Thursday, October 31, 2013

Artist Interview: Nath Ann Carrera / Queer New Music Series

Nath Ann Carrera / Death to the Patriarchal Rape Heads

Saturday, November 2nd – 10:00pm / The Club at La MaMa

Queer New York International Arts Festival / New Music Series 2013
An Interview with NATH ANN CARRERA by Katherine Cooper for
La MaMa’s QUEER NEW MUSIC SERIES:
What does queer mean to you right now?
I had my queer coming of age through gender and sexually variant, non-essentialist, amoral, radical lesbian separatism. I made a poster for class that said, “Abort Male Fetuses!” and wrote a short play about throwing men into bonfires when they were misogynistic and homophobic. My position is now “Abort Cisgender Male Fetuses!”
Can you tell me a formative moment from childhood?
Seeing my grandmother on stage snorting poppers in a Carmen Miranda outfit as the Mother Superior.
Who are your musical and theatrical heroes?
A musical contender would be Bobbie Gentry who wrote and produced psychological Southern Gothic character studies, sang about cruising female strippers, go-go danced on cellophane water, railed against sexual and moralistic double standards, and performed with genderfuck dancers in matching dresses in her self-conceptualized Las Vegas show, before arranging a successful self-disappearance. Theatrically, Barbara Stanwyck who played a card shark, a dancer hiding out supplying research studies for encyclopedia entries on “sex” and “slang,” a bank robber in a lesbianic women’s prison, broke bottles over men’s heads before taking a drink, and indifferently watched her father burn to death in a whiskey still fire before hitting the big city.
You are a poet, musician, DJ and performer. Did you start performing in one specific genre or have you always been a hybrid artist?
I started singing with my mother down at the local bowling alley, around age 10, between her stints with bands like “Uncle Bubba and the Charred Remains.” My interest in writing, playing guitar, piano, and drums, and performing came together around the same time a few years later by bedroom, band, and stage. I started DJing a few years ago doing WOAHMONE with Savannah Knoop and Nica Ross where, through era and genre spanning vinyl and monthly collage, and without a cultural reference after 1980, I have thematic overlap.
Please tell me about your hairpieces. They are amazing.
Thanks! I used to borrow my white feather hat from my friend James Caperton when I played toms toms and tambourine in his band THE JUDY EXPERIENCE in San Francisco. It hung above his dresser altar between a rattlesnake skin and a Jayne Mansfield photo. I wore it in Joshua Tree when we shot the “HIGH BI GIRLS” Super 8 video and he gave it to me before I moved back to New York.
[Photo by Evan William Smith]
An Interview with NATH ANN CARRERA by Katherine Cooper for 
What does queer mean to you right now?
I had my queer coming of age through gender and sexually variant, non-essentialist, amoral, radical lesbian separatism. I made a poster for class that said, “Abort Male Fetuses!” and wrote a short play about throwing men into bonfires when they were misogynistic and homophobic. My position is now “Abort Cisgender Male Fetuses!”
Can you tell me a formative moment from childhood?
Seeing my grandmother on stage snorting poppers in a Carmen Miranda outfit as the Mother Superior.
Who are your musical and theatrical heroes?
A musical contender would be Bobbie Gentry who wrote and produced psychological Southern Gothic character studies, sang about cruising female strippers, go-go danced on cellophane water, railed against sexual and moralistic double standards, and performed with genderfuck dancers in matching dresses in her self-conceptualized Las Vegas show, before arranging a successful self-disappearance. Theatrically, Barbara Stanwyck who played a card shark, a dancer hiding out supplying research studies for encyclopedia entries on “sex” and “slang,” a bank robber in a lesbianic women’s prison, broke bottles over men’s heads before taking a drink, and indifferently watched her father burn to death in a whiskey still fire before hitting the big city.
You are a poet, musician, DJ and performer. Did you start performing in one specific genre or have you always been a hybrid artist?
I started singing with my mother down at the local bowling alley, around age 10, between her stints with bands like “Uncle Bubba and the Charred Remains.” My interest in writing, playing guitar, piano, and drums, and performing came together around the same time a few years later by bedroom, band, and stage. I started DJing a few years ago doing WOAHMONE with Savannah Knoop and Nica Ross where, through era and genre spanning vinyl and monthly collage, and without a cultural reference after 1980, I have thematic overlap.
Please tell me about your hairpieces. They are amazing.
Thanks! I used to borrow my white feather hat from my friend James Caperton when I played toms toms and tambourine in his band THE JUDY EXPERIENCE in San Francisco. It hung above his dresser altar between a rattlesnake skin and a Jayne Mansfield photo. I wore it in Joshua Tree when we shot the “HIGH BI GIRLS” Super 8 video and he gave it to me before I moved back to New York.
[Photo by Evan William Smith]

