feb 8—13 & 19—21) features Pryor’s very best film work, but the cultural phenomenon of Pryor was built as much on his Grammy-winning albums and TV appearances. Below we’ve gathered a handful of our favorite non-film Pryor moments.

Friday, February 1, 2013

You’re five and old enough to go out with Mommy

By Raphaele de Boisblanc

Jane before The Nutcracker
I am a staff member here at BAM. I’m also the mother of a five-year-old girl, Jane, and a two-year-old boy, Charles. I grew up in Paris and was lucky enough to see shows at an early age thanks to the many young audience programs that were offered by various theaters and concert halls. Performing arts have been part of my daily life thanks to my work, and when my daughter turned five (the minimum age to get into most venues in New York) I could not wait for our first outing together.

We started with Donka:A Letter to Chekhov at the BAM Harvey because I thought she would enjoy  the music, the movement, and the poetry of a nouveau cirque piece. She was scared—which at first made me ashamed of myself for taking her out—but also fascinated. At intermission she did not want to leave and we stayed til the curtain closed. The following day she asked me about the acrobats in the show. How come they didn’t hurt themselves? Were they real? Was the show real? I found her questions more challenging than I had expected, and I loved it. She forced me to think harder about what we had seen together.