Arts Watch: Summer at Abrons with Festival TDB and Hot Meet

Abrons Arts Center is very busy this summer, and two big events are kicking off this week.

Review: Avant-Garde-Arama is Alive and Well

Tom Murrin in Full Moon blue glitter. Photograph ©2013 Jim Moore/

Tom Murrin in Full Moon blue glitter. Photograph ©2013 Jim Moore/

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.

Audition as Live Performance, and a Film, From Itziar Barrio

The Perils of Obedience at Abrons Art Center.

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.

TLD Interveiw: Abrons New Director of Education, Robert La Fosse

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.

Open House Sunday to Kick Off Winter/Spring Classes at Abrons Arts Center

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 Returns to Abrons, Just in Time

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’s “Love’s End” Comes to Abrons

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.

Ken’s Music Pick: Leon Redbone at the Abrons

Leon Redbone

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.

Leon Redbone

BLOOM! Collective Makes U.S. Debut at Abrons

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.)

Innovative Kids’ Theater Company Partners with Abrons Arts Center

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.

Big Art’s “Broke House” at Abrons Arts Center

If you didn’t get to see “Broke House,” by Big Art Group at this year’s American Realness Festival, you have another chance.  The new production made a big impression in its debut — so the Abrons Arts Center is bringing it back for a three week run starting this Friday night.

Inspired by Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Broke House is certainly relevant to the times.  As the title suggests, everything is falling apart, as an unconventional family struggles under the weight of the foreclosure crisis, Occupy Wall Street and societal upheaval.  On a bare stage, the Company constructs and dismantles a skeleton of a house, as a documentary filmmaker records their every move.

The Drama review said of this production:

True to their name, Big Art Group’s performances are big in every possible way: prismatic visuals hurtle across a panoply of screens, dazzling with flashing colors; strange conjunctions of video imagery captured live by a battery of cameras and spliced together in real time, ambush the eye; digital soundscapes thrum, groan, and roar at synesthesia- inducing volumes.

For show and ticket information, visit the Abrons web site.


Arts Watch: Visual Artist Bryan Zanisnik Moves In To Abrons Arts Center

Brian Zanisnik. Photo via Abrons Arts Center.

As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” In the case of visual artist Bryan Zanisnik, that treasure would be the random assortment of junk he’s gathered from various Abrons’ storage spaces, combined with bits and pieces from his childhood home. The articles for this collection include: police costumes, hardware shelving, random pieces of cardboard, his collection of toys, comic books, baseball cards, and other icons of boyhood — combined to create Every Inch a Man, his expansively cluttered site-specific performance and installation.

Every Inch a Man centers around Zanisnik reading Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel while inside of a specially designed life-size Plexiglas container.  Except for the intermittent breaks to eat lunch with his parents, Bob and Carol Zanisnik, who are often incorporated into his work, and to tinker with his growing installation, the artist will “perform this incongruity day in and day out as an absurdly Freudian compulsion to relive adolescent, and familial trauma.” Five hours a day, four days a week, for five weeks.

Risa Jaroslow & Dancers Come to Abrons Arts Center

Risa Jaroslow has been a longtime presence in the New York contemporary dance scene since 1974, when she began creating her compassionate choreography rooted in the everyday. When she formed her company, Risa Jaroslow and Dancers, 25 years ago, she dedicated it to merging performance and community engagement; including diverse communities as participants and not just audience.

Celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary season this week at Abrons Arts Center, Jaroslow revives her critically acclaimed Resist/Surrender, which “unites the virtuosity of trained dancers with the contributions of non-trained dancers to create a highly visceral and daring work.”

Jody Oberfelder Examines the Heart With THROB

Photo by Travis Magee.

Choreographer Jody Oberfelder loves to stretch the boundaries of physicality in her work, often combining an array of highly athletic and expressive choreography with ample doses of humor and humanity. Her latest piece, THROB, comes to the Abrons Arts Center this weekend.  The piece is inspired by the biological workings of the heart, and grew out of conversations with cardiologist Dr. Holly Andersen about the science of  “our most fundamental organ.”

TLD Interview: Abrons Artistic Director Jay Wegman

The Residents - From "Sam's Enchanted Evening"

We spoke with Abrons Arts Center’s Artistic Director, Jay Wegman, as he was preparing to announce his 2012 Spring Season. We discussed some of the upcoming shows and what he would like to see for Abrons in the future. Wegman has been producing some very cutting edge performances over the last few years. In 2009, The New York Times noted that Abrons “is gaining a reputation as one of the last standing locations for avant garde performance downtown.”

TLD – Tell us what you’re excited about this season.

JW – Well the spring kicks off with John Cage – who used to be a music teacher here – and it’s the 100th anniversary of his birthday so Alarm Will Sound is coming. They are based in Chicago – and Carnegie Hall is bringing them here as part of their American Maverick Series, as well as the Jack Quartet – so those are two free events for the community.