La MaMa Blogs: May 2015

Sunday, May 31, 2015

6 QUESTIONS: Winsome Brown

Photo by Mick Cantarella

In the beautiful one-woman show, This Is Mary Brown, Obie-award winner Winsome Brown channels her wickedly funny Irish mother, her Alaskan frontiersman father, and her engaging family to tell the story of a simple life. Winsome took time out of rehearsals to answer our six questions.

1. This is Mary Brown is about your mother - how did you decide to to turn your mother's story into a performance?
It was Brad Rouse, the director’s idea. It was January of 2014 and we were working on another project -- a secret project I am still working on, stay tuned! -- and he said “I think you have a more immediate story to tell. One that will touch many people.” “What’s that?” I asked. “The story of your mother,” he said. It was like a veil fell from my eyes, and I saw clearly that this was a good thing to do. Or to try. “I’ll call it This is Mary Brown,” I said. I had the title before a single word of the show was written. How it came as an idea to Brad was that he had heard me tell stories about Mum and found her both hilarious and deeply human.

2. What do you think your mother would think of the show?

This is a hard question – one I have struggled with myself. But I have an answer. I think at first she would think it was a preposterous idea, and invasive to boot. But after she saw how her story affects people, she would be moved and eventually proud. For example: an elegant woman in her 60s came to see a rehearsal of the show and after it was over she came up to me in floods of tears and said, “I know her!” Someone being so touched by her own private – and unimportant, I bet Mum would think – story, would eventually help her to see its value.

It means a lot to me to have this story be about Mum, rather than about a fictionalized version of her, or of the rest of my family. Mum was a housewife. Her legacy is in her children and in the family she created and managed. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf searches for stories of women and finds none. All those women raising children, making beds, cleaning the house, do not figure in history. Their names are not known. I wanted Mum’s name to be known.

3. This is Mary Brown is a one-person play - what are some of the challenges and rewards of doing a solo performance?

The most daunting challenge is loneliness. There’s no other actor to share the ride with on stage. So my partner in the performance is the audience. I have developed this show over the course of a year and a half, showing it to a few people at a time. Through this process, I have come to trust the material, trust the audience, and be inspired and moved by the communion that happens between us. My relation with the director is also very important. It’s a very vulnerable piece. I am putting it all out there – surrendering. That kind of faith brings its own reward.

4. Who has inspired you?

The first time I saw a one-person show it was “The Importance of Being Oscar” by Micheál MacLiammóir, done by the Anna Livia Theatre Company in Toronto, my home town. I was blown away by the directness of that contact between the man on stage and me in my seat. Six years later, I performed and directed myself in that show my senior year at college. I am inspired by people who dare to try, who push themselves into the unknown and the uncomfortable. They dare to fail, and also, they dare to succeed.

I have been inspired and instructed by the gentle and long-form rehearsal process of André Gregory and Wallace Shawn. I was lucky enough to perform in The Master Builder, and see that incredible work up close. Their process of stripping away artifice – even within the confines of art – is something I aspire to in my own work on This is Mary Brown.
I am inspired by the language of real people. I hope that the writing of This is Mary Brown pulses with the energy of real life.

5. If you were stuck on a desert island, what three albums would you want with you?
Emilio de’ Cavalieri Lamentations (Le Poème Harmonique) 
Van Morrison Astral Weeks or Veedon Fleece (either one will do) 
Some Bach – right now I would choose Morimur by The Hilliard Ensemble, a mash up of Bach’s cantatas and partitas

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
La MaMa is home. I have been in two plays here, and I wrote and directed a circus at the Café years ago. It’s a place where my work is welcomed and supported, and where the community of fellow artists is rich and diverse. Also, the fact that I am debuting this very personal play about my mother at a place called La MaMa is wonderful to me. I am grateful to be here.

La MaMa presents
A new play written and performed by Winsome Brown
Directed by Brad Rouse

June 11 - 28, 2018
Thursday - Saturday at 7:30pm; Sunday at 2pm

The First Floor Theatre @ La MaMa
74A East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003

Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

Friday, May 29, 2015

6 Questions: Jane Comfort

The world premiere of Jane Comfort's ALTIPLANO opens tonight at 8pm and runs until May 31st in The Ellen Stewart Theatre! Jane took the time out of her busy week of rehearsals to sit down and answer 6 questions to let us know more about her inspirations, the abstract, the Peace Corps, and working with LaMaMa.
Jane Comfort is a choreographer, writer, and director who has broken boundaries in dance performance since the late 70's. She is a Guggenheim Fellow whose work has been performed throughout the US, in Europe, and in Latin America.
Described as "one of the most fertile minds in the theater of mixed forms," by The New York Times
Altiplano is an abstract dance that originates in movement structures that range from spare images of the desert to highly physical and complex configurations, like a flash flood or violent winds. It references the evolution of animals and social communication with its gradually increasing physicality and hive-like density.

