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Friday, October 31, 2014

Andy Warhol’s Brooklyn: A Tour

Andy Warhol is synonymous with the downtown scene of 1960s and '70s New York, but his escapades in Brooklyn are somewhat less chronicled. In anticipation of the upcoming Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films (Nov 6—8), we reached out to The Andy Warhol Sites Tour guide and author of Andy Warhol’s New York City, Thomas Kiedrowski, for some insight into the Pop Art icon’s Brooklyn haunts, from grand theaters to department store lunch counters, many within walking distance from BAM.

Below is a detailed collection of anecdotes and addresses (plus a map!)—everything you need to set out on a Brooklyn Warhol tour of your own!

by Thomas Kiedrowski

Crowds of teenagers line up for Murray The K's Big Holiday Show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater on December 29, 1964. Photo: Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
The Brooklyn Fox Theater
20 Flatbush Ave

Beginning in the ‘60s, Warhol attended live performances at the Brooklyn Fox, a palatial auditorium built in 1928 (his birth year). 

The rock ‘n’ roll, doo wop, and rhythm ‘n’ blues acts emceed by DJ Murray the K must have left an indelible mark on Warhol. Friends recall his excitement upon seeing Dion live on stage in 1963 alongside Dee Dee Sharp, The Coasters, Lou Christie, and Little Peggy, among others. He went back to see the September show with his close companion Isabel Eberstadt, writer and daughter of poet Ogden Nash, and also met Dionne Warwick that night.

The shows at the Brooklyn Fox, always accompanied by a B movie screening, may have informed Warhol’s 1966 multimedia act The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, which incorporated film, strobes, gels, The Velvet Underground, dancers, and more. As with Murray the K’s logo, Warhol also plastered his name in large letters on signs and posters ahead of the main act. Incidentally, the $2.50 cost of the evening show at the Fox was the same price Warhol charged for his EPI shows.

Things To Do With 1,000 Pounds of Salt

Zvi Sahar and PuppetCinema’s show Salt of the Earth uses 1,000 pounds of salt to create a mini dystopian desert for its puppet protagonist to traverse. To better wrap our heads around that improbable number, we came up with this list of other things that could be done in the case of a similar sodium surplus.

With 1,000 pounds of salt, you could:
  • make 26,580 16oz jars of Brooklyn Brine Pickled Rosemary Lemon Beets with Gin
  • de-ice approximately 40% of the Brooklyn Bridge roadway
  • provide 828 people (roughly the audience at a sold-out show at the BAM Harvey Theater) with their annual recommended sodium intake (1500mg a day), delivered via 5lbs-per-person of Martha Stewart's Hot-Smoked Cured Bacon
  • fill 615 boxes of Morton Salt
  • make 20 salt licks for livestock
  • create 3,518 gallons of sea water (roughly 1/300 the amount of water in the old McCarren Park Pool)
  • make 3,402,666 bite-sized salted chocolate caramels, a la Nunu Chocolates in Fort Greene
  • soothe every sore throat in Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope combined (around 159,500 throats) 

See the salt for yourself through Saturday at the BAM Fisher.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

In Context: Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films

Exposed: Songs for Unseen Warhol Films runs at BAM from November 6—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.

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

In Context: Six Characters in Search of an Author

Six Characters in Search of an Author runs at BAM from October 29—November 2. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, 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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Source source material

Material for The Source (Oct 22—25, BAM Fisher) was drawn from primary source texts by librettist Mark Doten and set to music by composer Ted Hearne. Four singers housed in a visual and sonic installation bring the work to life with direction by Daniel Fish. The company inhabits a multimedia assemblage of Twitter feeds, cable news reports, court testimonies, and chat transcripts in a multimedia oratorio that investigates media hysteria, secrets, and identity amid digital chaos. Mark Doten provides context for excerpts from his libretto.

The most staggering aspect of the classified materials that Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning leaked is their almost ungraspable scope. They include 483,000 army field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and 251,000 diplomatic cables; these were released, along with video of a US airstrike in Baghdad, by WikiLeaks and its media partners in 2010.

The reporting at the time focused less on what the leaks revealed about America’s conduct of wars and diplomacy than on the personalities involved. While I believe that the content of the leaks is more important than any individual—including Manning—there are several players who were integral to the events; brief descriptions of them are below. 

