La MaMa Blogs

Monday, April 25, 2022

6 Questions for Valeria Solomonoff


Photo by John Abbott

Valeria Solomonoff is a wide-ranging innovator who uses her tango roots to reimagine new possibilities of partnering. She is an awarded choreographer born in Argentina and based in New York who conceived and created Confianza collaboratively with performers Rodney Hamilton and Orlando Reyes Ibarra.

There are three performances of Confianza this weekend in the Ellen Stewart Theatre from April 30 to May 2. Tickets can be purchased here.

1. How would you describe your work as a choreographer?


For this work I started with a question and gathered a group of artists that were interested in it. I see myself kind of like a host who both incites and holds together. I host the space for collaboration as collaboration is for me the most rewarding way of working. Everyone is invested and things stay surprising all the time. 


2. Who or what has inspired you?


I’m inspired by our director Orlando Pabotoy, who is a person with the most integrity, humor, and care that one can come across. He has created an atmosphere of love for the process and acceptance of who we are and what we bring to each moment while maintaining a standard of continual growth. I’m also inspired by the differences among us, the dancers, and how we appreciate and respect each other. I’m inspired by the endless possibilities of tango and challenged by the aspiration to one day feel like my body and my mind can find complete expression.  


3. What have you learned from creating and performing new work during a pandemic?


The pandemic made it very clear to me that my motivation to create, be with people I love working with and sharing a common goal, is a need as important as the food on my table. There have been times when everything seemed against us and on those moments, it was clear that it wasn’t mere stubbornness what kept me going; it was an internal joy, like a beautiful secret that runs through the core of my being and makes me get up and sing (much to the annoyance of anyone hearing me, as I’m no singer).


4. What should audiences expect from the performance?


I think the audience will be aware of the theme and will go with us in a little trip. At least that is what I hope because the best part of rehearsal is getting lost in the journey and then come back home to my life. 


5. What are your upcoming plans for the rest of the year?


I look forward creating a piece and working with Mark Morris Dance Group Dance for Parkinson Disease Program. I was awarded the inaugural Lucy Bowen Award for Inclusive Choreography which will give me an opportunity to develop a work based on partnering. I know I have a lot to learn from this wonderful organization and I can’t wait to get started. 


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


Working at La MaMa means I can reach a broad audience and let them experience how tango is much more than what is shown on TV. It means that I can make a statement about how improvisation based on tango dynamic of lead and follow is a technique as solid as ballet and as malleable as theater. I want tango to be understood in a modern context. I want modern dance to include not just tango “moves”, but most importantly, the root of co-creation that is at the core of lead-follow interdependency of tango and that has been the source of our work.


Photo of Valeria Solomonoff and Rodney Hamilton by David Watts Jr.


La MaMa presents

Valetango Company: Confianza (Trust)


April 30 – May 1, 2022

Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10003

Saturday at 7PM

Sunday at 2PM

Tickets:

Adults: $25 in advance; $30 day of show
Students/Seniors: $20 in advance; $25 day of show



Monday, April 18, 2022

6 Questions for Pele Bauch

Photo by Stephen Yang

Pele Bauch is an interdisciplinary choreographer who combines dance with theater and weaves mixed media and set design into unique performances. Her recent work focuses on her journey as a "Hapa Haole" Kanaka Maoli (multiracial Native Hawaiian) navigating her lack of knowledge from her birthright culture. In a shared evening with Marina Celander, Pele Bauch presents A.K.A. Ka Inoa (also known as the name), which weaves supple movement, vivid characters, and personal story together with rope and name tags. A.K.A. Ka Inoa unpacks our expectations about racial identity and pushes them against the realities of personal identity, asking: What does it mean to "represent" one's race?

There are three performances of Shared Evening: Pele Bauch + Marina Celander in The Downstairs from April 22–24. Tickets can be purchased here.


1. How would you describe your work as a choreographer?

Dance with stuff. I always choreograph with everyday objects.

This time, a few thousand name tags litter the floor, encircled by about 60 paper bags that fill the
rest of the space. It’s visceral - with a moving expressive body. Then the objects bring a whole
story with them, and create context. So choreographing the interaction between body and
objects allows me to mold a visual experience. What does it mean to be named something? To
be labeled something? By working with name tags and paper bags, etc. I can move through
these questions and explore different experiences.