Artist Interview: Enid Ellen / Queer New Music Series

Enid Ellen / The Birth of Enid Ellen

Friday, November 1st – 10:00pm / The Club at La MaMa


Queer New York International Arts Festival / New Music Series 2013


An Interview with ENID ELLEN by Katherine Cooper for 
La MaMa’s QUEER NEW MUSIC SERIES:
You’ve said that you began writing from a feminine perspective in your songs. What did that feel like? What did it open up for you?
It felt very natural. Growing up in rural Ohio there weren’t many gay men to identify with. I therefore identified mainly with straight women. I think it was the mutual attraction to men. For the longest time I thought I would become a woman when I reached a certain age bc I thought that was the only way it could work but as I have grown and met more gay men I have seen other ways it can work. But when I started writing these lyrics I really was trying to go back to that other voice. I saw myself in the 50s writing love songs. It felt right to be female. Strong male energy is something I have never completely understood. It feels so fake to me and I wanted the words to be sincere. And I wanted an excuse to wear a dress.
What does queer mean to you right now?
Queer means thinking outside the box. To tell you the truth I never really identified or saw sex or gender until others put it onto me. When and where I am comfortable, people call queer and I’ll take it. That label is me.
Can you tell me a formative moment from childhood?
I remember being told by my Sunday school teacher that Jesus wouldn’t want me to be this way, referring to my queerness. I remember thinking she was wrong. I knew deep down I was living my truth and that Jesus would be very happy for me.
Who are your musical and theatrical heroes?
Jessica Lange, Marilyn Manson, Betty Davis, Bette Midler and Tori Amos are some of my heroes. I’m a huge fan of Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.
[Photo by Evan William Smith]

An Interview with ENID ELLEN by Katherine Cooper for 
You’ve said that you began writing from a feminine perspective in your songs. What did that feel like? What did it open up for you?
It felt very natural. Growing up in rural Ohio there weren’t many gay men to identify with. I therefore identified mainly with straight women. I think it was the mutual attraction to men. For the longest time I thought I would become a woman when I reached a certain age bc I thought that was the only way it could work but as I have grown and met more gay men I have seen other ways it can work. But when I started writing these lyrics I really was trying to go back to that other voice. I saw myself in the 50s writing love songs. It felt right to be female. Strong male energy is something I have never completely understood. It feels so fake to me and I wanted the words to be sincere. And I wanted an excuse to wear a dress.
What does queer mean to you right now?
Queer means thinking outside the box. To tell you the truth I never really identified or saw sex or gender until others put it onto me. When and where I am comfortable, people call queer and I’ll take it. That label is me.
Can you tell me a formative moment from childhood?
I remember being told by my Sunday school teacher that Jesus wouldn’t want me to be this way, referring to my queerness. I remember thinking she was wrong. I knew deep down I was living my truth and that Jesus would be very happy for me.
Who are your musical and theatrical heroes?
Jessica Lange, Marilyn Manson, Betty Davis, Bette Midler and Tori Amos are some of my heroes. I’m a huge fan of Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte.
[Photo by Evan William Smith]

Artist Interview: Shane Shane / Queer New Music Series

Shane Shane / Liquid Nonsense

Saturday, October 27 – 5:30pm / The Club at La MaMa

Queer New York International Arts Festival / New Music Series 2013


An Interview with SHANE SHANE by Katherine Cooper for 
La MaMa’s QUEER NEW MUSIC SERIES:

What does queer mean to you right now?
We’re at a crossroads within the gay community where we need to think deeply about whether or not our queer identities run deeper than how we want to arrange our sex lives. I, for one, am seeing a heartening movement of people who want to live their lives free of petty gender constraints and dominant discourse surrounding relationships. To me, right now, queer isn’t so much about sexual orientation as it is about freedom, questioning, and genderplay. 