In Context: Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth runs at BAM from October 28—31. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, 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.

Monday, October 20, 2014

BASETRACK Live—Virtually Home

The Afghanistan war, started after 9/11, is one of the costliest and longest wars our country has seen. While there has been no lack of coverage, unfiltered reports from people directly affected by the war are harder to come by. That is why the photojournalist Teru Kuwayama’s Facebook project Basetrack created so many waves in 2010. It provided a platform not only for marines on the frontline, but also for their families and friends to connect and tell the world what they saw and felt. Those first-hand accounts are now a theater work, BASETRACK Live, created by Edward Bilous and directed by Seth Bockley (Harvey Theater, Nov 11—15). Using words and images culled from the Basetrack archive and interviews conducted by the creative team, this multi-media work features two actors, four musicians, and a cascade of images and videos, telling the firsthand stories of marines and their families. For producer Anne Hamburger, to get it on stages around the country is as much an artistic adventure as a civic engagement. She discusses the genesis and goals of BASETRACK Live.

What are the challenges in bringing this show to the stage?

Anne Hamburger: As BASETRACK Live is a truly collaborative, multi-media piece, it can’t exist as a script on paper. It’s only when the elements come together that you know how they relate. In performances at the University of Florida in Gainesville we experimented with script and structure with the whole creative team. In a second residency at ASU Gammage in Arizona we focused on integrating the technological elements, refining the video, music, and live performance in relationship to one another.

The central characters are AJ, a Marine, and his newlywed, Melissa. Their lines are taken from interviews with them. They face difficulties because of AJ’s war experience. Is their story representative of military couples? How are they coping with having their lives seen by thousands of strangers?

AH: Their experience is typical for young recruits returning home. Many people enlist when they are very young, and then go overseas for multiple deployments, placing real strain on their families. The war also changes people and coming home is a huge, often misunderstood adjustment. This is one of the issues that BASETRACK Live vividly portrays. AJ and Melissa—thrilled and grateful that their story is at the center of BASETRACK Live—attended our world premiere in Austin, and BAM.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Puppets on Film 2014: The Dark Crystal Legacy

Next Friday marks the opening of BAMcinématek’s fourth annual collaboration with the Jim Henson Foundation on the ever-popular Puppets on Film, and we’re kicking off the festivities with an epic Dark Crystal fan fest extravaganza showcasing some of the film’s collaborators (the celebrated conceptual designers Brian and Wendy Froud) and the work of a few very talented fans.

Earlier this year, and the Jim Henson Company held two contests celebrating the film’s legacy: the “Create a Dark Crystal Creature” Contest for puppet designers and “Author Quest” for fiction writers. The winners of both contests will present their work at the fan fest, and we spoke to both of them about the experience of creating their entries.

Create a Dark Crystal Creature winner Jeff Brown

When I first heard about the contest, I was very excited to try my hand at it. The first few weeks were just spent watching the movie at any chance possible, listening to the soundtrack every day on repeat, and reading all The Dark Crystal books ever written.  I began building the creature and his story in my head.  I didn't actually start working on the physical sculpture until a week before the deadline.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

In Context: Kontakthof

Pina Bausch's Kontakthof runs at BAM from October 23 to November 2. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, 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.

In Context: Angels in America

Tony Kushner's Angels In America, directed by Ivo Van Hove, runs at BAM October 23—25. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, 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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In Context: The Source

The Source runs at BAM from October 22—25. 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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Context: Brooklyn Bred 2: Pablo Helguera

Pablo Helguera performs The Parable Conference at BAM as part of Brooklyn Bred 2 on October 18. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, articles, interviews, and videos related to Helguera's work. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

In Context: Brooklyn Bred 2: Dynasty Handbag

Dynasty Handbag (Jibz Cameron) performs Soggy Glasses at BAM as part of Brooklyn Bred 2 on October 17. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, articles, interviews, and videos related to Cameron's work. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

In Context: Brooklyn Bred 2: Clifford Owens

Clifford Owens performs A Forum for Performance Art at BAM as part of Brooklyn Bred 2 on October 16. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, articles, interviews, and videos related to Owens' work. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Barbara Kruger Takes the Stage with L.A. Dance Project

L.A. Dance Project in Reflections. Photo: Laurent Phillippe
Artist Barbara Kruger is a master of verbal and visual punchlines. Aphorisms, in bold white sans serif type, hover in red boxes over stark black and white images.

