Filed under: New York City, Theater | Tags: Lucas Green, Manhattan Shakespeare Project, Sarah Eismann, Shakespeare
This week on Citywide we are happy to feature a conversation with Sarah Eismann of the Manhattan Shakespeare Project. Eismann founded the company, which is one of the few all female Shakespeare companies around today. It is one of the few all female theater companies as a matter of fact. In our conversation, Eismann makes it seem that the all female approach is not meant to necessarily amplify the role of women in Shakespeare (though it is a goal of hers), but to neutralize gender in theater. She points out that when a female gives a monologue for a male character, audiences are given the ability to forget about the gender of the actor and character and instead to notice how Shakespeare’s characters possess both feminine and masculine elements, both good and evil, pride and insecurity.
Eismann and her company travel through the boroughs performing works of Shakespeare to “underserved” communities for little or no cost. The Manhattan Shakespeare project feels that the works of Shakespeare provide an excellent platform for communication. They want to educate NYC youth and less-visible communities to the universally relatable themes Shakespeare provides. New York City is hardly the stopping point though. Eismann is taking her philosophy and love of Shakespeare to Palestine to teach Palestinian actors Shakespeare workshops. She has found that Shakespeare inspires people universally and resonates far beyond the Western context we are accustomed to seeing it in. Visit manhattanshakes.org for more information, or listen to the interview below.
To support Sarah Eismann and the Manhattan Shakespeare Project visit their indiegogo page.
Earlier this Summer, Citywide covered the start of a new project by WNYU dj Aldona Watts in which she planned to document the lives and traditions of a troupe of elderly folk singer in a Lithuanian village. Aldona has wrapped her project and reports that it was a huge success (congratulations!). We look forward to seeing the final piece, but in the meantime Aldona will be joining us on Citywide once more in the near future to share her experiences first hand.
Here are some production stills to give you a taste-
Filed under: Uncategorized
First, an apology. This post is kind of (very) late. I’m sorry. Now back to business.
When August comes around, you always find yourself wondering where the summer has gone, at least I do. And so it came time to reflect upon what I’d seen in Paris, so I got in touch with Shelby Donnelly, a Philly-based artist who ended an artist residency at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris. I stumbled upon her Kickstarter page because I wanted to get in touch with American artists who were working in Paris and her study of the state of leisure in the French capital seemed particularly a propos for the show.
Donnelly, as I mention in the interview, says developing art work is a form of cultural exploration. that was what these shows attempted to do and I thought it might be nice to try to put what came out of these visits into words.
What we end up with is still somewhat bathed in a Midnight In Paris-like light : where the ideal of Paris is impossible to shake and experiencing the city is more of a time travel type of experience. I think an actual sociological and anthropological study of the place of leisure in French society and French art would take much longer than the 30 minutes of our show, but even at this level, it’s interesting to see how the level of fantasy attached to New York is nourished by images of the Beat Generation, Warholian icons and more recently Sex and the City escapades, its status as a model of cosmopolitanism makes the fancy much more contemporary : people come to New York looking for the cool thing happening you need to know about right now, whereas it seems visitors in Paris want to ride around the Concorde like Seberg and Belmondo in Breathless or retrace Hemingway’s steps with A Moveable Feast in hand.
Is that fantasy somehow less valuable than a desire to experience the now? I couldn’t really say, especially since it is a big point of pride for the French; Maybe that’s a question to answer in a future show? Ideas, Ideas…
Listen again to my interview with Shelby below. For more info on her and her work, check out shelbydonnelly.com.
Last night I might have spoken a bit too fast when I said that Paris was finally sunny. Though I have not felt any raindrops today, the sky has been decidedly grey and the few rays of sunlight that have managed to come through had to fight a hardy battle to push through the fluffy layer of clouds.
It might seem a bit off-topic to insist on commenting on the weather when, really, this post is meant to concentrate on what I discovered when I visited the 6B, an art center in the parisian suburb of Saint Denis but, I swear, there is a link.
