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Friday, February 28, 2014

About Last Night: Jon Nathanson: Movement and Motion Opening Reception

To celebrate the opening of the Jon Nathanson: Movement and Motion exhibit (on display through June 25), BAM held a wine and cheese reception in the Natman Room in the lobby of the Peter Jay Sharp building.

Jon Nathanson is not only an artist but an accomplished architect and interior designer. His appreciation for the organic movement in objects is evident in the paintings and sculptures on display.

About Last Night: A Doll's House Opening Night Reception

A Doll's House star, Hattie Morahan, with actor Alan Cox. (Photo: Elena Olivo.)
BAM kept the lights on late at the Harvey Theater Wednesday night for the opening of the Young Vic’s acclaimed production of A Doll’s House, and for an after-show reception for members at the Benefactor level and above.

Minutes after Nora slammed the door on stage, actress Hattie Morahan made an elegant entrance to the after-party where guests were treated to a classic English-themed spread—Brooklyn style—complete with mini shepherd’s pies, corned beef sliders, and pea soup shooters. Brooklyn Gin served up a custom cocktail for the night with fresh lemon juice, ginger, club soda, and Owl’s Brew Classic—an artisanal mixer crafted from English Breakfast tea.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In Conversation with Carrie Cracknell

Young Vic artistic director David Lan talks with director Carrie Cracknell about A Doll’s House.

David Lan: Why does A Doll’s House resonate now?

Carrie Cracknell: Nora’s story is uniquely placed to explore the intricacies of marriage—the way in which people play roles with each other, the way in which men and women lie to each other, and the sort of multi-faceted, multi-layered construction that a marriage can become over a lifetime. This opens out a series of questions about progress, specifically in relation to gender politics, and about how far we think women have come. For me as a director, it provokes a series of questions about whether we’ve come as far as we like to think we have.

DL: How far do we like to think we’ve come?

CC: A great number of women in this country believe that there is no longer a need for feminism because it feels as though as Western, educated, liberated women, they are able to have everything they want, everything they need. But in fact in many areas we are actually moving away from an equality in gender politics, towards a world in which women are more sexualized than they’ve ever been. The idea of the woman as a person who is perceived through how she looks, whose power is related to how she looks, is more prevalent than it’s ever been—and that’s at the heart of Ibsen’s play and Nora’s entrapment.

Monday, February 24, 2014

BAM Scene: Carrie Cracknell talks to Friends of BAM Members

(Photo: Beowulf Sheehan)
Sunday afternoon, Friends of BAM sat down for an exclusive talk with hot young director Carrie Cracknell, of this season’s acclaimed production of A Doll’s House, and moderator Michael Cadden, Ibsen scholar and chair of the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton.

Keep reading for highlights from the event and check out the full photo album.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Talk to the Hand: Actor Papa Cloudy on BAMkids Film Festival

by Tamar MacKay and Akiko McQuerrey

This weekend, BAMkids, in association with the International Children's Media Center and curator Nicole Dreiske, will present the 16th annual BAMkids Film Festival, a weekend of fun, flipbooks, and films. We were lucky enough to catch up with Papa Cloudy, star of Papa Cloudy's Restaurant that will be featured in the shorts program Recipe for Love.

Photo: Akiko McQuerrey

Papa Cloudy, thank you so much for meeting with us today! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What kind of puppet are you?
Thanks for having me! It is really wonderful to be here. First of all―I will say that the title of your post, Talk to the Hand, is, in this case, inaccurate!  I am a stop motion puppet, and we have a very different structure to, lets say, a stuffed animal or hand puppet. The most important characteristic of a stop motion puppet is being able to bend and stay in the shape on our own―we don’t have a puppeteer. I am one of the many stop motion puppets that will be included in the film festival, which includes hedgehogs in Hedgehogs in the City and a chicken in Miriam's Kite!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Are You as Smart as a High Schooler? A Doll's House Edition

by Jessica Goldschmidt

BAM Education offers comprehensive study guides to the more than 220 schools that attend our live performances and film screenings every year (we quizzed you on Rime of the Ancient Mariner back in December). But what goes into the making of those guides? How do you approach inventive, multi-layered art and make it legible to a younger audience?

We asked Josh Cabat—BAM Education writer, Young Film Critics instructor, and chair of English for the Roslyn (NY) public schools—to talk a bit about what went into his study guide for the Young Vic's upcoming production of Ibsen's A Doll's House—and learned some fascinating things about the show in the process.

View/download the study guide for A Doll's House

What's the first question you ask yourself when starting to write a student study guide?

As someone who has been through a lot of bad professional development, I only have two things in mind when I undertake something like this:
1. Can a teacher use this tomorrow in a real classroom?
2. Have I set it up in such a way that it casts a net wide enough to encompass as broad a range of students as possible, based both on grade level and relative comfort with literary analysis?

Did you learn anything new/surprising about the play while researching this guide?

