La MaMa Blogs: 2021

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

6 Questions for Leah Ogawa of JUMP START


Leah Ogawa is a mixed-race artist, puppeteer, dramatist, self-detective, and model based in New York City. Raised in Yamanashi, Japan, Leah has worked with puppeteers, artists, and companies including The Metropolitan Opera, Phantom Limb, Dan Hurlin, Tom Lee, Nami Yamamoto, Loco 7, and others. Leah is a recipient of the Jim Henson Foundation’s workshop grant for her original piece, Growing Not Dying, which will be as part of Jump Start: A Presentation of Works in Progress. There are only 4 performances at La MaMa, so get your tickets now!


1. Do you have a favorite puppet in your performance?

I love the feet/legs that I've created for this piece! Some might say they are not exactly a "puppet," but the way I can animate and move them is special to me. I love seeing them move gracefully. Please come see the performance live!

2. What draws you to work with puppets?

Puppets and objects can tell stories that no human actor can do. The puppet can convey a different feeling or meaning depending on how a puppeteer animates them. I see so many possibilities, qualities, and surprises in working with puppets; therefore, my work naturally draws puppetry elements to it.    

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

It made me stronger by helping me to realize that I can create my own work. Before the pandemic, I was part of other people's shows as a collaborator and puppeteer.  The pandemic naturally forced me to become more introspective and inspired me to want to share my own story even more. It gave me the space to go for it and really own my craft. 

4. What should audiences expect from the performance?

(No expectations!) I would like the audience to come in with their own story and interpret the visuals as they so desire. I hope the audiences will be surprised by my performance. 

5. Who and what has inspired you?

Everything and everyone is a source of inspiration--nature, people, objects, emotions, etc.. For this piece, and all the shows I create, I am always searching where the vulnerability lies in the story. That emotion, both personal and intimate, inspires me to go deeper into what I truly want to create. 

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
 
La MaMa is the first place I performed as a professional puppeteer. It was for Tom Lee's show, Shank's Mare (It was also for the puppet festival!). La MaMa has always supported me in my career, especially during the pandemic, providing me the space to continue developing my work. I am forever grateful for the love I receive from this community of artists. It's a special place where I can take risks, challenge myself, and keep growing as an artist. It is truly a magical place, and I am appreciative of this opportunity. Thank you Denise and Federico! 


La MaMa Presents

Jump Start: A Presentation of Works in Progress

Rebekah Crisanta de Ybarra, Charlotte Lily Gaspard, Tom Lee, Leah Ogawa, Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins

October 21 – 24, 2021

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

Oct 21, Thursday at 7pm
Oct 22, Friday at 7pm
Oct 23, Saturday at 7pm
Oct 24, Sunday at 2pm

Ticket Prices
Adults: $25
Students/Seniors: $20
Multi-Show Puppet Packages Available


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

6 Questions for Torry Bend of DREAMING

Torry Bend is a set designer, puppet artist, and Associate Professor at Duke University. Dreaming, Torry Bend's most recent collaboration with playwright Howard Craft and director JaMeeka Holloway, will premiere in the Ellen Stewart Theatre on October 14 as part of La MaMa Puppet Series 2021. There are only 4 performances at La MaMa, so get your tickets now!

1. Do you have a favorite puppet in your performance?

I love JOE LEE, he is a table top puppet that has just been transformed from a 2D racist cartoon into his original body. A body that has been unseen for the many years he has been trapped as a cartoon. There is a joy in seeing a body in all of it's human-ness (a round belly, a glint in an eye, a subtle smile) arrive on stage after we have only ever seen the character as a 2D image. 

2. How did you come to collaborate with Howard Craft and JaMeeka Holloway on Dreaming?

I had wanted to do a piece on Little Nemo in Slumberland for many years. When I sat down to do it, I quickly realized that I had to make a choice—confront the racism present in McCay's drawings, or ignore it. To ignore and continue with the project felt like a perpetuation of systemic racism, to walk away from the project all together felt like a missed opportunity, so I leaned into the challenge and made sure I had a team that could tell a story that hadn't been told and was desperately needed. Howard Craft's previous collaborations with graphic novelists and his experience with superheroes made him the perfect writer. I passed the comics on to him and was thrilled with what he brought back. JaMeeka joined the team a little later, offering a directorial ear to the dialogue that could balance my visual storytelling experience. 

