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    Harold Prince is certainly devoted to Candide as well as being loyal to New York City Opera, then and now. He directed the Leonard Bernstein-Richard Wilbur-Hugh Wheeler-John La Touche-Stephen Sondheim adaptation of Voltaire's pessimistic novella for the NYCO in 1982 and returns to it again for the reconstituted NYCO (nice new logo), at Rose Hall.

    Just to be exact, this is not the original 1955 version with Lillian Hellman script. (More about that later.) Just to be further exact, this is not the 1988 version on which Leonard Bernstein put his stamp of approval. (More about that later, too.)

    This Candide might be termed the Harold Prince version, and the veteran director-producer does a strong job of entering the much-fiddled-with-over-the-62-years operetta into the renewed NYCO repertoire. (Candide is the first offering of the 2016-17 season. The company website lists nothing else as yet.)

    The foremost reasons to adore Candide--is it necessary to point this out?--are the Bernstein music and the lyrics by the four mentioned above (including Bernstein). Charles Prince conducts the orchestra and the singers so that the words and melodies crackle and croon, depending on the mood(s) required. Yes, those aspects are well taken care of.

    Once again, Voltaire (Gregg Edelman in long grey wig) presides over Dr. Pangloss (Edelman in shorter russet wig) as he attempts to convince his attentive students that they inhabit the best of all possible worlds. The gullible four are Candide (Jay Armstrong Johnson, full of boyish charm and innocence), Cuneconde (Meghan Picerno, full of innocence transforming into glittering and gay naughtiness), Maximilian (Keith Phares, with knockout baritone) and Paquette (Jessica Tyler Wright, playfully seductive).

    Serving to turn Pangloss's optimistic beliefs on their heads are traditionally scene-stealing Linda Lavin as the Old Lady living out her days with one buttock remaining and, as any number of other disillusioning figures, the mercurial Chip Zien and the chameleon-like Brooks Ashmanskas.

    They all cavort on Clarke Dunham's set, which more than echoes his previous NYCO incarnation, and in Judith Dolan's fun-loving costumes. Ken Billington's lighting design and Abe Jacob's sound design serve their purpose properly, and so do Georgianna Eberhard's many wigs.

    Much more than just enhancing the revival is longtime Prince choreographer Pat Birch. She's charged with dreaming up all sorts of routines that conjure national dances and who-knows-what-all, which she easily does with the large-ish cast.

    The drawback to this Candide, however, is a book that keeps on trucking but not necessarily upward. As Candide and gang continually confront situations proving the world isn't so best-of-all-possible, they proceed from one daunting situation and from one far-flung, 18th-century global locale to the next.

    By the time the second act is underway, things have become undeniably plodding. The humor has leaked out, and what's left is mighty parched. This goes on until the creators decide they've had the weary travelers trek enough. So the sloggers receive advice from a Sage (Edelman in yet another droll outfit). He advises them that the answer to their struggles is to work. (Why couldn't they have run into him much sooner?)

    Whereupon they sing "Make Our Garden Grow"--with, before curtain, the entire cast joining them. The closing number is, if not the greatest ending to a Broadway musical ever, up there in the top five. Anyone exiting a theater unmoved after that soul-stirring anthem had better make his or her next stop a casket.

    So much in support of Prince's take on a musical with more history than many more history-laden musicals (like, for one, the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth Merrily We Roll Along). And on to a bit of that background and its leading to an alternate version--Bernstein's supposed preferred version, which was competed in 1988.

    Though a thick volume could be written on the subject, let's just say in brief that much agitated activity resulted from the first production's debacle. At that point and in order to try to salvage Bernstein's masterful score with its Wilbur, La Touche and Dorothy Parker(!) words (has Parker been lost in the slow shuffle?) Hellman was removed. But she demanded the contractual understanding that none of the locales she lifted from Voltaire could be used.

    At that point, Wheeler had to switch to new locales so that music written to jibe with, say, Paris and Vienna was showing up to blend awkwardly with other places. Only after Hellman's death could a version that reverted to the original settings be restored. Other tweaks were made to the composer's satisfaction, along with the many, many others made along the way from abundant trunk material.

