Wednesday, May 20, 2015

6 QUESTIONS: Megan & Jessica Kennedy (Junk Ensemble)


Founding Artistic Directors of Junk Ensemble, Megan Kennedy and Jessica Kennedy, bring their acclaimed DUSK AHEAD to The Ellen Stewart Theatre as part of the 10th Anniversary of La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival. Megan and Jessica took time out of tech rehearsals to answer our 6 Questions - and in sisterly fashion, each answered three questions:

1. What was the original inspiration for DUSK AHEAD?


Jessica: Dusk Ahead is inspired by the twilight hour when day crosses into night. The French have a saying: 'L'heure entre chien et loup' meaning the hour between dog and wolf. We were interested in transformations - to cross the line from safe to wild. We wanted to attempt to re-create this mysterious moment within live theatre - through lighting, strong visuals, imagery and choreography. Another fascination of ours is attachment, which features heavily in the piece. The performers are attached to each other and to various objects throughout the piece, exposing the inter-dependency, need and also the aggression that we have as humans. This also parallels the visual setting of hundreds of golden strings pulled taut across the stage, attached to other strings.

We were also interested in visibility, and in creating a constructed lighting where sure if what they seeing is real or imagined. The performers are blindfolded at points during the show, highlighting the vulnerability and instability contained within all of us. There is also a representation of self-imposed or deliberate blindness, where one makes a decision to not see/hear the truth and instead prefers to remain in the dark.

2. How is DUSK AHEAD different from your previous work?


Megan: Dusk Ahead is a very different departure for us in terms of our process and our work. We decided to focus on creating a distinct arc throughout the show that doesn't necessarily peak at the end of the show as in much of our previous work. We wanted this arc to reflect the content of the show - day turning into dusk and dusk melting into night - that moment when you realise your eyes are failing you and nothing is perceptibly as before. We collaborated closely with the composer Denis Clohessy, who wrote much of the musical score before we went into rehearsals. This is quite different to how we normally work, whereby we create the choreographic material in the studio with the performers and the sound designer/composer comes into rehearsals and works the design around the material. With Dusk Ahead, we came into rehearsals with a large chunk of the score already written. This informed the work in a completely different manner and became another performer in itself, instead of the music slotting into what the choreography requires. This was also enhanced by working with a cellist on the musical score, who came into rehearsals at an early stage and made the composition exist on a different level.

3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working with your twin sister?


Megan: There are certainly both of these! Because we have known each other since the womb, we have a deep understanding of each other and do not need to verbally communicate much of what we think. We have a shorthand to our working methods when we're in the studio and are usually on the same page when it comes to initial concepts for our shows or artistic decisions during the process. When it comes to minor decisions like time fades during a show, we bicker like an old married couple. We often have disagreements during a creative process but we drop them quickly without holding a grudge and have got a lot better about keeping it out of the rehearsal space and in front of the cast. The composer for Dusk Ahead, who coincidentally is also a twin and inherently understands our relationship, once jokingly said to us that we should go to polite school. I think he's right.

4. Who has influenced you?


Jessica: It might be easier to say who HASN'T influenced us. We can be inspired by many sources, which include art house film and drunken rowdy people on the street. We often reference literature, film and photography in our work. Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson continues to be an influence on our work. His films tend to deal with what it is to be a human being. We are also influenced by the films of David Lynch and various Russian novelists. Pina Bausch tends to sneak in there also.

For Dusk Ahead, we looked at films Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano), Inland Empire (David Lynch), Sans Solei (Chris Marker) and Intacto (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo). Our literary references were Transparent Things by Vladimir Nabokov, Blindness by Jose Saramago and The Mind's Eye by Oliver Sacks. We also studied the photography of Gregory Crewdson, Diane Arbus and Sally Mann.

We also studied people on the street - their characteristics and individual physicality. Megan and I had a residency in Dance City in Newcastle, U.K. for Dusk Ahead. We went out on a Saturday night and were in amazement at the raw, brute, physical (alcohol-induced) movements of the people on the street. The women in particular were doing some impressive physical feats (which they most likely were not aware of doing). Their movements were almost acrobatic, and also brazen and fearless, with an underlying edge of violence. We have tried to replicate some of those movements (and the feeling) within the piece.