3. What inspired you to create a world where comic book characters live side-by-side with real people?

This is Howard's genius! The brilliance of this concept is that it allows us to illustrate the extreme stereotyping and racism that is present in comics (both historical and contemporary) while also reveling in what puppetry does best—play with form, scale, and graphic quality. This is one of my favorite parts about this show. McCay's brilliance as a comic and cartoon artist was his graphic skill and what better way to bring that to a live stage than with puppetry, toy theater and overhead specifically. They are graphic forms that allow us to both celebrate and challenge McCay's work.

4. What do you hope audiences will learn from this performance?

I'm less interested in this being a learning opportunity, and more interested in the audience reflecting on the visual world they have been consuming. Where does it come from? Who's ideas are being upheld as "visionary" and who's are being ignored?

5. What do you hope for the future of puppetry, as well as the future of comics and animation?

I want to see a broadening of "popular" American puppetry to diverse voices and perspectives. It's such a flexible form, imagine how deep the well of inspiration could be if the perspectives on puppetry were as wide as the diversity of this country. 

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

To have my work presented in a space where I have been inspired, challenged, and influenced again and again and again is overwhelmingly humbling. 

A Black puppeteer is holding a puppet that is painting at an easel, surrounded by furniture. A set piece of brown windows is in the background.

La MaMa presents

Dreaming

Story by Howard Craft
Script by JaMeeka Holloway and Torry Bend
Directed and Designed by Torry Bend 
Associate Director: JaMeeka Holloway

October 14 – 17, 2021

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

Oct 14, Thursday at 7pm
Oct 15, Friday at 7pm
Oct 16, Saturday at 7pm
Oct 17, Sunday at 2pm

Ticket Prices
Adults: $25
Students/Seniors: $20
Multi-Show Puppet Packages Available


Tuesday, September 28, 2021

6 Questions for Kevin Augustine of BODY CONCERT

Kevin Augustine is the founding artistic director of Lone Wolf Tribe, a multi-disciplinary performance company based in Brooklyn, NY. He begins performances of Body Concert in the Ellen Stewart Theatre on October 7 as part of La MaMa Puppet Series 2021. Tickets are selling fast, so get yours now!

1. Do you have a favorite puppet in your performance?

Not really. When I'm puppeteering with each character, they are my sole focus. There are some who were easier to bond with-- the Eyeball took the longest. Initially, I was concerned audiences might not connect emotionally with these puppets because most of them don't have faces. So I worked a lot on the quality of movement and intention of each character to find their heart and personality.

This cast of puppets took the longest to make than any of my previous shows; there was a steep learning curve in working with new materials-- especially in creating the baby's translucent limbs. There are also quite a few mechanical magic trick elements that took me many months to figure out, particularly inside the Baby, the Eyeball and the Arm.

2. What inspired you to write Body Concert?

Disappointment. After making my last two shows on social issues and realizing no one is ever going to fully agree with my point of view, I wanted to make something that was indisputable. Something that didn't elicit a response on how we differ but where we're the same; what we all share. The ideas and performance approach to Body Concert—not having a text (and so no language barriers), focusing on universal aspects—our physical selves, our need for connection, our relationship with death and nature—these didn't come to me fully formed but took slow shape  as I developed the piece over six years.  But the underlying inspiration that carried me through, particularly during the times when it felt like this show would never quite manifest, was wanting to share a life experience on stage, not an ideology. 

3. How do you expand the boundaries of puppetry?

I think this happens through the performance intention I gave to myself: make a solo show that pushes me further physically while puppeteering that I had thought possible before. The early years of attempting this were excruciating; I just didn't have the muscle capacity to use my limbs in the ways that were needed to animate the puppets. And when the puppets felt too heavy to hold—instead of trying to re-engineer them to be lighter, I decided to train harder and get stronger. My process was 2D first—sketch the puppets in relationship with each other and then figure out physically how to bring those pictures to life on stage. I like personal challenges but this was much harder than I had imagined. It was a long lesson in patience and determination. A welcome consequence has been an uptick in my willingness to be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. 

4. How did you get started in puppetry? 

I still have the sock puppet my grandmother hand-stitched for me when I was a kid. Receiving that gift was the acorn that grew into discovering I too could make my own toys. Many years after that, here I am at the 25th anniversary of having my own theatre company, imagining up stories to tell while performing alongside the puppets I make.  

5. What role does the music play in this performance?

Mark's music is essential. It pretty much covers every second of stage time. It informs my performance and helps lead the audience. There was a lot of collaboration between us to find the right quality of feeling. We had two residencies in Quebec in 2018/19 where we really dug down and honed in on discovering that path together. 

