La MaMa Blogs: November 2021

Monday, November 29, 2021

6 Questions for Justin Elizabeth Sayre of TO BUILD A SOUL

Photo by Matthew Dean Stewart 

Justin Elizabeth Sayre is a fixture of the Downtown Cabaret Scene in New York, first with their long-running monthly show, The Meeting of The International Order of Sodomites (Bistro Award-winning & 2 MAC nominations), and now with new shows at Joe’s Pub/The Public Theatre like Peaches, Eggplants, and Tears and The gAyBC’s, a five-part series. 

In their new solo work, To Build a Soul, Justin Elizabeth Sayre takes on the artist’s mind. Using memory from their own life and the lives of artists, Sayre explores the compulsion to create, and the inherent hope that keeps them and so many others showing up to create. There are 8 performances in the Downstairs Theatre from December 2–12. Tickets can be purchased here

1. Who or what has inspired you to create?

That is a very long list! I've been inspired by so many great artists. I've taken inspiration from James Baldwin, Tennessee Williams, Charles Ludlam, Jackie Curtis, and Ethyl Eichelberger for sure. In the show, we actually talk about my greatest influence, Eva Le Gallienne. But the list goes on and on. I take so much inspiration from fellow artists, but I also draw on my own life, my own experience of the world, with this show especially. 

2. How did you come to collaborate with director Dusty Childers?

Dusty is one of my dearest friends in the entire world. His eye for aesthetics and his natural storytelling abilities made him the obvious choice for this very personal show. It's been a dream of a process, with so much support and love flowing between us, we both see the performances as merely widening the circle of the joy we've already created. 

3. What have you learned from writing new work during a pandemic?

Now is the time for innovation and patience. We have to continue to understand what the theatre is and can be in this new era and realize that perhaps not all the old forms will manifest in this new paradigm. And that's coming from a raging traditionalist! But I see this shift as a time for new dreams. The theatre is a place for collective belief and imagination, those are its strengths. By making work that plays upon those natural attributes, and for goodness, to invest in the power of delight, I think new work can spring forth from this rather dire period. 

4. Can you elaborate on the process of creating semi-autobiographical work?

Well this show, To Build a Soul is a collection of autobiographical stories that talk about my relationship to the Theatre. So in that way, you're weeding out the things that don't serve that narrative. My life, everyone's life, in fact, is layered with a multitude of influences and events, but when we're establishing one view, we must stick to it, and hue out anything that doesn't serve the story you're telling. 

5. You’re publishing a new book next year! What are your upcoming plans for 2022?

Oh so much! In January alone, I debut another solo work, My Beatnik Youth, for the Under The Radar Festival at The Public. I return to Joe's Pub for a new monthly variety show, Assorted Fruit, that will run for all of 2022. I have a play, Lottie Platchett Took A Hatchet, debuting at SF Sketchfest and then going to the Edinburgh Fringe in August. And at least three readings of new plays this year, and the final reworking of an older play of mine, The Click of the Lock

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

Well, this is my second show here at La MaMa, so in a way, it feels like a homecoming. I'm so honored to be here as an artist creating work in this illustrious place with such a rich and formidable history. But it's also a place of new work, of new voices, creating new work that will continue the brave spirit of Ellen Stewart. You still feel her presence in the building. And yet it's not a place of intimidation, everyone here makes you feel so welcome and free. It is a spirit of YES! Telling each artist who comes through these doors, to go farther, do better, and make something new. It's invigorating and thrilling, and as the naturally greedy person I am, I only wish for more. 

La MaMa presents

To Build a Soul

Written and performed by Justin Elizabeth Sayre
Directed by Dusty Childers

December 2–12, 2021
The Downstairs
66 East 4th Street, basement level
New York, NY 10003
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 4pm
Ticket Prices
Adults: $25 in advance; $30 day of show
Students/Seniors: $20 in advance; $25 day of show

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

6 Questions for Stephen Petronio

Stephen Petronio is a choreographer, dancer, and the Artistic Director of the Stephen Petronio Company. For over 35 years, Stephen Petronio has honed a unique language of movement that speaks to the intuitive and complex possibilities of the body informed by its shifting cultural context. He has collaborated with a wide range of artists in many disciplines over his career and holds the integration of multiple forms as fundamental to his creative drive and vision. He continues to create a haven for dancers with a keen interest in the history of contemporary movement and an appetite for the unknown.

In Petronio Punk Picks and Other DelightsStephen Petronio Company revives a series of iconic solos and duets from Petronio's formative days coming up in the East Village, featuring collaborations from the ’90s and early 2000s. There are 4 performances in the Ellen Stewart Theatre from November 18–21. Tickets can be purchased here. Follow @stephenpetroniocompany on Facebook and Instagram!

1. What inspired you to select these specific pieces for these performances?

These are quite simply songs that I have adored throughout my life. Most of these were preludes to longer, more abstract works, employed as vectors or lenses through which to look at the works that they were attached to.

2. How does it feel to bring these revivals, reconstructions, and reimaginings to La MaMa?

These songs were the soundtrack to my life in the East Village, where I lived for many years. It seemed like a perfect way to come into La MaMa for the first time!
3. What can audiences expect from these performances, specifically the world premiere of Johnnie Cruise Mercer's and then we hit the boundary where the sun’s wind ceased...?

