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!

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

Masters at Work, The Ailey-Ellington Connection

When producers Kenny “Dope” Gonzales and Louie Vega formed Masters at Work in 1990, they proceeded to create a catalog that contains some of house music’s most recognizable classics.  Such is the case when two great creative minds come together to collaborate.  It seemed that from the time Alvin Ailey hit the streets of The Big Apple in 1954, he and Duke Ellington’s paths were destined to meet.  Both he and Ellington were born in different areas of the country but had come to New York City to pursue their art, although by the time young Ailey had arrived, Ellington had already cemented his legacy as a jazz virtuoso.  However, it didn’t take long for Ailey to begin to carve a name for himself in the world of dance.  With pieces like “Revelations” and “Blues Suite”, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which was formed in 1958, quickly became a sensation in the modern dance scene.  Like Ellington, Ailey was known for a unique style infusing ballet, Horton, jazz and African dance  techniques.  Also like Ellington, Ailey lifted his art above the grouping of race which allowed his work to be recognized as an American art form the world over.

AAADT's Demetia Hopkins in Alvin Ailey's The River.  Photo by Paul KolnikIn 1970, Alvin Ailey and Duke Ellington’s paths finally met.  American Ballet Theater commissioned Ailey to create “The River”.  The ballet was the first collaboration between Alvin Ailey and Duke Ellington.  Ailey would again refer to Ellington’s music when he created “Night Creature” in 1974 and “Pas de Duke” in 1976.  For the 2013 season, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater paid homage to these late geniuses and their collaborations by premiering new productions of “The River” and “Pas de Duke” at the New York City Center.  Along with the first season’s performance of “Night Creature” and Ailey’s most seminal work, “Revelations”, the debut of these works was an evening of remembrance, revelry and appreciation for beauty, physicality and style in motion.

AAADT weaves athleticism and artistry so seamlessly that it takes the medium of dance to another level.  Visually stunning and always breathtaking to behold, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater never fail to provide its audience with the most soul-stirring shows they will ever see.  It is where perfection and performance meet.  This sentiment simply radiates through “The River”, a work that utilizes the entire company and is as moving, fierce and romantic as its namesake.   With the accompaniment of Duke Ellington’s score driving this piece forward, the love Ailey had for dance is truly exhibited.  The way in which he carefully blended classical ballet elements together with modern techniques is nothing short of masterful.    “The River” is energetic; it rolls and sweeps the audience in its majesty.  It is a living example of the brilliance of these two men.

AAADT's Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Linda Celeste Sims in Alvin Ailey's Pas de Duke.  Photo by Paul Kolnik“Pas de Duke” was first created for Ailey’s muse Judith Jamison and ballet superstar Mikhail Baryshnikov. Black and white, modern versus ballet, Eve and Adam, “Pas de Duke” is witty, flirtatious, sophisticated and utterly charming.  Ailey must of thought of the song “Anything You Can Do” when he choreographed this piece.

Alvin_Ailey_American_Dance_Theater_in_Alvin_Ailey_s_Night_Creature._Photo_by_Krautbauer_2_As one of the children of the night, I have always had a fondness for those who skulk down sidewalks, saunter into nightclubs and compete with colored spotlights for the glory of a night filled with sweat and velocity. On many occasions, I have been one of them creating new realities on the dance floor.  Ellington said, “Night creatures, unlike stars, do not come out at night, they come on.”  I would say they come out to be alive, alive in a way they can’t be when the sun is shining.  Alvin Ailey’s “Night Creature” is overflowing with life.  The company slinks, leaps and struts with authority.  It defines the sumptuous nightlife that New York City is known for.

AAADT_in_Alvin_Ailey_s_Revelations._Photo_by_Christopher_DugganThere can be no better end to an evening with AAADT than “Revelations”.  It is the work that Alvin Ailey is most known for and definitely on the top my list. Seeing Alvin Ailey’s choreography paired with Duke Ellington’s music gave me a few revelations of my own.  There is no debate why the majority of their works are regarded as masterpieces.  I would liken the Ailey-Ellington collaborations to an artistic atom bomb – an explosion of epic scale whose far reaching effects have spanned over generations.

