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Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad Head to the Big Screen as Romeo and Juliet

Last fall Orlando Bloom made his Broadway debut playing opposite two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in “Romeo and Juliet”.  This month the production made its debut in movie theaters nationwide as part of Broadway HD.  Broadway HD combines the experience of The Great White Way with Hollywood, taking a live production and showing it in a different medium.

Filmed at the end of its Broadway run, “Romeo and Juliet” is playing a limited engagement in theaters, which ends on February 19.  Seeing this production when it first premiered at the Richard Rogers Theater, I felt the show was a bit comme ci comme ça, but after seeing this production in the theaters, I felt that it had come full circle.  Both Bloom and Rashad seemed more comfortable with the language.  The production in its entirety, which seemed to not be fully complete when I saw it, exhibited a richness that wasn’t present when I saw it last year.

Another aspect of this film version was the distinct difference of viewing “Romeo and Juliet” on stage as opposed to seeing it on the screen.  On Broadway the audience is part of the experience; the actors are performing for you.  Watching it on screen I got the sensation of a voyeur – a gate crasher sneaking through the side door who quietly watches the show unfold.  The excitement wasn’t as palpable; however it was still there.

If you ask me Broadway HD is a brilliant concept.  Not everyone has the luxury of living in New York City and those that do don’t always have the opportunity to see productions while they’re making their run.  Broadway HD allows Broadway to be accessible to everyone no matter if you are in Atlanta, Denver or Brooklyn.  I’m looking forward to watching future productions courtesy of this innovative series.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

 

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KEEP UP WITH THE JONESES CONTEST

Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  But how many of you would jump at the chance to peer past the fence and find out what your neighbors are really like?

F.A.M.E NYC would like to give one lucky FAMER and a guest the opportunity to find out by extending two passes to the dress rehearsal of “THE REALISTIC JONESES” on March 12 at 8 pm.  Written by Will Eno and directed by Sam Gold, “The Realistic Joneses” stars Academy Award nominee Toni Collette, Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall, Tony Award winner Tracy Letts and Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei.

To enter to win the passes for this exclusive event, all you need to do is answer this question:

What is the name of the film in which Marisa Tomei gave her Oscar winning performance?

The winner will be announced on February 25 at 5 pm.  Despite the mounds of ice littering our sidewalks, spring is coming!  And on Broadway Spring 2014 is shaping up to be one helluva season.  Here’s your chance to become a Broadway insider. Enter this contest! 

Good luck FAMERS!

R_J

Happy 2014!

We are one month into 2014 and despite the snow and frigid temperatures; NYC is still in a celebratory mood.  The Super Bowl on Sunday… Chinese New Year…Fashion Week around the corner…new shows opening on Broadway, it may be winter, but The Big Apple is hotter than ever.  F.A.M.E NYC has remained in a festive mood as well.  So much so, that we would like to show our appreciation by offering one FAMER tickets to see the 2013 production of “Romeo and Juliet” starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad in movie theaters.  During its final week of performances the play about the world’s most famous star-crossed lovers was filmed and will be broadcast in theaters nationwide from February 13 – 19 as a part of BroadwayHD, www.broadwayhd.com.

We will pick a name from one of the FAMERS who have commented to one of our contests last year.  The winner will be announced on Monday.

THANK YOU FAMERS!  It’s been a pleasure bringing you the NYC I get to see.  The journey is still continuing and spreading in new directions.  I hope you will all take the twists and curves with me.

Afrika Brown

F.A.M.E NYC Editor and Founder

CAMILLE A. BROWN AND DANCERS

Mr. Tol E RAncE is Brilliant

I didn’t realized how rare it was to witness the emergence of a masterpiece before December 7, 2013.   “A Love Supreme”, “A Raisin in the Sun”, Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”, often times the works I regard as masterpieces were created before I was born, but the thing about a masterpiece is you know one when you see one.  It rocks your head back and socks you directly in the breadbasket.  After seeing Camille A. Brown’s “Mr. Tol E. Rance” my head has been popped up Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots style.

