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



Update: Land of Songs by Aldona Watts
August 27, 2012, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Film, Life! | Tags: , ,

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-

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Luke Green



Two Inspiring Projects We Think You Should Know About

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-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/land%20of%20songs_sedera.mp3]

this is the kickstarter

DETROPIA, something real

A still from Detropia

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
BONUS SCREENING!!!
Saturday, June 23rd @ 10:45pm

Nantucket Film Festival
Nantucket, Mass.
Thursday, June 21st @ 6pm
Friday, June 22nd @ 6:30pm

BAMcinemaFEST
Brooklyn, New York
Wednesday, June 27th @ 9:30pm
Q&A with Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing

Aspen Ideas Festival
Aspen, Colorado
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
Indianapolis, Indiana
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
Stamford, Connecticut
Wednesday, October 10th

Lucas Green



Extraterrestrial (Extraterreste), by Nacho Vigalondo
June 15, 2012, 2:08 am
Filed under: Film | Tags: , , ,

“Who is the extraterrestrial? who needs to leave at the end?” asks Nacho Vigalondo of the characters in his second feature film, Extraterrestrialpremiering this week at Brooklyn’s Gastropub theater on Friday, June 15th as well as online on demand. His film orbits around a cast of five players. It begins with a man and a woman in their late twenties waking up next to each other not remembering what they’d done the night before, much less the others’ names. Also, aliens have invaded and the city of Madrid seems to have been abandoned by all except a creepy neighbor, a passionate ex-boyfriend, and an ominous television broadcaster. Not much more can be said about the film’s plot as its twists are abundant to the point that it is impossible to guess what’s going to happen next at any given time. Still Vigalondo leaves enough reference points to allow a narratively complex film to flow fairly smoothly. Here’s how we review new and original filmmaking on Citywide-

Extraterrestrial stars Michelle Jenner and Julián Villagrán

If you like Science Fiction-

This movie is for you. That is, if you like Science Fiction for the right reasons. This isn’t a movie about aliens, or the future, or computers, or dystopias though this movie includes some aspect of just about all of those. Most Sci-Fi does without being about one or the other. These aspects that seem to characterize the Science Fiction “genre” are used to create unique social and metaphysical scenarios. Nacho Vigalondo does so in this movie. He uses the situation to isolate a set of characters into a scenario that asks the specific questions he chooses to ask. For instance, Nacho says “In this movie, characters find the advantages of Earth being invaded by aliens… [for instance], ‘Ok I’m in love with this girl, but she’s married, but now that there’s aliens everywhere you can find yours of having sex with her,” on the other hand, I want it to be realistic on this point… if you have a toothache and the end of the world comes, you still have a toothache.”
Nacho feels that Science Fiction is falsely classified as a genre. He remarks that belonging to a genre implies subscribing to a certain set of rules. As in, a Slasher film is a Slasher film because it involves a killer stalking a set of people with a knife. A Western is a Western because it contains cowboys and outlaws. In contrast, Science Fiction does not confine stories to rules, but is used to liberate stories from the laws of reality. Think Philip K. Dick (who Nacho actually attributes his beard and desire to go bald to). So, if you like this brand of Science Fiction, this movie is for you. However-

If you like alien invasion movies-

Check your expectations. Hype for Extraterrestrial might lead audiences to expect something like Monsters (2010), by Gareth Edwards or District 9 which adeptly combine sophisticated and original melodrama with sci-fi thriller action. Extraterrestrial has its share of explosions compared to your standard rom-com, but you will be disappointed if you come expecting non-stop action violence. That being said, this film is plenty rife with suspense. It doesn’t have to lean on the spectacle of special effects because of its many plot twists and unexpected events. A lesser director could try the same thing and have it seem contrived. Vigalondo creates a setting so outrageous and extreme, it seems pointless to question its believability.

If you like romantic comedies-

Though this is a Spanish film the jokes and romance do not get lost in translation. It’s a moving film, but its conceptual nature gives it a certain level of detachment. The inter-personal drama and humor in this movie are strong enough to keep it grounded.

If you have ever wanted the whole city to yourself-

You can inhabit this movie.

If you want to watch this movie-

June 15th-
Brooklyn, NY at the Gastopub Theater
Seattle, WA at the Uptown Theater

June 22nd-
North Hollywood, CA at Laemmle’s Noho 7

and throughout Alamo Drafthouse theaters in Texas through June.

However, if you do not live in any of these areas you can get a screening in your hometown through Tugg right here. Or you can watch it On Demand here.

If you like Nachos-

Here’s a guy named Nacho:

This is our interview:

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/Paul%20William.mp3]

Lucas Green



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



Calypso, a literary performance by Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies
May 3, 2012, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Art, Literature, Theater | Tags: , , , ,

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While I wish I could give this show the original write-up it deserves, I regret that school has sapped all my time away. Alas! Fortunately my interview with Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies, two original artists living and working in Brooklyn speaks for itself. It is evident from the way they speak about it that their new collaboration comes from deep thought and deep emotion. From talking to them, they got me excited for the deep thought and emotion I will feel as an audience member when they stage their performance of Calypso from May 9th to May 12th at The Bushwick Starr (207 Starr st.).

Calypso, written by Rome with music by Menzies and performed by both, weaves a narrative of modern romance in New York City evoking the classic myths in Homer’s The Odyssey and The Aeneid by Virgil, which have endured as Western Culture consistently finds itself confronting the same preoccupations they address. The ‘literary performance’ distills the art of oral story-telling in the way these ancient myths originally proliferated with the modern adaptations to the art we now see in popular story-based radio broadcasts like This American Life. Rome and Menzies present the rare opportunity for audiences to sit together and react together to live drama in a space that is designed to facilitate a quality listening experience without the awareness of the outside world. It stands apart from traditional appeal as the two performers present an extremely aesthetic that gives room for the spectator to imagine a drama in the most subjective way possible. If you love listening to stories on the radio, or podcasts, or having someone close read to you, imagine an environment that allows you to completely dive into and get absorbed by the story you’re hearing. Imagine also the added energy of the people around you sharing the same experience and the people on stage focused into delivering that experience in the best way possible. It’s a real treat.

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Image Paul Rome(above) and Roarke Menzies(below)

Further details about the story and the performance can be found on both Rome’s and Menzie’s websites. Listen to my talk with them to get even more interested-

[audio https://files.nyu.edu/ltg219/public/calypso.mp3]

Also, if you are interested in “The You Trilogy” which they mention in our conversation, you can listen to it here. I highly recommend it and it might just tell you what you have in store for you at Calypso.

Calypso – a literary performance by Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies

May 9-12, 2012 at 8:00 PM
Tickets: $10 in advance; $15 at the door
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/237333

The Bushwick Starr
207 Starr Street (btwn Wyckoff and Irving)
L Train to Jefferson Ave.

Calypso – a literary performance by Paul Rome and Roarke Menzies

May 9-12, 2012 at 8:00 PM
Tickets: $10 in advance; $15 at the door
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/237333

The Bushwick Starr
207 Starr Street (btwn Wyckoff and Irving)
L Train to Jefferson Ave.



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