    Only Bernstein (not Wilbur, Sondheim or the late La Touche) had the right to determine the final status. That version was seen in several European cities and on a BBC telecast, but never in the states. It may never be seen, since the Prince version (or versions he oversees) will likely continue to prevail. But perhaps it should be seen here--somewhere, some day.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    By Miles Harter, ZEALnyc Contributing Writer, January 13, 2017

    Theatre can be an excellent vehicle for audiences to enjoy and learn from the entertaining depiction of historical events. Mark Felt, Superstar, a new musical at the York Theatre Company, as part of its New2NY Series and presented as a staged reading, is perfect. It has just the right mix of thought-provoking content, history, music, whimsy, and humor.

    Mark Felt, Superstar takes us back to the 1970s and the Watergate scandal, but also relays a timeless story of tragedy and ambition. One does not have to be a history buff (or over age 50) to appreciate the Watergate story and the brilliant approach of this musical. By way of brief background, in 1972 Republican operatives broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. The break-in and ensuing cover-up was directly linked to many of President Richard M. Nixon's aides. Two Washington Post reporters, Carl Bernstein and Robert Woodward, conducted an intense investigation, which included many contacts with an informer, who provided "deep background" for their investigation. That person received the moniker "Deep Throat." Ultimately, many of Nixon's aides went to jail, and Nixon himself resigned in August 1974. For more than 30 years, the identity of "Deep Throat" was unknown -- Bernstein and Woodward refused to identify their source. But in a bombshell revelation in 2005, a man named Mark Felt, then in his 90s, who had been the FBI Deputy Director for part of the 1970s, identified himself as the whistleblower known as Deep Throat.

    The book of Mark Felt, Superstar and jazzy music and lyrics, were all written by the very accomplished Joshua Rosenblum, who also serves as the musical director. Rosenblum deftly relates the story of Mark Felt, through delicious dialogue and wonderful musical numbers, ranging from purely comical to poignant, transporting us back into recent history. A bonus for the audience at the stage reading was observing Mr. Rosenblum's expert piano playing for the show that he obviously has so lovingly created. The program includes a passionately written "Author's Note," in which Mr. Rosenblum expresses his views on the crisis of faith in government in the 1970s, and the current state of political affairs.

    The very talented cast of five perform superbly. They play a total of 24 different characters, each with the appropriate amount of humor or sadness. Many of the colorful and evil characters of the Watergate scandal make cameo appearances--the actors simply hold up a picture of the character and assume the role. The photographs provocatively remind (or introduce, as the case may be) theatregoers to the Watergate cast of characters, alternatingly causing shudders (like the picture of John Mitchell, the convicted former Attorney General under Nixon) or guffaws (like the picture of Mitchell's wife, the colorful and garrulous Martha Mitchell).

    The star of the show is Neal Mayer, as Mark Felt, who even bears a resemblance to the pictures of Felt. He gracefully inhabits the role, becoming both sympathetic and tragic. Vanessa Lemonides skillfully assumes several roles, and is luminous as Audrey Felt, Mark's wife. She brings down the house in one number, called "Audrey Felt," singing wistfully about what Audrey Felt felt.

    Mark Felt, Superstar reminds us that the system actually worked in the 1970s. The show also serves as a reminder of what we can and must do today to assure the continued success of our liberal democracy.


    Mark Felt, Superstar, presented by the York Theatre Company at the Theatre at Saint Peter's, 619 Lexington Avenue. Limited engagement runs through Sunday, January 15, 2017. Book, music, and lyrics by Joshua Rosenblum. Directed by Annette Jolles; musical direction by Joshua Rosenblum; lighting design by Brian Nason; scenic consultant, James Morgan; production manager, Nick Puglia. Cast: Peter Benson, Will Erat, Vanessa Lemonides, Neal Mayer, and Michael McCoy.

    Cover: (l. to r.) Vanessa Lemonides, Will Erat, Neal Mayer, Peter Benson and Michael McCoy in 'Mark Felt, Superstar;' photo: Ben Strothman

    Miles Harter, a Contributing Writer for ZEALnyc, writes about theater performance and lifestyle events.