2. Who and what has inspired you?

Art is communion. Dance is my connection to fellow human beings and to my innermost self.
That’s what drives me.

3. What have you learned from creating and performing new work during a pandemic?

Creativity in all its forms is so vital. For one person it may be cooking a new meal, for me it’s
choreography. We need creativity, fun, love, imagination, connection to survive. When I wasn’t
choreographing (when shows were canceled), my experience of the pandemic slowly got darker
and darker until it was suffocating. And when I got back into the studio, everything started to
become more tolerable again. The first time I returned to the theater to see a live performance
after the lockdown, I cried with joy.

4. What should audiences expect from the performance?

Dance, story, paper bags, name tags... Did I mention the 300 feet of rope?

OK, but also. A.K.A. Ka Inoa addresses three audiences. To fellow Indigenous and diasporic
multiracial people who do not have the privilege of an education in their own culture: Many of us
feel lost, ignorant and isolated; we are not alone. To the Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) who
are educated in Hawaiian cultural practices: I seek to be
 seen. To everyone else: I want to
expose this experience so that it is no longer invisible.

5. What are your upcoming plans for the rest of the year?

I am making a new work, commissioned by Women in Motion, called The Distance Process /
Dear Kanaloa
. It explores distance and diaspora using what everyone is using to bridge gaps:
Zoom and Google Translate. I am working with Kealoha Ferreira, a Minnesota-based fellow
Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) dancer. The performance will be for in-person audiences in our
two cities simultaneously connected via live stream projection. Clearly, this is a piece conceived
during the pandemic, but we’re not just zooming because it’s there. It’s a continuation of this
work on diaspora and distance from one’s heritage.

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

It’s a real honor. It means being a part of a contemporary tradition of exploration and
experimentation.

I remember going to a show at La MaMa when I was a teenager (meaning a long time ago) that
centered on Hawai’i. I remember seeing the word “hula'' in the La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival
program description. La MaMa is the perfect venue for A.K.A. Ka Inoa.

Photo of Pele Bauch by Danny Boyd
Photo of Marina Celander courtesy of the artist

La MaMa presents

Shared Evening: Pele Bauch + Marina Celander


April 22 – 24, 2022

The Downstairs
66 East 4th Street, basement level
New York, NY 10003

Friday – Saturday at 8:30PM

Sunday at 4PM

Tickets:

Adults: $25 in advance; $30 day of show
Students/Seniors: $20 in advance; $25 day of show

Saturday, April 16, 2022

6 Questions for Tiffany Mills

Photo by Julie Lemberger

Tiffany Mills is choreographer and artistic director of the New York City-based Tiffany Mills Company, which she founded in 2000. Homing, a dance-theater work inspired by the wealth of experiences that shape and bind us in our homes, is presented as part of Tiffany Mills Company’s 20th anniversary season celebration. Tickets can be purchased here.

1. How would you describe your work as a choreographer?

My work is collaborative. I enjoy working with the dancers as collaborators; as well as invited artists from various mediums (theater, music, video, etc.) as collaborators.

2. Who or what has inspired you?

Judson Church artists always inspire me. Now, my kids also inspire me!

3. What have you learned from creating and performing new work during a pandemic?

There is a silver lining of the pandemic. Rehearsing for over a year from our apartments created deep personal work. When we returned to the studio there was a renewed energy and excitement to all be together.

4. What should audiences expect from the performance?

This is a dance/theater/video work that asks: What happens when personal stories and media fantasies collide? It has moments of lightness and also darker truths.

5. What are your upcoming plans for the rest of the year?

We have a new commission to create two works for 7 violas from Ensemble Ipse (June 5th 7p). We will be on the road in the fall touring HOMING.

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

La MaMa is HOME!! We are so grateful for your support.