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

Working at La MaMa was always a New York dream of mine. It's the pinnacle of working as a downtown, independent theatre artist. Being back in the Ellen Stewart Theatre after 2016's The God Projekt means a lot. As a lone-wolf-type-artist, my work gives me purpose and is my main focus, so I don't have a big social circle or go out much. Introverted personalities can be challenging to people, so I'm grateful to Denise Greber for invited me back for this festival.  I can't help think of that Van Gogh exhibit that's so popular now. During his lifetime the artist never sold a painting, yet today that digital exhibition is sold out & people can't wait to get tickets. Rich folks pay millions to hang his work on their walls. But when Vincent was alive, how many of those people would have felt comfortable inviting him into their homes or out to dinner? 

A darkly lit human body in the background is looking at what appears to be an arm and leg without skin, only bones, muscle, and nerves.

La MaMa Presents

Body Concert

Performed and Created by Kevin Augustine (USA)
Co-production: Les Sages Fous (QC)

October 7 – 10, 2021

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

Oct 7, Thursday at 8:30pm
Oct 8, Friday at 7pm
Oct 9, Saturday at 8:30pm
Oct 10, Sunday at 4pm

Ticket Prices
Adults: $25
Students/Seniors: $20
Multi-Show Puppet Packages Available


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

6 Questions for Shoshana Bass of WHEN I PUT ON YOUR GLOVE

Shoshana Bass is co-artistic director and ensemble performer with Sandglass Theater (Putney, VT), which begins performances of When I Put On Your Glove in the Downstairs Theatre on October 7 as part of La MaMa Puppet Series 2021. There are only 4 performances at La MaMa, so get your tickets now! Follow @sandglasstheater on Instagram and Facebook.

1. Do you have a favorite puppet in your performance?

Most of the puppets I perform in this piece were built by my father over 40 years ago. I grew up with them and have seen them perform in my father's hands for most of my life. I love them all dearly and each of their stories speak to different spiritual journeys in my own life. I remember not touching them when I was young, except sometimes carefully handing them in their silk packing bags to my father while he set up. It was a meaningful experience to receive these puppets and their stories and the most significant for me was Zedyl the shoemaker. It took me months to be able to perform him as he deals with the ultimate question of mortality. My own "Little Puppet" is my contribution to the puppet ensemble. She represents my own creative and rebellious spirit and is modeled after a simple rope and masking tape prototype I made when training with my parents in their summer intensive. In this way, she also embodies the apprentice and a not yet fully molded being. 

2. How is When I Put On Your Glove inspired by your childhood and family?

This piece arose from a moment in time where looking back and integrating past and present was really important for my own healing. Though it is specific to my story of growing up in a touring family of puppeteers and theater directors, I have also found that there are vital questions and experiences that are relatable for many different kinds of lives. The space for my father to offer me his vignettes began when I took a bad fall and was dealing with overwhelming experiences of betrayal and loss. The process was-- is-- an important part of my healing and really came down to love, and how, in the moments when something bad happens to us, we have to dig deep for the creativity to transform our narrative. In working with my director, Gerard Stropnicky, we began family story circles around the kitchen table about all the tours these puppets were part of. The piece lives within this family history, and also the larger process of artistic legacy and transition. 

3. What do you mean by “puppets are containers of memory”?

I speak about puppets as containers of memory because we were interested in a horizontal approach to narrative: capturing a moment in time is about creating space for a multitude of perspectives, memories, and associations to exist simultaneously in an uncompetitive truth. In my opinion, this is one of the most amazing things about a puppet. They are empty vessels into which we can freely project without fear of harming, appropriating or overloading it. When an audience breathes with the puppet, they are breathing with everything that puppet might evoke for them and they are physically investing in that puppet's life by imbuing it with their own capacity to imagine and animate. There is room for everyone's memory to hold a valid space. So in spending our time with the spiritual questions posed by the puppet, we are invited into spending time with our own associations and memories. 

4. What does legacy mean in the field of puppetry?

In my personal experience, legacy doesn't only mean inheriting my parents' theater, some of their creative work, and a technique. It also encompasses a lifetime of relationships with other puppetry and theater artists around the world, hosting, being hosted, learning about cultures through their artistic ambassadors, and celebrating an art form which, at its core, is about practicing compassion. We have been in a process of transition at Sandglass as the artistic leadership of the organization passes from my parents to me. Two vital aspects of this legacy work include honoring the roots of this great tree and making sure there is space for new branches, eco-systems and dreams to grow. I feel so fortunate that this delicate transition is guided by love, as letting go, making room, including, and letting something transform can be challenging. Legacy is not only looking back, it is also looking forward and investing in new voices and systems that promote justice and equity.  

