CITYWIDE


Manhattan Shakespeare Project
September 19, 2012, 7:18 pm
Filed under: New York City, Theater | Tags: , , ,

ImageThis 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.

Lucas Green

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The 2012 Vimeo Film Festival with Jeremy Boxer and Eliot Rausch

The online video-sharing platform Vimeo signifies much about the current relationship between art, society, and technology. Users of Vimeo utilize the site to share originally produced video content on a high-quality player for free. For independent filmmakers, artists, and documentarians, who may have spent zero to hundreds of thousands of dollars creating a video, to share their work in the way it deserves to be seen without having to pay a distribution company or rent out a theater. It is a way for people to get their work noticed without taking the risk of submitting to film festivals, which sometimes only accept films on the condition that they do not screen at any other festival or be seen online. This may be true of just about any video-sharing site, but the quickest glance at Vimeo exhibits its uniqueness as a media platform.

On Vimeo, you will not see television or popular movie clips, you cannot search for any song you want to hear and expect to find a video file of it, and you do not find commercials. Rather Vimeo contains only the original work of its users, most of them aspiring artists or media creators. As such, the site is rife with music videos, lyrical documentaries, tone poems, tutorials, clever/cute animations, etc… There is no shortage of beautiful and entertaining content in the age of DSLRs, prosumer editing software, and easy access to educational resources. While technical quality and formal qualities do vary between extremes, the site is curated to an extent. In short, Vimeo has found a new way to contribute to the elimination of exclusivity in art.

This being the case, it can be pretty easy to get overwhelmed by the massive amount of video art with immediate availability. No one wants to become sensitized to beauty and artists have good reason to feel reluctant exhibiting work on a platform absolutely flooded with high quality, original work. Premiering video online can be just as risky as preparing a film for a festival. Thus the Vimeo Film Festival.

The Vimeo Film Festival goes against many accustomed film festival traditions. First, it is among the few festivals in existence that even allow screenings of films that have premiered online, and it is one of even fewer that focus on internet-released films. The festival also follows an opposite format to most festivals by holding the award ceremony at the festival’s opening rather than its conclusion. Jeremy Boxer, the festival’s co-founder and director as well as creative director for Vimeo, states the reason for this as an attempt to celebrate the winning filmmakers throughout the festival, which culminates in a winner’s screening at the end of the event where attendees can see all the films that have risen to the top without feeling like they missed out. The awards, too, go to less conventional categories like ‘Advertising, Lyrical, Action Sports, Motion graphics, and Remix; categories meant to reflect the work of Vimeo’s community.

This year’s festival also features many workshops and lectures from illustrious members of the film industry including Ed Burns. It is the work of these people and those like Jeremy Boxer who create a channel for people with passion and a message to express themselves freely. It has always been possible, but it was never the popular path. Filmmakers these days are beginning to take advantage of the fact that they do not have to tailor their work to appeal to someone who can give them a job. Platforms like Vimeo and its associated film festival create an infrastructure for art to disseminate off of its own merit rather than the approval of a single curator or “taste-maker.”

Listen to the show to hear Jeremy Boxer discuss the highlights of this year’s festival and previous Vimeo Film Festival Grand Prize, winner Eliot Rausch, talk about what Vimeo has been able to do to propel his own career forward. The trailer for his new film “Limbo” appears below and below that is his award winning film, “Last Minutes with Oden.”

Eliot Rausch, director of “Last Minutes With Oden” and the forthcoming “Limbo”

 

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/Eliot%20Rausch.mp3]

Lucas Green



Arts and Gentrification in Bushwick, Brooklyn W/ Modesto “Flako” Jimenez

Gentrification from the perspective of a recent Bushwick resident-

Gentrification is a subject usually approached with the utmost trepidation. The discussion is ambiguous and laden with guilt prone to implicate anyone who walks through the minefield this conversation is. It’s hard to fault anyone involved-

-Who can blame the gentrification for trying to find a cheap place to live?   Who can blame them for trying to open up businesses in the area in order to make a living?

-Who can blame the people who grew up in the area for feeling resentful as they watch their culture slip away, their rent and grocery bills skyrocket, the physical features of their neighborhood morph into something new?

-Who can blame the city government for sending more police to a neighborhood with high crime rates?

-Who can blame the business owners and the real estate owners for charging higher prices as a more moneyed population enters their realm? (…lots of people probably, still a grey area though)

Each of these groups have righteous reasons to perform the actions I just enumerated and are some of the more broad and most recognizable features of gentrification. We may also suspect that each of these groups have more dubious agendas. However, it is unproductive and possibly damaging to the question of gentrification to project any agenda (especially the suspicious ones) to categories of people because they are formed by individuals with unique motivations in life and moral values.