5. What was the last good book you read?


Jessica: The last good book I read was my father's manuscript (third draft) called Fossil Light (Dennis Kennedy). He also wrote the lyrics for the songs in Dusk Ahead. I have almost finished reading What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander and just before that I read the beautiful incomplete book, The Original of Laura (Vladimir Nabokov).

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?


Megan: Working at La MaMa is a wonderful experience for us. I have come to shows in the theatre for many years - having trained at Alvin Ailey in New York - and always enjoyed the atmosphere of the theatre which extends from the staff, to the incredibly varied and intriguing shows that are presented here, and the artists I have met along the way at La MaMa. What I love most about La MaMa is the lack of fear in the shows they choose to present, with a look towards risk and beauty and vital things that need to be said. 

Performing Dusk Ahead at La MaMa feels like a perfect fit to the experimental, supportive glove that is La MaMa, who truly understand and respect the artist. We hope to come back again.




La MaMa and Irish Arts Center present
DUSK 
AHEAD
by Junk Ensemble

Part of the 2015 La MaMa Moves Dance Festival

May 21 - 24, 2015
Thursday - Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 4pm

Tickets: $25 Adults; $20 Students/Seniors; ten $10 tickets available for every performance, advance sales only, while they last! 

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Behind The Scenes: DUSK AHEAD by Junk Ensemble



La MaMa and Irish Arts Center present
DUSK AHEAD
by Junk Ensemble

La MaMa and Irish Arts Center present
DUSK 

AHEAD
by Junk Ensemble

Part of the 2015 La MaMa Moves Dance Festival

May 21 - 24, 2015
Thursday - Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 4pm

Tickets: $25 Adults; $20 Students/Seniors; ten $10 tickets available for every performance, advance sales only, while they last! 

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

Friday, May 15, 2015

6 QUESTIONS: Andrea Assaf


The is the final weekend of performances for Eleven Reflections on September at The First Floor Theater @ La MaMa.  We got to ask Andrea Assaf six questions about the show and her work!

1. What was the original inspiration for Eleven Reflections on September?

In September 2001, I was a New Yorker. On September 11th, I happened to be in Washington, DC -- where I saw the smoke rising from the Pentagon before I watched the Twin Towers collapse on the news. My apartment, back in New York, was on 13th St., below the line, so I couldn't return home until the 17th. I lived near Union Square, which, as I'm sure you remember, was a hot bed of demonstrations, memorials, reporters, police... I was daily confronted with my city mourning, my identity as an Arab American, the smell and ash... At some point, I needed to write. Writing is my way of process, of expressing intense emotion, of healing myself. For a decade, I was writing and collecting poems about this: the experience of 9/11, the wars that the US is currently involved in, directly or indirectly (Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, Somalia, Pakistan), the contradictions of identity, the many ways violence manifests in everyday life. In 2011, through the support of a Princess Grace Award, I had the opportunity to pull these pieces together into a full-length theatre work, commissioned by Pangea World Theater. And that's how the project began.

2. What do you hope that audiences will come away from the show with?

A heart-centered experience, and a new way of talking about the impact of war. Perhaps new perspectives, new ideas, they hadn't considered before. Unanswered questions. The motivation to care about what our nation is doing in the world, beyond our borders. A seed of hope. And the inspiration to take action, no matter how small, to make the world a more peaceful place.

3. How has the piece evolved as you have been working on it?

When I first began developing the theatre production, based on the poems, it was Spring 2011. The first version ended in a very heavy place, with the disentigration of poetry and identity, into a kind of linguistic shrapnel -- the piece we now call "Judgment." But when the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt began, I knew immediately that I had to imagine a new ending -- that the Arab world was entering a new era of possibility, as the "Arab Spring" was just beginning. I had the feeling, in 2011, that something was being reconstructed… As the struggle for liberation raged across the region, the spirit of fire and hope continued to be felt in the lingering vibrations of Tahrir Square. In the 2011 version, the show ended with Tahrir. But as I came back to this work in 2015, to create the New York premiere, I knew once again that I need to create another ending, to address the complexities, and sometimes horrors, of revolution, or at least to suggest that we don't know the ending yet ... As a work built to be responsive to current events, it is always evolving.

