Category Archives: Theater

Dread Scott: Decision at BAM

Dread Scott Decision Brooklyn Bred

Dread Scott: Decision curated by Martha Wilson and directed by Mallory Catlett at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s new Fishman Space was a powerful piece of theater about oppression.

As a world premiere and what Dread calls his “first indoor performance,” I had no real idea what to expect. When we entered the black box theater, there were four naked performers sitting on chairs (Clifford Owens, Lawrence Graham-Brown, Wilmer Wilson IV, Rocheford “Roc” Belizaire), voting booths along the back wall, and a podium with teleprompters. The room was well-lit and members of the audience found seats on the ground.

Once we were all somewhat settled, we heard high pitched squeals and barks followed by two security guards walking two German Shepherds into the main space. They quickly rounded up the performers to the side and Dread Scott walked up to the podium in full politician attire. He thus began reading the Dred Scott Decision as stage hands created a roped queue where members of the audience would line up. The dogs took their post on either side of the stage while the performers stood in front of the line, just in front of the voting booths where the audience was led.

I went up with the first batch of people, wanting to fully participate in the performance. What lay behind those curtains? What was it like to stand in line with everyone else and listen to Dread speak over the howling of the dogs? What was he saying and what was the significance of it in this setting? How were the performers engaging the audience? I shared a very intense moment with Clifford Owens. As I stood at the front of the line, waiting to enter the voting booth, he locked his eyes on mine. However uncomfortable I was, I stared back trying as best I could to understand what he was trying to convey to me. I believe he was trying to tell me, think of what it’s like in my position, my history.

I entered the booth, which had instructions to read the ballot, vote, place it in an envelope, and then put it in the ballot box. Upon doing that, you received a screen-print made by Dread just for this performance.

The ballot described the statistics of imprisonment of African-American men and how neither presidential candidate had that issue on their ticket this election. Then it asked – knowing that information – would we vote?

It was not an easy decision to make given the circumstances. The new knowledge from the reading of the Dred Scott Decision, the extremely loud barking dogs, and the performers you knew were part of these statistics. Would I vote? I never thought differently. Is Dread Scott trying to persuade me not to vote? But wait, I am a woman whose reproductive rights are on the ballot (without even discussing healthcare reform). So yes, I need to vote.

As I returned to my spot, I began to look upon the other audience members, those waiting in line not knowing what to expect, and those who were leaving the voting booths. I wondered if everyone else was feeling the same as I was – disenchanted with a country that has given me and my family so many opportunities.

All in all, the participatory nature of the piece lent itself very well while imparting knowledge of the Dred Scott Decision and its lasting effects, Dread Scott: Decision asked the audience to question their sense of patriotism and civic duty.


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Megan Mazarick and Mason Rosenthal: Mining the Mine of the Mind for Minderals

Last night I attended the Triskelion Arts 4th Annual Collaborations in Dance Festival in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to see Rebecca Hite’s, The Tale. In addition to that piece, I was taken aback by Megan Mazarick and Mason Rosenthal’s Mining the Mine of the Mind for Minderals.

I must admit that I was at first skeptical when I read in the program that when Megan and Mason met, they felt it was a “match made in heaven when, at their first rehearsal, they spent 3 hours pretending they were Gremlins giving a mansion tour.” I was also a bit skeptical that they were using TED talks as their source material – not the most inventive idea as they are performances unto themselves.

But from start to finish, this piece was entertaining and thought-provoking.

And I don’t mean to use thought-provoking to be funny as the work discussed – through dance and speech – the theories of how the mind works. The performance took the viewer on a ride through shifting physical and mental states using play-on-words (bear, bare, barely, Barry White, etc.) and didactic exercises explaining dualism vs. monism. Who can go wrong exploring metaphysics? Especially with such enthusiasm and candor.

Mazarick’s movements were exact and finely finessed and Rosenthal’s acting was subtle and enthralling. It made for a perfect blend of dance and theater.

All in all, I enjoyed the dynamic tour of the mind led by Mazarick and Rosenthal.

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Bob by SITI Company

Will Bond as Bob presented by SITI CompanyBob played by Will Bond presented by SITI Company at New York Live Arts is brilliant. The character of Robert Wilson is portrayed by bringing elements of his personal life and professional life together seamlessly for an inside look at the famed theater director.