Photos: Paul Kolnik, Christopher Duggan, Gert Krautbauer

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

Macabre and Metaphysics Intertwine in Macbeth at Lincoln Center Theater

We are all familiar with the story of Macbeth, the Scottish warlord who would become king partly on the count of the Three Witches.  After a victorious battle, Macbeth encounters the Three Witches and upon doing so is told he will be king.  Macbeth and his wife then plot to murder Duncan, the current monarch.  Under the guise of merriment and despite Macbeth’s reservations, he and his wife welcome Duncan and his kinsmen into their home, get the king’s chamberlains drunk and assassinate the king.   Newly crowned, Macbeth descends from sovereign to psychopath murdering his loyal friend Banquo.  A second caucus with the Three Witches only heightens Macbeth’s paranoia and prompts him to have the family of Macduff, a fellow kinsman, murdered.  Meanwhile, Lady Macbeth, overcome with guilt, plummets into depression and begins to sleepwalk.  Eventually she commits suicide.  Macbeth is ultimately vanquished by Macduff and Duncan’s eldest son Malcolm becomes king.

MB4No matter the interpretation, the theme of the supernatural is constantly present in “Macbeth”.  You can’t get away from it, but what makes Shakespeare’s work so genius is that the interpretation of his plays depends on the road you take.  Director Jack O’Brien’s offering of “Macbeth” chooses to take the metaphysical path.   In this version, the Three Witches aren’t just a trio of wacky soothsayers convening around a cauldron. Oh no. These conniving necromancers morph into other characters on stage, thus taking on the personas of puppet masters ensuring their marionettes move their strings in the exact order they desire. The witches’ almost ubiquitous presence calls into question the subject of fate and action.  How much of Macbeth’s destiny relied on his own ambition or that of the Three Witches? Was Macbeth’s belief in the witches’ prediction responsible for all the events that followed? How responsible are Macbeth and Lady Macbeth for their actions if their actions were just pit stops along their destined path?  Jack O’Brien’s interpretation of this classic tragedy sets the mind ablaze with questions about the workings of the universe and the individual’s role in it to create good or evil. What I find most intriguing about this production is that O’Brien doesn’t attempt to supply the audience with answers, the answers you must discover for yourself.

The visuals of “Macbeth” only intensify the mystical happenings on stage.  From the moment the audience takes their seats and views the carved mandala, they become keenly aware of the conjuring set to take place.  And just like the actors, we are at the witches’ mercy, forced to watch two lovers plunge headlong into the abyss of destruction.  Along with the sacred symbol of the universe, the production is draped in the primary colors of black, white and blood red – hues that have meaning in the occult.  The lighting provides a stark perception of the actors making the tragic events more exaggerated and the imagery more daunting.  The costumes and sets courtesy of Catherine Zuber and Scott Pask produce a minimalist, sleek quality without dedicating itself to one particular time period.

MB3And what of the thespians who resurrect the bubbling and boiling characters full of toil and trouble? Color me impressed.  The vernacular of Shakespeare is a language we learn in high school and unless you take courses in it in college, there it stays. If not performed correctly, the rich wording of Shakespeare’s prose can come off like pubescent ramblings of students looking for a mid-term grade.  Some reincarnations of Shakespeare’s plays I have witnessed as of late have possessed this puerile quality.  Not so with this production.  Led by Ethan Hawke, the cast as a whole is more fair than foul.  I’ve viewed productions where actors performed Shakespeare as if they were competing for top prize in “Who Can Scream Loudest.”  Hawke’s Macbeth is a combination of shrewd underplaying offset by fierce outbursts of emotion.  He is the personification of a man slipping into darkness.  As Lady Macbeth, Anne-Marie Duff is sensational.  She embodies the grace of a queen and psyche of a sociopath. Together Hawke and Duff brilliantly represent one word…karma.  Malcolm Gets, John Glover and Byron Jennings portray the pied pipers of wizardry in this numinous production.  Although they look like rejects from “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, the sorcerers don’t just play to win, they play for keeps.  The havoc they render adds the spice that makes this supernatural gumbo complete.  On a surprising note, I was pleased with Daniel Sunjata’s Macduff.  Though a bit heavy handed in his delivery at times, he proved to me that he is more than just a pretty face.   What I enjoyed most about the production was its fluidness.  It moved like a choreographed dance, constantly adding layers.

MBChristmas hovers in the air, tis the season to be jolly, but for Hawke and company tis the time to be wicked, the naughty reign supreme at The Vivian Beaumont Theater.  “Macbeth” has a limited run and ends on January 12.  Take a break from tidings of cheer and take a walk down the paranormal path.  Without a doubt, this production is worth seeing.

Photos: T. Charles Erickson

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

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

Four Years Strong….F.A.M.E NYC Anniversary Ticket Giveaway

It’s F.A.M.E NYC Magazine’s Anniversary!!! And as a thank you to all my FAMERS, I would like to extend the opportunity to win two tickets to see BECOMING DR. RUTH!

