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Thursday, August 28, 2014

BAM’s Global Reach

by William Lynch

Chandler Williams (George) and Kevin Spacey (Richard III) in the Bridge Project production of Richard III.
BAM 2012 Winter/Spring. Photo: Joan Marcus

BAM has long been sought out by audiences from the metropolitan area and beyond as a destination for exotic fare not likely to be seen elsewhere in New York City. In any given season, one might witness dance from Madagascar, Swedish-language drama, film from Yugoslavia, and more. However, there is an important aspect of BAM that is little known to the public, but which is changing the way BAM does business and the way in which the world views this venerable institution. Whereas BAM is well-known at home and abroad as a leading presenter of contemporary international performing arts, it has also more aggressively begun to produce theatrical and other events for its own stages and for export to venues overseas. BAM has bundled all this activity under the moniker of Global BAM to provide it with an easily understood identity that encompasses the broad nature of its potential.

Perhaps the best-known example of this new phenomenon came about in 2008 with the inaugural co-productions of the three-year Bridge Project with London’s Old Vic and Neal Street, which brought Shakespeare and classical theater to audiences not only in London and New York, but also in such far-flung locales as Paris, Beijing, Madrid, Istanbul, Moscow, and Epidaurus, Greece. In keeping with the goals of the collaboration, each of the productions contained an equal complement of American and British actors. The reader may recall the culminating production of Richard III directed by Sam Mendes and starring Kevin Spacey, which played in Brooklyn in the winter of 2012, and which in part inspired Spacey's ravenous character in House of Cards.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

An Irish Wave Hits Brooklyn

Pan Pan Theatre's Embers. Photo: Ros Kavanagh

Four productions in the 2014 Next Wave Festival hail from Ireland. Howie the Rookie (Dec 10—14); riverrun (Sep 17—20), Embers (Sep 17—20), and Not I, Footfalls, Rockaby (Oct 7—12) are presented in association with Irish Arts Center, which recently announced plans to build a new facility, to open in 2016. BAM Executive Producer Joseph V. Melillo sat down with Aidan Connolly, IAC’s Executive Director, to discuss the upcoming season. Excerpts from their conversation follow.

Irish Arts Center’s mission and activities

Aidan Connolly: Irish Arts Center was founded in 1972 and has been on the westside of Manhattan since 1974. The mission has evolved over the years. It started as a place for the Irish creative community to come together and have a home and make work; it was committed to preservation of the Irish language and the celebration of traditional music, but in a way that was integrated with the neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen. It’s always had a real notion of itself, about preserving Irish culture for people of all backgrounds. That is still in our DNA. It’s inspired by institutions like BAM—a multi-disciplinary program, affirmatively diverse in seeking the connection between our culture and Irish culture, and look at how an ethnically rooted cultural institution makes itself relevant in a city as culturally adventurous as New York. At its core, we’re looking to project a dynamic image of Irish America for the 21st century in a way relevant to New York audiences.

BAM’s relationship with Irish Arts Center

Joseph V. Melillo: It’s rooted in the forthcoming Next Wave Festival... I didn’t set out seeking representation of Ireland, Irish writing, and performers. The fact is, it’s an unprecedented moment to have four works of theater that trace origins to Irish contemporary writing, or Irish writing for the theater of the 20th century, and performance. Irish Arts Center is a locus for Irish writing and performance, and I spent time going to performances there to immerse myself.