Still, we can identify trends and attempt to understand its causes and effects in order to learn our own personal role and, from there, consider what can be done and avoided to minimize the negative effects and capitalize on the positive potential gentrifiers like me can bring to a community.

Low rent attracts the “gentrification,” in part formed by non-natives looking for the cheapest place to live that still has a connection to the larger city they came to work and exist in. These might include college-grads, students, young professionals, artists who can’t afford to live in Manhattan. They make the neighborhood a hip and exciting destination for artists and musicians who are followed by chic coffee shops and brunch cafés, pop-up galleries and yoga studios, which come with people who have money. At least, this is what I gather as a member of the gentrification who (like almost everyone else in the same boat) has trouble feeling comfortable with it. This blog post is written from that general perspective. I love the artistic environment Bushwick, my home for now, provides and its potential for something even greater. First though, the problems this exciting art scene brings with it are very real, but, based on conversations with individuals such as Modesto “Flako” Jimenez, they are not insurmountable and will only prove to be truly damaging if the complexity of gentrification continues to prevent us from addressing it. There is  little I can say about rising living costs except that I am grateful to have an affordable place to call home. I can also attempt to contribute to the economy of the community by buying my goods and groceries at local stores rather than carting them in on the L train. There is however a powerful social dynamic which each person living in the community has a place in regardless of choice.

A quick glance at Bushwick’s history informs that, like most any neighborhood in New York, its majority population has at various times been composed of several different ethnicities. Italian, African-American, Mexican, Caribbean. The relatively small area has indeed been gentrified several times. While there is certainly a racial element to the current gentrification, characterizing the issue as “white” people coming in and taking over an “hispanic” neighborhood is only partially true in this case and does nothing really other than contribute to the Us&Them mentality that slows down progress and creates barriers between people that don’t need to be there. We (any member of the community) see who people who dress and speak in unrelatable ways and we prescribe them as ‘the other.’ Whenever these barriers grow up, two things can happen. For some the other becomes invisible. People pass each other on the street without making eye contact, goods are exchanged at the bodega, but not words. The alternative is that the other is seen, but as a threat. Eye contact occurs, but it is intimidating or suspicious. This is the more unfortunate scenario because it involves a certain volatility. Sooner or later contact has to be made between people who co-exist, if we address these issues, this contact could be one of acceptance and appreciation and not intimidation or dominance.

I just can’t reconcile that scenario.

I’m simplifying a portion of one of the problems in order to start working toward a solution. This isn’t to say that the problem is in fact simple, just that we can start resolving it if we work hard to figure out what it is. It might take a while, even if we all determine to be understanding and welcoming to each other. I’ll close my part with something that happened to me weeks ago that I can’t stop thinking about. I was walking out of the bodega after grabbing some beer and some popcorn (probably) and I nearly bump into a man coming into the store. Instinctively I said “permiso” as I passed him. I sometimes try to use Spanish in the deli both for practice and out of consideration. But I was taken aback when I heard a nearby woman ask the man, “why did you let him speak to you like that?”

I felt terrible. Then the man said “Noooooooo, he was being respectful.” I’m still confused about that and still worried about offending the people who live around me who I have no reason to offend. It seems that, though we may sometimes treat one another like we’re invisible, nobody ever is.

Flako Jimenez

These thoughts and feelings have been developing inside me since I moved to Bushwick almost two years ago. For the past few weeks I’ve focused a couple Citywide episodes on the neighborhood because of the amazing work that takes place there and its astonishing diversity. I didn’t really consider the meeting point of arts in the neighborhood and gentrification until i saw this video-

This is a visual rendering of Modesto “Flako” Jimenez’s poem “Bushwick, Brooklyn” from his new book of autobiographical poetry ¡Oye! Para mi querido Brooklyn or Listen! For my Dear Brooklyn. It is a lyrical collection of experiences in English and Spanish he had growing up as an immigrant in Bushwick and what he saw change after he spent a short time a way. For the release of his book two weeks ago, Flako and some of his fellow artists arranged a reading as “an ode to Bushwick in all its richness, a night of music, theater, film, and art on the themes of immigration, gentrification and survival..” at the Bushwick Starr. It took me off guard in a really good way. That night longtime Bushwick residents and more recent residents performed on that stage both in English and Spanish for a crowd composed both people who grew up in Bushwick and people who had moved there. Everyone laughed at the same time, shared the same silence, ate and drank the same dishes together afterward and celebrated what they had shared together. It was just happy.

