COLUMNS

  • As Wastage

    THE SIREN RISES IN A LONG WAIL. It climbs through the darkness, sounding the alarm that The Head & The Load has begun. At first, the tinny signal of distress seems to emanate from a machine, but as it swells, it modulates into a multitude of voices of varying timbres, and vocalist Ann Masina, her mouth open in full-throated song, is spotlighted. The noise subsides, a pause to register that it is humans who summon us: not a machine. And from that small correction of understanding—the invitation to distinguish between a person and a tool—we are called to remember the difference between

    Read more
  • Dear Darling

    MARY MARGARET O’HARA DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK.

    If you had the talent of Billie Holiday and the aesthetic sensibility of Captain Beefheart, you probably wouldn’t give a fuck either. Fortunately, everyone at Issue Project Room for her one-off, sold-out return to New York is there to watch her not give a fuck—that’s what she does. She hasn’t performed in the city in ten years. She walks onstage holding a bugle. She interrupts herself at least once during every song, often simply ending in the middle. She yelps, yowls, mutters, and walks away from the microphone. There are four other musicians

    Read more
  • Your Groove

    THE RIGGED SOUND OF TECHNO is a language, dense with sentiment and context. In October, as part of its ongoing “Posthuman” series, Performance Space New York hosted “Man Machine,” a conversation between the Detroit-based electronic-music collective Underground Resistance and artist Kevin Beasley. Founded in 1989 by Jeff Mills and “Mad Mike” Banks, later joined by Robert Hood, Underground Resistance was militant in its rejection of “programming by mediocre mainstream music and public institutions.” Now they are the inheritors and protectors of the “original” techno sound. They were anti–status

    Read more
  • Off the Record

    ADVICE: IF YOU DECIDE TO ADAPT Joan Didion’s writing for the theater, downplay its literary origin. Her sentences inhere most naturally on the page, where they can be underlined, annotated, queried, immediately reread. Didion’s own theatrical presentation of The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), her meditation on mourning for her husband, the novelist and screenwriter John Gregory Dunne, whittled mazy streams of consciousness into a stark monologue performed by Vanessa Redgrave. The actor’s gravitas was compelling but at odds with the literary persona Didion has over decades so carefully honed

    Read more
  • Cell Tones

    IN OCTOBER, AT LE POISSON ROUGE, Meredith Monk and her five-woman ensemble presented what she called the “essence” of Cellular Songs, a new ninety-minute work that she presented at BAM this past March but has yet to record. In its full iteration, Cellular Songs interleaves song and positioned bodies and slide projections. In the nightclub setting, Monk had to abandon the staging design for an overhead view and present a distilled night of music and movement. But one video element from the longer version was retained and played right before the performance started: five pairs of hands, pointed

    Read more
  • World on a Wire

    OF ALL THE DANCE COMPANIES to hash out legacy plans in recent years—to ask what comes next after a founding choreographer’s death—the Trisha Brown Dance Company stands out for going with the flow, much in the manner of Brown’s dances.  

    When Merce Cunningham died, his company made the firm decision to fold and license his works to other groups. A few months before his recent passing, Paul Taylor appointed a successor to continue the preservation and commissioning project known as Paul Taylor American Modern Dance. Mark Morris, still very much with us, announced that at sixty-two, he

    Read more
  • War of the Girls

    IN THE OPENING SCENE OF GRACIE GARDNER'S LATEST PLAY, ATHENA, the titular teenage fencer (played by Julia Greer) celebrates defeating her opponent Mary Wallace (Abby Awe) by letting out an animalistic scream. Watching Mary Wallace sob, Athena offers, “I get emotional too. Sometimes, after I lose? I’ll bump into a random person on the street, on purpose. And I won’t say sorry.” If the world demands we be either one kind of person or the other—winners or losers—Athena charts an emotional range, asking what is appropriate behavior for two young women, and what might be too much.  

    Choosing

    Read more
  • And What of the Night?

    SHE HAS A BEAUTIFUL CAT FACE—incredible feline cheekbones and a smile that reveals strangely changing teeth, sometimes fierce and snaggled and gold, sometimes smooth. She flirts with the camera as she sits at an outdoor café somewhere. The footage is casual. A voice asks, “Irene, does the camera make you uncomfortable?” She laughs.

    No! I love it!

    Don’t you understand?

    The camera to me is my beloved

    The one who understands me

    The one who wants me always

    and I give everything I have to the camera

    If you’ve ever been cornered by a Maria Irene Fornes1 obsessive, you’ve heard her described as

    Read more
  • Secret Side

    THE FIRST TWO DECADES of the twenty-first century have taught us that, in the future, everyone who already was famous for fifteen minutes will be exhumed from the archives and remixed, reissued, or rebooted. In an age of curated ephemera mediated by the cliquish logic of hipster exclusivity, I’m surprised that Nico’s face doesn’t cross my Tumblr dashboard more often. Then again, I mostly follow gay porn blogs on Tumblr. At this timely juncture arrives Nico, 1988, a new biopic written and directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli, with Trine Dyrholm in a spectacular, uncanny performance as Nico. The film

    Read more
  • Sexy M.F.

    THE NIGHT I CAUGHT BRIDGET EVERETT performing at Joe’s Pub with her band The Tender Moments, the lip of the stage—where brave souls can opt to sit under the tacit agreement that they might not return home with their dignity—looked like a scene lifted directly from a middlebrow empowerment comedy. There sat an array of average-looking 9-to-5ish types straight out of central casting—employees of life, as my friend the artist Becca Blackwell might say. Panning out further, I saw summer-casual wearing homosexuals and attendant gal pals all cheerily doing their part to exceed the two-drink minimum.

    Read more
  • The Material World

    WHEN BASIL TWIST'S SYMPHONIE FANTASTIQUE debuted in New York in 1998, it quickly ascended as a classic work of downtown theater, playing for an unprecedented eighteen month run in the basement space of HERE—an unheard of success for a performance that was billed simply, curiously, as “an abstract puppet show.” At that time there was nothing quite like it, and twenty years later, a stunning revival proves that there’s nothing quite like it still—frankly because there is no other artist quite like Basil Twist.

    Twist is both a third-generation puppeteer and a third generation Basil (his real name).

    Read more
  • Of Goddesses and Monsters

    AT THE MOMENT OF THE SPRING EQUINOX on March 21st, I was standing in the basement coat check room of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The place was closed—it was 12:15pm on a Tuesday—so there weren’t any coats, but there was a little line of toaster-sized “dirt” clod sculptures sitting on the counter. A crowd of vernal worshippers and theater-fans had followed a team of celebrants here from the massive glass-and-concrete lobby upstairs, where a gaggle of women dressed like Russian space peasants had oriented us according to civil time, nautical time, and astronomical time. We had been admonished

    Read more