Can you tell me a formative moment from childhood?
Seeing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was one of the most important things that happened to me as a kid. I was obsessed immediately—she was mysterious, hyperfeminine, threatening, and ridiculous all at once. I didn’t know if I wanted to date her, be her, or hang out with her, but I knew I wanted her in my life.

Who are your musical and theatrical heroes?
Bjork is the gold standard by which I measure all other artists in any medium. I’ve also been heavily influenced by a Minneapolis cabaret band called Tulip Sweet and Her Trail of Tears and my dear friends in the now-defunct band Mathematicians.

Your music has been called “novel, irritating, and pretty damn thrilling.” Does annoyance play a role in your performance aesthetic? 
It does in so far as it plays a role in my personality. Like many performers I have a vast thirst for attention, and I’ve learned over the years to channel that need into my performance. I don’t set out to irritate or confront my audience, but I just think that it happens because of the pent up energy I tend to let out when I perform. I think it’s better to be annoying onstage to an audience than off to your friends.

[Photo by Evan William Smith]

An Interview with SHANE SHANE by Katherine Cooper for 
What does queer mean to you right now?
We’re at a crossroads within the gay community where we need to think deeply about whether or not our queer identities run deeper than how we want to arrange our sex lives. I, for one, am seeing a heartening movement of people who want to live their lives free of petty gender constraints and dominant discourse surrounding relationships. To me, right now, queer isn’t so much about sexual orientation as it is about freedom, questioning, and genderplay
Can you tell me a formative moment from childhood?
Seeing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit was one of the most important things that happened to me as a kid. I was obsessed immediately—she was mysterious, hyperfeminine, threatening, and ridiculous all at once. I didn’t know if I wanted to date her, be her, or hang out with her, but I knew I wanted her in my life.
Who are your musical and theatrical heroes?
Bjork is the gold standard by which I measure all other artists in any medium. I’ve also been heavily influenced by a Minneapolis cabaret band called Tulip Sweet and Her Trail of Tears and my dear friends in the now-defunct band Mathematicians.
Your music has been called “novel, irritating, and pretty damn thrilling.” Does annoyance play a role in your performance aesthetic? 
It does in so far as it plays a role in my personality. Like many performers I have a vast thirst for attention, and I’ve learned over the years to channel that need into my performance. I don’t set out to irritate or confront my audience, but I just think that it happens because of the pent up energy I tend to let out when I perform. I think it’s better to be annoying onstage to an audience than off to your friends.
[Photo by Evan William Smith]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

6 QUESTIONS: Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew


Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew is a New York based theater designer in lighting and video.  She is also an accomplished puppetry artist. Jeanette's latest puppet work, ARE THEY EDIBLE? will premere at The Club at La MaMa as part of the 2013 La MaMa Puppet Series. Jeanette took time out from preparing for the show to answer our 6 Questions.

1. What was the initial inspiration for this project?
The project was inspired by my visit to the Arlington Cemetery when I was struck by the juxtaposition between the miles of white tombstones and a gift shop that primarily sells movies that glorify war and victory. I began to contemplate a few concepts:
  • The hero myth: Is this a necessary national narrative to perpetuate war, particularly given how pride is evoked through the lineage of military service that is prominent in American society? This definitely speaks to patriotism; the collective "goal" or the collective "good".
  • The uniformity of sacrifice – all the tombstones are almost identical; how replaceable are our soldiers?
  • The relationship between consumption and war
  • Validating killing, which can take many forms - film, legend and myth.
During that period, I was also re-reading the Iliad and the Odyssey. Through this lens I felt that Homer was struggling with the same thematic questions, particularly when looking at the connection between the underworld chapter in the Odyssey with the Iliad and with the journey and conclusion of Telemachus.