Photo by Robert Altman

La MaMa presents

Homing


Conceived and choreographed by Tiffany Mills with artistic contributions from the Company
Performed by Tiffany MillsJordan MorleyNikolas OwensEmily Pope, and Mei Yamanaka

April 14 –16, 2022

Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10003

Thursday – Saturday at 7PM

Tickets:

Adults: $25 in advance; $30 day of show
Students/Seniors: $20 in advance; $25 day of show

Monday, April 4, 2022

6 Questions for Matt Nasser of BALKAN BORDELLO


Matt Nasser has been a member of the Great Jones Repertory Company at La MaMa for the past 15 years. Primarily an actor and singer in New York's downtown theatre scene, his other credits include productions by The Deconstructive Theatre Project, Yara Arts, The Bruce High Quality Foundation, The Inconvenience Store, and the Big Art Group. He plays Bartender/Lawyer in Balkan Bordello, which has 4 more performances in the Ellen Stewart Theatre until April 10. Tickets can be purchased here.


1. Who or what has inspired you?

Looking back on my theatre life, many passionate directors, teachers and colleagues have inspired me. From my high school musical director, Patricia Murray, to the legendary Ellen Stewart. These individuals have been strong, quick witted, loving leaders who expertly balance mentorship, their own personal relationships and great achievement in their artistic careers. Some off the top of my head: Justin Vivian Bond, Tina Landau, Kristin Linklater, Claudia Baez, Adriana Farmiga, John Kelly, Caden Manson, Andre De Shields, Alan Cumming, Mia Yoo, The Great Jones Rep, the La MaMa office, and of course, our fearless leader of Balkan Bordello, Blerta Neziraj. Also, even though fictional, Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager, Huge Trekkie here.

2. What can American audiences expect from these performances?

They can expect to see performances from a company that truly cares for one another. Performers who give generously to each other and put it all out there for the audience. They can also expect to get a taste of The Balkans. Although abstracted, much of the movement, music and customs in the play are grounded in the region.

3. Can you elaborate on the international collaboration that took place in developing Balkan Bordello?

It has really been quite extraordinary and I am immensely grateful to be a part of this collaboration. It was a true cultural exchange. Being able to travel to the Balkans and dive into their history and culture has deeply enriched my life. And then, to have that knowledge and be in a rehearsal room with both Serbian actors and actors from Kosovo, seeing them share with one another, eat and laugh, have each other's backs on stage and do all that for us as well, it has filled me with pride for what we have achieved and hope for our future.

4. How have the current conditions of the world influenced your creative process?

I am just continually reminded how blessed I am that I can be a part of a creative process. How sacred it is to create and how urgent it is to create understanding and tell stories that can bring people together.

5. What have you learned from working with Great Jones Repertory?

So many things! But a story comes to mind of one of my first rehearsals with Ellen and the GJR. I think I had just turned 21 and was thrown into this company of extremely talented and well seasoned performers from around the world. You can imagine how nervous and self conscious I was in that room. Ellen had literally created a song right before our eyes, which I would come to learn was commonplace for her and she asked me to get up and sing it. Not just sing it, but perform it! Nothing in my life had prepared me for this. As far as I knew, you learned a song by getting sheet music and practicing it for a while, maybe going over it with a voice coach a few times, before you would dare perform it in front of people, let alone a theatre legend. So in my mind, what she was asking was impossible. Well guess what? it's not! Especially, with what might be considered the most intense peer pressure imaginable, that leap of faith, which seems impossible, is as easy as the thought, "Yes." You can, in fact, perform a song you just heard on the spot and that muscle gets stronger and the leap gets easier the more you do it. That leap is where great performance lives. I have learned  from Ellen and the rest of the company what a miracle our minds and bodies are and the infinite potential of the human spirit. 

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

It means having a family, not just here in New York, but all around the world. I can travel almost anywhere on this planet and meet someone that has been touched by La MaMa. It means being nurtured by that family, not just artistically, but in many aspects of life and then taking that gift and sharing it with others.