    For more features from ZEALnyc read:

    PROTOTYPE -- a 'Visionary' Festival Begins Today

    'The Present' is a Gift to New York Theatergoers

    The Best and Worst Musicals of 2016

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    Breaking the Waves, the breathtaking new opera by composer, Missy Mazzoli, and librettist, Royce Vavrek, had its New York premier on January 6, 2017 at NYU's Skirball Center. It had premiered in Philadelphia in September 2016 at Opera Philadelphia, which had co-commissioned the work with Beth Morrison Projects. Based on the Lars von Trier movie of the same name, the story is set in an insular (literally) community on the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. A young woman, Bess, a member of the tight-knit religious community, marries an outsider, Jan, to the great consternation of her congregation. He works on an offshore oil rig (for us literalists, there are no oil rigs off of Skye - they are all in the North Sea on the other side of Scotland). Bess prays for his early return. He is injured and paralyzed and, from his hospital bed, asks Bess to have sex with other men and to recount her liaisons to him. The reasons for this request are murky (to keep their marriage and his hopes alive?) but her assent seemingly isn't: she feels guilty for praying for his early return, feels she may have caused his accident, wants to do the right thing by her husband and believes she will thereby cure him. That said, Bess does like sex, as we saw when she asked Jan to consummate their marriage in a loo at their wedding reception - envisioning it to be a romantic setting when it was anything but. As she sets forth, hesitantly, on her sexual adventures/redemption, is she fooling herself, or her husband, or is she delusional, or full of faith? She certainly does not enjoy the sex. She is degraded, humiliated and victimized and meets a tragic end. Her husband recovers, presumably redeemed by her sacrifice.

    A jagged stage set represents the jagged coast and sharp-edged lives of the residents (and the jumbled souls and psyches of the protagonists). The characters are trapped in a judgmental religious world, with clear rules and no mercy inside or outside the church. Bess is a small woman, as portrayed by Kiera Duffy, but with a large, clear voice, like the church bells that miraculously sound at the final curtain. A 15-piece orchestra conveys Mazzoli's haunting and jagged score that captures the conflict, desperation and agony of Bess and Jan. A chorus, of 12 men, in soiled black overcoats and black hats, representing the church elders and Bess's tormentors and assailants, were appropriately oppressive, unforgiving and menacing.
    The libretto was pared down and to the point. The staging was dramatic, and the voices were uniformly excellent. Kiera Duffy's brave portrayal of Bess was riveting. She, and the opera, deserved the standing ovation the audience gave at the end.

    Note: the author is a trustee of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, which makes grants to Opera America, which funded the commission of this opera.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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    Todrick Hall is a singer, songwriter, dancer, actor, choreographer, playwright, costume designer, Broadway performer, American Idol finalist, star of his own self-titled MTV Show and viral YouTube sensation with over 2 million subscribers and 350 million views.

    Dancing since the young age of 9, Hall is a classically trained ballet dancer who has traveled the world performing with Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Royal Caribbean & Holland America Cruise lines, Walt Disney World and Disneyland’s California Adventure. His Broadway credits include Oprah Winfreys “The Color Purple” and The 2010 Tony Award Winning Musical “Memphis!

    In the four years he has been a full-time YouTuber, he has had the honor of opening the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice Awards, being a Judge on “Rupaul’s Drag Race” and “Gay for Play,” choreographing music videos for Beyonce, writing and starring in the Virgin America Safety Video, Fiat Commercials and the theme song for the new online version of Jim Henson’s Sesame Street.

    Hall joined the cast of the Tony-winning musical “Kinky Boots” beginning on November 1st into the role of Lola, the part created by Tony winner Billy Porter, and will continue through March 5, 2017.

    In this interview, we sat down with Hall backstage in his dressing room at “Kinky Boots” to discuss his career, experience in the show, and his plans for the future.

    AB: Do you ever feel more nervous performing for friends and family rather than your regular live audiences?

    TH: Absolutely. I get so nervous when I have family and friends in the audience. In fact, I just posted a status on my private Facebook telling my friends and family to not let me know they’re coming. I am one of those people who give 115 percent every single-time I perform. I know I’m going to try my best everyday, and then there is the added pressures that sometimes my friends and family don’t see.

    But with that being said, sometimes you can’t avoid having the knowledge that your friends and family are going to be in the audience. I still feel like I perform close to the same either way, but I just think there is a free quality about my performance when I don’t know anybody in the audience. I typically tend to leave and feel like, “Wow. That was a great performance!” as opposed to there being pressure from their presence. For example, when RuPaul is in the audience, and you’re playing a Drag Queen on stage, that’s very nerve-wracking! When Taylor Swift is in the audience, it can kind of add a little bit of pressure. But luckily I tend to surround myself with friends that have nothing but positive attitudes and uplifting energy, so I never feel judged and that’s a really good quality!