Furthermore, from a storytelling standpoint, I connected Odysseus and his crew's consistent need to consume, which ultimately led to their demise - devouring the Cyclops' food, the lotus island, and the golden cow. The act of consumption becomes an image of devouring and destruction and is systematic and automatic and parallels how the machine of war devours people. I was also pondering if their need to consume is connected to post-traumatic stress. Are Americans in a constant state of perceived siege, and is consumption an escape from that? Based on these thoughts, I began to conceptualize a piece for which the culinary arts are part of the structure. By having the audience consume through out the entire performance, with the food and drinks serving as the puppets and the landscape, eating becomes an act and a metaphor.

2. What was the most challenging element in making this show?
Creating an immersive environment where the audience becomes fundamental to the narrative.

3. What do you hope the audience comes away from your show with?

First, a feeling of fullness and intoxication physically or emotionally. Second, experience the juxtaposition between the desire to consume and the follies of consumption. Third, contemplate their collective roles in leadership

4. Who has inspired you?
Robert Smithson and Gordon Matta Clark are two artists that really inspired me. Their works were immersive, political and succinct.

5. Do you think of your work at political?
Yes, definitely. I think, also, it is impossible to be non-political because we are political beings as Peter Schumann from Bread and Puppet once said. I think audiences are often stuck on the political theatrical images from the 60s and the 70s so they are hesitate to engage with works that self-identified as political. This piece is attempting to break this notion and it is a political and humanitarian comment on citzenship, war and consumption.

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
OMG – where to begin…….first I am, naturally, being intimidated by the giant and super excited to be included as part of the La MaMa community. Second I am soooooo honored to be curated by a place not only is known for extremely experimental theater but for experimental puppetry. It is very difficult to present adult oriented contemporary puppetry in the US and to have a home to do it in is amazing. Finally, thank you for giving me the space and time to define myself as a puppetry artist in additions to being a theater designer.

La MaMa ETC presents
ARE THEY EDIBLE?
by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew

November 7 – November 10, 2013

Thursday – Saturday at 9pm
Sunday at 5pm

Tickets: $18 Adults; $13 Students/Seniors; a limited number $10 tickets available for all performances.

Are They Edible? is a multi-sensory puppetry performance inspired by Homer’s epics, The Iliad and the Odyssey, takes place in an interactive setting where food consumption is used to engage the audience in a tactile discourse on the relationship between war, heroes, and hunger (or the urge to consume).

For tickets and info: Click Here

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Villager: Shakespeare Everywhere You Look



Scott Stiffler looks at the many Shakespeare an Shakespeare-inspired productions happening all over the city this Fall, including Dario D'Ambrosi's HAMLET HALLUCINATIONS running through Sunday at La MaMa:
“Hamlet Hallucinations” is a radical interpretation of the melancholy (and possibly mad) Dane. It’s the latest from former Italian soccer star Dario D’Ambrosi — whose Pathological Theater teaches acting and stagecraft to those with mental illness (and whose productions address their perspectives). Performed entirely in English, with a script that includes selections of the Bard’s soliloquies, this “Hamlet” is set in the graveyard — with D’Ambrosio as the gravedigger/storyteller. Giacomo Rocchini plays Hamlet as an obsessive, phobic, Oedipal young man who hears voices and processes thought as a schizophrenic would. Mauro F. Cardinali plays Ophelia and Hamlet’s father, mother and uncle — keeping the audience guessing as to who’s doing the hallucinating, and which character (if any of them) has a true grip on reality.

Read the full article: HERE

 For info and tickets for HAMLET HALLUCINATIONS: Click Here

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Birthing of Enid Ellen: Friday Nov. 1 @ 10pm


Queer New York International Arts Festival / New Music Series 2013 continues at The Club this weekend. Up next, Friday November 1st is THE BIRTHING OF ENID ELLEN.

Enid Ellen is a channeler of Mother Nature. With dreaded hair and hooker boots she was brought to the Earth by way of a beached whale. Baptized and named from a seagull she travels the universe with her pianist Greg Potter to spread the word of NATURE; this is her creation story.