"I shop, therefore I am."

Sometimes the type is blown up to room height and covers the floor and walls. It has naturally been featured on billboards. And she has expanded her installations into building lobbies and, for L.A. Dance Project, at BAM from October 16 to 18, an eye-popping stage set for artistic director Benjamin Millepied's work, Reflections.


Monday, October 13, 2014

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Sébastien Marcovici, L.A. Dance Project's Ballet Master

We are extremely stoked that L.A. Dance Project makes its New York debut at BAM from Oct 16 to 18. Why? Because its superb dancers will perform works by BAM iconic artist William Forsythe, New York City Ballet soloist and rapidly ascendant choreographer Justin Peck, and polymath and company founder, Benjamin Millepied, who is joining the Paris Opera Ballet as artistic director.

We had the chance to query the company's ballet master, Sébastien Marcovici, a longtime NYCB principal and New Yorker.

Which artist do you admire from a field other than your own?
I have a passion for street art. Alex Senna, phlegm, Ella & Pitr, Rae, and Banksy are some of my favorites.

Any advice you've gotten and ignored?
Every time my wife [recently retired NYCB principal Janie Taylor] tells me to put on sunscreen.

What ritual or superstition do you have on performance days?
I always stayed away from superstitions and rituals. I didn’t want my performances to feel like they were dependent on something like that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fireside Chat with the Artists of Brooklyn Bred 2

L to R: Jibz Cameron (Dynasty Handbag), Martha Wilson, Clifford Owens, Pablo Helguera, and Morgan Green

by Morgan Green

BAM’s Executive Producer Joseph Melillo asked Martha Wilson, founding director of Franklin Furnace, to curate three artists for Brooklyn Bred 2 (BAM’s Next Wave platform for visual and performance artists). To fill the BAM Fisher from October 16 to 18, Wilson selected a trio she lovingly calls “the weirdest of the weird”—Clifford Owens, Dynasty Handbag, and Pablo Helguera.

Martha Wilson is a fixture in the art world, as well as in the Fort Greene neighborhood where she lives and works, just a stone’s throw from BAM. On a late summer evening, I find myself in a beautiful antique rocking chair in her living room with the three Brooklyn Bred artists. We sip wine or sparkling water and admire our surroundings before homing in on the topic at hand: what is performance art? And what does it mean to have performance art at BAM?

As the conversation unfolds, Martha’s careful selection of artists who represent the various extremes of performance art becomes clear. Jibz (Dynasty Handbag), with her exuberant personality and imponderable comedic timing, connects with theater, the hero’s journey, and lives for an audience. Clifford Owens, the self proclaimed “bad boy of the art world,” is fearless and strives to “unhouse” his audience. Pablo Helguera, the academic of the bunch, refuses to commit to a genre and requires a curious and patient audience to play along and see what happens.

We began by asking Martha how she met these three "weirdos" in the first place...

DanceMotion USA—Mark Morris Dance Group Tours the Pacific Rim

Grand Duo. Photo: Scott Suchman

By Susan Yung

DanceMotion USA (DMUSA) completes a fourth season with one of the most popular and best-known contemporary American companies: Mark Morris Dance Group. Immediately after the premiere of Morris' new Words at New York City Center's Fall for Dance on Oct 8 & 9, the company heads to the Pacific rim for performances in Cambodia, informal showings in Timor-Leste and Taiwan, followed by dates in Beijing and Shenzhen, China. A great deal of emphasis during the Pacific tour will be directed to outreach components, also produced by DMUSA. It's a good fit, as Morris has always related to Southeast Asian music and culture.