    AB: What do you think the main difference is between making viral videos and being on a live stage?

    TH: The main thing is that when I moved to Los Angeles, I had so much fun making videos! I think the people in Los Angeles are talented in a completely different realm than Broadway performers. But, Broadway to me, is the Olympics of performing. You have to be able to do it right then and there, and if you fall you have to be able to get back up and keep it going! That’s the major difference, that everything is live and in the moment. Even the music is live. Sometimes things happen, we’re humans. You’re depending on twenty-five plus other humans to help you tell the story. We all have days where we might drop a line, or our voice is not where it could have been because we’re doing eight shows a week. That’s the aspect that I like.

    I get this crazy adrenaline rush, and I’m so excited to perform with people who are so talented and push me to become a better performer, to truly be in the moment and to not give a stagnant and still performance. I also love the fact that every day my cast challenges me. My costar in “Kinky Boots,” Killian Donnelly, is such a brilliant actor! He always throws me lines in a different way, so much so that it’s like playing a game of tennis. I compare my relationship to Killian with the William sisters, who are so great that they can play with each other, and know that the other person is going to be able to bounce the ball back to them. I just think it’s really awesome that this cast has such great comradery and everyone feels like a family.

    For me, this is maybe the first time, dare I say, that I’ve done a Broadway show where I’ve felt like everyone truly gets along and supports everyone. It’s just really, really awesome. I’m so grateful for this experience and this cast, crew and producers, everyone. It’s just been really awesome!

    AB: Why do the arts matter, specifically to the Millennial generation?

    TH: The arts matter because there is so much that can be said in a book or in text, like reading a magazine. But music heightens every emotion. Day after day, I watch straight-men from middle America come in and sit down to watch this show. They walk out loving it more than the women they came with, because the message is so true and pure.

    Also, in today’s day and age, how often are we actually sitting down without our phones on? Even when you go and see a movie, there is no pressure to turn your phone off like there is when you’re in a live theatre. I think that in a theatre, Millennials are really forced to take in the message of whatever the show is that they’re watching, and there are not very many things that can do that. Even flying in a plane now you can be on the phone the entire time, so live theater is one of the only times I can think of where people are actually fully committed to something for two and a half hours without being on their phone. I just love that they’re able to truly take in the message.

    AB: What is your favorite aspect of performing on both screen and stage?

    TH: With performing on screen, it’s so cool because you’re able to adjust the lighting and adjust all of the aesthetics to be able to manipulate a situation or tell a story in a very quick and specific format. In five minutes you can tell a major story, and also people are able to relive that same moment so you can get it perfect once, and then it can be shared with millions of people who can view it, and interpret it the way they want.

    In theater, I think what’s so special is that every performance is so genuine and special to every different audience. It’s a very intimate moment that you share with one audience, and then you’ll never have that moment again. Whereas with a video, it’ll be the same every single time. I love theater because sometimes you have quiet audiences. It’s like, “How do you perform the show for them?” Sometimes you have audiences that are erupting in laughter. We, as cast members, feed off of that energy, but sometimes the audiences that are quiet the entire time, it can feel like they’re not loving it, but I’ve discovered that eventually they’ve accepted and embraced the story so much that they’re the first ones to their feet at the end of a show. They just had a different way of responding to the work and I think that’s really cool.

    AB: Looking back on your life and career, what is something you wish you would have been told before going into the arts?

    TH: I don’t know that there is really anything I wish I had been told because some of the greatest work that I’ve created came from painful experiences. I was really grateful that when I started performing, no one explained to me that everything wasn’t colorblind casting.

    My first experience in performing I was Fritz in the Nutcracker Ballet, and I was the only black child in a completely white family. I didn’t think anything was weird about that. I grew up watching the Cinderella with Brandy and Whitney Houston and also Bernadette Peters. For me, it was the first true colorblind casting. Whitney Houston called it a “rainbow cast.” I think later in life I realized that even though I thought this notion was such a beautiful thing, that everything wasn’t cast that way and that there were certain roles that you just weren’t going to be right for because you are this type of person, and because people will only see you a certain way.

    I think the beauty of being a performer right now in 2017 is that all of the barriers are being broken. African American people are playing roles that they would have never been able to play and there are shows, like Hamilton, that are featuring historically white figures that were the Founding Fathers of our country, but as all-minorities. I’m really glad that I wasn’t told those things. I was encouraged by everybody that I was around to believe that I could be any role.