You see, during my conversation with Julien Beller, the founder and director of the space, a lot of time was spent talking about the way the 6B is becoming and increasingly strong influence in the city of Saint Denis, as well as the cultural scene of the Paris area. “Ça rayonne” was the expression that kept being repeated: it shines.
The use of that word is not a manifestation of its founder’s arrogance; the verb “rayonner,” to shine, is actually the given term used in French to describe the repercussions of one entity’s energy on others. When used to talk about the 6B, that verb takes on an even stronger signification.
This space was not created to be the CoolHipArtsy place for Paris. Beller found the location, worked out a deal with the owner to rent a small part of the building then called up his friends to see who would want to be part of the project. It was just born out of a simple desire to work together. As Beller says,
I really couldn’t have cared less about speaking to people who lived in Paris itself. I didn’t come here thinking, ‘We need a new spot, it needs to be bringing in a ton of people, all the parigots [Paris-only minded people] have to be here as well as famous artists…’ I just wanted a space that had meaning and fulfilled the community’s needs. Turns out a lot of Paris people came and found a second wind because they had room to work, they met new people… Since we opened a lot of people have ended up moving to Saint Denis, but others still just come here to work, sometimes after a commute of an hour and 30 minutes.
That genuine and organic gathering of like-minded people really does turn the 6B into a bright spot in the neighbourhood. The walls of the pathway along the water that leads you to the center is covered in colourful graffiti and the little signs pointing the way, thus reassuring you that you’re not just walking to a dead end–before seeing the building, I could just see a lock on the canal in the distance, convincing me I’d gone the wrong way–are in fun, pastel colored paint and written in a soft, round-lettered font.
You truly get a sense of how unique the place is when you actually enter inside the gates and are face to face with the Fabrique à Rêves (or Dream Factory), a large outdoor installation made to host concerts, performances, and playful activities of all kinds. This is where you’ll see the residents getting lunch on warm, sunny days as well as the sheep of the sheep barn and the guerilla vegetable patches!
The 6B also shines a new light on an area often dismissed because it still carries the burden of a violent, drug-filled past and the feeling that its population, often of humble or immigrant background, was never made to feel like they belonged. With his constant desire to integrate the many and to fill the gaps in the resources offered by cities, Julien Beller and his crew managed, through their work at the 6B, to ignite a new fire in the area by giving it a place where homegrown culture could grown and radiate far beyond the borders it was once confined in.
For more info, visit www.6b.org.
Filed under: Film, Projects | Tags: Aldona Watts, Detroit, Detropia, DJ Dona, Heidi Ewing, Land of Songs, Lithuania, Lucas Green, Rachel Grady
On Citywide, we interview passionate and driven people on a regular basis. It is our hope that the conversations we have with these people encourages our audience to seek out artistic expression that isn’t mass produced or packaged for the lowest common denominator. Ideally, people listen to our show and take a personal investment in the stories they hear, maybe even realize the possibility of composing their own something for everyone else to experience.
It’s understandable why many of us hesitate before seeing an independent movie, reading an unreviewed book, or investigating a new band. These experiences are not yet validated and nobody wants to feel like they have lost time with an unworthy experience. Even so, there are many of us who thrive on the prospect of untempered ground. Who crave to be the first to understand our new mythology as it changes. These people listen to Citywide. They also make projects like the two featured below-
LAND OF SONGS, a documentary in progress by Aldona Watts of WNYU
This documentary is the main feature of Citywide this week. It is made by Aldona Watts, or DJ Dona, host of Crucial Chaos at WNYU. Those of us at the station acquainted with Aldona know her for the way she pursues several projects at the same time with equal dedication. At any given time, Aldona is able to discuss the dozens of projects that occupy her time from teaching children about radio, to organizing events for Her Girl Friday, to hosting Crucial Chaos. In a way, it’s not all that surprising that she can leave her life in New York City to fully invest herself in filming a documentary in Lithuania. This week on Citywide we sat down with Aldona to discuss her motivations for traveling across the world to record the movements of an elderly group of folk singers. Their story is even more inspirational. Check out Aldona’s kickstarter below the interview below-
this is the kickstarter
DETROPIA, something real
Detropia is the work of two filmmakers we hope to have on Citywide very soon. Listeners may recognize the work of Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, the two documentarians behind Jesus Camp. Much like Aldona, their new film takes place somewhere outside most New Yorker’s regular awareness. In their case though, it’s set in a situation many people choose to ignore because of its nearness to our lives here. For Detropia, Rachel and Heidi turned their camera to the relic of American post-industrialized living, the city of Detroit. Caroline Libresco describes their film this way-
Detroit’s story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century— the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now . . . the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future.