La MaMa ETC presents
THE BIRTHING 

OF ENID ELLEN

Part of the Queer New York International Arts Festival / New Music Series 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

Tickets: $15 Adults; $10 Students/Seniors; Ten $10 tickets available in advance, first come, first served (not available day of performance). 


For Tickets and Info: Click Here

Friday, October 25, 2013

Billy Crystal Talks to the NY Post About LaMaMa!


Television, Film and Broadway actor, Billy Crystal talked to NY Post's Michael Reidel about his upcoming return to Broadway in his one-man show, 700 SUNDAYS. But Billy got his start here at La MaMa in 1970 in double-bill of Ubu Roi and Arden of Faversham, directed by Andrei Serban.
“I played a toy soldier with a tall red hat and rouge circles on my cheeks. Andrei put me in a garbage can. I was a broken toy. And as I was sitting in that garbage can, the audience began to come in, and I saw Clive Barnes. And I thought, ‘Oh, no — this is not how we should meet.’ I always meant to call Clive and tell him about that, but I’m not sure he would have remembered me as the broken toy soldier in the garbage can.”

You can read the full article: HERE

Thanks for mentioning La MaMa, Billy! And congratulations on your return to Broadway!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hamlet Hallucinations' Dario D'Ambrosi in New York

 
Hamlet Hallucinations - Dario D'Ambrosi in New York from La MaMa on Vimeo.



"Those who love their Shakespeare to distraction should turn off their TVs and head to the East Village to see this radical reassessment of the play at La MaMa." 

"...a thriller that won’t stop demanding attention. D’Ambrosi exhumes “Hamlet,” renews him for a contemporary audience..."


HAMLET HALLUCINATIONS 
written and directed by DARIO D'AMBROSI 

with GIACOMO ROCCHINI  * MAURO F CARDINALI  *  DARIO D’AMBROSI 

October 17 – November 3, 2013 

 For Tickets and Info: Click Here

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

B. Madonna WOWS Audiences!

EXPERIENCE IT FOR YOURSELF!


created and performed by MAUREEN FLEMING
text by DAVID HENRY HWANG
music by PHILIP GLASS
voice by RUTH MALECZECH
video by CHRISTOPHER ODDO

B. MADONNA

Only 4 performances remaining!
Only 8 performances remaining!

Tickets $25 Adults; $20 Students/Seniors
10 @ $10 tickets for each performance



Audience Reaction video by BSD Media (bsdmedia.net)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Artist Interview: Dario D'Ambrosi / Hamlet Hallucinations


Dario D'Ambrosi / Hamlet Hallucinations

Saturday, October 26 – 10:00pm



Interviewer Sam Alper speaks with director/performer Dario D'Ambrosi about pathological theatre, playing professional soccer in Europe and fighting the power.


What led you to create Hamlet Hallucinations? Why Hamlet, as opposed to...

I have a theatre in Rome and in my theatre we have the school of theatre therapy, working with mentally ill boys, so it's very easy to have this approach to Hamlet. Also I think there's a character in Hamlet where Shakespeare describes, in an incredible way, mental illness, the Ophelia character. So, for me, it felt normal to approach Hamlet.


What have been the challenges of creating this production?

I have one actor, Mauro Cardinali, playing the '4th character,' which means the ghost of Hamlet's father, Hamlet's mother, Claudio and Ophelia. So that was difficult. It's really been step by step. Also I needed to change the way that bodies move, that voice is used, in order to find our relationship to Hamlet. The other difficulty was I took the story from Shakespeare but also used the analysis freud did of Hamlet. Freud had many many things to to say about Hamlet.

What has surprised you?

When I work with mental illness, I discover it's so closed, the world of normality is, to the world of mental illness. Hamlet helped me to understand how easy it is to go outside of your normality. How it's very easy one day to lose your reality.

Do you think of this work as political? Or your work in general, with Teatro Patologico?

