In partnership with the Educational Alliance, The Lo-Down is continuing our series of panel discussions on interesting neighborhood topics at the new Manny Cantor Center. We hope you’ll join the conversation! After kicking the series off with a lively discussion on historic preservation a few weeks ago, our next panel focuses on the “state of the performing arts” on the Lower East Side. Guests include:
- Jay Wegman, artistic director of Abrons Arts Center
- Ellie Covan, founder and artistic director of Dixon Place
- John Collins, founder and artistic director of the theatrical company, Elevator Repair Service
- Nicky Paraiso, director of programming at The Club at La MaMa
We’ll check in with these esteemed programmers, producers and artists, and examine the current climate for the performing arts downtown. We’ll look at how audiences and venues have evolved over the years, and we’ll explore the idea of building and growing audiences in the future, as the neighborhood continues to transform.
There’s another conversation on June 2nd focusing on the Grand Street cooperatives – past, present and future.
The free event on Monday, the 28th, at 7 p.m. Local beer, kosher wine and snacks will be provided. Click here to RSVP. You can also check out some other events coming up at the Manny Cantor Center here.
I went to see Beauty and The Beast yesterday at Abrons Arts Center. A friend warned me it was “very very very very very raunchy. ” I know, that’s a lot of “verys.” After all, this was a Julie Atlas Muz (Beauty) and Mat Fraser (Beast) production. She of neo-burlesque fame (a former Miss Exotic World). He, a past winner of the UK’s Exotic Award for Best Male Striptease. So my expectations for a Disneyfied PG version (even an R rating) of their interpretation of this classic fairy tale of love and acceptance were low.
Any fears those of us in the audience might have had that we were going to possibly shed a tear for our lovers were quickly extinguished by Muz who early on plainly tells her Beast “there aren’t any fairy tales.” I can’t remember if this took place before or after she had us all join in and bark like dogs.
Was I disappointed? No. Was I surprised? Yes. In fact, I was moved. This Beauty, beautifully decorated in Gothic storybook style, sans shadow puppets, snarly rose bushes and wrought iron gates, was actually a very sweet interpretation. Ok, maybe sweet is not the exact word for it. Muz and Fraser are prolific conceptual and multi-disciplinary performers who have been shocking and delighting audiences around the world with their work, which is always filled with a “subervise lack of political correctness.”
Their milieu usually includes a sideshow style take on feminism, disability and entertainment; this production works in all of those elements (including a few clever moments with puppeteers and prosthetic arms) but it is even more lavish than usual. I was completely drawn into the world they created, often rooting for the Beast to win over Beauty—at times wondering, each time Beauty spurned Beast’s advances, who was more beastly?
The show starts out with Fraser and Muz facing the audience directly and explaining who they are. Fraser, a British “Thalidomide baby,” was born with short “seal” like arms (or “small and perfectly deformed arms,” as he calls them)– hence the Beast, and Muz, our Beauty, was just a restless and curious doe eyed American girl from the mid-west’s murder capital of the world, Detroit.
The pair continue in this style throughout the show as they break character to weave in stories about their own true-life fairy tale of how they met and fell in love, with the archetypical story of Beauty and the Beast.
The raunch? It is there, but it’s sly and playful, from the minute the inevitable attraction to each other begins to the moment they consummate their love for each other. As for the end? Let’s just say, they both enjoy a very “Happy Ending” — in every position imaginable!
Through March 30th // Abrons Arts Center – 466 Grand St. // $35 // 8:00 p.m.
Abrons is rolling out the red carpet for their annual benefit to support their arts center.
Abrons Arts Center’s classes and workshops offer progressive, experiential learning opportunities for students at all levels of artistic development.
Along with the NY Fringe Festival, it’s nice to know there’s still some theater to be found in the “dog days” of August here on the L.E.S.
Abrons Arts Center is very busy this summer, and two big events are kicking off this week.
Tom Murrin in Full Moon blue glitter. Photograph ©2013 Jim Moore/Vaudevisuals.com.
As a long-time fan of PS122′s Avant-Garde-Arama and Tom Murrin’s Full Moon shows, I was eager to catch the tribute show held at Abrons Arts Center last weekend.
Avant-Garde-Arama: New Moon was put together as a celebration of sorts, dedicated to Murrin, a downtown luminary and performance artist (aka “The Alien Comic”), who passed away last March after a long illness. Tom never missed an A.G.A. – he performed in them for 27 years. His own Full Moon shows, performed on every full moon at PS 122, were infamous for their outrageous antics and zany rituals performed by Tom’s imaginary friend and creation, the lunar goddess, “Luna Macaroona.”
In keeping with the times, Lori E. Seid’s Lesbian Love Lounge was virtual. But everything else about the show felt familiar and in keeping with its origins nearly thirty years ago as the anything-goes downtown variety show—just as long as the ‘anything’ was under eight minutes long.
The Perils of Obedience at Abrons Art Center.