5. What do you hope for the future of puppetry?

The future of puppetry is dependent on puppeteers, emerging and seasoned, having access to basic needs, venues, audiences, funding and supportive systems and communities. Right now, I imagine the strength of this support is in the relationships we build between artists, presenters, funders, other sectors, diverse communities of audiences, social justice organizations, etc, so that the network can emerge from a difficult time with an ever-stronger and more sustainable cultural fabric that is responsive and resilient. 

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

This will be my second time performing at La MaMa. Last time, my sister and I were able to present a show that was created by our mother in the La MaMa Kids puppetry series. Now I am thrilled to be returning with an adult piece celebrating some of my father's work. I am so happy that La MaMa has embraced puppetry as part of their programming, and has created an access point for folks to meet, support and celebrate this art form together. 


La MaMa presents

When I Put On Your Glove

By Sandglass Theater
Performed and Created by Shoshana Bass (USA)
Creator of the original Autumn Portraits, Eric Bass

October 7 – 10, 2021

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

Oct 7, Thursday at 7pm
Oct 8, Friday at 8:30pm
Oct 9, Saturday at 7pm
Oct 10, Sunday at 2pm

Ticket Prices
Adults: $25
Students/Seniors: $20
Multi-Show Puppet Packages Available


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Remembering Michael K. Williams

We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of actor Michael K. Williams on September 6, 2021 at age 54. He performed at La MaMa early in his career, as well as the National Black Theatre Company and the Theater for a New Generation. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Photo by Demetrius Freeman

In this podcast episode, Marc Maron revisits a conversation with Michael K. Williams from earlier in 2021 where he says the following about La MaMa:

I was blessed to be introduced to the off-Broadway theatre world of New York City. My first play that I did was at a theatre on the Lower East Side called La MaMa Experimental Theatre under Ellen Stewart.


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

La MaMa's 60th Season In The News!

 

La MaMa's 60th Season

At La MaMa, a New Season During a 'Revolutionary Time'

Penny Couchie (left) and Animikiikwe Couchie-Waukey (right) photo by Donn Svennivick in Misdomeaner Dream by Spiderwoman Theater

La MaMa 2021–2022 Season to Include The Drag Seed, The Beautiful Lady, More

________

The Off-Broadway company will reopen its original home
after  a three-year renovation.

From left to right: Carson (Kalli Grace Bottrall) is comforted by their mother, Connie (Ed Jones) in Hell in a Handbag's The Drag Seed. Rick Aguilar Photography

La MaMa Announces 2021–2022 Season

______

Season The season will feature new works by: MARTHA CLARKE, PAUL LAZAR, TIMOTHY WHITE EAGLE, SPIDERWOMAN THEATER, TALVIN WILKS, BABA ISRAEL and more!
Baba Israel in Cannabis! A Viper VaudevillePhoto by Paula Court

The 60th Season Kicks Off With

The 2021 La MaMa Puppet Series

La MaMa's biannual festival of new contemporary puppet theatre by American and International Artists curated by Denise Greber. Premieres by the Loco 7 Dance Theatre Company, Tom Lee, Lady Xok, Kevin Augustine, Shoshana Bass, Charlotte Lily Gaspard, and Tarish "Jeghetto" Pipkins are featured in the festival, being performed live, in-person at La MaMa's Ellen Stewart and Downstairs Theatres.

At the La MaMa Galleria, as part of the festival THE JIM HENSON FOUNDATION PRESENTS: AMERICAN PUPPET THEATER TODAY: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF RICHARD TERMINE.


 

Single Tickets + Puppet Packages
 

NOW ON SALE

ALSO IN OUR 60TH SEASON...


A FEW DEEP BREATHS
A compilation of work by Haruna Lee, Chuck Mee, Adrienne Kennedy, Robert Patrick, Eric Ehn, Huntrezz Janos, and Christopher Rivas-presented by CultureHub and La MaMa (Oct 27 – Oct 30)

STEPHEN PETRONIO DANCE COMPANY
the La MaMa debut of Stephen Petronio Dance Company (Nov 18 – 28)

RECOLORATION PROCLAMATION
John Sims' multi-media project  which explores the complexity of identity, cultural appropriation, and visual terrorism through Confederate iconography and African-American culture (Dec 2 – 5)

HISTORY/OURSTORY: THE TRAIL TO TULSA
the premiere of James E. Reynolds' HISTORY/OURSTORY: THE TRAIL TO TULSA, marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre (Dec 9 – 12)

EXPERIMENTS IN DIGITAL STORYTELLING INITIATIVE
A digital collaboration across distance between Seoul and New York FEATURING THREE AXES LIVE.