Definitely, definitely. Many people, especially in Italy, they're against me because they think I just use mental illness to tell an incredible, violent story. But in fact I think [the mentally ill] have the possibility and the strong way how to tell their own stories. And thank god I have the energy to still work with them, because it's very difficult, when they feel sick, it's difficult to work, but I think it's a revolutionary way to tell a story against power and what is crazy behind powerful people. 

... The powerful people. Who exactly do you mean?

Like the president, people who run multi-nationals. People who really want to control so many other people. so it is amazing to work with the mentally ill, because in some way, they don't want somebody to control them. And you never can control one crazy guy, you never can control them. So in some way, in the theatre way, you use this. So many people say you use their sickness because you want to gain the power and I say, maybe, but thank god I have this opportunity.

Right, it's not so much about you controlling them. It's about making the point that no one controls them.

Bravissimo.

You were a professional football player, soccer player, at one point. What was it like going from that to the theatre?

To be a professionial soccer player, it's what I like to do in my life, it's like a dream. But in some way, the stage is like a stadium… In the stadium, you have eighty thousand people. And some nights on the stage you have 10 people but the feeling and emotion in relation with your body and your mind… your emotion is really the same. 

Because I played in big stadiums, professional stadiums and it was amazing, the feeling. But I tell you it's the same when you go on the stage, the first floor theatre where I started 34 years ago, I've done maybe 24 shows here. Every time it is always the same emotion.

That leads nicely into our last question. What is it like for you to work at La MaMa?

I was born into La MaMa and my relationship with Ellen Stewart was incredible. I knew her since '79, 34 years ago, so it was all my life. I started here when I was 19 years old and so for me she was really like a mother. We fought, we had incredible moments together, we laughed, she slept so many times at my house in Rome, she saw my daughter be born and grow up and… everything. She knew about my life - every moment of my life. So to work at La MaMa, it's like my home. I feel like this my home. And every night I have a dream about Mama. We talk during the night. I never stopped having a relationship to Ellen. I feel her hand as I walk onstage, every night. 

Chelsea Now features the LA MAMA PUPPET SERIES


Trav S.D. looks at the downtown fall theater season for Chelsea Now, and puts a spotlight on the La MaMa Puppet Series which will come to all three La MaMa venues on November 7th:
November 7 through the 24, La MaMa’s Puppet Series, curated by Denise Greber, kicks into high gear — offering nine pieces of cool sounding puppet theater (call ‘em “puppet shows” and get your ass kicked!). On the menu will be “The Orphan Circus” by Los Sages Fous (Nov. 7-10), “Are They Edible?” by Jeanette Yew (Nov. 7-10), “Echo in Camera” a co-production of Dead Puppet, the Schauspielhaus Wien and the Grand Theater de Luxembourg (Nov. 7-17), “The God Projekt” by Lone Wolf Tribe (Nov. 14-24), “Dorme” by Laura Bartolomei (Nov. 21-24), a Puppet Slam on Nov. 15 and several kid’s shows — “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” (Nov. 16), “The Three Little Pigs” (Nov. 17) and “Squirrel Stole My Underpants Nov. 16-17). If that’s not enough to sate your wanton puppet-lust, stick around. The Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre will be presenting their marionette adaptation of Plato’s “Republic” from November 29 through December 15 and STOP RIGHT THERE. Before you reject it out of hand, I must tip you off that this company’s scripts are always way funnier and smarter than they have any right to be. I would gladly see anything this company does — and that includes this show, Socratic Dialogues and all. Info and tickets available at lamama.org.

You can read the full article: Here

For the full La MaMa Puppet Series lineup and tickets: Click Here

Monday, October 21, 2013

Artist Interview: M. Lamar / Queer New Music Series

M. Lamar / Surveillance: Punishment and the Black Psyche

Saturday, October 26 – 10:00pm / The Club at La MaMa

Queer New York International Arts Festival / New Music Series 2013

photo credit: Blioux 

Interviewer Katherine Cooper speaks with M. Lamar about racialized histories, the scream of the soprano and meeting one of his heroes on the street in New York. ALSO: PTSD, getting the hell out of the art world and Black Metal.
 _________________________________________________________________________________

Katherine Cooper: What does “queer” mean to you right now?