    I’ve gone in kind of naive, and sometimes people did tell me being on Broadway would be hard, and I was like, “Eh. It probably won’t be.” People told me that, and instilled that fear in me. I might not have been able to book one of my first Broadway shows I ever auditioned for had I listened to them. I was on Broadway at twenty years old. When people say, “How is it to go from being on YouTube to being on Broadway in ‘Kinky Boots?’” I’ve always said I wouldn’t know. You’d have to ask someone who did that. Because I started on Broadway and went to YouTube, but now I’m back on Broadway as a leading role!

    It’s just a really cool transition, and it’s really eye opening how different it is. I’m really happy people didn’t tell me things, like what to be afraid of or what to beware of because I was able to create my own path, and find a really weird alternate route to get to this very special place I am at now.

    AB: Being the lead role on Broadway seems like it could be everything someone has ever wanted. With that being said, what is something that you wake up every day and are just so grateful for?

    TH: That’s one thing that has been really difficult in my whole career because when I got on Broadway I was like, “This is it! I’ve made it! What else is there to live for?” When I met the cast members on my first Broadway show, which was an amazing experience, I realized a lot of those people weren’t happy and I was like, “How could you be in this position and not be happy?” Maybe I wish that someone had told me that you’re still going to be a human. You’re still going to be performing on this stage and the venue and the cost of the costumes will be different and the audience’s ticket price will be different. But I still feel like the same guy who got the start of his career in the Nutcracker, or my first time singing at Six Flags over in Texas. It still feels the same.

    But what I’m learning every year is to be just so incredibly grateful, because people look at this position and say, “Wow. You must be having the time of your life.” But it’s hard work, and you can either make a conscious effort to wake up and be like, “Wow. My job is really hard.” Or to walk through Time Square and see a billboard with your face on it and say, “Wow. You did all of this work. You’ve gotten to this place. Millions of people would love to have this opportunity.” I’ve only missed two shows and I’m trying my hardest not to miss any more because I’m just so grateful that I have a platform where my fans are able to come to the shows. Many of my YouTube fans have never seen a Broadway show. I’m introducing people to the art form and it’s just such a cool experience that I am so grateful for.

    AB: Why is it so important to get Millennials out from behind their screens and into the seats of live theatre?

    TH: I think that humans are creatures of habit and some people are like, “I’m not into theater.” Maybe they’ve had one bad theatrical experience, or have seen an opera and not identified with it, or a ballet or symphony or musical they just didn’t identify with. So many people come to the show and I think we blow them away because their expectations were so low to begin with. I love the fact that these young people are coming to the show and they don’t know what “Kinky Boots” actually is. They don’t care what the project is. They’re like, “I’m coming to see Todrick.” But they walk away having gained such a huge appreciation for the art form of what we do here on Broadway. Then they go to other theaters and see other shows because they liked this one. I’m creating these little patrons of the arts, accidentally, just because of YouTube. I just think that’s really cool.

    That was the way I was introduced to theater, through the live, filmed versions of Broadway shows. That’s why, when I was in Memphis The Musical, we had this big cast meeting and everyone was on the fence about whether or not we should film the show. I was the person that stood up saying, “We absolutely should!” Had I not ever seen these live productions on stations like PBS, or wherever they are shown, I would have never known what Broadway was! There are amazing people living in the middle of nowhere, who have much bigger issues to worry about, such as how they’re going to feed their children or family, than to try and expose their children to theater and the arts. I just think it’s really, really cool that people are going on YouTube and realizing, “Oh wow! One of my favorite YouTubers is on Broadway!” That’s why they’re being introduced to theater. It’s the same thing that I did when I was young, but just a different way of getting there. That is crazy to me!

    When I saw the article that the ticket sales had jumped up so much from me being in the show, it was one of the proudest moments I’ve had in my entire life, because this was a risk for the Broadway community to bring me here.

    I love also that the Broadway community has become so open to adapting some of the rules that were set in place for the Union twenty years ago before social media really existed. I applaud our Broadway community because we expect so many people to embrace us for so many reasons. I just think that it’s good that we practice what we preach, and that producers would give someone like me, who is known mostly as being a YouTuber, the chance to lead a Broadway show. And not just any show, but a Tony Award winning show in a Tony Award winning role. The fact that they would trust me with such a huge responsibility is really cool, and I’m just trying to make sure that I step up to that every day and give my best swing at doing this role!

