ASCENSION: A LIFTING OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING’S LEGACY ON THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF HIS ASSASSINATION
Who: Adepero Oduye, Amma Whatt, C. Kelly Wright, Kyle Marshall, Bertha Hope
What: An evening of live performances and tributes celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Where: Harlem Stage Gatehouse, 150 Convent Ave. at West 135th St., 212-281-9240 ext. 19
When: Wednesday, April 4, free with RSVP, 7:30 & 8:45
Why: On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, altering the course of America’s future. Harlem Stage is honoring Dr. King’s legacy with a special program on April 4, 2018, the fiftieth anniversary of his murder. At 7:30 and 8:45, singer-songwriter Amma Whatt, actress, singer, and dancer C. Kelly Wright, dancer and choreographer Kyle Marshall (a solo piece set to Dr. King’s “On the Mountaintop” speech), actress, writer, and director Adepero Oduye (an excerpt from “The Drum Major Instinct”), and jazz pianist Bertha Hope will perform a tribute to MLK and Harlem, built around one of MLK’s most famous quotes, putting it into contemporary context: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Nothing is unimaginable in the fabulous world of Jack Ferver, the creator of such unique and unpredictable multidisciplinary works as Rumble Ghost, Two Alike, Chambre, Night Light Bright Light, and I Want You to Want Me. So the name of his latest piece, Everything Is Imaginable, debuting April 4-7 at New York Live Arts, makes perfect sense in his oeuvre. The Wisconsin-born actor, writer, dancer, choreographer, teacher, and director delves deep into his psyche and love of pop culture to tell compelling, tragicomic stories, teaming up with talented collaborators. In Everything Is Imaginable, Ferver has brought together five queer performers to explore gender, sexuality, love, and loss through personal tales as well as those of five other public figures while paying homage to Martha Graham.
Ferver will be joined by Graham principal dancer Lloyd Knight, American Ballet Theater principal James Whiteside, dancer and actor Garen Scribner (An American in Paris, Nederlands Dans Theater), and dancer and costume designer and Ferver regular Reid Bartelme (of Reid and Harriet Design), each of whom will get a solo that relates to their childhood as well as their role models. The scenic and sound design is by visual artist Jeremy Jacob. “The queer ‘I’ is a shattered ‘I,’” Ferver said in a statement. “The queer is not only told they are unnatural but that they have chosen to be so. The result of this shattering creates a slipperiness of self, an ability to coalesce into a performance without a center. This fragmentation, this relentless brokenness that continuously seeks stability and fails, is very much inside my work.” Ferver has a rabid fan base, so get your tickets now. And for a peek at what else he is been up to of late, check out JbDubs’ very NSFW “Duck Hunt” video, which was choreographed by Ferver and Whiteside and stars Ferver. (The April 5 performance of Everything Is Imaginable will be followed by a Stay Late Conversation with the performers.)
It’s not exactly clear when Joanna Kotze’s What will we be like when we get there begins and ends — at a talkback moderated by Okwui Okpokwasili following the March 29 performance, one audience member said she wasn’t sure if the show was still going on. Such is the mystery, magic, madness, and mayhem of this world premiere, taking place at New York Live Arts through March 31. South Africa-born, Brooklyn-based dancer, choreographer, and teacher Kotze kicks off the evening by pointing out the exits, telling the audience to turn off their cell phones, and describing the origins of this collaboration with visual artist Jonathan Allen, sound designer, composer, and musician Ryan Seaton, and dancer and choreographer Netta Yerushalmy. However, Kotze’s speech starts hesitating as she drifts toward the floor, holding the microphone stand in awkward positions. Yerushalmy comes out and lies down on her side at the front of the stage, facing the back. Seaton pushes a heavy piano back and forth, perhaps a reference to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s Un Chien Andalou. Allen lays orange gaffer’s tape from a ladder onto other objects as well as on the floor, creating new physical spaces in the air and on the ground. Seaton (Callers) plays electronic music from a laptop, then runs to a saxophone or grabs a clarinet and plays it. Allen (whose related paintings, “Knowing That Your House Is on Fire,” are on view in the lobby) gets continually knocked over by Yerushalmy (Paramodernities), who, after a long period hiding her face, finally reveals herself to the crowd but later teases it with potential nudity. Kotze jumps onto an empty chair in the audience and takes a breather on the steps. Allen collects nearly everything not bolted down — folding chairs, a cart, monitors, mechanical equipment — and moves it to the middle of the stage, as if a Wizard of Oz-like cyclone is scooping up whatever is in its path. For seventy-five minutes, with the house lights on, the four friends engage in a series of set pieces exploring connection and communication in a stormy world, incorporating large doses of absurdity and humor. Bessie winner Kotze (FIND YOURSELF HERE; It Happened It Had Happened It Is Happening It Will Happen) takes advantage of every part of the New York Live Arts Theater, immersing the audience in the vast unpredictability of life in the twenty-first century through an exhilarating controlled chaos. The quartet eventually stands together and bows, but a day later I’m still not sure it’s over, as Kotze alludes to in the title of this thrilling work.