CAMILLE A. BROWN AND DANCERS

Camille A. Brown

Like “Revelations”, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” was born from choreographer Camille A. Brown’s personal experiences.  Frustrated with the game many artists must master in order gain recognition or make a living, Ms. Brown started on a journey that culminated in this powerful, introspective piece.  Through exploring her own emotions, Ms. Brown was also influenced by Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled”, Mel Watkins’ “On the Real Side” and the idea of the modern day minstrel.  Utilizing sketch comedy, live music and animation, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” presents a mirror to the audience allowing them to examine the influence that stereotypes have had on black culture and art.  The stereotype is the mask the artist wears to become successful, but what happens when one becomes imprisoned by it?

The Company in TOL... PC_Christopher.Duggan_166Hattie McDaniel was once quoted as saying she would rather make $700 a week playing a maid than make $7 a week being one.  This sentiment speaks to the first act of the production.  Beginning with photographs and videos of comedic actors and shows, the dance troupe then provides a blistering, rhythmic history lesson, sometimes acting out the gestures of famous black characters.  An episode of “The Twilight Zone” could best describe act two.  The particular one that comes to mind is titled “The Masks.”  Family members gather at the home of a wealthy family member whose dying. He demands the members to where masks he selected all night in order to obtain their inheritance.  They comply and when they are able to remove the mask, they realize that their face has contorted into the same shape as their mask.    As much as the first act reveals how stereotypes were used as a means of paving a way, the second act shows how stereotypes have become the main contributor to black culture and the road that was paved has lead black entertainers to a realm where minstrelsy is not only perpetuated but expected.

Waldean Nelson

Waldean Nelson

Mixing nostalgia with bitter truths, “Mr. Tol E RAncE” can brutal on the eyes and soul. The comedy and jiving lower our guards and lure us in, then without warning the rug is snatched from under your feet.  Suddenly, you realize the role you play in the perpetuation of today’s stereotypes.  As much as black entertainers wear a mask, we assist and often times insist on them wearing it.  Afterall, we are the ones that subscribe and purchase what these entertainers are peddling.  The penultimate section of act two contains two riveting solos by Waldean Nelson and Camille A. Brown, each struggling to break away from their masks.   The work ends with a dialogue between the dancers and the audience.  Explosive and extremely emotive this work barrels through the consciousness like a bullet shattering through panels of glass.  If works of art were required to be seen, this would be one of them.  It is the most telling piece of edutainment I have seen in a long time.  In short I could sum up “Mr. Tol E RAncE” in three syllables, tour de force.

CAMILLE A. BROWN AND DANCERSCamille A. Brown & Dancers performed “Mr. Tol E RAncE” at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts on December 6 and 7.   Some may always think of December 7 as a day that will live in infamy.  I will view it as a day of awakening.  There is no way you can sit down to view “Mr. Tol E RAncE” and walk out the same.  When this work is performed again I urge everyone who reads F.A.M.E NYC to see this seminal dance piece and witness this masterpiece with your own eyes, mind and spirit.

Photos: Christopher, Grant Halverson

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Holiday Savings with AAADT

For those of you that are doing your Black Friday shopping online this evening, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is offering 40% off select performances at New York City Center.  The heat that emanates from the stage of any AAADT performance is surely hot enough to thaw a frigid night and is a cool alternative to the traditional holiday outings.

To order visit, http://www.nycitycenter.org/tickets/productionNew.aspx?performanceNumber=7466 and enter code ALYFRI. 

Need an extra incentive to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, well I’ve got one.  Your purchase guarantees you a “ticket-to-dance.”  “Ticket to Dance” offers a complimentary Ailey Extension class with a ticket stub from any Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater or Ailey II performance nationwide.  There are myriad techniques to choose from, including Horton, Ballet, Salsa as well as Yoga.   Now that is a gift that keeps giving.