THE INDIGO ROOM
By Timothy White Eagle - November 11 – 21 at the Downstairs Theatre. An immersive, part-improvisational, part-ritualistic new work by the well-known Seattle-based Indigenous artist. THE INDIGO ROOM asks us to consider life anew after the isolation of the pandemic.

CANNABIS! A VIPER VAUDEVILLE
January 6 – 16 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre. A co-presentation by La MaMa, HERE, and Prototype, this theatrical concert explores the history of cannabis in music, dance, and spoken word. Composed by Grace Galu, libretto and co-direction by Baba Israel, dramaturgy and co-direction by Talvin Wilks.

GOD'S FOOL
By Martha Clarke - January 20 – February 10 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre. The iconoclastic creator of the form-changing dance theatre works THE GARDEN OF EARTHLY DELIGHTS and VIENNA: LUSTHAUS returns with her first new full-length work in a decade. Written by Ms. Clarke and poet Fanny Howe, GOD'S FOOL is an interpretation of the ancient story of St. Francis of Assisi and his singular life as a man of privilege who chose community over self and lived among the poor, lepers, and others disenfranchised by society. With a cast featuring John Kelly, George de la Pena, Adesola Osakalumi, and Patrick Andrews.

CAGE SHUFFLE
By Paul Lazar - February 13 – 27 at the Downstairs Theatre. Paul Lazar speaks a series of one-minute stories by John Cage from his 1963 score INDETERMINACY, while simultaneously performing a complex choreographic score by Annie-B Parson. The stories are spoken in random order with no predetermined relationship to the dancing, yet chance serves up its inevitable and uncanny connection between text and movement.

MISDEMEANOR DREAM
A new work by Spiderwoman Theater, directed by Muriel Miguel. March 3 – 20 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre

LOOK OUT SH!^HEAD
By Object Collection - Jan 27 – Feb 6 at the Downstairs Theatre. Based on the legendary French director Eric Rohmer's 1980s film cycle COMEDIES ET PROVERBES about love and desire. Directed by Kara Feely and text composed by Travis Just.

A GRAND PANORAMA
By Theodora Skipitares - February 14 – March 6 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre. Renowned puppet creator Skipitares—known for her large-scale puppet likenesses of human figures—examines Frederick Douglass and his passion for 19th-century art forms, including the early practices of photography. Featuring a cast of professional performers and students from a public high school in Brooklyn.

LEMON GIRLS or ART FOR THE ARTLESS
By Talking Band - March 10 – 27 at the Downstairs Theatre. Written by Ellen Maddow and directed by Paul Zimet, this new work is a comedic celebration of older women-and those who will one day become older women. The cast includes Michael Lynch Ellen Maddow, Lizzie Olesker, Tina Shepard, Louise Smith, and Jack Wetherall.

BALKAN BORDELLO
A new large-scale work by Kosovo's Qendra Multimedia and La MaMa's Great Jones Repertory Company - March 31 – April 10 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre. With a new English translation and an American cast, Aeschylus's Greek epic gets an update with an American context about the fragility of democracy in the post-Trump presidency.

THE DRAG SEED
By David Cerda, performed by HELL IN A HANDBAG under the direction of Cheryl Snodgrass - March 31 – April 10 in the Downstairs Theatre. An 11-year-old is determined to become the next drag superstar, and with the help of their mother, young Carson enters the competition at The Josephine Baker Rainbow Academy for Gifted Students. This NY Premiere follows the play's acclaimed debut in Chicago.

LA MAMA MOVES
La MaMa's annual contemporary dance festival curated by Nicky Paraiso, April 11 – May 1 in all La MaMa venues.

THE BEAUTIFUL LADY
By Elizabeth Swados, directed by Anne Bogart - May 12 – June 5 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre. Originally announced for the 2019 spring season, which was Covid-cancelled, this new production of Swados' 1980s composition has a libretto by Paul Schmidt. The late composer has adapted the words of the Futurist Russian poets from the times of the 1917 Russian revolution into a complex musical score that depicts the events that changed the world. Ms. Swados' longtime collaborator Kris Kukul (BEETLEJUICE) is musical director.

HEALTH & SAFETY
 
All staff, artists and audiences must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to be at La MaMa and to attend performances. Masks are required to be worn by audience members at all times.