Johnnie is one of my favorite young artists. I met him several years back and when I saw his work it was love at first sight. He’s passionate about many things, but particularly MOVEMENT! He’s Vibratory— makes movement and dances with depth and passion that makes me happy to be a choreographer! Only Johnnie can speak to what he’s making, but whatever he makes, I eagerly watch.

4. 2022 will be the Company’s 38th Anniversary Season! What are some of the important lessons you've learned from working with your dancers and the Company as a whole?

The only reason to do it is because you LOVE it. If it’s just a job, step off. The other lesson is that in a company where you’ve worked together over years, there can be a delicious depth of discovery that continues to offer the unknown surprise.

5. What are your hopes and future plans for the Company?

Make Art, Make Art, MAKE ART! We have some big plates in the air: my next dances, our Bloodlines reconstructions from postmodern heroes and commissions from the next generation innovators, trying to reckon with inequity in the field and growing the Petronio Residency Center, a research and development facility to support future creation. The canvas of SPC is in place with plenty of room to develop these ideas. Our future is here.

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

The fear of loss of our practice in this last period was REAL. La MaMa offers us a precious door back into what we do, in the neighborhood that I grew up in as an artist. It has made me look at some of the things I love best. The drive of these songs and the brilliance of the bodies that have made them with me means everything.

Tess Montoya in Full Half Wrong (1993) by Stephen Petronio. Photo by Sarah Silver.

La MaMa presents
Ellen Stewart Theatre
66 East 4th Street, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10003
November 18 – 21, 2021
Nov 18, Thursday at 7pm
Nov 19, Friday at 7pm
Nov 20, Saturday at 7pm
Nov 21, Sunday at 2pm

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

Saturday, November 6, 2021

6 Questions for Crystal Cortez of THE INDIGO ROOM

Crystal Cortez is a sound, installation artist & programmer based out of Portland, Oregon. She is also a professor of Creative Coding & Sonic Arts at Portland Community College. Her work focuses on the empowerment of underserved populations gaining access and knowledge around technology. Under her performance moniker Crystal Quartez she transforms field recordings, uses synthesis, audio programming, data sonification, and 3D sound spatialization to produce complex sonic realms. She will be joining Timothy White Eagle and his team of collaborators for The Indigo Room, which will be performed in the Downstairs Theatre from November 11 – 21. Pay What You Can tickets can be purchased here. Follow @crystalquartez on Instagram and Twitter.

1. What role does sound play in The Indigo Room?

I’m the sound designer for The Indigo Room. I’ll be contributing to the atmosphere Timothy creates by punctuating his storytelling with sound, and helping to immerse participants in the multiple worlds he guides them through.

2. How would you describe your work as an artist?

My work is focused on using the medium of sound as a transportation device, whether that be in a large-scale interactive installation, through technology I build, or via music alone. I aim to create spaces that give permission for people (and myself) to explore something their daily life might not leave space for. In my sound creation, I build all of my own instruments with field recordings from my immediate world. I use this as a jumping off point, and morph the sounds to facilitate reflection inward or on external topics. Lately, I have been focused on the additions of multichannel sound spatialization and building wearable instruments, to create more immersive sonic environments and integrate the body in the exploration of them.

3. What made you begin your practice of producing sonic realms for reflection and release, and how has it evolved?

I’ve always had a deep interest in what the sounds around me mean; their context in the world, what emotions they elicit, what memories they trigger, how they feel in my body. It’s the sense that has been easiest for me to attach to since I was young. Creating these sonic realms began through performance art pieces where the sound I created allowed me to engage audience members in performance with me. It has evolved to creating spaces and technologies that allow people to engage with sound without my direction, through the interactive tech I build. My personal understanding of my physical and mental relationship to sound has also grown over the years through my practice, allowing me to get closer to my intentions with each soundscape I create.

4. Who or what has inspired you?

My biggest source of inspiration has been my DIY community of artists in Portland. I have been so lucky to begin my art career in a community so accepting of raw expression and experimentation. Larger artists who have influenced my work are Pauline Oliveros and her deep listening practice, and Nam June Paik’s ethos around technology and nature, among many others.

5. How did you come to collaborate with Timothy White Eagle?

Timothy and I were both chosen to be Creative Exchange Lab resident artists for the Portland Institute of Contemporary Art this year. The exchange lab was a multiple week experience, one of which was taking residents to live in the woods to rest and create together. Timothy and I ended up using the site’s chapel for spontaneous sound creation and bonded over exploring the resonance of that space. 

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

Working at La MaMa is the perfect introduction to the theater world for me. I’m honored to be contributing to Timothy’s piece, which I so believe in. Beyond that I’m excited to be working in a space that has a rich history of prioritizing and supporting artists in exploration and experimentation. I also appreciate La MaMa’s focus on audience participation, which has always been a huge part of my work. I can’t wait to start!

La MaMa presents

The Indigo Room

By Timothy White Eagle & The Violet Triangle

November 11 – 21, 2021

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

Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 1pm

Pay What You Can: $10 – $60