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Friday, December 9, 2016

Watery Magic Onstage


Lothar Odinius and Olga Peretyatko in The Nightingale and Other Short Fables. Photo: Jack Vartoogian

By David Hsieh

L’Amour de Loin, the first opera by a female composer presented on the Metropolitan Opera stage in over a century, will be shown at BAM Rose Cinemas this Saturday (Dec 10) as part of the Met: Live in HD series. The Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, with librettist Amin Maalouf, drew from a 14th-century troubadour legend as a source. It tells of two lovers pining for each other across the vast ocean, which in this Robert Lepage production is embodied by 28,000 LED lights.

In a New York Times interview, Lepage explained why he went for the illusion of water: “Water is like doing a show with young children and animals and insects. It will do what it wants, and you don’t have any control over it.”

We at BAM know that Lepage speaks from experience, because this recognized theater wizard and BAM Iconic Artist (coming back this Spring!) has put real water on our stage before. That was The Nightingale and Other Short Fables (2011 Winer/Spring Season), an opera production consisting of several short Stravinsky music theater pieces. For The Nightingale, a fairy tale set in ancient China, Lepage adopted a Vietnamese water puppetry tradition with performers immersed in a pool of 12,000 gallons of water. The custom-made water tank was sunk in the orchestra pit. What the audience saw was a luminescent surface where small boats glided by, a puppet fisherman hauled in his nets, and birds darted above it—an experience that The Wall Street Journal called “spell-binding.”

Thursday, December 8, 2016

In Context: Amplified




The Dublin Guitar Quartet and composer Michael Gordon redefine what the guitar can be as an ensemble instrument. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #Amplified.

In Context: CITIZEN





Choreographer Reggie Wilson returns to BAM with a brand new work inspired by African-American figures throughout history who chose not to leave their home country in spite of pervasive racism. CITIZEN is a dense and timely work, so to give you greater insight into the production, we’ve compiled resources below. Start with Wilson’s introduction, reading list, and our BAMblog piece for context, then explore the other links for a more in-depth experience. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #ReggieWilson.

Holiday Party Tips from Mrs. Stahlbaum

Photo: Julieta Cervantes
Struggling to kindle that seasonal spark? Desperate to spice up your hum-drum holiday? Never fear, Mrs. Stahlbaum is here with enough flair and Christmas-tree flocking to transform any celebration. Study her stampede of tips, tricks, and treats, then see the party-master herself at work in Mark Morris Dance Group's The Hard Nut, coming to the Howard Gilman Opera House December 10—18!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

CITIZEN—A Note from Reggie Wilson

Choreographer Reggie Wilson (Moses(es), 2013 Next Wave; The Good Dance - dakar/brooklyn, 2009 Next Wave) returns to BAM next week with CITIZEN—a brand new work inspired by African-American figures throughout history who chose not to leave their home country in spite of pervasive racism. A note from Wilson follows.



I am excited to return to the BAM Next Wave Festival with a new dance.

It’s amazing how life and current events change the perception and meaning of artwork. I began researching CITIZEN in spring 2014 during a visit to Paris. I was intrigued by a portrait of Jean Baptiste Belley. Who was this man? Who painted the portrait and why? Who was able to commission a full-figure portrait of a black man in 1797? Who decided to continue to save this portrait during the political upheavals? How was it determined that this painting should be housed at Versailles (the only image of a black person in the entire collection—a self proclaimed bastion of French heroes). Why was this painting not on public display? Why are there so few paintings of black folks in “history” who aren’t enslaved, wild, or caricatured?

In Context: The Hard Nut

Photo: Julieta Cervantes




Mark Morris Dance Group’s beloved reimagining of The Nutcracker—a lavish, gender-bent love letter that playfully preserves the warm spirit of an essential holiday tradition—returns to BAM for the holidays. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #TheHardNut.

Friday, December 2, 2016

In Context: Brent Green & Sam Green: Live Cinema


A showcase of work by animator Brent Green and documentarian Sam Green, this live video event features foley sound by artist Kate Ryan, live narration by the filmmakers, and music by Brendan Canty (Fugazi), James Canty (Nation of Ulysses), and others. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BrentGreenSamGreen.

In Context: The Winter’s Tale


Director Declan Donnellan and Cheek by Jowl take up Shakespeare’s most fundamental questions in this fiercely contemporary staging of the Bard’s late masterpiece of wit and wisdom. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #TheWintersTale.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Two Greens, Unrelated

Photo: Gayle Laird
Known separately for singular performances combining cinema with live musical accompaniment and narration, self-taught animator Brent Green and Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green (unrelated) make their Next Wave debuts with a collaborative program, Brent Green and Sam Green: Live Cinema, at the BAM Fisher, Dec 7—10. Foley sound artist Kate Ryan and a band comprising Brendan Canty (Fugazi), James Canty (Nation of Ulysses), and Becky Foon (Silver Mt. Zion) perform live alongside the cinematic proceedings: flickering stop-motion forays into the Southern Gothic from Brent, engrossing documentaries about provincial dreamers and doers from Sam. The result is a unique live art experience that fuses the energy and immediacy of a rock show with cinema’s immersive storytelling capabilities.

Adriana Leshko: Could you each briefly describe the work of the other?

Sam Green: I always come back to the word “protean” in describing Brent’s work. His live cinema work is so powerful and odd. He narrates but he’s really just singing his pieces. Brent is one of those artists who is channeling something: his work isn’t calculated or premeditated. He’s tapping into some weird rural Pennsylvania thing that goes back to his family. Brent and I take turns narrating short films in this piece, and I’m both intimidated and proud to follow him.

Brent Green: One thing I really love about Sam’s work is his insatiable curiosity. His journalistic background [Sam has a master’s degree in journalism from University of California Berkeley, where he studied documentary with acclaimed filmmaker Marlon Riggs] drives him deep down rabbit holes, where he encounters... new rabbit holes. And dives into those. I was at his studio a couple weeks ago, and he showed me an entire file of watermarked pictures—he was enamored with the watermark. He cares about things no one else cares about. Until he tells you about them and makes you care about them, too.

Monday, November 28, 2016

CITIZEN—Being and Belonging

Raja Kelly. Photo courtesy Reggie Wilson/Fist & Heel
By Christian Barclay

In 1936 Josephine Baker, then already a major star in Europe, returned to America to star in the Ziegfield Follies. The production featured choreography by George Balanchine, music by Vernon Duke, and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. In spite of the marquee names, the show was a flop. Many critics specifically attacked Baker’s performance, labeling her “a Negro wench,” incapable of portraying a woman of sophistication and power. Disgusted and disheartened, Baker renounced her American citizenship and moved to France. She wouldn’t perform in the US again for over a decade.

CITIZEN, the newest work from Reggie Wilson and the Fist & Heel Performance Group, was inspired by the challenges that Baker and other black artists and activists faced in America––and the reasons why some ultimately chose to leave. The piece is predicated on the concept of belonging, and asks the questions “What does it mean to belong?” and “What does it mean to not want to belong?”