Besides creating a daring and earnest film, Rachel and Heidi with Loki Films are attempting to distribute their film independently. This means they forgo the step most films take in which a distribution company takes control of a film and its marketing. Detropia will go on tour with the filmmakers as they screen it in various independent theaters and festivals across the country. Check out the trailer below and the screenings you might find below that. Tune in to Citywide in the coming weeks to hear what Heidi and Rachel have to say themselves.
See their kickstarter here.
Silverdocs Documentary Festival
Silver Spring, Maryland
Thursday, June 21st @ 7:30pm
Friday, June 22nd @ 10:30am
Saturday, June 23rd @ 10:45pm
Nantucket Film Festival
Thursday, June 21st @ 6pm
Friday, June 22nd @ 6:30pm
Brooklyn, New York
Wednesday, June 27th @ 9:30pm
Q&A with Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing
Aspen Ideas Festival
Friday, June 29th @ 8pm
Hamptons International Film Festival SummerDocs Series
East Hampton, New York
Saturday, July 21st @ 8pm
Followed by a discussion between Alec Baldwin and the directors Heidi Ewing & Rachel Grady
Indianapolis Independent Film Festival
Monday, July 23rd @ 5pm
Woods Hole Film Festival
Woods Hole, Mass.
Tuesday, July 31st @ 7pm
Rooftop Films Summer Series 2012
Brooklyn, New York
Saturday, August 11th @ 8pm
Opening Theatrically: IFC CENTER
New York, New York
Friday, September 7th
Screening at The Avon Theatre
Wednesday, October 10th
On my first day on my freshman year floor, our RA Jenna chose “Two Truths and a Lie” as our inaugural icebreaker. When my time came to make my new floormates what my lie was, I told them that my uncle was a huge rockstar in Madagascar and that I loved computers (I can’t remember what I gave as a third option). Immediately, everyone guessed the computer one was the lie. They were right; other than their practical nature, I saw nothing particularly appealing about computers then–try to tear me away from it now though and you might have a different answer. I thought I had been so smart by putting in something ridiculous to throw them off, but I guess my un-techy-ness was visible from the get-go, even to complete strangers.
All this to say that Futur en Seine, the digital innovation festival going on in all of the Parisian region until the 24th, is not at first sight a place where you might expect to find me. Even though I have now warmed up to what the digital culture has brought for us and feel much less of a need to be hostile to the technological innovations around me, a lot of what gets discussed in these circles is way beyond my level of understanding.
Luckily, I went to the festival’s inaugural fair at the CentQuatre on the two days it was open to the public, when kids were running around everywhere and many curious souls erred, which forced all the people presenting their work to make what was often probably very complex technology seem intelligible to simple minds like mine. Also, thanks to a plethora of tactile screens and Kinect-based games, a good amount of stations ended up being somewhat interactive, even though a lot of it was aimed at children. For example, I passed in front of one screen that detected bodies going in front of the camera and added Iron Man suits on the image that was then formed on the screen. Another station allowed you to embody a flying creature in a videogame if you spread your arms out and bent side to side to mimic flight. Thinking back on it, the whole Kinect experience was doubly unreal. The center where the fair took place, the CentQuatre, used to be a morgue so with these games, huge crowds of people played with these almost ghostly, mirror images of themselves while standing in a place with a bit of a haunted history. I realize as I’m writing it that it sounds rather morbid, but I’m keeping it because I still find it quite fascinating.