Flako later met me in Maria Hernandez Park and gave me his impression on the change taking place in his home. Flako moved into the neighborhood at a very young age and grew up in a much grittier Bushwick than exists today. He grew up on a deeply rooted gang culture, when drugs brought the danger of violence, disease, addiction, and police officers. He saw many of his peers and classmates falling into this dangerous lifestyle as a means of survival. Flako may have been destined for the same, but he says that a school teacher named Steven Haff, who operates Still Waters in a Storm, singled him out and introduced him to a world of literature and theater. Flako found a passion that took him to university in Vermont where he found a world that looked nothing like the one he had always lived in. By the time he came back to Bushwick a little over ten years ago he was shocked to see that the undergraduate culture he’d become accustomed to in Vermont had found its way into his own neighborhood.

After seeing his performance and talking to him for nearly an hour, I started to get an idea of some of the things he had noticed. That the fear people have of others in this neighborhood comes from very surface differences. And that if we can find common ground in the arts the way Modesto was able to facilitate at the Bushwick Starr, maybe the fear can start to fade and a strong community begin to develop. We can be thankful to people like Modesto and the people who operate the Bushwick Starr that they are raising interest for arts in the community that can be shared by everyone. We can also be grateful to organizations like Still Waters in a Storm and El Puente that inspire children to appreciate the arts, to discover the world and their own potential along with it. You can help.

Please let me know if I’m off base.

This is my conversation with Modesto “Flako” Jimenez. Hear him tell his story in his own words. They’re much more interesting than my words-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/Modesto%20_Flako_%20Jimenez.mp3]

Lucas Green



Into The Soldier’s Tale
April 19, 2012, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Dance, Music, New York City, Theater

Left to right: Niall Powderly, William Vaughn and Chuck Furlong

We’re often told that starting a business with your family is a dangerous thing. Work brings out the best in us, but the worst pokes its nasty head out just the same. So we turn to working with our friends whenever we can afford to, because the bonds between us aren’t as loaded, and it’s a logical step towards what should be guaranteed fun. It’s like a family without all the strings attached.

Niall Powderly, William Vaughn and Chuck Furlong, who met as freshmen at NYU, put that plan into action pretty early on in their friendship. Now that their NYU careers are ending, they are putting on a production of Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, or The Soldier’s Tale, from May 3rd to 5th at Access Theater in Tribeca, as the 100 Proof Arts Collective.

Originally a Russian folk tale, The Soldier’s Tale they’re producing brings the narrative to the present and combines a seven-piece orchestra playing Stravinsky’s complex music, with acting of C.F. Ramuz’s text and dancing to tell the story of a soldier returning home from deployment in Afghanistan. The three of them have had to learn the ins and outs of how each other’s fields worked (Furlong is a musician, but Vaughn and Powderly are actors) but in the end, it seems they’ve managed to make it work.

The Soldier’s Tale will be performed May 3-5 each night at 8pm at Access Theater, located at 380 Broadway (2 blocks South of Canal) on the 4th Floor.For more on this production, visit 100 Proof’s website, 100ProofArts.weebly.com, where you will find information about tickets and all the other ways in which you can support the collective.



The Brodmann Areas- a new ballet from Norte Maar

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On our show, on our blog Citywide has frequently appreciated the way the North Brooklyn and Bushwick art scenes are coming together. We’ve painted a picture of individual artists scrapping together to instill bygone industrial regions with beauty and poetry. We’ve admired these communities for providing evidence of the heart and purpose emitting from a generation of artists that many have ascribed a bleak future to.

It’s a gross misestimation to believe that arts in New York and Brooklyn in particular have been “played out,” have been “sold out.” The individual artists that collaborate in collectives such as Norte Maar prove that there is a pool of ingenuity brewing in the streets, the lofts, the studios, the reclaimed spaces of Brooklyn. The fact that emerging artists with incredibly different backgrounds such as Paul D’agostino and Audra Wolowiec are working with experienced art producers and curators such as Jason Andrew and Julia Gleich (co-founders of Norte Maar) shows that Brooklyn– and Bushwick in particular– is a place for people with the hard-to-grasp questions of today to go and explore previously untouched concepts and perspectives.

