Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall
89 East 42 St.
March 6-8, free
Just as Grand Central Terminal recently celebrated its centennial, Japan will commemorate the last one hundred years of its cultural heritage at the 2014 edition of Japan Week, held in GCT’s historic Vanderbilt Hall. Videos will take visitors to Kumamoto City, Emperor Nintoku’s Tomb in Sakai City, and the resort prefectures of Nagano and Niigata in addition to honoring the one hundredth anniversary of the Tokyo Philharmonic, which will be making its U.S. debut March 11 at Alice Tully Hall, conducted by Eiji Oue. There will also be a focus on Jewish refugees in Japan with the short documentaries Transit to Freedom, The Chiune Sugihara Story, and They Called It Heaven. A photo slideshow looks back one hundred years through the lens of T. Enami and others, and on Thursday at 2:25 and Friday at 2:15 you can try on traditional Japanese armor. Sake from fifteen regions will be available at a one-hundred-year-old Taisho-themed bar, an amezaiku artist will create folk sculptures out of candy, and exhibitors will be displaying the latest in Japanese watches, television, food, and tourism. Tribute will also be paid to Grand Central’s sister station, Tokyo Station, which turns one hundred this year. In conjunction with the festivities, Japanese Restaurant Week continues through March 16, with more than two dozen restaurants featuring special regional dishes, including Koi Soho (squid sashimi), Hakubai (Miyazaki beef), Megu New York (Kobe beef), Sakamai (black rice vinegar), Torishin (kishu bincho charcoal), Wasan (mizutaki), Sushiden (Edomae sushi), Restaurant Nippon (fugu), and Sushi Azabu (sea urchin).
In her bold, innovative works, California-born, New York–based choreographer Faye Driscoll explores ritual and relationships between the performers themselves as well as the audience. Anything can happen in Driscoll’s pieces, which have included such successes as You’re Me, 837 Venice Boulevard, and There is so much mad in me. Her latest work, Thank You for Coming, which makes its debut March 6–15 at Danspace, is the first of a trilogy — the working titles are “Dance,” “Play,” and “Space” — that continues her examination of the mind and body as well as society’s interconnectivity. An early version of “Dance” was presented last year as part of the 92nd St. Y’s “Stripped/Dressed” series, and it featured five performers locked together for much of the time; they also interacted with the audience directly.
Driscoll is also a master collaborator, working with a wide range of musicians, visual artists, designers, and theater directors. Last year she choreographed Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin’s “A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia),” and this year they return the favor by contributing their unique visual design to Thank You for Coming. “Nick and I have absolutely loved Faye’s work for a long time, and getting to collaborate with her on this process from such an early stage in development has been a pretty amazing experience,” Margolin explained. “It’s a process unlike any we’ve been a part of before and has led to some really unexpected and exciting stuff. It has been really eye opening in terms of what a process can be and what it can look like. It’s been inspiring watching as Faye unflaggingly chases rigor and perfection in material that still manages to feel spontaneous and organic.” (Nick and Jake’s new exhibition, “A Marriage: 2 (West-er),” runs March 8 – April 12 at the Invisible Dog in Brooklyn.) Driscoll discussed her process, collaboration, fundraising, and more a few days before Thank You for Coming was set to open.
twi-ny: You presented an early version of this work last year at the 92nd St. Y. How has it changed since then? I see that the dancers now include Alicia Ohs, who worked with you on You’re Me, and Sean Donovan, who made a guest appearance in Nick and Jake’s “A Marriage: 1 (Suburbia).”
Faye Driscoll: Yes, it’s funny because for me in some sense I think the Y version was complete in and of itself. But the cast shifted, designers got involved, and new ideas emerge and old ideas either went deeper or got thrown out. So you will still see the Y material, but hopefully it is also a totally new work. What’s exciting to me about this project is that it reflects my process of generating a lot of ideas and then evolving them into each other and making new iterations and offshoots that will continue forward into my next work — because it’s an interconnected series. With Thank You for Coming (the series) I have set up a process of producing work that reflects my process of creating work — which is often making things in excess, and with many possible versions — and in the meantime I am building a company of performers and designers around a long-term project.
twi-ny: Thank You for Coming continues your very direct relationship with the audience and your exploration of social experience and interconnectedness, both in title and execution. Why do you think you are so drawn to this aspect of performance?
FD: I think I have always been interested in performance as a ritual of expression, protest, transformation, and basically one gigantic act of mirroring with the performers and audience. I don’t buy this idea that in order to be socially engaged you have to adapt to a certain way of being; I think we are all socially engaged whether we like it or not — or maybe whether we choose to deal with it or not. I am not saying I am totally dealing with it in this work, but I am trying. I am trying through my own formal and aesthetic experiments to expand my perception of this interconnection, and maybe others will feel that or maybe they won’t.
twi-ny: In 2009, you were one of fifty artists chosen by the New Museum for its “Younger Than Jesus” triennial, and just recently you were named a Guggenheim Fellow. What was it like when you found out about the latter? What kind of impact has it had on you?
FD: I have been blushing all year from having gotten the Guggenheim. I feel so honored. It just makes me want to make my work stronger. There can be some internal pressure involved. But I have always felt pressure when I am making things; it’s just that I feel a little bit more visible now.
twi-ny: Like so many choreographers, you have turned to Kickstarter to help finance projects. What has that experience been like? Are you a good fundraiser?