Tiny Toones. Photo courtesy the company
Activities in Cambodia include exchange sessions with traditional Khmer musicians, an opportunity to see shadow puppetry; workshops with Amrita Dance Company (Phnom Penh) and Tiny Toones, a hip-hop organization for at-risk youth; a folk dance class with Cambodian Living Arts (a partner in Season of Cambodia in 2013); and performances in conjunction with Khmer Arts at its venue. Among the unique events of note: musicians from Royal University of Fine Arts will give a local interpretation of the music for Morris' piece Polka, and the company's technical director, Johan Henckens, will instruct Cambodians on how to make a portable sprung deck floor, which will then be donated to Khmer Arts.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In Context: L.A. Dance Project

Benjamin Millepied's L.A. Dance Project comes to BAM from October 16—18. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, articles, interviews, and videos related to the artists and the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Little Fugitive, a Brooklyn indie classic

Little Fugitive kicks off the BAMkids Movie Matinee series this Sunday. Curated by BAMcinématek, the series features classic and independent films not traditionally made for children, but that kids would enjoy. With an impact beyond cinema, these films have helped shape American culture. 

by Josh Cabat

What was the first example of a successful independent film in America?

Many historians and critics give the nod, at least in films of the sound era, to John Cassavetes’ Shadows from 1960. While there is no doubt about that film’s artistic and historical significance, a closer look reveals that the honor might much more appropriately be bestowed on Morris Engel’s basement-budget masterpiece, 1953’s Little Fugitive. Engel, who was born in Brooklyn, had come up through the ranks of New York’s Photo League and became interested in film under the tutelage of the legendary filmmaker and photographer Paul Strand. Profoundly influenced by the Italian neo-realist movement of the mid-1940’s, Engel, using non-professional actors, a camera rig of his own invention and post-production sound dubbing in the tradition of Rossellini and De Sica, created an unfettered, almost documentary style of visual storytelling. Not only is this the first great American indie film, then; it is also a bridge between Italian neo-realism and the French New Wave that followed. In fact, François Truffaut stated many times that without Engel’s work (which also includes 1956’s Lovers and Lollipops and 1960’s Weddings and Babies), the Nouvelle Vague might never have existed at all.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

In Context: Wild Grass

Beijing Dance Theater's Wild Grass comes to BAM  from October 15—18. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, articles, interviews, and videos related to the artists and the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Watch Your Step!

Wild Grass. Photo: Han Jiang

By David Hsieh

Being a performer is not easy. You have to remember your lines, your notes, or the movement. You have to watch out for light and sound cues. You have to pay attention to your co-performers onstage or in the pit. You have to be conscious of the audience. But for some über adventurous artists at BAM, these are not enough. They present another challenge—to themselves and to BAM's production team. They put unusual materials on the stage surface for the performers to navigate.

In Pina Bausch’s Arien (1985), Vollmond (2010), and Canadian Opera Company’s Nightingale and Other Short Fables (2011) directed by Robert Lepage, waterproofing and plumbing were required to turn the Opera House stage into a wading pool for performers to dance, slip 'n' slide, row gondolas, and sing in. Bausch also covered the stage with dirt in Rite of Spring (1984) and Gebirge (1985), concrete blocks in Palermo, Palermo (1991), and flowers in both Nelken (1988) and Der Fensterputzer (1997). (In contrast, the upcoming Kontakthof, set in a gymnasium, is relatively spartan.) In Happy Days (2008) Fiona Shaw was buried up to her waist in a mound of earth.

Marth Clarke’s Endangered Species (1990) used a straw-covered floor to help all the animals, including a baby elephant, feel comfortable. In Sasha Waltz’s Gezeiten (2010) the floor was dismantled during the performance as the walls caught fire.

This season adds to this unusual tradition. Three productions use unusual floors—all unique in their own way.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Remembering Fred Ho—a note from Darrell McNeill

by Darrell McNeill

Fred Ho performing at The Sweet Science Suite (2013 Next Wave Festival)

Fred Ho is my friend and he is no longer on this plane and I don’t know if I will ever reconcile that. There is something intrinsically counter-intuitive about someone with that much creativity and industry simply ceasing to be—like a hurricane instantly dissipating into a placid sea.

