Showing posts with label LA MAMA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LA MAMA. Show all posts

Friday, February 12, 2016


Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre

NEW YORK – "The New World Symphony: Dvorák in America" is a puppet and object theater work examining the influence of African-American and Native American music upon the great 19th-century Czech composer Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904). The piece is written and directed by Vít Horejš and performed by Czechoslovak American Marionette Theatre. It traces how Dvorák helped America accept its beautiful multicultural musical traditions by his enthusiasm for African-American and Native American music during his short but influential time in the USA. La MaMa Theatre will present the play's world premiere run March 10 to 27, 2016 in its Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street (East Village). Composer and Musical Director is saxophonist James Brandon Lewis.

The piece depicts Dvorák's creative and family life during his tenure as the Director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in NYC, and the highlights of his three-year stay in the US (1892-1895) in NY and in the "little Bohemia" of Spillville, Iowa where he spent the summer of 1893.

While in America, Dvorák declared that African-American and Native American music would be the foundation on which new American music would rise up. As we all know, this happened, although the contemporary musical idioms (not only in America but throughout the world) based on African-American music are very different from what the Czech composer envisioned. During his time in New York, Dvorák composed his landmark "The New World Symphony," a work inspired by Spirituals and the Hiawatha story. His creation of the symphony is an important theme of the play. 

The characters of the play include Dvorák and his family (including his wife's sister, Josefína Cermáková, the love of his life, for whom he composed the song-cycle "Cypresses"), the founder of the American Conservatory of Music, Janet Thurber, who was his patron; his African-American students Harry Burleigh and Will Marion Cook and various New York musicians--his students and protégés. Chief Big Moon of the Hunkpapa Tribe (one of the seven council fires of the Lakota) discourses eloquently on Native American music. Several African-American luminaries also make appearamces in the play, including poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, soprano Sissieretta Jones, Frederick Douglass and Ida B. Wells. 

Music ranges from spirituals and work songs to Dvorák's original compositions, to jazz and rock. Composer and Musical Director is African-American saxophonist James Brandon Lewis. Steeped in spirituals, gospel and free jazz, Lewis was hailed by Ebony Magazine as one of "7 Young Players to Watch." Playing with Lewis will be Luke Stewart on bass and Warren Trae Crudup III on drums. Two Dvorák experts, Michael Beckerman (Chair of NYU's Music Department) and conductor Maurice Peress, have provided dramaturgical assistance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Botox Angels

NEW YORK -- From Dood Paard ("Dead Horse") Theatre in Amsterdam comes "Botox Angels," a play about militant female sexuality which is abundant in sultry dialogue, jealousy and emotional violence. Three clownish lesbian characters, named Swift, Cocky and Deedee, negotiate shifting power relationships, juggle dildos and fake breasts, play dress-up games and cross swords about men, breast reductions, philosphy versus banality and emotion versus rationality. Written by Rob de Graaf, translated into English by Paul Evans, it is performed by Ellen Goemans, Janneke Remmers and Manja Topper, all from Holland. La MaMa presents the work's American premiere June 25 to 28, coinciding with Gay Pride Weekend.

"Botox Angels" gets a unique style from the rough mind games among its three protagonists and a tactical/emotional directness that is characteristic of the Dutch. Its characters are women for whom being lesbian is, at least partially, a political choice. They don't want to hide their beauty or their sexuality and they want to be seen as attractive adult girls. The title appropriates the name of a cosmetic surgery drug to suggest women's longing to inspire desire perpetually. For Swift, Cocky and Deedee, for whom sex is a very aggressive game, Botox might also be a warrior's creed: even if they are dykes, they still can be as beautiful and attractive as a magazine cover model. Imagine "Mean Girls" on steroids with middle-aged lesbian clowns.

The play opens with a three-way orgy in which Deedee, the outsider, complains to Cocky, the Queen Bee and Swift, the Wannabe, of being excluded. The scene pivots into a mock interview in which their urges are intellectualized into thoughtful dialogues about social forces, giant emotions, philosophical constructs and feminism with a great big "F." Throughout the rest of the play, the cast alternates between playing Swift, Cocky and Deedee and playing a trio of more realistic characters bearing the actresses' own names. This adds a certain transparency to the performance. Manja, Ellen and Janneke may be real people, but their so-called "real questions" are just as fake as any dialogue between two clowns, so the person being interviewed probably resembles her clown character more than anything she is like in real life. The dikes are breaking for these dykes and a tide of feminism is going to wash over all of us. As they wrangle about the place of women in society, and how to escape it, we learn that semen is poison to Cocky and Deedee, but Swift misses a man between her legs once in a while. Their trenchant discussions on female sexuality bring us up front and personal with just about everything about these Botox Angels, who are very tough women, as is their comedy.

Along the way, the actresses re-enact some famous performances by feminist performers: "Semiotics of the Kitchen" by Martha Rosler, "Artist must be Beautiful" by Marina Abramovic and "Cut Piece" by Yoko Ono.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014



Susan Hwang And Bob Holman

La MaMa Experimental Theatre and Yara Arts Group will present "Captain John Smith Goes to Ukraine" February 27 to March 9. This experimental theater work, created by Bob Holman (Bowery Poetry Club), performance artist Susan Hwang, Ukrainian musician Julian Kytasty and director Virlana Tkacz, deals with Capt. Smith's adventures in Eastern Europe circa 1603, where he first met "other" people and gained experience that helped him prepare for dealing with Native Americans as founder of Jamestown.

Everyone knows about Pocahontas, but few are aware that shortly before Smith first sailed for Virginia, he was an adventurer in the Mediterranean and fought against the Ottoman Turks. In 1602, he was captured and sold as a slave. His master, a Turkish nobleman, sent him as a gift to his mistress, who fell in love with him. Taken across the Black Sea, he escaped through what is now Ukraine. He returned to England in 1604 and joined the Virginia Company of London in 1606, setting sail for the New World in 1607. Smith's autobiography, published in 1630, is the primary source for this play. Although the theatre piece is grounded in historical material, the issues raised in "Capt. John Smith Goes to Ukraine" find reflections in today’s headlines from Kyiv.

The show is a comedy/musical/historical epic-in-an hour with three characters. John Smith is played by Bob Holman, founder of Bowery Poetry Club in New York. Susan Hwang, a Korean-American comic/performance artist & accordion player, plays all of Smith's love interests. Julian Kytasty, a legendary Ukrainian traditional musician, provides the sound score. Performed in Ukrainian and English, "Captain John Smith Goes to Ukraine" echoes Smith’s travels across many boundaries. Projections by Volodymyr Klyuzko with Mikhail Shraga include archival discoveries and beautiful engravings by John Payne from the original 1630 edition of Smith’s book, all enlivened with an outrageous a sense of humor.