Photo: Andrew Eccles

New Macbeth

Macbeth Gets Abstract

Pablo Picasso once stated, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”   By using color, line and form, abstract artists, like Picasso, create works that are considered free from traditional visual references.  The deconstruction of the customary form allows the viewer to interpret the art however they desire.  This fall, the timeless words of Shakespeare are receiving an abstract spin courtesy of director Jack O’Brien.  Macbeth, starring Ethan Hawke, is playing at Lincoln Center Theater until January 12.  Steeped in colors of black, blood red and white, this production explores the adverse realities that plagued Macbeth’s mind thrusting the audience into the eye of a nightmare.  But do not believe me; see the faces of Macbeth for yourself!

To learn more about Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater please visit the following sites:

Website: http://www.lct.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LincolnCenterTheater

Twitter: @LCTheater

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William Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time On Display At The Met

In a joint acquisition with the San Francisco Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art premiered William Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time (2012) on October 22; the exhibit will run through May 11, 2014.  A five-channel installation is billed as “a thirty-minute meditation on time and space, the complex legacies of colonialism and industry, and the artist’s own intellectual life.” Kentridge was born in 1955 in Johannesburg, South Africa where he still lives and works.

The Met will host three Gallery Talk events in conjunction with this exhibit.  The dates are as follows:

Saturday, January 4, 2014, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Sunday, January 5, 2014, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 22, 2014, 11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

Gallery Talk is free with Museum admission

 

Photo:  Henrik Stromberg

Video: Antonio Limonciello

 

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Romeo and Juliet, #TheBomb or #Bomb…

When it comes to love stories, none is more well-known than that of Juliet and her Romeo.  William Shakespeare literally wrote the book (or should I say play) on the notion of star-crossed lovers.  The adaptations of this classic are endless, yet the public never tires of the story of love gone awry.  So it goes that after 36 years, William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet has returned to the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

0306_Romeo&Juliet (c) Carol RossegDirector David Leveaux’s version of Romeo and Juliet takes Shakespearian English and injects it into modern setting.  Another added twist to the original plot is the subject of race – the Montagues are a white family and the Capulets are black.  Hollywood hottie Orlando Bloom and Broadway sensation Condola Rashad play the young, ill-fated lovers.  All these elements should’ve have produced results that were more explosive than a NASA rocket launch to the moon.  Instead, it was more the equivalent of high school chemistry nerds experimenting after class – yeah; there was a little smoke, but no real fire (except for the random bursts of fire on stage).

Although I wasn’t expecting Romeo and Juliet to declare their love on Facebook, I also didn’t expect the term ‘modern’ to be interpreted in such a banal fashion.  The set, which consisted of a ginormous bell, an elevated plank of wood for a balcony, and a wall that contained a Renaissance secco, was uninspiring and a poor match for the lush verse of one of William Shakespeare’s greatest works.  The first time Orlando Bloom appears on stage he is riding a motorcycle, and while that might be modern it is also clichéd.  At the Capulet’s soiree, I thought the choreography would carry an element of hip-hop or krunking, something other than the interpretations of African dance that were exhibited on stage. The nurse walking a bicycle to deliver a message to Romeo and the parkour climbing of the graffiti-ridden mural does add a nod to a more modern era; however these devices failed to deliver on such a promising idea.

0024_Romeo&Juliet (c) Carol RossegThe cast seem to hurry through the dialogue as if they were just trying to get it over with.  Shakespearean English is a mouthful, literally, but the pace was so rushed that some of the beauty of Shakespeare‘s poetry was lost in this interpretation.  While Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad certainly looked as if they had the potential to rival the flames that occasionally appeared on stage, their scenes together were undersupplied of the heat necessary for me to believe that these two would rather die than live life apart.  Brent Carver, Christian Camargo and Jayne Houdyshell’s portrayals of Friar Laurence, Mercutio and the Nurse were an absolute pleasure to watch and brought balance to this production.