Joanna Kotze has been dancing in New York since 1998 and creating her own works since 2009, collaborating with a wide range of artists and performing virtually nonstop. The South Africa-born, Brooklyn-based dancer, choreographer, and teacher will be at New York Live Arts this week with her latest commission, the interdisciplinary What will we be like when we get there, running March 28-31. The piece, part of the New York Live Arts Live Feed residency program, has been developed at the Sedona Arts Center, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council on Governors Island, Bennington College, Jacob’s Pillow, the 92nd Street Y, the Milvus Artistic Research Center, and other locations around the world and now will make its world premiere in Manhattan. The interdisciplinary work, inspired by the 2016 presidential election and exploring personal connections impacted in the wake of that, was conceived and directed by Kotze (FIND YOURSELF HERE; It Happened It Had Happened It Is Happening It Will Happen) and choreographed and performed by Bessie Award winner Kotze, visual artist Jonathan Allen, sound designer, composer, and musician Ryan Seaton, and dancer and choreographer Netta Yerushalmy; the lighting is by Kathy Kaufmann. The March 28 performance will be followed by a discussion with Allen about his lobby exhibition of related paintings, “Knowing That Your House Is on Fire,” on view March 26 through April 13; the March 29 performance will feature a Stay Late Conversation moderated by Okwui Okpokwasili; and the March 31 show will be followed by live music curated by Seaton.
Legendary interdisciplinary artist Meredith Monk offers a brief prologue to her latest evening-length work, Cellular Songs, with an audiovisual installation in the lobby at the BAM Harvey Theater. Five small monitors, side by side and just about at eye level, show five women (the primary cast of Cellular Songs) uttering sounds as the camera cuts from facial close-ups to just their mouths and to X-rays of the human brain and hand. It serves as an aperitif to the main course, a gorgeous seventy-five-minute piece incorporating experimental sound, movement, video, and lighting. The show begins with a film by Katherine Freer of five enormous hands projected on the stage floor, touching and clutching fingers. Monk then walks out with four members of her Vocal Ensemble, Ellen Fisher, Katie Geissinger, Allison Sniffin, and Jo Stewart, all dressed in loose-fitting white and beige costumes by Yoshio Yabara, who also designed the environment, which features several chairs, a piano in one corner, and a small pile of white clothes near the back. Individually and as a unit, the five women vocalize sounds that form unique rhythms, complemented by their movement, which includes lying on the floor, gathering around the piano, and sitting in a circle, holding hands. Joe Levasseur’s lighting goes from individual and group spots to bathing the production in reds and blues. In the program, Monk explains, “Some of the pieces have much more dissonance and chromatic kind of harmonies, and the forms are almost like three-dimensional sculptures. Earlier, my music had much more to do with layering. Now you can almost see or hear the piece rotating as if it were a sculpture in space, though it’s just a musical form.”