Photo by Ferdi Limani

La MaMa presents

Balkan Bordello


Written by Jeton Neziraj
Directed by Blerta Neziraj

March 31 – April 10, 2022

Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10003

Thursday – Saturday at 7PM
Sunday, April 10 at 2PM

Tickets:

Adults: $25 in advance; $30 day of show
Students/Seniors: $20 in advance; $25 day of show

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

6 Questions for David Cerda of THE DRAG SEED

 

Photo by Joe Mazza - Brave Lux

David Cerda is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Hell in a Handbag Productions in Chicago. He’s also the resident playwright. Cerda has written SuperPussy Vixens, Go Faster! Kill!, SCARRIE-The Musical (1998, 2003, 2015), Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer (1997–2018), Joan Crawford Goes to Hell, Touched by Jayne Mansfield, The Birds (2001, 2014, 2015), Poseidon! An Upside Down Musical (2001, 2010, 2019), How ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane’ Happened, Caged Dames, The Rip Nelson Halloween Spooktacular, Lady X, and TROGG! A Musical, Sexy Baby, Scream, Queen, SCREAM!, Christmas Dearest, Lady X-The Musical, The Rip Nelson Holiday Spectacular, The Golden Girls-The Lost Episodes, Vol. 1, 2, 3, 4, The Golden Girls Holiday Special 1 and 2, The Golden Girls Valentine Edition, The Golden Girls-BEA AFRAID, The Facts of Life-Satan’s School for Girls, and The Drag Seed.
There are 8 performances of The Drag Seed, directed by Cheryl Snodgrass, in the Downstairs Theatre from March 31–April 10. Tickets can be purchased here.

1. How would you describe your work?
Ridiculous and truthful. Smart and stupid, and camp—lots of it.
2. What inspired you to write The Drag Seed?
Being told I couldn't use cross gender casting by the staff who knew about the drag casting out there but could care less at Dramatist Guild when I looked into doing The Bad Seed.
3. What can audiences expect from these performances?
EXPECT TO SEE THE WAY THE SHOW SHOULD BE PERFORMED IN THIS MODERN AGE.
They should expect unflattering drool and snot out of the nose laughs.
To laugh so hard they might fart next to their date. They should expect to forget about a lot of the nonsense going on in the world.
4. How has the production developed since its premiere in 2019?
While the production is pretty much the same, the acceptance of Drag has skyrocketed because people have ways to monetize it, Drag has turned into a product for middle America which is why they look like OVER-SEXUALIZED Disney characters now. The world has caught up with the play, but fear not, we shall find new ways to assault their senses with a bucket of EXTRA CRISPY CAMP THAT NOT EVEN THE MOST Avant Garde Variety Types can resist!
5. It's Hell in a Handbag's 20th anniversary season! What are your upcoming plans for the rest of the season?
After New York, we're queering up Agatha Christie with A Fine Feathered Murdered-A Miss Marbled Mystery. The Fowler estate seems idyllic what with enormous cocks strutting about the place servicing all of the high society Mother Cluckers until biggest is found dead.
After, we plan going far away into outer space with I PROMISED MYSELF TO LIVE FASTER, a wild sci action space opera and love story by Gregory Moss and The Pig Iron Theatre Company.
You can also see Dorothy, Rose, Sophia, and Blanche performing as Miami's favorite seniors in the only critically acclaimed Golden Girls parody with original scripts. The world's first worldwide Golden Girls Convention—Thank you for Being a Fan at Navy Pier in Chicago.
6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
It still feels like a dream. Like I'm going to wake up from a coma, tell the nurse that I have to go—I'm doing a show at La MaMa—and they all laugh at me and say, "You got a light bulb stuck in your butt!" Then they keep laughing and laughing until I make them stop—don't ask.
It also feels like the culmination of 20 years of hard work, and it makes me proud fo be sharing the stage with the people who believed in me when I had trouble believing in myself.
ALL the feels, My character, Miss Charles is dedicated to the holy trinity of Charles Ludlum, Pierce, and Busch, who all performed in this sacred space. I'm grateful as hell.

Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios

La MaMa presents

The Drag Seed


Written by David Cerda
Directed by Cheryl Snodgrass

March 31 – April 10, 2022

The Downstairs 
66 East 4th Street, basement level
New York, NY 10003

Thursdays – Saturdays at 8PM
Sundays at 4PM

Tickets:

Adults: $25 in advance; $30 day of show
Students/Seniors: $20 in advance; $25 day of show