These are all artists contributing work to The Brodmann Areas premiering April 12th at the Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, a new ballet produced by Jason Andrew and directed by Julia Gleich which pontificates on the sensory faculties of the human brain at the very same time that it produces the very stimuli in its audiences of the various mechanisms it represents via multiple art forms. It is an all-encompassing sensory experience based on the region of the cerebral cortex called the Brodmann Area, a structure closely correlated with vision, movement, language, and memory. The ballet is choreographed to both simulate and stimulate brain activity. Aspects of the performance also include video projection meant to hypnotize the spectator in correlation with the movement of the dancers. One portion of the performance asks the audience to focus on a point beside the stage and observe the activity of the performers in the periphery. At one point a dancer attempts to recite the number pi up to as much as 250 decimal points with movements corresponding to each particular digit. Music director Ryan Francis has put together a soundscape of cerebral music by Henri Dutilleux along with original music composed to correspond with the themes of the program.

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Dancers (L to R): Morgan McEwen, Jace Coronado, Abbey Roesner

It is a thoroughly thought-out and invested event of performance and spectatorship that poses questions as it proposes interpretations. Listen to the interview to hear the project’s directors and performers talk about the motivation for putting the ballet together, their own brain experiences in carrying it out, and their personal ideas on art and the human brain. It’s amazing.

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/Brodmann%20Areas.mp3]

Lucas Green

The Brodmann Areas, A new ballet from Norte Maar-

produced by Jason Andrew
directed and choreographed by Julia K. Gleich
musical direction by Ryan Francis
décor and costumes by Tamara Gonzales
with collaborating artists:
Paul D’Agostino
Lawrence Swan
Denis Pelli
Audra Wolowiec
Margo Wolowiec
and others

danced by Dylan Crossman, Michelle Buckley, Jace Coronado, Morgan McEwen, and Abbey Roesner

Apr 12-15, 2012

Center for Performance Research
361 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn

Directions: L Train to Graham Avenue (3rd Stop in Brooklyn). Exit right out of turnstile, Left down Graham Avenue, Left on Jackson Street, Right on Manhattan Avenue



An interview with Dee Dee Halleck from Paper Tiger Television

Citywide aims for progressive programming. We bring many people onto the show who stand to make a change in the world in whatever way they strive to do. This can take place in a number of different ways. Some of our guests are out there trying to improve conditions for less privileged parts of our society as well as spreading a humanitarian message, see our post on Immortal Technique. Some of our guests are actively trying to expand on what the human being can physically be, like recent guest Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. Some of our guests have represented a change itself in being an original artist, like Mykki Blanco who was on last month.

These are people our program has brought on for our audience to check out and have something different to think about. Paper Tiger Television, our feature this week, is another weekly program in the City which doesn’t just discuss the people who are doing progressive work this day, the people on the show itself have been pioneering and innovative since the show’s formation in 1981. PPTV recognizes that there must be an aggressive front to counter a mainstream media that is largely controlled by large corporations. Formed entirely by volunteers who share the concern of what control mass media has over today’s culture, PPTV has been one of the most consistent and driven organizations of people who insist that there be a source of criticism and information outside the commercial world.

I spoke with one of the founders of Paper Tiger Television, Dee Dee Halleck, who took me through some of the early years of the new form of media activism which PPTV represented at the beginning of the 1980s. It is important to note about PPTV that while that not only did they set a new precedent for activists trying to reach a mass audience, they also set an important precedent for the mediums of public cable television which was just emerging at the time. And while programs such as The Coca Crystal Show and Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party (“The TV party that could be a political party”) had already fought to claim the medium as one belonging to the people, PPTV ensured that the medium would balways be used to also speak for the people.

It’s an extraordinary organization that continues to do extraordinary work. Greatest of all is that they are always accepting volunteers. Check out their website and see what you think about the work they do; see if maybe you even want to help. You can also watch many of the programs tand documentaries they have produced. That’s right here.

PPTV is currently celebrating it’s 30 year anniversary with an exhibition at Fales Library at New York University. This is the exhibition’s website. Here is a video about the 30 year history of Paper Tiger Television-

Dee Dee Halleck also told me about a great new effort of hers to unite activists with similar causes around the world. Check out Deep Dish Waves of Change for more information about that. This program derives from another project of Dee Dee’s called Deep Dish TV, a similar organization to PPTV, doing with satellite what Paper Tiger did with cable television.

Dee Dee told me some wonderful stories herself. Check out the interview here-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/DeeDee%20Halleck.mp3]

Here is one of the first PPTV programs, Herb Schiller reads the New York Times-

Lucas Green



Genesis Breyer P. Orridge talks about Love

Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

A career in the creative arts sounds like paradise to most people. Very few of us alive today would say no to the life of a career rock star or bulletproof film actor. Lives which come free from accountability to any hierarchy or authority. At the very same time, just as few people would begrudge the gift of virtuosity in any art. Prodigious skill in and passion for a form of personal expression has the power to distill just about all exterior needs both social and physical. These are life-styles we dream of living because of the amount of freedom they entail. The person who is fluent in his craft and idolized for it seems to have the best of the world, unhampered by responsibility to anybody but himself.