    AB: You’ve played in Memphis!, The Color Purple, and now “Kinky Boots” on Broadway. All three of these shows are such beautiful, powerful, and inspiring pieces of art. Going forward, do you still have a dream role left to play on Broadway?

    TH: I do! I would love to be Simba in The Lion King, just because that’s one of my favorite shows. I also love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I would love to be a part of that show. I would love to be a part of Hamilton, that would be really cool. But my goal right now is Straight Out of Oz, my first album. It did pretty well, and there is a lot of interest in the theater community for me to make an adaptation for it and bring it to Broadway! That would be really cool to not only star in a show that I wrote, but to tell my story which so many of my peers and people in this show know as my life.

    I didn’t realize I was telling the story of so many people’s lives, but there are so many gay men who have struggled with religion and had issues trying to find their way in this business, I just think it’d be really cool to share that on stage every single night because I identified with this character so much and it’s not even me. If I identified with Lola in “Kinky Boots” so much that the idea of getting to perform as myself on stage every night, and tell a story that’s really powerful would be really, really awesome. But I’m just excited to jump into any opportunity that comes my way and to face it head on.

    I love “Kinky Boots” because it was a huge challenge, I was totally afraid to do it. I want to keep doing things that make me scared or that I never thought I could do, or break barriers and do roles that would never typically be played by an African American male. That would be really, really cool. And to do an exceptional job at them, not just to do them for the sake of doing it because I’m African American. But because it would be a different spin on a role for people to look at through slightly different eyes.

    AB: During your time in “Kinky Boots,” who have been some of the most memorable audience members?

    TH: We’ve had really cool people, like RuPaul and Taylor Swift, who have come to see the show and a lot of my YouTube friends have come to support. But I think the coolest thing was the day after they announced who was going to be our next President. The energy in Time Square was just insane. I’ve never seen it so full of people, yet so lifeless. It was crazy. It felt like a bunch of zombies walking around. We had two shows that day, and it was really hard. I’d never experienced anything like that before. The audience got up and they were crying, like women from middle America, and families who were crying because they thought the show was so beautiful. That was really awesome.

    A couple weeks after my opening, I met a lady from Utah who said that her and her husband were there on my opening night, and didn’t know who I was but had just bought tickets, and had never experienced an energy like they had the night in the theatre. So, they ended up flying back the following weekend with all of their kids. They had four kids, and all of them came back and saw the show! That was such a cool thing because I came here thinking, “I can’t wait for my fans to come and watch the show.” Not realizing how many new fans I would make in the process. This has really helped me and my YouTube career, helping my fans find Broadway. It’s been a win-win situation for both sides of my career.

    AB: What do you think has been the rose and thorn of your experience in New York City, specifically coming from Los Angeles?

    TH: The rose has just been proving to myself that I could do this. This was a huge chapter for me. There are people who have been like, “Yeah. He’s not really an actor.” People were concerned that I wouldn’t be able to sing the songs, and that I would not be able to last through an eight-show week. They even offered me to do six shows a week. But I was like, “No. If I’m going to be on Broadway, it would be unfair for the ensemble to have to kill themselves to be able to do eight-shows and for me to not do the same.”

    But the thorn has definitely been the sacrifices you have to make. You can’t go have a social life, because what’s important is being Lola eight-shows a week and making sure if my fans and the patrons of the theater are spending all this money, that they get the best version of me that I can possibly present. It’s something that I’m actually proud of, I’ve actually gone home and gone to sleep. I’ve been eating healthier and drinking a lot more water. That’s a thorn! I go to bathroom eight-billion times a night because I drink so much water. My friends are concerned for me, because they’re like, “You should really go to a doctor.” If you see how much water I drink to make it through this show, you would understand why I can’t make it through the night without going to the bathroom eight-billion times. But I literally couldn’t be happier. I’m in such a good place, surrounded by really great people, I’m just having the time of my life. This has been truly a blessing and it came at the perfect moment.

    AB: For any young person who wants to be in the arts, but society tells them that it’s not a reliable career and not realistic, what do you have to say to these Millennials who have such big dreams, but such huge obstacles?