The Lower East Side has long been a breeding ground for hopeful artists and dreamers. Now, Itziar Barrio’s The Perils of Obedience, at Abrons Art Center this past weekend, brilliantly harnessed that drive and made it into a fascinating performance. Following an open call held at the Henry Street Settlement, selected actors auditioned for four days with theater director Nigel Smith. The surviving seven actors performed their last two days of callbacks in front of a live audience. The entire process was recorded and will be included in a resulting video piece, in which the final four actors will also star.
Robert La Fosse.
Henry Street Settlement opened its doors this past weekend for a festive open house and introduction to their new Director of Education, esteemed dancer and choreographer Robert La Fosse. La Fosse was a long time Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, as well as the New York City Ballet. In addition to his work in classical ballet, La Fosse starred in Broadway productions of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ and Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor.
He will helm a program that offers more than 100 classes a year and has an annual enrollment of more than 500 students. He also is charged with the direction of the Abrons Dance Ensemble and Urban Youth Theater, as well as the Abrons’ extensive programs in New York City public schools. TLD Contributor Royal Young spoke with La Fosse at the open house.
A passionate piano player and full band were installed upstairs where golden afternoon sunlight poured in over drums, cello and violins. There was a silk screen station with Evelyn Donnelly offering free Abrons Arts Center shirts in multi-colored prints. Wine, juice and tea sandwiches were served.
Photo by Lee Brozgol.
Robert La Fosse.
The Abrons Arts Center is hosting an open house on Sunday to kick off the winter/spring class schedule. You’ll have the chance to meet Robert La Fosse, Abrons’ new director of education. He comes to the Lower East Side with impressive credentials. la Fosse was formerly Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, as well as Principal Dancer at the New York City Ballet.
On Sunday there will be a variety of special performances, dance and art workshops, t-shirt silkscreening and building tours. Food will be served in the lobby area. The open house takes place at 466 Grand St. from 2-4 p.m.
For more information about Abrons classes, check out their web site.
The Citizens Band – via Abrons Arts Center.
Just in time for our upcoming elections, New York City’s very own political cabaret troupe, The Citizens Band, has returned to Abrons Arts Center to perform songs from their first studio album, Grab A Root and Growl. The group was formed after the 2004 elections with the specific intention of combining music, theater and dance with politics and humor. Abrons notes: “Grab A Root and Growl mixes classic interpretations with original songs, intended as a call to action for all to protect democracy rather than embrace its greatest enemy: apathy… The Citizens are here to remind you what’s at stake, not just for this voting day but for the future of our democracy.”
The group performs at 8:00 p.m. nightly through October 27th. Tickets are $40.
Pascal Rambert – photo via Abrons Arts Center.
The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)’s Crossing the Line 2012 festival continues this week at Abrons Arts Center with the English Language premiere of Pascal Rambert‘s Love’s End, a story of a couple facing a broken relationship. The couple in question, portrayed by Kate Moran and Obie Winner Jim Fletcher, sit in a bare room, and through separate monologues and physical movement, revisit the unraveling of the relationship. Rambert’s script has been tailored specifically for these two performers.
The true International Man of Mystery – Leon Redbone – has no past. None that he’ll discuss, anyway. He prefers to deal in the present only. Which is to ignore the obvious irony that his 40 year career is wholly tied to his faithful renditions of early American Ragtime ditties.
The Award winning Budapest-and-London-based dance ensemble BLOOM! Dance Collective takes up residence this week at Abrons Arts Center for the highly anticipated U.S. debut of CITY, their sharp-witted, fearless work that deals with social discrimination, prejudice, power, fear and faith in the bustling urban sprawl.
Founded in 2009, Abrons notes, the collective has quickly become known for their straightforward approach to “combining finely crafted choreography with sharp humor, giving life to energetic, playful and thought-provoking performances that involve contemporary dance, theatre, design, sound and music.”
When we spoke with Abrons Artistic Director Jay Wegman, he told us he brought BLOOM! in for their first stateside performance because their work is political – “not ‘bang you over the head political’ but the situation in Hungary right now is very bad – it’s becoming very nationalist, almost fascist, all kinds of rights are being taken away from Hungarians, the press, voting rights, things like that and artists are having a particularly tough time. So they kind of grapple with that in a very interesting way.” (They also often perform in the nude.)
Editor’s Note: Our contributor, Giacinta Frisillo recently spoke with Nellie Perera of the Abrons Arts Center, who is excited to be partnering with an innovative new children’s educational theater company, Trusty Sidekick. The company also took part in the Artists-in-Residence program at The Performance Project at The University Settlement this past season and produced the highly praised Shadow Play for a very young audience (ages 2-5).
“Finding a balance between education and the arts has always been a part of the mission at Henry Street Settlement,” says program director Nellie Perera, and ever since Henry Street’s recent partnering with up-and-coming theatre company Trusty Sidekick, the balance between the two has reached perfect alignment.