La MaMa Blogs: March 2023

Thursday, March 30, 2023

6 Questions with Nela H. Kornetová


Photo by Orsi Varga

Nela H. Kornetová is an independent performance maker and performer based in Norway. She works with themes that the audience can relate to instinctively, aiming to create atmospheric performances that explore the borderlines of live art forms using the body, visuals, and sound. As a member and artistic leader of the independent group T.I.T.S., Kornetová initiated, created, performed, and produced Forced Beauty, an audiovisual dance performance about power structures and our fascination with violence. 

There are three performances of Forced Beauty from April 7–9 in The Downstairs. Tickets can be purchased here.

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

Sensuous. Visual. Visceral. Human.

2. Who or what has inspired you?

Everything and everybody I meet and live. The world and my not understanding of it.

3. What can audiences expect or take away from the performance?

I hope you get touched. That you get to feel and think for yourself, yet with us. That you'll remember some of the images and sensations we have created for you.

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

I plan to survive, live well and take care of my little daughter while touring around and creating new experiences for our audience.

5. How would you Remake a World?

OH. Oh, oh. So hard. Perhaps I would rebuild it with softness, caring for and embracing our differences. And take the violent lust out of our nature.

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

La MaMa is our U.S. mum. They are giving us the opportunity and freedom to play on a very new and exciting playground. So let's see if we make new friends or new scars. :-)

Photo by Jan Husták

La MaMa presents

T.I.T.S: Forced Beauty

April 7 – 9, 2023

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

Friday and Saturday at 8:30PM

Sunday at 4PM


Adults: $30
Students/Seniors: $25
First 10 tickets are $10 (limit 2 per person)

Ticket prices are inclusive of all fees.

Two and three-show packages are available.

*Please note this production contains nudity.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

O-Lan Jones and Emmitt Tinley talk ICELAND on WBAI

From: WBAI/Cat Radio Cafe: O-Lan Jones and Emmitt Tinley 


Actress/composer/sound designer/director O'Lan Jones and Irish singer/songwriter Emmett Tinley discuss the upcoming premiere of their collaboration on the score and libretto of the theater opera Iceland: A Re-Creation Myth a contemporary love story about a disillutioned architect and a traumarized mountain guide enmeshed in the mythic world of Iceland's Dark Night. With original musical selections from the work, opening at LaMaMa on March 24. Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer 

Originally broadcast on Tuesday, Mar 14, 2023

Get ticket to Iceland: A Re-Creation Myth - performances begin Friday, March 24, 2023 at The Ellen Stewart Theatre @ La MaMa

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

6 Questions with Thomas Richards of HAN!

Photo by Piotr Nykowski

For 23 years, Thomas Richards was Artistic Director of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, an outstanding and unique performing arts research centre, a place of constant experimentation and innovation. In February of 2022, several ex-colleagues of the Workcenter opened the cultural association, Theatre No Theatre, dedicated to supporting the new theatre research of Thomas Richards. The Theatre No Theatre performances of Han!, performed by Hyun Ju Baek and directed by Thomas Richards, have been extended until March 12. Tickets can be purchased here.

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

I don't really have one specific approach as director. Fundamentally, I find it important to try as hard as possible to look at the actor in front of me as a human being, to see that person as an individual, a person who is also a potential creator. In some moments, as a director, I don't have set ideas before the start of the creative process. I don't think, for example: I want to do Miss Julie, I want to do Titus Andronicus. Rather, I want to uncover the deepest "burning point" for a given individual, for that specific actor as a creator. To find the theme, the series of memories, the topic, the creative impulses, that are so deeply linked to that individual that they engender a kind of undeniable "burning point" within the person. Thus, the actor might have an incredible pull, a temptation to confront that given theme. "Confront" is the right word, since coming in contact with, and creating around, such a "burning point" may be neither simple, nor easy. It can also take years. We may need to write, to enter a deeply collaborative effort, to create the story from scratch, the dramaturgy, the lines of actions, the sets, everything...starting from the individual. By creating from such a "burning point," we have the chance that the results will be founded on the most profound creative impulses of the actor. During that kind of creative process, as well, we make sure that the actors' gifts as a performer are interwoven into the acting structure, so that the final performance is truly unique. This, for example, is how we worked on Han!, which we are now presenting at La MaMa.