Cellular Songs is a follow-up to the environmentally conscious On Behalf of Nature and was inspired by Siddartha Mukherjee’s Pulitzer Prize–winning book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The seventy-five-year-old New York City native has taken the concept of the cell as both healthy and unhealthy biological unit and applied it to music, as if each note is a cell. The majority of the utterances by the five performers are just sounds, although at one point Monk (Songs of Ascension, Vessel) sings the song “Happy Woman,” in which she repeats “I’m a happy woman” over and over again, along with some other adjectives replacing “happy.” The work is about transcendence and connection, about the life cycle of birth, life, and death, as revealed when the Vocal Ensemble is joined by ten members of the Young People’s Chorus of New York City; the fifteen girls and women split into three sets of five by age, each group in slightly different costumes. As Monk also explains in the program, “As artists, we’re all contending with what to do at a time like this. I wanted to make a piece that can be seen as an alternative possibility of human behavior, where the values are cooperation, interdependence, and kindness, as an antidote to the values that are being propagated right now.” Cellular Songs is a multimedia celebration of hope in a deeply troubled era, offering tired souls the opportunity to immerse themselves in a uniquely uplifting aural and visual landscape that is free of sentimentality or rage, instead a place for contemplation, harmony, and more than a little magic.
Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
Edmond J. Safra Plaza, 36 Battery Pl.
December 25 - January 1, $25
In 2006, the original orchestrations for Kurt Weill’s 1922 Zaubernacht, his first work for the stage, was found after eighty years, lost when Weill fled Nazi Germany in 1933 and then found in a locked Yale safe. The children’s pantomime for solo soprano and chamber orchestra was last performed in New York in 1925, so it should be a treat to see the family-friendly tale when it is revived March 14, 15, and 18 by Jody Oberfelder Projects and the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. New York-based choreographer Oberfelder, whose 4Chambers and The Brain Piece explored the human heart and brain, respectively, now turns to the world of children as a fairy brings toys to life and characters emerge from fairy tales in what might or might not be a dream. “I’ve devised a fresh fairy tale, told through the lens of a child, about overcoming darkness, developing resilience, and finding one’s place in the world,” Oberfelder said in a statement. The Lower Manhattan-based Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra, now in its tenth anniversary season, returns to the Battery Park City museum after 2012’s “Music for the Tempest Tost: A Tribute to Emma Lazarus,” 2013’s “Banished Genius: Emigre Composers in America,” and 2014’s “Pièces de Résistance: Music Celebrating the Polish Spirit.” The seventy-five-minute Zaubernacht features a nine-piece instrumental ensemble and a troupe of dancers performing such sections as “Lier der Fee,” “The Kitchen Stove Enters,” “The Children Awaken,” and “The Tumbler.”
Eclectic New York City multidiscplinary artist Meredith Monk will unveil her latest work this week at BAM, presenting the world premiere of Cellular Songs at the Harvey March 14-18. The multimedia performance comprises voice, movement, light, site-specific video installation, instrumental music, and film; Monk, who made her BAM debut in 1976 with Quarry and was last at the Brooklyn institution in 2014 with On Behalf of Nature, will be joined by four members of her Vocal Ensemble, Ellen Fisher, Katie Geissinger, Allison Sniffin, and Jo Stewart in her Monk debut. The seventy-five-minute piece, which examines humanity’s interdependence with nature in a tech-driven world, features costumes and scenography by Yoshio Yabara, lighting by Joe Levasseur, sound design by Eli Walker, and video design by Kate Freer. Cellular Songs follows On Behalf of Nature, which Monk calls “a meditation on what we’re in danger of losing”; the new work is inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddartha Mukherjee. Speaking about the new work at Jim Hodges’s Queenslab last June, Monk, equating human cells to musical cells, says, “I started thinking that I was going deeper into On Behalf of Nature, going way inside the body but also from microcosm all the way to the universe to macrocosm, so it’s really that contrast and also between organic forms and the individual human beings and those realms.” You can get a sneak peek at Monk & Vocal Ensemble rehearsing Cellular Songs at Abrons Arts Center here.