4. Do you think of your work as political?

Absolutely, it is political. When you are a racialized body, there is no escaping the political. As Arab Americans, people of Middle Eastern descent, we have been irrevocably politicized, whether we like it or not, as a result of U.S. policies in the Middle East, tragedies such as 9/11, the on-going wars, and the mainstream media's sensationalist response to it all. To the extent that I am recognized as Arab, I experience the consequences of our nation's racism and xenophobia that is directed toward Arabs. So when I write poetry, which is a very intimate form, it necessarily has political dimensions. I'm also a queer woman of color. So whether I write about love or war, well, it's still political. And this project especially, Eleven Reflections on September, is very consciously, intentionally taking on the political dimension.

5. Who has inspired you?
Dora Arreola, Artistic Director of Mujeres en Ritual Danza-Teatro, has definitely inspired me. She is a brilliant director, choreographer and performer, whom I've had the honor of working with, on various projects, since 2001. I have learned so much from her over the years, it's hard to imagine how my work as a theatre artist without her inspiring and highly disciplined influence, especially in terms of movement aesthetics, and the visual dimensions of directing. Dora is an exceptional artist, who brings a global vision to everything she does.

I've also been very inspired by Suheir Hammad. In 2008, I had the incredible honor of directing her in a stage production titled breaking letter(s), based on her as-yet-unpublished writing that became the book breaking poems, a genius work which won an American Book Award in 2009. It was an extraordinary experience, spending intimate time with her poetry and her process, and I think it influenced me deeply. Our aesthetics are different, and many of the poems in Eleven Reflections on September had already been written, but directing that piece with Suheir gave me an opportunity to explore the relationship between text, media and movement that continues to be of interest to me in Eleven Reflections...

I'm also incredibly inspired by the collaborating artists have worked on Eleven Reflections... and contributed their brilliance to this work -- particularly Aida Shahghasemi, who's been performing with me since 2011, and has profoundly influenced this work deeply. Her voice has a purity that touches people, on a soul level, and it's very moving -- even to me, after all these performances together, every time. And all the musicians who have worked on this project -- Tim O'Keefe and Salah Abdel Fattah who originally developed the music in Minneapolis in 2011, and Eylem Basaldi and Natalia Perlaza, who have reinvented it with such skill and wonder for the NYC production. And of course, Pramila Vasudevan, who worked so closely with me to develop the conceptual landscape of this piece, as we were creating the video design. Our fabulous sound designers, Owen Henry and Keegan Fraley. And in this newest version, the incredible contribution that Donna Mejia has made, with her gorgeous stage presence, and deep knowledge of Arab and North African movement vocabulary and aesthetics -- her collaboration has taken this work to another level of beauty and embodiment. All of these artists impact the way I understand the work, the way I perform it, and ultimately, the vision we create together.

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
It's incredibly meaningful for me to perform at La MaMa. I first moved to New York City in 1991, and the East Village has always been my neighborhood. I've been going to see remarkable performances at La Mama since I was 18 years old. I also had the honor of meeting and speaking with Ellen Stewart's on a few occasions, and witnessed her extraordinary, epic production of Romeo and Juliet. I've also had the great fortune of visiting La MaMa Umbria, for the International Directors Symposium. I've worked with resident artists Potri Ranka Manis and Ping Chong, and there are so many artists I love here. Rehearsing at 47 Great Jones is like coming home. To now be an artist presenting work at La MaMa, here in New York ... is like growing up, coming full circle, coming into my own. It's deeply gratifying, and I'm honored to be here.



La MaMa presents
ELEVEN 
REFLECTIONS 
ON SEPTEMBER
Written & directed by Andrea Assaf
Live music by Aida Shahghasemi & Guest Artists
Choreography created & performed by Donna Mejia

Now - May 17, 2015 - FINAL WEEKEND!