I was surprised to learn what great lengths Ibsen went to deflect attention from a purely feminist reading of the play. Although lauded at every turn by the Emma Goldmans of the day as feminist in a visionary way, Ibsen insisted that Nora's struggle was simply another manifestation of the grand theme of his work of that period, which was the oppression of the individual by the strictures of society. According to Ibsen, anyway, Nora is something of an accidental feminist.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Eat (Sandwiches), Drink & Be Literary: Alice McDermott

Here at the BAM blog, we believe in a good sandwich. It's really the perfect food—infinitely versatile, well-balanced, and usually pretty easy to make. Every culture and cuisine has its own take on the sandwich, and it can be as nostalgia-inducing or experimental as you want it to be. Plus, a person's favorite sandwich can tell you a lot about them.

As part of a new series, we're asking the writers participating in Eat, Drink & Be Literary about their favorite sandwiches, starting with tonight's author, Alice McDermott. Her response:

My favorite sandwich is lettuce and tomato on white toast with mayo and a touch of black pepper—but the tomato must be just picked and perfectly ripe, and the sandwich must be eaten outside on a summer afternoon...
I think Henry James would approve.

We absolutely approve.

In Context: River of Fundament

Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler's six-hour epic River of Fundament screens at the BAM Harvey Theater from February 12—16. Context is everything, so get even closer to the film with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those of you who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How Time Flies: Epic Productions at BAM

by Susan Yung

River of Fundament, the epic filmic work by Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler that makes its world premiere at the BAM Harvey Theater this Wednesday, is nearly six hours in length, including two intermissions. Lest you think that's long, here are some of BAM's previous presentations that exceeded four hours (the arbitrary definition of long). In chronological order:

1. The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud | Robert Wilson | Dec 1969 | 12 hours

Mrs. Hamilton and Michel Sondak in the Robert Wilson production The Life and Times of Sigmund Freud

2. Einstein on the Beach | Philip Glass, Robert Wilson | 1984, 1992, 2012 Next Wave Festival | 4:30

Einstein on the Beach, 2012 BAM production. Photo: Stephanie Berger

Monday, February 10, 2014

River of Fundament—Spotting Symbols and Icons

1979 Pontiac Trans-Am. Gold, no less.
Matthew Barney's River of Fundament is an epic, nearly six-hour film created over the course of seven years, in three major locations and involving hundreds of cast and crew. It makes reference to Norman Mailer's novel Ancient Evenings, set in Egypt and involving the god Osiris plus countless other themes and facets.

Here are some notes on a few symbols, icons, and, oh, phases of reincarnation to look for as you're navigating your own path through River of Fundament at the Harvey Theater, starting on Feb 12.

American muscle cars — a 1967 Chrysler Crown Imperial is a stand-in for Osiris; also a 1979 Pontiac Trans-Am; connotes a masculine power parallel to auras exuded by Norman Mailer and Ernest Hemingway; chopped and melted down to be recast as sculpture

Metals and minerals — gold, silver, lapis, sulfur; richly symbolic, links between the ancient Egyptian and contemporary American worlds; alchemical transformation

BAM Theater Gala: King Lear

(Photo: Elena Olivo)

Last Thursday night, BAM celebrated the month-long run of King Lear and the 2014 Winter/Spring season with a feast fit for a king—even a mad one.

The occasion: BAM’s annual Theater Gala. The location: the ornate Skylight One Hanson building, next door to BAM. Over 400 guests, including Hugh Jackman, Marisa Tomei, and Jonathan Safran Foer, among others, were welcomed into a lush landscape of green and gold, a world removed from the snow-filled one outside. Décor designer Fleurs Bella seamlessly intertwined lavish table settings with regal finishes, taking inspiration from the themes of political and natural power in the show.

Read on for more on the gala.

Friday, February 7, 2014

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Peter Brathwaite of The Glyndebourne Chorus

by Claire Frisbie

Glyndebourne Festival Opera's production of Billy Budd, Benjamin Britten's seafaring masterpiece based on the Herman Melville novella, opens tonight in the opera house. The all-male company—all 148 of them!—have been in town for over a week now, and Glyndebourne Chorus member and baritone Peter Brathwaite was kind enough to take a break from rehearsals and sightseeing to answer the BAM Blog Questionnaire.

(He also let us tag along as he got ready for the final dress rehearsal. Check out the photos here.)

1.  Which artist do you admire from a field other than your own?

I am a big fan of Mark Rothko. Over the years the Rothko Room at London's Tate Modern has become a bit of a sanctuary for me. There is something incredibly powerful about the way Rothko uses tone, texture and scale and I can't help but find great solace in his paintings.

2.  Any advice you've gotten and ignored?

I think as a musician you learn to be open to all advice because it often paves the way to finding out what really works for you individually.