It makes no sense—a maelstrom just doesn’t evaporate into thin air…

And yet, here we are. Fred Wei-han Houn, jazz baritone saxophonist, composer, bandleader, playwright, writer, choreographer, professor, and Marxist social activist with a body of work so expansive it probably deserves its own arts center, is no longer here to challenge us, overwhelm us, frustrate us, perplex us and, ultimately, astound us. It’s inconceivable one could take genius that ambitious for granted, but, like I said, here we are…

Now we try to decipher the man and his work after the fact. This is no less daunting a task than when Fred was here. Besides the sheer volume and scope, Fred was fundamentally opposed to retrospective. He never looked in the rear view. His eyes were innately trained forward, on the here and now and the future. I conjecture this was the hardest reality for Fred to come to terms with: mortality stripping away the future and the only thing in sight is the finish line.

Lisa Dwan—Strapped In, Babbling Away

Director Walter Asmus and Lisa Dwan in rehearsal. Photo by John Haynes

Lisa Dwan first performed Not I in 2005 in a production directed by Nathalie Abrahami at London’s Battersea Arts Centre, and subsequently worked with Billie Whitelaw, who originated the role under Samuel Beckett’s direction. Following are excerpts of Dwan’s thoughts on preparing for the demanding performance with Whitelaw and director Walter Asmus, and on Beckett, adapted from a BBC interview done in September 2014.

by Lisa Dwan

Few know what it is to have your entire nervous system splayed open like that, Few know what it is to be suspended in that darkness, let alone the hideous difficulty of learning a text such as Not I, and to go on to perform one of the most difficult pieces ever devised. But there is one. One who knew more than most.

I met Billie Whitelaw in 2006 a few months after my first performance of Not I in London. Edward Beckett attended one of those performances and over a Guinness with me afterwards suggested it might be finally worthwhile to meet her “…now that I’d found my own way.”

And as luck would have it a few weeks after that the BBC put us in touch for an in-conversation piece about the role.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

BAM and Thomas Edison Light Up the Stage

by Bree Midavaine

Excelsior poster, from the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

On the fourth anniversary of Thomas Alva Edison’s first public demonstration of the incandescent light bulb, the amazing spectacle Excelsior came to BAM. Audiences were able to see the show from December 31, 1883 to January 5, 1884, after its successful run at Niblo’s Garden. The summer before the New York City premiere of the production, Imre and Bolossy Kiralfy consulted with Edison to find a way to incorporate the electric lightbulb into the production's finale; a celebration of the past century’s technological advances culminating in the victory of the heroine, Light (the embodiment of scientific progress), over the villain, Darkness.

Designed by Edison and the Kiralfy brothers, the ballet “was brilliantly illuminated by more than five hundred light bulbs, which were attached to the costumes of dozens of dancers and to the scenery, a representation of the new Brooklyn Bridge. Each chorus girl was also given an electric wand with a small bulb at the tip.” Batteries sewn into the dancer’s corsets powered both the wands and costumes. The Kiralfys' daring partnership with Edison changed the future of stage lighting, costuming, and set design. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle “believed that in Excelsior the limits of ballet spectacle have been reached. It is certain that no grander production has ever been attempted, and it may be added, carried to a successful conclusion, in this country.”

Brooklyn Daily Eagle Advertisement for Excelsior, 1883.

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Julius von Bismarck of QUANTUM

Julius von Bismarck is a German artist known for harnessing technology in creative and thought-provoking ways. He has quickly gained attention for engaging art in public spaces, and won the top prize at the Ars Electronica festival in 2008 for a device he called the Image Fulgurator, a hacked camera that injected stealth images into other people’s photos. For Public Face I, he mounted a giant neon smiley face in Berlin that changed expressions based on an estimate of the city’s mood, drawn from algorithms that analyzed people's faces on the street.

In 2012, von Bismarck took part in Collide@CERN, a two-month artist residency at the CERN particle physics lab in Geneva, where he worked with theoretical physicist James Wells on his lumino-kinetic installation Versuch Unter Kreisen. Choreographer Gilles Jobin was also a resident artist at CERN at the time and collaborated with von Bismarck on QUANTUM (at BAM Fisher Oct 2—4), in which the lumino-kinetic installation interacts with the choreography.

Julius von Bismarck and Gilles Jobin by Grégory Batardon

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In Context: Moment Marigold

Jodi Melnick's Moment Marigold runs at BAM Fisher from October 8—11. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of original blog pieces, 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.