Unfortunately, the likelihood of achieving either of these lifestyles is little to none and crossover between the two is so low as to be negligible. As such, modern society acculturates the individual to disregard the dream of true freedom by projecting images of truly free lifestyles only in the unattainable glory of the rich and the famous. Freedom becomes redefined on a baser level. The level at which freedom comes to be conceptualized with age is far far lower than the one presented at birth. It only takes a little bit of living to come to think that freedom is something that has to be earned rather than something everybody actually has all the time.

Personally, I know I am embittered in this paradigm. I would love to go about free-wheeling all over the place just as much as the best and worst of us, but a part of me feels certain that this is an unsustainable fantasy– that I must work for someone, and, so doing, earn the right to strategically fulfill my desires. If I were stopped on the street and asked what I could hope for that would improve my life in a realistic way, I (in my impending post-graduate ongoing fugue) would expound on the dream of getting a job doing something I love and that represents my soul like making movies or talking about them. Earning money making freelance videos or editorials appears the ideal lifestyle for me because I can keep afloat, have fun, and express myself in the way I am naturally inclined to.

This is an enormous problem for me and the rest of the world.

We all looks for ways to stay alive as long as possible while being the people we wish to be, performing the actions we wish to incite, producing the entities we wish to exist. And we fight for it in each our own way. The problem is that the fulfilling these drives, the catharsis of self-discovery and the true actualization of personal affixations gets confused with what we can produce and contribute to everyone else. For a lot of people, it is unsatisfying to act and behave naturally without the approval of others. For them it is almost impossible to achieve self-discovery and definitely impossible to achieve transcendence (either over the self or the system).

Consider then Genesis Breyer P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, PTV3, and the new documentary “The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye” (screening in New York now at Chelsea Clearview Cinemas). Genesis’s life is not contingent on opportunity or production, although (s)he is extremely prolific in a multitude of media. Rather, the life of Genesis is contingent on living and the confrontations life itself proposes such as identity, inspiration, experimentation, and (most powerfully) love.

Director Marie Losier with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

By most standards, breaking boundaries and experimenting entails a person inducing a new creation, product, or idea which may or may not illuminate new ontological possibilities. Genesis in this respect accomplished much in the realms of music, video, and performance, but (s)he also conducted a major experiment exploring what it is just to be a human being and what it is to love another. This is manifested in the mutual devotion of  Genesis and Lady Jaye who each felt so strongly for one another that they both underwent surgery to be more alike.

These two people weren’t trying to create something new for the rest of the world to try and appreciate. That would be a participation in a feedback system which places an intrinsic barrier on a person’s freedom. Rather, these two people were trying to be something new in order to fulfill their love for one another. They weren’t performing an experiment on the capacity of the human being to produce, they were performing an experiment on the capacity of the human being to fully exist.

Lady Jaye Breyer died in 2007, but Genesis Breyer P-Orridge continues living with the part of Lady Jaye (s)he had absorbed before Lady Jaye passed away. Both as individuals accomplished a great deal of art in their life time, but their greatest achievement is their love which no one else in this world will share, but which nonetheless makes the world a much better place. This is what needs to be talked about.

The film's director, Marie Losier, with an "amazon woman" accepting the Teddy Award for best documentary film

A new movie was recently released about the love of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Lady Jaye. It is called The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye and it is currently playing at Chelsea Clearview Cinemas in

New York City as well as many other places around the world. The film features interviews and archival footage of PTV3, Genesis, Lady Jaye, and their experiences touring and performing along the globe. The style and composition of the film itself is in line with the aesthetic and ideology embodied by this love story making its occasional moments of incoherency worthy of appreciation.Here is the interview I conducted with the director of the film, Marie Losier (a remarkable and ingenuitive film artist herself), as well as Genesis Breyer P-Orridge in person. Listen and hear us discuss how it was making this film in such dramatic and personal times along with an emotional first-hand account by Genesis of the stories (s)he experienced in the span of time the film covers. God it’s beautiful.

This is the interview-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/Genesis%20and%20Marie%20edited.mp3]

If you don’t feel like listening to the interview, listen to this song by Psychic TV. You’ll like it-

This is the trailer-

Lucas Green