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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Qyrq Qyz—Ancient Girl Power, Rejuvenated

Qyrq Qyz. Photo courtesy the artists.
By David Hsieh

Central Asia is landlocked and perennially contested. Containing an area of roughly 1.5 million square miles, it is hemmed in by Russia, China, the South Asia subcontinent, and the Middle East, with some of the most arid places on earth. Deserts and nomadic life have been co-dependent through human history. No wonder this region has produced some of the fiercest warriors on horseback that humankind has known. 

Even though for at least 1000 years Central Asia has been at the crossroads of the east and west, people outside the region seem to know more about what passed through it (Roman coins, Persian glasses, Byzantine icons, Islamism, Buddhism, silk, tea, etc.) than what was produced within it (except, perhaps, those unstoppable warriors). Fortunately scholars, artists, museums, and institutions have begun to correct the ignorance in recent years, most noticeably through the Silk Road Project founded by Yo-Yo Ma. Another piece of knowledge will be proffered when BAM presents a major multimedia music work called Qyrq Qyz (Forty Girls) in March, 2018.

Friday, January 12, 2018

MLK Comes to BK

This coming Monday, January 15, activists, intellectuals, civic leaders, and artists will gather at BAM for the city’s largest public celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2018 marks the 32nd year of this event, but the revolutionary leader has been celebrated in the county that bears his name since the 60s. Dr. King had deep ties to New York City, and visited Brooklyn in 1963 to deliver a sermon at the historic Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights.

Below, illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores Dr. King's 1963 Brooklyn speech and the legacy of the church that helped give voice to the iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Black Superheroes on Film

Tamara Dobson in Cleopatra Jones. Photo courtesy Warner Bros./Photofest
By Maureen Masters

Taking inspiration from this winter’s release of Disney’s Black Panther, BAMcinématek presents Fight the Power: Black Superheroes on Film, February 2—18. Drawing from the more daring elements of science fiction, comic book, and Blaxploitation films, the series includes 27 features and a shorts program highlighting the tenacious spirit of black fictional characters while reimagining the textbook definition of superheroes.

The series is programmed by BAMcinématek Senior Programmer Ashley Clark. “Marvel’s Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), is one of the most hotly anticipated blockbusters of the year,” says Clark, “and is rightly seen as a new high watermark in the representation of black characters in the fantasy genre.”

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year's Wish

Photo: Mike Benigno
New Year’s Day is traditionally a day on which we look back and look ahead. We consider the importance of good friends and family, and also assess what we hope to improve—in our lives, our communities, and the world. The first day of a new year always presents a fresh start in our efforts to work toward a better future.

This past year has been a difficult one for so many. Global, national, and local communities have experienced natural disasters, terrible acts of violence, insecurity and fear. Indeed, there are so many people today who find themselves vulnerable. At such time, BAM reaffirms its commitment to being an open and inclusive place, one that respects multiple voices, cultures, and beliefs.

Complex problems can’t be sorted out easily or immediately. What we can do is to offer our home as a place for consciousness raising and communal gathering. Whether by hearing from thought-leaders, engaging in discussion, or by exposure to a variety of artists’ perspectives on our society—expressed on film or on stage—there is strength and support in those moments when we gather knowledge and clarity.

BAM is a home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas. To us, adventurousness is showing compassion in the face of hate, courage in the face of adversity, and open-mindedness in the face of ignorance and uncertainty. It’s providing artistic work that both provokes and consoles, which questions preconceptions and opens our minds to ideas beyond our comfort zone or familiarity—and which provides a forum for those voices not often heard, for the widest audience we can reach.

I wish you peace and happiness in 2018, and hope to see you at BAM.