To enter, all you have to do is leave this comment:  “I LOVE F.A.M.E NYC!” 

 

Each comment increases your chances of winning, so comment a lot.  This is quickie ticket giveaway and the winner will be announced November 20, 2013.

So what are you waiting for….comment and tell us how much you love F.A.M.E NYC and win some tickets!

Tickets courtesy of Serino Coyne

Carlos Scarpa Glasswork on Display at The Met

On Nov. 5, The Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiled Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa The Venini Company, 1932–1947.   Born in 1906 in Venice Italy, Carlos Scarpa studied architecture at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice and graduated in 1926 with the qualification of being “professor of architectural drawing.” Between 1926 and 1932, he worked at M.V.M. Cappellin glassworks.  During Scarpa’s next position at Venini Glassworks (1932 and 1947) his talents redefined the art glass-blowing.  The medium of glass-blowing is a tradition that spans centuries on the Venetian island of Murano.  Scarpa and the Venini factory became the leaders of innovation experimenting with surface texture, silhouettes and color.

4. Truncated cone-shaped glass vase of murrine romane_Scarpa

Truncated cone-shaped glass vase of murrine romane

The exhibition features close to 300 selected pieces, which are organized chronologically and divided into groups according to technique.  Two of the techniques showcased are bollicine, named for the bubbles of air trapped inside, and mezza filigrana, the art of blowing glass as thinly as possible into objects weighing just a few ounces each. Venetian Glass by Carlo Scarpa The Venini Company, 1932–1947 will run until March 2, 2014 and was made possible in part by the Jane and Robert Carroll Fund.

Photos courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Lady Day Illuminates The Little Shubert Theatre

I always knew that Broadway was haunted. Apparitions of playwrights, producers, actors and famous characters skulk around theaters and are as eternal as the neon lights that electrify the Great White Way.  Each season we are revisited with the ghosts of productions past, but this fall two New York City theaters are being visited by the spirits of iconic vocalists past.  On Broadway, Janis Joplin and her musical influences rock The Lyceum Theatre from floor to roof, and Off-Broadway the music of one of her influences is receiving its day.   Lady Day, the musical about Billie Holiday, provides its audience with a stunning visual and aural lesson in tragedy and triumph.

hc-billie-holiday-20131023Anyone who has seen or read Lady Sings the Blues knows the calamitous story of Billie Holiday’s life.  Overflowing with agonizing memories, abusive men and addiction, the pain Holiday experienced habitually showed in various aspects of her life – most often in her music.  Her sound carried listeners through the valleys of the blues transforming agony into musical ecstasy.  You don’t just hear Billie Holliday…you feel Billie Holiday, and that essence is fabulously represented in this production.

Lady Day is an overwhelming emotional tribute to the legacy of Billie Holiday.  The musical takes place at a theater in London.  Billie Holiday and her band are playing the final leg of her European tour.  The first act consists of the rehearsal and the second act is the show.  Woven between 25 of Holliday’s most famous songs is the recounting of her troubled life.  Through music Billie tries to fight the demons haunting her in rehearsal, but winds up still fighting them during the show – something I suspect that happened repeatedly during her brief life.  As Billie exposes her scars, the audience bears witness to an unflinching portrait of pain, but it is how her hurt is translated into song that makes this production shine – each song helps to build the story.  Like Billie Holiday’s music, this production burrows underneath the skin and lingers in the pit of your gut.

lady_dayThe success of this musical is largely due to the performance of Grammy-winner Dee Dee Bridgewater.  She plays the role of Billie Holiday as if she is possessed and her voice is spot-on.  I have never heard anyone capture the timbre of Lady Day as she has.  Bridgewater is simply amazing; you won’t be able take your eyes off of her.  And you won’t soon forget Lady Day the musical.  All artists are tasked with the frightening aspect of revealing their souls to the scrutiny of the masses, but there is something in the way a jazz musician does it that is undeniably raw and palpable.  Billie Holiday’s voice was an instrument that could rival the bent notes and artistry of any of the jazz greats.  She was the voice of her time.  Her influence can still be heard in singers today.

A good story and good music will always yield promising results.  It is as simple as saying one plus one equals two.  At The Little Shubert Theatre, the life of Billie Holiday (which includes her music) and the brilliant showcasing of Holliday’s work (courtesy of Dee Bridgewater) make for compelling theater and two good reasons to see this show.

Photos: Carol Rosegg