M LAMAR: Um well I mean to be quite candid queer doesn’t mean anything to me right now. What I’m doing is more focused on deep lamentation, and racialized histories. When I wake up and work on my work and when I’m engaging in dialogue I really don’t think about things like "queer" or "gender." I find myself frustrated with discourses that come out of those places. These discourses are really only about thirty to thirty five years old. I am interested in much older histories.

This show begins in a prison in 1947 with a black man. When I started conceiving of the show I wanted to focus on the new Jim Crow being the prison industrial complex. I’ve been wanting to combine Franz Fanon’s ideas of internalized racism with Foucault’s ideas of prisons for years now, but also use this contemporary moment of stop and frisk. Most black men that I know have been stopped and frisked as well as transgender women of color.

The work is deeply spiritual with a heavy interest in beauty. I am very interested in the “beautiful” and the “ugly.” Again the show begins in 1947. It’s loosely based in the story of Willie Francis in Martinville LA. And he was alleged to have killed this fifty three year old white guy with whom he was also having a sexual relationship. But the point is that 1947 in many ways for black folks could be 1847 as well as 1987 or 2013.

The show does this time traveling thing starting in 1947 and going back to 1847. It askswhat does interracial homosex look like on a plantation? So I guess I'm interested in homosexual interracial dynamics pre notions of a gay movement. With interracial heterosex we have evidence because we have the interracial babies. Usually we talk about the rape of black women on plantations, which was pervasive. But here I am interested in the rape of black men as well as the consensual interracial homosex happening on plantations.

And also PTSD. We inherit this. I talk to Jewish people about it and black people and having these things passed on to you from your parents. It seems that my works continues to come back to an inherited PTSD.


KC: Can you tell me a formative moment from childhood?

M LAMAR: Hmmm. There are so many. I think the first time I saw Jessye Norman—she's a female black opera singer--on television. On PBS. That would be formative in that there was something about the sound she was making. It was dark and bright at the same time. I encountered operatic singing before and I was fascinated with it but seeing Jessye was really it for me.

I thought it was incredibly beautiful. The first time I heard that sound it seemed to go into the interior space of the soul so directly. I likened it to screaming in a way--the need to scream. But it was so controlled and so refined.

I guess that was really appealing to me. If we’re talking about PTSD, one of the things I didn't understand fully then was my mother living with her father's sharecropping history and his fathers history of slavery. The trauma is being passed down. I didn’t understand it but I was living with it and seeing someone screaming with such control and beauty was very appealing.

But it was this dark warm bright powerful thing and it’s one of the reasons I sing now. That sound penetrates me. It’s been a fundamental part of how I preceded as an artist.


KC: Who are your artistic and musical heroes or antiheroes?

M LAMAR: Jessye Norman would obviously be one. Black sopranos in general. Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson who was not a soprano but so important to me. Those are three towering figures. And Diamanda Galas would be my forth soprano. I met her actually when I first moved here. On the street. I’d been here for a week and I had moved here to study with Ira Siff, my voice teacher. I was going to a voice lesson with him in the east village and I was warming up outside. Diamanda walks by and says “that’s a good sound” We ended up talking about thirteen minutes about singing. She was fascinated by the sound I was making. I was in the higher register hitting some very high notes and she was like, “your sound is very soprano not really a counter tenor sound.” Anyway it was one of the great joys of my life meeting one the greatest singers I have ever heard and having her hear something of value in my sound. I sent her my record and we had a back and forth. She’s been really lovely to me.

So yes. Diamanda Galas

Also. John Coltrane, Ornette Colem, Ian Curtis, Marilyn Manson--aesthetically, not so much musically. I've always been drawn to men in rock who wear a lot of makeup: Nicky Sixx, Robert Smith from The Cure, even if I am not so into their music. I’ve always sort of seen myself aesthetically as a rocker. That style just makes sense to me.

There’s also a lot of metal bands SUNN, Burzum— or Immortal. But Immortal more for the look.

Usually there’s an epic or catastrophic sensibility or both that draw me to music. That’s the music I want to make.


KC: When I listen to your work I find it very spacious. There is a lot of room for the experience of the listener.