3. What ritual or superstition do you have on performance days?

I like to exercise before a performance, so I might go for a run, swim or do some yoga. Food forms the basis of my pre-show ritual a I like to make sure I've eaten well before a performance. I usually choose to eat something clean and simple like grilled fish with vegetables.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

In Context: A Doll's House

Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

A Doll's House runs at the BAM Harvey Theater from February 21—March 16. Context is everything, so get even closer to the Young Vic's critically lauded production with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those of you who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BAM Illustrated: King Lear, charted

From a king in decline to a son in disguise, feuding sisters to a blinded Earl, it’s easy to lose track of what all the characters are up to in the Bard’s tragedy. So we’ve put together this handy chart to keep track of who’s alive, who’s banished, who’s in power, crazy, grieving, and more so you can follow along…

(Click on the image to see a larger version)

Created by Molly Silberberg, Humanities Coordinator at BAM, and Carie Donnelson, Manager of Humanities Programs at Theatre For a New Audience. Illustrated by Nathan Gelgud.

A Message from Karen Brooks Hopkins

Photo by Erin Treib

I wanted to elaborate, in my own words, on the announcement in today’s New York Times that I have decided to retire from BAM in June 2015.

In 1979 I joined BAM as an assistant in the development department, and in 1999 I succeeded Harvey Lichtenstein as president of the institution. My years at BAM have been remarkable. I was fortunate to work for Harvey for 20 years and then join forces with my dear colleague and professional partner Joseph Melillo, BAM’s executive producer, for the last 15 seasons.

It has been my privilege to work alongside the best staff in the world. They share my passion for our artists, historic venues, and the great borough of Brooklyn, which has evolved so brilliantly during my tenure. I also want to acknowledge the elected officials who believed in BAM and the artists who gave it meaning.

But most of all I’d like to thank you, BAM’s audiences, who trusted us even when the work was unfamiliar and challenging. Some of you stepped up when no one believed a large institution in Brooklyn could thrive. Some of you are new to BAM—and have helped us to continue to expand and pursue ever greater excellence. I salute you all and want to express my gratitude from the bottom of my heart.

Over the next 16 months, I will work closely with our board in the search for a new president. What is of paramount importance is that BAM become an even greater, even stronger institution in the years ahead. We have very exciting plans in the works and your continued support will be crucial to their success.

As for my own plans, I hope to spend more time with my three spectacular granddaughters and with the rest of my family and friends. Professionally, I would like to work on projects that require strategic thinking, and to write and speak about the field of arts and culture and its importance to the well-being and success of great urban destinations.

It has been a great run for me and I look forward to continuing to lead BAM for the coming 16 months—and to being a passionate supporter and audience member for the rest of my life!


Karen Brooks Hopkins

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Unlikely Britten

You might have heard that the Benjamin Britten centenary is in full swing. BAM is certainly participating, staging Glyndebourne Festival Opera's dramatic production of the composer's Billy Budd from February 7—13.

But you might also still be wondering who this Britten guy is, or at least what he sounds like. Despite being one of England’s most cherished native sons, the composer, born the same year of the infamous 1913 Rite of Spring premiere at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées, can still seem relatively elusive. If his music were an object, its edges would be beveled and its corners smooth, qualities which make it both endearingly tender but also slightly difficult to hold onto at times. But enigmatic or not, it's fantastic stuff, and you probably know it better than you think. Here are two unlikely places in pop culture where you might have encountered it.

1. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

In the opening credits of Wes Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom (2012), the Bishop family children gather around a toy record player and, presumably of their own volition, listen to Britten’s 1946 work, A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. Suzy opts to read instead, but the title of her book, Shelly and the Secret Universe, together with the stately procession of the music, speaks to several of the film’s propositions: 1) that kids are master curators of their own private worlds; 2) that they take those worlds very seriously; and 3) that adults should maybe take those worlds seriously, too.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Matthew Barney—Fluid States

by Susan Yung

Photo: Hugo Glendinning

If you could make real your wildest thoughts and dreams, would you?

Matthew Barney has—on film, the most searing and unforgettable genre in his sui generis oeuvre that also encompasses sculpture, drawing, and performance. The latest cinematic opus is River of Fundament, made with composer Jonathan Bepler, with whom Barney collaborated on the five-part Cremaster Cycle (exploring sexual definition and the artistic process). River of Fundament—nearly six-hours (including two breaks) and in creation since 2007—screens at the Harvey Theater from February 12 to 16.

While its breadth and multiple layers resist summary, the film keys off of Norman Mailer’s sprawling Egyptian novel from 1983, Ancient Evenings—the myth of Osiris and its implications of succession and the afterlife, and the seven states of passage from life to death. Barney doesn’t trace a narrative line, rather seizing on certain images and motifs, tapping Mailer’s book “as a text that I can distill narrative objects from,” as he said in a talk at the New York Public Library.

In one of seven scenes, Osiris—represented by a 1967 Chrysler Imperial—is dredged from a river in Detroit. Isis (Aimee Mullins), an FBI agent, directs the chassis’ recovery and dismantling, supported by a team of wailing agents, brass instrumentalists on passing vessels, and a crowd of witnesses. In an ensuing visceral, gripping scene, pieces of a chopped-up Osiris are melted in five foundry ovens; the magma commingles in a reservoir, and from there flows into molds forming sculptures of the hieroglyph Djed (a symbol of Osiris), forming sculptural relics of the performance.