Author : Brandon Monokian
I started my passionate love affair with libraries by protesting two of them. An odd beginning to a love affair, but stranger things have happened. Both my former high school library and public library had banned the book Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, and, in protest, a group of fellow theater artists and I started touring around performing readings of the book anywhere people would let us—a project we called Revolutionary Readings. This caught the attention of the Princeton Public Library, who invited us to speak and perform from the book. Unlike the libraries we were protesting, they felt that books should be on shelves, not banned. Throughout this process, my views on libraries and librarians shifted from the stereotypical vision of quiet, dusty book shelves patrolled by little old ladies to what I now find to be a much more accurate description: cultural centers operated by fierce advocates of access to knowledge. Read more »
My first paid acting gig—for $50 and a beer—was Romeo Castellucci’s Hey Girl! (followed closely by a gig walking around dressed as Andy Warhol to promote a Polaroid exhibition). Hey Girl! was an experience I’ll never forget, in part because I keep meeting people who have seen it and are always eager to share their thoughts. Years later, their reactions are stronger than many people’s reactions to shows they have seen only moments before. Passionate reactions, both positive and negative, are what one can expect in response to work by someone like Castellucci, whose abstract yet polarizing images will either turn you on or make you want to run from the theater. I’ve heard reviews from both ends of the spectrum. Read more »
“Have you seen a Robert Wilson piece before?” I was asked this by three different people before the preshow Sneak Peek for Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter had even started. When it began, I was asked again, by speaker Frank Hentschker (executive director of the City University of New York Martin E. Segal Theatre Center), “Who here has ever seen a Robert Wilson piece?” I sat there feeling a little late to the party.
Hentschker was joined by Zinnias assistant director Lynsey Peisinger, and together they spoke about the development and rehearsal process for Zinnias, a homage to self-taught African American artist Clementine Hunter. Read more »
On Thursday, December 13th, Peak Performances hosted the second of its new Sneak Peeks series, in which audiences are afforded the opportunity to listen to presentations by and interact with artists or experts on the piece they are about to see. I was lucky enough to witness the first, a preshow talk by Nancy Dalva, scholar in residence at the Merce Cunningham Trust. The experience was so informative and beneficial to my experience as a witness to the L.A. Dance Project’s performance that I was thrilled to be able to attend the latest Sneak Peek, this time for the Richard Alston Dance Company, who would be presenting three dances: Roughcut, Unfinished Business, and the American premiere of A Ceremony of Carols. A Ceremony of Carols would feature the Prima Voce choir under the direction of John J. Cali School of Music faculty member Heather J. Buchanan. Read more »
Peak Performances has launched a new preshow discussion series called “Sneak Peeks.” The series is an opportunity for audience members to interact with professionals who either are involved directly with the production or are experts on some area of the work presented. The first Sneak Peek premiered Thursday, October 25th, in advance of the regional debut of Benjamin Millepied’s company, L.A. Dance Project. It featured speaker Nancy Dalva, scholar in residence at the Merce Cunningham Trust, which holds and administers the rights to the 65-year catalogue of work by choreographer Merce Cunningham. In addition to Moving Parts, a new piece by Millepied, and Quintett, by William Forsythe, Cunningham’s 1964 piece Winterbranch was performed by the L.A. Dance Project—the first time the work has been performed by a company other than Cunningham’s.
During Dalva’s talk, I was most moved by her profound passion and commitment to Cunningham’s work. “A lot has come from Merce, but nothing has gone past him. He’s been dead for two years, and he’s still in the avant-garde.” Read more »