2. What are the most important lessons you learned from working with Jerzy Grotowski?

I worked with Grotowski for 13 years. Our relation did not unfold inside of an institutional setting. I was his apprentice and he was my teacher. He was kind of like a grandfather trying to pass on a knowledge and a craft to a grandson. Inside that working situation, I needed to learn to never take anything for granted. It was not like : "Oh, my parents have paid a tuition, and my teacher is obliged to teach me." No. The continuation of my work with him was based on the quality of my efforts to improve, daily, and upon growing competence. One day, in the second year of work, I began to take him for granted. I did not like the way that he had criticized my work, and I started to not work fully as a kind of revenge. I started to make it kind of emotional blackmail: "If you don't speak to me in a tone that I find nice, I will not work 100%." He immediately shifted his attention and started to work with someone else. I understood that I was about to lose my place as his apprentice. I woke up. "The work is not about good feelings, it is about good work," I thought. I learned to not expect that the truth would be nice. Without hearing the truth, you cannot grow. I would ever grow as an actor without hearing uncomfortable truths about myself. He used to say: "The work is working the work." All of this took place inside of an ambience of extreme care and attention. I had never received such high quality attention before. He was very sick. His doctors had given him 2 years to live. He needed that I learn to lead the work as quickly as possible. I would lead the daily work, and he would come to see the work when needed. I would work with the team a full day, and after, I would go meet with him, and relay all that had taken place. He would analyze my errors and successes. Then I would go back to resolve the problems with the team the next day. He stretched the 2 years the doctors had given him to live into 13 years by just going from his apartment to the workspace and back. He almost never met anyone outside the work. He gave all for the work, and this inspired me to do so in kind. In the end, I discovered that the more I would give, the more I learned.

3. What can audiences expect or take away from the performance, Han!?

I always hesitate to tell an audience what they can take away. I feel it might limit their experience, turning an unknown into a known. An audience member is an individual; a person who has a life which I know nothing about. I like to leave the audience members free in front of our art. What does that mean? It means that we must accomplish our work to the highest possible level, and this effort will potentially free the audience to take away what they can. The art work needs to be like a tree that has born fruit. The tree is there, the fruit can be picked if so wished. What does it mean then to accomplish our work? Our dramaturgy should be worked out, completely thought-out; the dramaturgy should also be as deeply meaningful as we can muster (which means, as we create, we need to challenge ourselves, our own understanding, or lack of understanding, about our own lives); the dramaturgy needs to be understandable—we should not escape readability with claims of poetic license or with vague intellectualizations; the actors' lines of actions should be fully elaborated, with details, believable, and be readable as well; the actors' lines should be accomplished and be fully alive, each performance...

4. Can you elaborate on the concept of "han" and how it informs the work?

Han is a difficult concept to understand. The concept—coming from Korea—appeared as a creative "burning point" for the actress Hyun Ju Baek in our initial creative moments together. She had come from South Korea to do a workshop with us in Italy, and we were hunting for a "creative territory" that might work for her. Through deep and long discussions with her we discovered that the theme of "han" was key. We created the performance to try to understand that concept, and to understand how it might be related to her life experiences, and potentially to our own lives as well. I have come to understand "han" as a kind of sadness, weight, joy, burden, sacrifice, hope, the suffering caused by sacrifice, emptiness, all that which in life can create an "inner fire," a desire for change, a desire for transformation...I suppose one important point that we arrived at was a kind of discovery: it's not only the nature of one's "han" that's important, it is what one does with it. Does "han" pull you down, or does it become a fire that helps you in a process of "inner" transformation, "inner" evolution?

5. How would you Remake a World?

From my experience and observation, what I seem to discover is that one cannot remake the world without remaking oneself.

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

I grew up in Manhattan. My mother, Barbara Davenport Richards, was a dancer, actress, dramaturg, and writer. She danced on Broadway in The King and I with Yul Brynner. My father, Lloyd Richards, was the head of actors training at NYU, then at Hunter College before he became Dean of the Yale School of Drama. He was the first Black American to direct on Broadway. I grew up inside Manhattan's theatre world. Before transferring to Italy to work with Grotowski in my early 20s, I performed at La Mama in Goat Man, directed by John Vaccaro. In all honesty, I think my performance was not so great. I remember going to Phebe's, the pub on the corner, after each performance and sitting there, bathed in a kind of negativity, consumed by self-criticism, since I knew that I had not been so good. It was around that time that my father—seeing my state—said to me: you only have the right to beat yourself up for 5 minutes after a performance; after 5 minutes, you must simply move on. Great advice! I have a vague memory of Ellen Stewart coming to see the performance. I remember her telling me afterwards (she knew that I had done workshops with Grotowski) that I should find a way to work with Grotowski full time. That's exactly what I did. I needed craft and I knew I would get that with him if he accepted to work with me full time. Coming back to La MaMa after all these years is simply wonderful. I left the city in my early 20s; I have spent the entirety of my professional life abroad; I have directed and acted all over the world; we have just now founded our new theatre, Theatre No Theatre in January of 2022; what a great moment for a homecoming with the presentations of Han!. These presentations mark the first time a performance I have directed is presented in NYC, my hometown! We are also happy for the glowing reviews to date and for the extension of the run!

Photo by Leonardo Linares

La MaMa presents


Extended until March 12, 2023

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

Thursday at 8PM
Friday at 8PM
Saturday at 3PM
Sunday at 3PM
Adults: $30
Students/Seniors: $25
First 10 tickets are $10 (limit 2 per person)
Ticket prices are inclusive of all fees.
Use the code HAN5 for $5 off tickets!