Director Baz Luhrmann attempted a modern interpretation Romeo and Juliet on screen in 1996, back when I thought modern versions of Shakespeare were a sacrilege, and it actually became one of my favorite depictions of this classic love story.  Perhaps Leveaux should’ve taken a few notes from this film.  After 36 years, this Romeo and Juliet ascended to no grander heights nor did it plateau to a great theater low.  All and all it was steady and flat, just like the boards of the balcony – wooden and just plain regular.

Photos:  Carol Rosseg

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MONTE/MULLER Made New York Live Arts Move

From June 20-22, Monte/Muller Move! played at New York Live Arts.  Monte/Muller Move! combined five works from choreographers Jennifer Muller and Elisa Monte and showcased the power and majesty of these two dance companies.

The first performance was the world premiere of Grass by Jennifer Muller.  Inspired by Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and featuring cellist Julia Kent, whose haunting solo truly captured the spirit of the ballet.  As people trample daily on a grassy knoll or a sector of a park, do did these dancers slide and thrust their bodies onto the blades of the astro turf stage.  Colliding, then separating again, emoting the thread of impermanence.

ELISA_MONTE_FULL-180The second, Unstable, premiered in 2012. Choreographed by Elise Monte, Unstable was a primal ritual with bodies rolling on the stage.  Slow and sensational, the imagery of the wall shadows created added another dimension.

Elise Monte’s Shattered premiered in 2000 and is a fast paced spectacle for the eye. Like lightning when it strikes the impact hits with a precision that only a force of nature can.  Explosive, this piece pumps with high-octane adrenaline.

Premeiring in 1996, Volkmann Suite was choreographed by Elise Monte and is a stunning display of beauty and strength.  The power lifts displayed throughout the piece complimented the dancers carved frames and reminded me of moving sculptures.

The last performance was also by Jennifer Muller and featured excerpts of the ballet Speed, which debuted in 1974.  Filled with fast changes, the piece was considered a tour de force when it first premiered.  MONTE/MULLER MOVE! at New York Live Arts was made possible through New York Live Arts’ Theater Access Program, a comprehensive subsidized rental program benefiting a diverse group of dance and theater companies and producing organizations.

Photos courtesy of Krizer Graber Communications, LLC

 

 

DNA

Dance New Amsterdam Files For Chapter 11

On May 27, Dance New Amsterdam Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.   The announcement allows DNA to continue its daily operations.   Executive and Artistic Director Catherine A. Peila has already initiated a five-year recovery plan which has reduced general operating and programming expenses from $3.6 million to $2.3 million annually.  “DNA’s executive team, faculty, and board of directors have worked diligently over the past five years to create strong programs and a business structure that supports DNA’s mission. These efforts, combined with the support of cultural leaders, have put us on the road to recovery,” says Peila. “The decision to file for Chapter 11 reorganization protection provides us with the time to solidify agreements with new partners, increase funding and most importantly, continue to serve the New York City’s vibrant community of performing artists and avid cultural supporters.”

Located in Lower Manhattan, just a few blocks from Ground Zero and the Freedom Tower, DNA is considered the foremost progressive dance education and performance center.  Founded in 1984, DNA provides a community hub for dance training choreographic exploration and innovative performance, developing new audiences and bridging communities. It’s a breeding ground and safe haven for aspiring, emerging and established artist, including daily classes, certification courses, commissions and artistic residencies, along with studio and administrative office subsidies.  DNA employs over 250 professional faculty members and over 650 artists through commissioned and produced work. The organization serves more than 30,000 students and performers, over 700 dance companies and performing arts groups – offering thousands of audience members access to visual and performing arts through their 130-seat theater, six art studios, gallery and artist administration space.  To learn more about DNA and supporting its programs through charitable donations, visit www.dnadance.org.