    TH: I was one of those young people. Luckily, I had a mom who believed in me, even when we didn’t know what I was going to be. I would just say to everybody, not even if you just don’t want to be in the arts, that you get one life to live. One of the things that really helped me stay inspired to work hard is that I’ve lost a lot of friends to unfortunate deaths at very young ages, and it really is a constant reminder that life is so beautiful and fragile. It can be taken from you at any moment.

    One of my favorite movies is Sister Act 2. That’s the first thing that inspired me to sing and perform. Whoopi Goldberg says to Lauryn Hill at a certain point in the movie, “What is the first thing you think about when you wake up?” That’s what you’re supposed to be doing. If there is anybody out there who is reading this article, for whatever reason, maybe it’s fate you need to see this at the beginning of a brand new year. But I think that whatever it is you want to do, I don’t believe that you should have to have a backup plan. I think if you have a talent or a gift, and you go out and chase that every single day, like literally wake up and do everything you can in your power; like someone in the Army trains to be ready for the battlefield, that there is no way you cannot be successful. Maybe Broadway isn’t your destiny, but maybe you can travel the world, singing on cruise ships, and touch people’s lives that way. Maybe you can work at a theme park. Maybe you can work in your local theatre and inspire other kids that then go on to be on Broadway. You never know how your gifts are going to be used to change the world for the better.

    I think if you really want it, there is a way that you can make money so you can live and survive. It’s really important. It’s the most important thing you can ever do. Just make sure you’re living each day and being happy with the decisions that you make. Also, I’d tell those people to go out and absorb as much information about the thing that you love to do. Often times we’re afraid to do things that scare us. So if we’re a great singer, we don’t want to try to dance or try acting. I think to be a great performer you have to be multifaceted and well-rounded. Don’t be afraid to try new things and be good at as many things as you possibly can so when an opportunity comes knocking you will never have to say, “No. I can’t do this.” You can say, “Yes. I can!”

    AB: When this role ends for you, do you see your relationship with Lola going forward in any kind of way?

    TH: Who knows? Luckily, I got them to agree to give me my red boots early, so a piece of Lola will always be with me! But who knows? I’m the most spontaneous person. I don’t like to plan too far in the future. If they ask me to come back, and if my schedule allowed it, I would for sure come back! I’d love to do the show in London or Australia or on the tour for a small stent. I think that would be really fun. I never say never to anything, because I’m having the time of my life right now and I’m sad that March 5th is my last show, but I’m excited to do new things as well.

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    PRINCESS VICTORIA by Johann Georg Paul Fischer, 1819
    Royal Collection Trust

    With the premier of the PBS Masterpiece series, VICTORIA, airing on the 15th, it would be remiss of me if I did not point out that the occasion had been quietly celebrated at the manor of Woolbrook Cottage* in Devon.

    Internet Archive beautiesofsidmou00butc

    Woolbrook was the home of Anne, the only child of the Cators in the group portrait below and her husband, Edward Baynes, Major General of the armed forces in British North America during the War of 1812. Barely a month later, however, the spirit of the Holiday season turned to grief when the Duke of Kent, the father of the infant princess, succumbed to a cold and died of pneumonia on January 23rd, 1820.

    *Now the Royal Glen Hotel

    Hidden in plain sight at the Aberdeen Art Gallery in Scotland is the singular target of the most breathtaking art heist in history. But unlike the much-touted 1990 Gardner Museum robbery in Boston, this one takes the cake not only for the sophistry of its conception but the brazen presumption of the perpetrators that their actions were for the well-being of the international black community.

    It will undoubtedly come as something of a shock to most that the sitters in this picture of such frightfully aristocratic elegance were the grandchildren of Mary Augier, a black Jamaican slave woman.

    What has stunned the academic world as well as the media, however, is the realization that the Morses had risen rather easily, indeed, even arrogantly so, from the state of slavery to the upper echelons of British society and influence in full view of the public. The fact that they did not have to "pass" and that papa's money proved to be all that was needed to "deconstruct" or "interrogate" the victimization paradigm that dominates, even sabotages the discourse on race is what has made this picture so intolerable in certain scholarly circles.

    Considering how many more such Jamaican family histories have since come to light, certainly this one should prove a joyful revelation to viewers on both sides of "the pond," considering what it could contribute towards the racial peace, equality and harmony which for which we strive especially at this time of the year.