Photo by: JinYoul Lim

1. What was the original inspiration for ALTIPLANO?
I just got home from a full day of tech and dress rehearsal at La MaMa, so the years are fuzzy right now, but a while back Sean Donovan, a longtime performer in my company who also helps me write grant proposals, said, “Jane, I know you don’t want to think about this now, but with the NEA, NYSCA, and DCA deadlines coming up, what could you imagine your next piece being about?”  And I about nothing?  How about an abstract piece that is based on movement structures alone, where you don’t have to justify every movement you make to support the narrative?  I’ve spent my entire career making dance theater that comments on political and social issues, and as we develop each piece we construct our movement to support or subvert the story.  The thought of making work based on movement alone, on compositional structure alone, sounded really great.

2. How is ALTIPLANO different from your previous text driven works?
Well, see above.  I had hardly ever made an abstract dance in 37 years, although that is what is considered choreography.  One thing going for the decision was that I try to scare myself with each new piece, to keep myself off balance as an artist, and abstract dance was the scariest thing I could think of.  I started with imagery from the desert. I went into the first rehearsal with Leslie Cuyjet and Petra van Noort and a few spare moves and a picture of a vast dry space.  At a later point I said to Sean, what about insect, lizard energy bisecting that plane?  The fast against the slow?  The jittery against the smooth?  And he brought in a reptilian character that we couldn’t ignore. Once the designers Joe Levasseur and Brandon Wolcott saw a run-through of what we had, they said, “We want to see more of that (lizard life)."  So there you go.  Back to character, if not narrative.  Definitely a theme.
What Joe, Brandon, and Liz Prince have created with their lighting, music, and costumes is incredibly beautiful.  We just saw it in the dress rehearsal tonight, and it is a special world that hovers between landscape, abstraction, and sudden disconnects like industrial sounds in the midst of crickets, a flash of sequin within earth tones, blinding lights after dusk.
3. What did you discover new working on ALTIPLANO?
That abstract is just as hard as narrative.  You are still composing a piece of work with structure, energy shifts, trajectory toward an ending.  With narrative you are building your case of a story, and with abstract you are doing the same with formal structure. 
4. Who has influenced you?
Reading Faulkner and Garcia Marquez was hugely influential in my youth.  Being a Peace Corps volunteer in Latin America, and traveling all over the continent.  Being a painting major in college.  Once in New York I studied with Merce Cunningham, where I learned clarity of body and rhythm.  The art and performance world of the 70’s, when I first came to New York, hugely influenced me.  I am so grateful to artists like David Gordon, Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Lucinda Childs, Philip Glass, Kenneth King, Jamie Cunningham, Steve Paxton, Sarah Rudner, Merce…….. What an amazing time it was to be young and going to loft concerts and art openings in Soho, and then to PS1, just opened in Queens.  Just an amazing time.  In the 80’s our children grew up listening to Einstein On the Beach on vinyl.
Photo by: JinYoul Lim

5. What is your favorite animal? Why?  
I have no idea.
6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
La MaMa is an amazing place.  They love and support artists above all, and I am so in awe of that. They are so bold with their political support of artists, especially international artists.  They have to raise money just like all the other theaters, but if an artist needs something that is going to cost some extra cash, they most likely will come down on the side of the artist.  We all feel that when we work there.  La MaMa also has some quirky traditions, like WHY are the wings in the Ellen Stewart Theatre silver???  Probably because Ellen had them painted silver decades ago and they are going to stay that way forever, even though they reflect light back onto the stage and reveal the dancers crossing in the wings.  If anyone gave me permission, I would personally paint them black before our opening tomorrow, but I bet that isn’t going to happen.

LaMaMa presents
By: Jane Comfort & Company
May 28 - May 31
Thursday-Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 4pm
Ellen Stewart Theatre | 66 East 4th Street (2nd Floor)

6 QUESTIONS: Alexandra Beller

Alexandra Beller's milkdreams comes to La MaMa's Ellen Stewart Theatre on June 11th as part of the 10th Annual La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival.  Alexandra took time out from rehearsals to answer our six questions about milkdreams, her approach to creating work and working at La MaMa!

1. milkdreams was created by translating the movement of your young children (14 months and 5 years) onto the bodies of adult dancers. Were there any challenges in this process which surprised you?

The biggest challenge in creating milkdreams was finding the balance between detailed analysis and meaning. Finding the authentic qualities of baby dancing requires an extremely deep and meticulous analysis. We must inhibit integration that we have spent a lifetime building, find ourselves in disequilibrium, engage in a fearlessness that is not natural. This requires an unbelievable attention to the details of each movement. We did this, but then somehow seemed to lose the meaning of why we were doing any of this. It required stepping back again to look at the gestalt of the piece and remembering that the disequilibrium was about allowing the audience to see us without any of the ways we try to control ourselves and our environment. It wasn't just about a hell bone/sitzbones connectivity; it was about being a human with no ability to control the world.

2. You mention that the work is for "five dancers of strikingly different physiques." Many dancers I have interviewed have mentioned a pressure to be of a certain body type. Have you or your collaborators encountered this?  What drives you to feature physical heterogeneity in your work?

There are actually now four dancers in the work.