M. LAMAR: There has to be room for people to enter into the work. A lot of it is about being contemplative. I want there to be space for you to reflect on it and yourself. The requiem I have been performing for the last year Speculum Orum. I see it as a meditation, a place to reflect on a very particular history. Whenever I do these pieces I always place myself in them as a first person narrative. I always assume the position of the person going through whatever is happening. Moving myself through this experience as well as whoever’s there to witness it. So we can undertake that journey together.

One of my favorite quotes in the world is from James Baldwin. And he says: "History is not something we read about in books, history isn’t even the past, It is the present"

Love James Baldwin.

When I was in college I was reading Cornel West and bell hooks, all this “Blackademia.” all this post colonial stuff and my take on all that is all over my work.


KC: You attended Yale to study sculpture but then dropped out to pursue music. What changed for you?

M LAMAR: The whole time I was in undergrad art school I was also involved in music. Music was always this thing I was doing on the side. I was always really good at art and I was rewarded for it so I was like, "I will just sing for myself." I kinda even thought that I would drop out of undergrad art school and start a band or something. I'm from Alabama and when I was growing up the goal was just to get out of Alabama by any means necessary. I got a scholarship to art school in San Francisco and I would win awards and things so I didn’t drop out then. But at the same time I was doing all these private music lessons. And then I ended up getting into Yale for grad school. And when you’re at Yale you’re really tied into the bourgeois New York Art world. And I wasn't really interested in that. I’m not interested in the bourgeois white art world. I need to exist in more punk rock circles.

At the same time I was incorporating more and more performance into the art I was making. I had all these friends who were more underground punk folks. Some of them were queer and some of there weren’t. The bands were always sort of dark and gothy or metal-y. It was more appealing to me to be making work in this context.

Yale was just full of rich bourgeois white people. It made more sense to drop and out and go to San Francisco and start working with people I love. They were my people. I wanted to be with my people making work and music was the work.

I didn’t want to be a queer negro Basquiat type fucking with the art world. My twin sister is a trans activist. She talks about mainstreaming trans issues and goes around to universities and things and I respect that. She talks about making a situation where the mainstream has a radical moment of seeing trans or queer identities as not marginal and such. I just don't care about the mainstream unless they want to overthrow the current system. I am more interested in people who share my values.


KC: In many ways, you have already done this but can please tell me the story of your voice?

M LAMAR: I started singing as a black soprano. Generally black sopranos have a different kind of sound, and you know, I'm black. When I started making sound as a kid I always naturally sang higher. It was always very easy for me. There’s a certain kind of hysteria or screaming that comes from a soprano voice.

When I was in San Francisco I saw lots and lots of voice teachers. I heard about my teacher in New York, Ira Siff, and I went out to New York to have a lesson and I recorded it. I went back to my teacher in San Francisco and he listened to it and he was like, "you should move to New York and work with this guy.” So I did.

I was interested in operatic repertoire--arias, Mozart etc. But ultimately I always knew I would be translating this vocal technique into my own music that I wrote myself. It's also the African American spiritual. I found that Jessye Norman had all these recordings of these songs--Deep River, Balm in Gilead. It's my people’s music. I can’t even explain my connection to the music. In many ways I’m trying to write spirituals that were never written--Swinging Low, The tree, They Hung Him, Trying TLeave My Body etc. And my particular interest is in these black operatic singer singing the Spiritual. The story of my voice is, in part, about the story of opera singers singing these songs.

When I did Speculum Orum at Cathedral of Saint John the Divine last year it seemed the perfect place for my spiritual journey to end up in terms of pure sound and of course La MaMa is perfect in theatrical terms. Have you been to the Cathedral?

KC: No. I haven't.

M LAMAR: Oh Go! You make a sound, just a little sound and you’ll hear how it vibrates. It was really lovely to perform there. The sound is just amazing. But I feel like I’m exactly where I should be. A lot of the European stuff I'm doing people seem to appreciate it. I don't think my work is high minded necessarily, but it’s certainly not pop music. It requires a little more of an attention span.



Trying To Leave My Body from M. Lamar on Vimeo.