The First Floor Theatre @ La MaMa
74A East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)

Tickets: $18 Adults; $13 Students/Seniors; ten tickets priced at $10 available for every performance - in advance only - while they last!

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

FEN Magazine Talks to Andrea Assaf

FEN Magazine contributor, Rhonda Elhosseiny spoke to Andrea Assaf, whose Eleven Reflections on September runs at The First Floor Theatre at La MaMa through Sunday, May 17th:

"Any advice for aspiring Arab-American artists?Speak your truth. If we don’t tell our stories, no one else will. In any form – writing, acting, dance, find what you want to say most deeply in your core and everything else and the how will follow… Find your allies, people that genuinely support your work and not play into the stereotypes."

Read the full article: HERE



La MaMa presents
ELEVEN 
REFLECTIONS 
ON SEPTEMBER
Written & directed by Andrea Assaf
Live music by Aida Shahghasemi & Guest Artists
Choreography created & performed by Donna Mejia

April 30 - May 17, 2015 

The First Floor Theatre @ La MaMa
74A East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)

Tickets: $18 Adults; $13 Students/Seniors; ten tickets priced at $10 available for every performance - in advance only - while they last!

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

GLOBAL PLAYWRITING CONTEST 2015


Philippine Center of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) is sponsoring a Global Playwriting Contest 2015 on Confronting Climate Change and Defying Disasters. Everyone is eligible to enter: "We cannot resolve party unless we address the global warming Armageddon." The project is a contribution for the commemoration of the   70th anniversary of UNESCO It has been conceived to demonstrate the immense value of a cultural communications ingredient as a force for education in popularizing scientific data in symbols people can understand and relate to as well as provide a conscienticizing platform to help forge the collective will for the crucial global deal in Paris.to prevent the irreversible threshold of 2°degree centigrade of devastation. 

Here are the rules of the contest:


1.     Everyone is eligible to join the “Global Playwriting Contest 2015 on Confronting Climate Change and Defying Disasters”. We cannot resolve party unless we address the global warming Armageddon.

2.     Each entry must focus on the theme of climate change linked to promoting a mindset for disaster prevention and reduction. A short paragraph should be appended to the entry, identifying and describing the climate change issue including m portrait of generating the will to build disaster risk reduction mindset and resilience in communities that is tackled in the play.   There are many evident happenings throughout the world as a rich resource for entries to have a reality based experience for dramatic compelling storytelling with lessons learned to gain a safer healthier sustainable future for our children

3.     The term “climate change” is defined the way it is defined in Article 1 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), namely, change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.” As explained by UNESCO, “Carbon dioxide and other gases in Earth’s atmosphere act like a greenhouse moderating the temperatures we experience. These warm the surface of the planet naturally by trapping solar heat in the atmosphere. This is a good thing because it keeps our planet habitable. However, by burning fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil and clearing forests we have dramatically increased the amount of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere and temperatures are rising.”  The UN 3rd Conference on Disaster Reduction was just held in Sendai. The declaration and results of the inclusive management concerns and building of resilient cities are accessible in the UNISDR web.  Likewise, the web notes of UNESCO on education for sustainable development will be interesting briefers for participants. Other sources are UNEP and IPCC. 

4.     Each play may be written by one or more playwrights. In case there is more than one playwright, a written statement signed by each contributing playwright should accompany the entry, certifying that each playwright will get an equal share of the cash award, if the play wins.

5.     The title of the play, the name/s and contact information (email address, mobile phone number, and mailing address) of the playwright or playwrights, and the estimated playing time on stage should be indicated on the first page of each entry. A scanned copy of the contestant’s passport or other identification card (containing name and address) should accompany the entry; in case there are two or more playwrights, scanned copies of their passports or identification cards should be attached.

6.     Each play should run for at least 30 minutes but not more than 45 minutes without intermission on a stage. There is no limitation on the type of stage to be used. If it will not be a proscenium stage, there should be an indication in the page that describes the setting of the play.  The drama can integrate lyrics if there is music composition required. It can also include in the stage instructions if mixed media is used, the necessary visuals desired.

