La MaMa Blogs: September 2020

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

La MaMa Stands With Belarus

On the evening of September 9, 2020, exactly one month after the elections in Belarus, cultural organizations around the world joined Belarus Free Theatre’s Global Artistic Campaign in Solidarity with Belarus by lighting up our facade (with help from CultureHub's Sangmin Chae and Billy Clark).

Since the election, Belarus has witnessed its biggest protests in modern history, as the Belarusian people have defied threats of a government crackdown to continue protesting the falsified election results. This weekend more than 100,000 people filled Independence Avenue in Minsk calling for Alexander Lukashenko to step down, with marches also taking place in 33 cities across the country, including Brest, Vitebsk and Grodno. The EU has stated that it does not recognize Lukashenko as Belarus’s president and is moving forward with targeted sanctions on members of his regime.



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Interview With Downtown Icon Yoshiko Chuma

LA MAMA: How would you describe your work as an artist? 

YOSHIKO CHUMA: For me, inspiration and creation are a kind of laboratory, almost like a science. I am always observing; always had a vision, in a very mathematical sense. Very often, we want to be categorized. Am I a dancer? Yes. Am I a choreographer? Yes. I direct for the theatre, yes. I can be an actor, a performer, a designer – yes. I am really more of a scientist, or a mathematician. 

My work with The School of Hard Knocks comes from the idea that you learn the hard way, and you are often uncomfortable when you don’t know where you’re landing. Those ideas are almost always present in my productions. 

LA MAMA: Tell us about your Saturday Morning Live: Zooma - Dead End - series and your upcoming 24-hour performance, Love Story: The School of Hard Knocks. 

YOSHIKO CHUMA: When I came to NY, I went to a taping of Saturday Night Live. I’ve known Lenny Pickett [musical director of SNL] and his wife Kathy [dancer] since 1978-79. Kathy called me one day and said, “what are you doing on Saturday?” So, we went, and I observed, and it’s very interesting how SNL participates with the audience. 

When you are watching SNL in your living room, you see advertisements. But when you’re there live, and they call “CUT,” you see every single change…the set, the costumes, every kind of person coming through; stage managers, special guests…and it’s moment-to-moment until they go, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Hello!” The most interesting part is the bridge between segments, from one kind of a world to another. That style is implemented with my production. Love Story: The School of Hard Knocks is exciting because it may be the first of my productions that is looking at the future, not the past. We’re working onsite with two cameras, online with Zoom, and with pre-recorded “advertisements,” so there are three layers of media. 

LA MAMA: Have the current conditions of the world influenced your creative practice? If so, how? 

YOSHIKO CHUMA: I say yes and no. I’ve been holding Zoom rehearsals…I became a Zoom expert. I am a visual artist too, and since 1979, I’ve made 16-millimeter films. Online, you don’t hand-cut the film. That’s not how video editing works anymore. The pandemic introduces an interesting bridge in approach. Communication is very different. It also opens the door to work overseas. With this project, I can include artists from Tehran, Venezuela, Palestine, and Turkey. They are working with my Manhattan group of artists. And that’s really very beautiful.

Watch Yoshiko Chuma's 24-hour performance, Love Story, School of Hard Knocks live on Saturday, October 17th at 11am to Sunday, October 18 at 11am.