It is as if Bond has inhabited Bob’s body, matching the long pauses, the high-pitched inflections, and the gestures. He executes the theatrically polished stories infusing bits of his theater and at times losing concentration and falling to stuttering. In true Bob fashion, the piece plays with the audience, asking them to question the motives of what he was saying. Could we genuinely hang on every word that Bob says when he tells a story about one day only saying, “Hmm” to see how far he could get?

The work also plays as a Robert Wilson work with its lighting, music, choreography, stillness and simplicity. The stage is set with a Wilson designed chair and table and a grid pattern on the floor. The lighting is bright, it is intense, it is dramatic. On the table is a gallon of milk which Bob drinks intermittently, adding a layer of tension to the already tense work.

And yet, with all the theatricality and storytelling, the work is more than just biographical – it speaks to the idea of theater. In one anecdote, Bob says that normal theater speeds up time and by the end the work itself has explained its meaning, which in essence leaves no time or space for contemplation. What is theater if it does not challenge one to think?

All in all, the theatricality, the emotion, and the psychology of the work engages the audience and encourages them to reflect on the life of one man, and his impact on theater.

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UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW at Baryshnikov Arts Center

Young Jean Lee Untitled Feminist ShowI did not know what to expect from the UNTITLED FEMINIST SHOW but I knew that I was due to see something by Young Jean Lee. I was more than pleasantly surprised by the wildly entertaining performance.

The show started with six nude performers – of varying body-types – walking down the steps of the Baryshnikov Arts Center orchestra stairs in a very serious and modern dance-like nature. With the audience silenced by this, the performance continues from modern dance to a ballet narrative that involves an evil villain, a sidekick, and innocent dancers. Finally, when the villain is slain (who thrashes about with dramatic developés before dying), it becomes clear to the audience that this is not a performance that needs to be looked at with a serious lens. This is not a dry or didactic look at feminism; rather, it is a new presentation to be enjoyed and embraced.

From then on, the audience becomes boisterous, laughing at the mockery of performative and social norms being analyzed on stage. The blending of cabaret, burlesque, dance, and theater is smooth and genuine, making for an extremely unique show. The awareness of nudity gradually fades away exposing the audience directly to the art form. Not to make a direct comparison but UFS feels like Julie Atlas Muz’s conservative yet rebellious little sister’s show. It was smart and extremely well done without being alienating or over the top.

My favorite part occurred when one of the performers sang a nonsensical solo off key for five minutes – pretending to be belting out some show-stopping song without any awareness to her lack of talent. Hilarious. Also of note were the abstract projections above the dancers, which served to set the mood and I thought were to resemble female organs.

All in all, I enjoyed the work and the exciting ride that Young Jean Lee takes the audience on.

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The Donkey Show presented by American Repertory Theater

The Donkey Show ButterfliesThe Donkey Show presented by the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) is exactly what The Boston Globe describes as “riveting.”

Set in a 1970’s disco, The Donkey Show tells the story of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The audience partakes in the disco, filling the club’s dance floor as gogo dancers entertain from elevated platforms. One cannot resist dancing to the catchy, familiar and fun disco songs in anticipation of the show. When the performance begins, characters dash around to various points throughout the club with only a spotlight to guide the audience in which direction to look.

Mr. Oberon at The Donkey ShowI had a great time following the action – not sure where to look next, not sure which characters would appear next, not sure if I would get pushed aside to make room for the actors – not to mention, trying to keep up with who was in love with who in the plot. It was a visceral experience and exciting to feel as if you were part of it of the play as an active audience member engaging with the actors.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. A great way to spend an evening dancing and being entertained.


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Ann, Or Other People presented by Broken Glass

Ann, or other peopleAnn, or other people written by Jonathan Mayer and directed by Taylor Tobin, presented by Broken Glass had its world premiere at Access Theatre. As the program noted, the play is a psychodrama/fantasia that follows Ann Coulter’s quest to find a life of meaning and purpose after the dissolution of her media career. It was quite an intense play with a shuffled narrative and a cast of characters that acted as Ann’s foils.

My favorite scene was “The Church of Ann Coulter” where Ann decides to start a cult devoted to making one’s self better by following her simple rules. At this point, Kendra Leigh Landon, who played a hard-edged, over-medicated yet layered Ann, looks to the audience to share her canon. It was a brilliant and universal scene that could have been transposed to any number of the pundits who are looking to earn a buck after their contracts end on network news stations.

All in all, I enjoyed the journey through Ann’s post-media career life and I look forward to seeing the next play written by Jonathan Mayer.

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