I make dances that are about my experience of being human in the big world, which is a place where you see a lot of difference; difference abounds to the point that it can no longer be considered "different," that there is no "norm." In my ideal company, no two people would look alike, and you would have a sense of the stage as a microcosm. But I also have fallen in love with these four people at this particular moment, and they are not as diverse as the world proper. While I am open and hopeful that the company will mirror the world, image is not my priority. So sometimes I find myself with a more heterogeneous company than others.

I have battled the dance world my whole life for having a body type that is not considered appropriate for dance. I still battle the expectations daily, even as a choreographer and teacher off the main stage. It is an issue that I have resisted taking on, because it is not what I am making work about and I often feel that fighting it gives it more attention than it deserves. Yes, I believe anyone can dance, of any body type, with any number of limbs, with ability or disability, of any height, weight, race, training, nationality, etc. That seems obvious to me and I wonder why we are still discussing it. But, of course, not everyone is there, and for many people, it is still shocking to see a dancer who doesn't fit their physical expectations. Let's just say I acknowledge but don't accept that.

3. You also teach dance - Is there a particular age of student you especially enjoy instructing -or- find especially difficult to instruct?

I am really a teacher of adults. I admire greatly people who are skilled children's teachers, but it is not where either my passion or my talents lie. the things I am interested in are gleaned from years of questions about anatomy, morality, politics, sex, love, and fear. These are not things that mesh well with teaching other people's children... I love teaching both beginner and advanced adults, from college to older adults. The physical capability is not the quintessential thing for me. The openness to connecting meaning to movement is where my deep inquiry occurs, and I believe any curious, engaged adult can do that.

4. What was the process of collaborating with composer Robert Poss like? When did you introduce music into dance rehearsals and how much did one influence the creation of the other?

Robert Poss and I have worked together for 10 years. His ability to create a mood that affects me on a visceral level, and shifts my attention is very powerful. I created the dances in silence, as I almost always do (music is way to intense a motivator for me to use it right away). I found this old track he had made 10 years ago and started using it and, right away, it put us into a state that was immersive and fluid. He and I began working together to revise and adapt the score to the dance. So I would say that the score set the tone and then the dance drove the structure.

5. How did collaborating with Developmental Movement Experts change your approach to this piece? As a parent, did you gain any new insights into the developmental process of your children?

Without the scientific scaffolding, there was only so much that we could do in rehearsal to figure out what was happening in any one moment of disequilibrium. We could mimic and approach the movement, but working with BMC experts (Body Mind Centering) allowed us to get exponentially deeper and more authentic and more present with the material. Working with this material from my children has been transformative and very meaningful. There is always a rending, as a parent/artist, to the act of making work, and the act of not making work to parent, that can be very stinting and painful. This piece allowed me to create work while being involved with my children (even through the act of watching them over and over on video, and embodying their dances), and it gave me a special lens through which to watch them while we played in real life, that kept my artistic practice alive while I was parenting. This piece has become as much a spiritual practice as an artistic one. It is the first work I've made where I don't feel any separation between my "artist" perspective, my female perspective, my mother perspective, my human perspective. There are no lenses for me in this work. It is central to all of me. Babies are as close to whatever we are not, whatever is before and after us, as we will get until we approach death. To get into the mind, the body of a baby, to develop understanding of what it feels like to BE them, has been an immensely spiritual activity.

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

To have this work, which is so important to me, at la MaMa, which has been on an altar of creativity for such a long time, is empowering and inspiring. La MaMa, for me, represents exactly what this work is attempting: to build on history while constantly seeking a new way to communicate, to bridge relationships, to foster a future. Both La MaMa and this work are seeking a new artistic model, a new way to create, and a way to use the present to manifest a future. I feel so very lucky to be presenting this work in this space, with these incredible art-lovers at the helm. And on a personal note, to be at an institution run by a mother of small children feels like a great blessing.

Here is the video that inspired the dance, over 1 billion views and counting:

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La MaMa presents
by Alexandra Beller/Dances
part of La MaMa Moves! 2015 Dance Festival

June 11 - 21, 2015
Thursday - Saturday at 8pm; Sunday at 4pm

The Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003

Tickets: $25 adults; $20 students/seniors; ten tickets priced at $10 each are available for every performance - pre- sale only!

For Tickets & Info: CLICK HERE

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
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
by Junk Ensemble

La MaMa and Irish Arts Center present

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
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
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


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 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 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 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. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The NY Times LOVES The Floatones! Critics' Pick!

Alexis Soloski loves The Floatones!  New York Times Critics Pick!

"Very nearly unclassifiable and utterly delightful, “The Floatones,” Jim Neu’s fantastical, irrational Zen koan of a musical, returns to La MaMa about 20 years after its premiere there."

Read the full review: HERE

La MaMa presents
by Jim Neu
directed by Catherine Galasso & Keith McDermott
with Jess Barbagallo, Joshua William Gelb, Larissa Velez-Jackson and Greg Zuccolo

NOW - March 10, 2015 - Final 3 Performances!
Friday and Saturday @ 10pm; Sunday at 6pm

The Club @ La MaMa74A East 4th Street(Between Bowery and Second Avenue)New York, NY 10003

Tickets: $18 Adults; $13 Students/Seniors; ten $10 tickets available for every performance, advance sales only, while they last!

For tickets and info: CLICK HERE