FD: Please donate! That is what Kickstarter has done to me! Which maybe is an essential trait of a good fundraiser? The willingness to ask and keep asking without shame. Being a choreographer, you have to be it all — grant writer, fundraiser, administrator, stage manager, public speaker, floor sweeper. It’s truly exhausting. I think I am a better choreographer than I am any of the other hats I wear, but I try hard because it’s what the work needs. And I have more help now than I ever have and I am super grateful for that. Even though Kickstarter is extremely stressful, it’s also really amazing. We have more than two hundred people backing us — that feels pretty good. It takes the power out of some monolithic “funding entity” and into our own hands. But doing a Kickstarter campaign can seriously consume your life. I really want us to reach our goal — please back us! See, I’m obsessed.
twi-ny: You have collaborated with a wide range of artists, from Young Jean Lee and Nick and Jake to Taylor Mac and Cynthia Hopkins. What are the secrets of being a strong collaborator?
FD: I love collaborating with these people. I learn so much and it keeps me on my toes. I think being a good collaborator is having the willingness to serve the project, not just your ideas and tastes.
twi-ny: Do you have a dream collaborator?
FD: I am dying to work with Ann Hamilton.
twi-ny: In 2007, you told Feministing that in fifty years, you’d like to be remembered as a rebellious, honest, dangerous choreographer who had a lot of fun. How do you think you’re doing so far?
FD: Oh wow. I’m not sure. OK, I think Fun is my F word. I think it can be a big no-no in the avant-garde world. And honestly sometimes in my personal life I have a hard time relaxing. But in my work I have a lot of fun. Maybe because then I am taking fun seriously? Not sure. I think there is something in fun and play that is a kind of key to all transformation. And isn’t really good fun also a little bit dangerous?
(Ed. note: Advance tickets for Thank You for Coming are sold out, but there will be a wait list before every show beginning at 7:15. You can contribute to the production via Kickstarter here.)
In his 2013 autobiography, The Friedkin Connection, writer-director William Friedkin delves into his controversial 1980 film, Cruising, explaining, “I cut at least half an hour from the club scenes and the murder scenes. I had purposely let these scenes of pornography and violence run long, knowing they’d be cut and I’d be left with the story I wanted to tell. Despite these cuts, the film pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable in an R-rated film, something the critics were quick to point out.” Cruising, which stars Al Pacino as an undercover cop hunting a serial killer in New York City’s underground gay community, was a critical and financial flop; the Variety reviewer wrote, “If this is an R, then the only X left is actual hardcore.”
Cut to Interior. Leather Bar. Last year, James Franco and San Francisco filmmaker Travis Mathews (In Their Room) decided to re-create what the never-screened forty minutes of missing footage might have been like. Franco hired Val Lauren, who played Sal Mineo in Franco’s Sal, to take on the Pacino role, surrounded by a cast of leather-clad actors who were told to pretty much go wild, no holds barred. And they do, as Franco and Mathews show graphic gay sex and S&M. After one particularly intense scene, Lauren expresses his doubts to Franco. “You think that this should be in movies, that people should be able to see this?” he asks. “Sex should be a storytelling tool, but we’re so f$%king scared of it,” Franco answers enthusiastically. “Everybody talks about sex, but then, ‘Don’t dare put it in a movie.’” But Lauren, and Variety, is right; this kind of graphic sex, whether gay or straight, does not belong in an R-rated movie. Most of the sixty minutes of Interior. Leather Bar are spent showing how happy Franco is as he pushes the envelope proudly, pontificating on society’s morals and hang-ups, and how Lauren is questioning his decision to star in the film, talking things over with his wife on his cell phone. What might have been an intriguing concept at the start ends up being Franco’s Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo’s unwatchable 2003 film highlighted by real oral sex between him and former girlfriend Chloë Sevigny). The ubiquitous Franco can be sly, funny, and clever, especially with his own image — which includes a strong relationship with the gay community — but he’s truly annoying in Interior. Leather Bar, on a misguided, pointless mission that goes nowhere. The film is having its U.S. theatrical release March 5-13, being shown with Franco’s The Feast of Stephen and Mathews’s original I Want Your Love, as part of the IFC Center’s FrancoFest, consisting of features and shorts made by and/or starring Franco, in addition to a DCP projection of Cruising. Franco and Mathews will be on hand to discuss their collaboration following several screenings on March 5, 7, and 8.
Amy Lynn Zanetto goes full Jackson Pollock over an ex in the video for “Don’t Trip on the Glitter,” the second single from the upcoming debut album of the same name from Amy Lynn & the Gunshow, following their cover of the Shangri-Las’ “Remember (Walking in the Sand).” “Drink my wine / Sleep in my bed / Funny how / I kinda want you dead / No, I don’t want you dead / I want you out of my life / I’ve given you everything everything everything / But you still can’t get it right,” she forcefully sings while dancing and throwing paint. The soulful powerhouse vocalist and her brass-heavy six-piece band — arranger (and husband) Alex Hamlin on baritone sax, Jeff Hermanson on trumpet, Ed RosenBerg III on tenor sax, Michael Ross on drums, Ben Gallina on bass, and Brian Whitted on keyboards, along with “black-up” singers James Jackson and Ladiva Burns — are also joined by strings on several songs on the disc, due out April 29. The album, produced by Steve Greenwell, features such other tunes as “West Village Blues,” “Last Call,” “Can’t Put My Finger on It,” and “Dirty Mouth.” The New York City-based band will celebrate the release of the album with a special show May 8 at Joe’s Pub.