Katy Clark
BAM President

Friday, December 22, 2017

Behind the Scenes—Jackie David and Raven Jones

Raven Jones and Jackie David. Photo: David Hsieh
Long-time BAM audiences will recognize Jackie David and Raven Jones, two stalwarts on the usher floors for the past 25 years. When they started (within three months of each other), the Harvey Theater was still called the Majestic and the Rose Cinemas were the Carey Playhouse, where a 35-year-old Robert Lepage made his BAM debut with a one-man show Needles and Opium. Neither of them expected to stay “more than two or three years.” But a quarter-of-a-century later, they have seen BAM grow along with their own families. They spoke with BAMbill.

Jackie David: I started because of my brother. He was an assistant manager in ticket services then. He told me about the usher opening and I started in September, 1992. Actually two of my brothers used to work here.

Raven Jones: It’s a family legacy! I started in December, 1992. My first show was Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut. I also came because one of my brothers was a choreographer and wanted to see the show from the audience’s point of view.
I was a school teacher. He said this would be perfect because I finish at three o’clock and could jump on a train and get here on-time. I intended to be here only two or three years. But that BAM thing happened and I kept up coming back. It has been a very rewarding and challengeing experience.

JD: After a year I became a supervisor. One day Christine [Gruder, theater manager] asked me to fill in for someone who couldn’t come in, and that was it—I was promoted.

RJ: Being an usher at BAM is very intense. You have to be on top of everything. You have to keep everything flowing. Every usher has a “station” to be in. You cannot leave that station. You don’t just disappear after you seat the audience.

JD: Before the house opens, I check it from top to bottom: make sure the lights are on and the exit doors are clear. After the show we check the house to make sure nothing is left.

RJ: When we had our 15th anniversary, all the ushers gave us a cake. We cut the cake and they said, “Feed the bride!” so we fed each other cake. I will always remember that day.

JD: Some of the board members and patrons know us by name. That make us feel very special.

RJ: They’ll share stories about their kids and I’ll share stories about my grandchildren. It feels very nice.

© 2017 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

In Context: Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia

Two survivors of the Khmer Rouge, composer Him Sophy and filmmaker Rithy Panh, attempt to return dignity to their country’s fallen with Bangsokol–a musical ritual remembering the Cambodian genocide. 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 #BAMNextWave.

Remembering Cambodia's Lost Artists

In 1975, the tyrannical Khmer Rouge came to power in Cambodia following a brutal civil war. Over the course of the next four years the regime held power, some 1.7 million Cambodians died from starvation, disease, overwork, and genocide. The Khmer Rouge targeted intellectuals, artists, actors, and musicians as undesirables because they didn’t fit Pol Pot's image of a new Cambodia—a country free of all outside influence and any remnant of what he considered “decadent” culture.

The overall effect of this campaign against creatives was disastrous for the country's cultural landscape. By the time the Vietnamese drove the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979, most artists were dead, in exile, or too traumatized to practice their craft. Below, we partnered with illustrator Nathan Gelgud to honor five Cambodian visionaries lost during this tragic time in conjunction with Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia, coming to the 2017 Next Wave Festival on Dec 15 & 16.

Friday, December 8, 2017

In Context: Tesseract

Choreographic duo Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener present Tesseract, the fruit of their years-long collaboration with pioneering video artist (and fellow Merce Cunningham Dance Company alumnus) Charles Atlas, at BAM Dec 13—16.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 #BAMNextWave.

In Context: Farmhouse/Whorehouse: An Artist Lecture by Suzanne Bocanegra Starring Lili Taylor

Suzanne Bocanegra returns to BAM Dec 12—16 with Farmhouse/Whorehouse, a performance piece inspired by her grandparents who lived on a farm across the road from the Chicken Ranch (better known as the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”). Starring Lili Taylor, the piece uses text, costumes, video projections, and more to consider the American myth of rural utopia.

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 #BAMNextWave.

Monday, December 4, 2017

In Context: HOME

Physical theater artist Geoff Sobelle returns to BAM Dec 6—10 with HOME, in which he leads an ensemble of dancers and designers in a feat of impossible carpentry: raising a house onstage and making a home within it.

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 #BAMNextWave.