However, the most fun application of that technology was shown during a workshop for children who had recorded and filmed a few video samples during an after-school program. One of the program directors would put up some of the pictures they’d taken on the screen and as a few girls volunteered to dance in front of the camera (their song of choice was Danza Kuduro), any big arm movement would make the picture superimposed over their feed change shape so that as you saw the girls moving around to the rhythm, the picture on top would also then follow that same beat. So a much more alive use of Kinect, this time.
While Futur en Seine wasn’t a place where I thought I’d find much artistic inspiration (going there was really just an excuse to go see my sister and hang out), I was pleasantly surprised, because there was still a lot of creativity at work once you looked past the more commercial ventures present. Below, you’ll see videos of some of the projects I talk about in the piece that aired on the show in case my description of them didn’t give you a full idea.
Here’s Object Avatar by Digitalarti‘s Jason Cook:
And Jules Hotrique’s Dualo:
With my new, more open mind, I look forward to telling you about more Parisian adventures!
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Films on the Green, New York City, Summer, WNYU
We told you last year about Films on the Green, the French film festival held all over New York City parks each summer. Well, the festival is back this year, with a nice selection of films and with the added bonus of featuring WNYU as an official partner!
The festival started out on June 1st with a screening of OSS 117: Nest of Spies, by the most famous French trio in cinema at the moment, actors Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo and director Michel Hazanavicius, who were heavily praised for 2011’s The Artist. It will go on until July 13th, and will return for one last outdoor screening on Columbia University’s Low Library steps for a viewing of the classic Jules and Jim with Jeanne Moreau at the beginning of September.
We’re not just talking about this festival because you’ll get to hear WNYU DJ’s awesome skills on the 1’s and 2’s before the screenings if you decide to go. French cinema has the reputation for being slow, pretentious and overly intellectual at times. And that might be true in some instances. But when this festival brings classic films (as well as newer ones) to Tompkins Square Park, our own Washington Square or Pier 1 at Riverside Park with its big inflatable screen, it becomes a lot easier to see that French films–or any foreign movies, for that matter–are a lot more accessible than we often like to make them seem.
As the festival alternates between childhood favourites like War of the Buttons, which screened on Thursday, or Donkey Skin with the legendary Catherine Deneuve (June 29, Tompkins Square Park) and high tension thrillers like Tell No One (July 6, Riverside Park – Pier I) while also showing the good-humored but politically charged animated film Persepolis (July 13, Riverside Park – Pier I), our perspective on what movies are outside of Hollywood and the anglophone indie market is immediately enriched.
I should probably disclose, for the sake of fairness, that I am French and could potentially be biased about all of this. But when I brought friends of mine to the festival last year and we saw the dangerously sexy The Swimming Pool with Alain Delon and a few weeks later, the big family comedy Nos Jours Heureux, it was quite obvious that when put in an inviting setting (and nothing is more inviting than a park on a hot summer night in New York), French films are just as inviting as the rest of them.
So there’s a lot of competition for outdoor screenings in the city every summer, but if you feel a little bit curious about foreign films, attending one or more of the shows of Films on the Green might not be a terrible idea for you.
Here are the remaining films you can see for this 5th edition of the festival:
June 22 – 8:30pm: The Axe, Tompkins Square Park
June 29 – 8:30pm: Donkey Skin, Tompkins Square Park
July 6 – 8:30pm: Tell No One, Riverside Park – Pier I (at 70th St)
July 13 – 8:30pm: Persepolis, Riverside Park – Pier I (at 70th St)
September 6- 7:30pm: Jules and Jim, Columbia University – Low Library Steps
For more information about Films on the Green, simply click here.