7.     There will be one (1) prize for the best play focusing on defying disasters. The prize of Five Thousand US Dollars (USD 5,000.00) will be given by the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDRR) headed by Dr. Margaret Wahlstrom, the special representative, of Secretary-General Ban ki moon.
8.     The criteria for choosing the winning play are: 50% quality of writing and 50% accuracy and effectiveness of the twin message of confronting climate change and generating resilient and disaster prepared communities.
The winning play will be given to every member country of the United Nations, for staging on stage or adaptation to radio, television, and/or film through the mechanism of dissemination of information via the UNESCO National Commissions through the cooperation of the office of the UNESCO Director-General, Dr. Irina Bokova. It will be accessible for replication through the network of UNESCO associated schools and the UNESCO Assembly of Goodwill Ambassadors and Artists for Peace.

10.  The copyright to the winning entry will remain with the playwright or playwrights. The project is organized through the Philippine center of the international theatre institute and ITI-CIDC Social Action Network and the Earthsavers-UNESCO Artist for Peace under the direction of Cecile Guidote-Alvarez.

11.  Notwithstanding Rule 10, the playwright or playwrights will allow the International Theatre Institute (ITI) to stage the play (live on stage) for one performance each in each United Nations member country without payment of royalties. The playwright or playwrights will allow the staging and or dramatic reading of the play at a United Nations and/or UNESCO event without payment of royalties. The playwright or playwrights will allow ITI Philippines to premiere the play on radio with live Web streaming, without payment of royalties, in Filipino translation. Subsequent performances, as well as radio, television, and film productions, have to pay royalties to the playwright or playwrights. Similarly, all translation rights belong to the playwright or playwrights and any translation into languages other than that or those of the original play needs explicit written permission from the playwright or playwrights to be done, except in the case of ITI Philippines, as provided above.

12.  Each entry can be written in any language or combination of languages, but plays not in English should be accompanied by an English translation of the entire text.

13.  Each entry (in pdf form) must be received on or before noon of 30 August 2015 (Manila TimeS) by email to isaganicruz@gmail.com. ITI Philippines Secretary General or by postal service stamped august 30 . Send to: 
     ITI-Earthsavers UNESCO DREAM Center
     Gotesco Twin Towers B, Unit 1203
     Natividad Lopez St. ,Ermita 
     Manila, Philippines


14.  The project is a contribution for the commemoration of the   70th anniversary of UNESCO It has been conceived to demonstrate the immense value of a cultural communications ingredient as a force for education in popularizing scientific data in symbols people can understand and relate to as well as provide a conscienticizing platform to help forge the collective will for the crucial global deal in Paris.to prevent the irreversible threshold of 2°degree centigrade of devastation. It is  also meant to call attention  on the dynamic possibilities of applying effectively an arts based psycho social  therapy to heal trauma of victims and refugees of disaster as part of recovery and reconstruction efforts to address the mental health of survivors.  It aims to harness a creative army of artists concerned to help confront the global challenge of survival of mankind and Mother Earth.

15.  The winner will be announced on October 15, 2015.   Dramatic reading of the winning play is being arranged through the UNFCCC secretariat headed by Ms.  Christiana Figueres, at a  side event exhibit in COP21 as part of a continuing Tri-Continental  South-South Intercultural Interfaith Dialogue on Defying Disasters. Co-convened by the Philippines, Colombia and Kenya coordinated through the Earthsavers UNESCO DREAM Center, Ocean Security International and Climate Institute.

16.  The awards will be given in appropriate ceremonies at a proposed side event at COP21. If not in the home country of the winning playwright or, in the case of several playwrights, in the home country of the first playwright listed on the title page of the play.

17.  The decision of the board of judges is final and unappealable.

18.  The board of judges is composed of Isagani R. Cruz of ITI Philippines (chair), a representative of ITI Director-General or president through the International Playwrights Forum (IPF), The board of judges for content consultation and dissemination of rules will be assisted by UNESCO, UNEP, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), and the Office of Commissioner Heherson Alvarez of the Philippine Climate Change Commission.