    The MORSE AND CATOR FAMILIES by Johan Zoffany, 1784
    Aberdeen Art Gallery

    Sitting beside Anne Frances Augier Morse, the grandmother of the Hon. Henry Arthur Herbert of Muckross, Lord Lieutenant of Kerry, Ireland, is her sister, Sarah, the wife of John Cator seen standing. Their brother, Robert, is playing the cello. Similar to the relationship of their mother's first cousin, the Hon. Frances Duff, to the Royal Family today through the Earls of Fife, Sarah was the great, great grand aunt of Elizabeth Margaret Cator who married the Hon. Michael Claude Hamilton Bowes Lyon, the brother of the "Queen Mum" in 1928.

    Because it also demonstrates the relationship of this, at the time, well-known family "of color" to Queen Victoria, it should also be noted that Anne Cator Baynes, was first cousin, on the Jamaican side, to Louisa Middleton, the mother the Hon. Henry Arthur Herbert, at whose architectural masterpiece, Muckross House, Queen Victoria stayed for two days during her state visit to Ireland in 1861.

    Killarney National Park, Killarney, Co. Kerry

    Herbert, in turn, was the uncle of Maj. General, Sir Herbert Stewart (great grandson of the 7th Earl of Galloway on his father's side), who became the Aide de Camp to the Queen in 1882. His son, Capt. Geoffrey Stewart of the Coldstream Guards, also served the Queen as her Page of Honour. Between his sisters and his nieces, this branch of the Herberts intermarried with the Earls of Bantry, Dartrey, Minto and Ferrers as well as the Guinnesses.

    Since so many of this echelon were integral members of Britain's wealthiest and most politically influential strata of society, how could this phenomenon not have had an enabling or, at least, mitigating effect on the circumstances of their still enslaved relatives living in the Caribbean?

    Herbert's grandnephews are examples of how such individuals, in their attempts to shape or influence the development of the Nation's imperial power and ambitions along the lines of their own interracial identities, made careers for themselves in the colonial service. Sir Hubert Edward Henry Jerningham KCMG JP DL, for instance, was Member of Parliament for Berwick, Colonial Secretary for British Honduras, Lieutenant Governor of Mauritius and Governor of Trinidad and Tobago. Sir Wasey Sterry, CBE, served with the Foreign Service in both the Sudanese and Egyptian judiciary. It would be interesting to learn what part his African ancestry played in his marriage to the granddaughter of Princess Wishan of the Tewodros Imperial Dynasty of Ethiopia.

    A great many more of this West Indian 'ilk', a majority of them Oxbridge educated, served as high-ranking officials in either the military or overseas government bureaucracies not only in Africa and the West and East Indies, but in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, to boot.

    Indeed, it could be argued that the very complexity and apparently contradictory nature of these familial situations is what in many ways led not only to the cohesiveness, but the actual expansion of British influence in global affairs during the late 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

    BLACK LIVES MATTER, especially those on whose narratives the PC Police in both academia and the media have slapped an embargo.

    As remarkable a breakthrough as this one has been, it is all too obvious that what could be obtained from several hundred others would barely scratch the surface of this potential subject, and an entire corpus of colonial and racial history will now have to be re-evaluated. What the process could contribute to a far more "empowering narrative" in comparison to the preconceptions and stereotypes so many academics and media pundits push like bad drugs, is as unimaginable to the general public as the saga of the Jamaican Augiers has been until now.

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    Let's talk about trash.

    Waste defines modern existence. A globalized culture of consumerism ensures that trash undergirds and oozes into every facet of our lives. Detritus haunts us and props us up. The presence and impact of physical trash is (by now) easy to grasp, but what does it mean when filtered through the digital?

    Caroline Picard and Lara Schoorl decided to pose this question back to us, and the result is Institutional Garbage, an exhibition rooted in the praxis of waste, presented by Chicago's Sector 2337 and The Hyde Park Center. Installations range from complete poetry manuscripts to emails to webcam videos. The space itself ran from September through the end of this year, and when the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, the exhibition disappears forever (at least in this particular iteration...but more on that later).


    Struck by the avant-garde approach to the very notion of art and its display in the metamodern era, I communicated with Schoorl several months ago. And then, in the meantime, life got ahead of me (in part rooted in the very garbage the two set out to examine). Still wanting to shine a light on one of the year's most fascinating exhibitions with the timer ticking, I reached out one more time last week with questions that I hoped would re-instigate the conversation (and atone for my tardiness). The response I received was (somewhat expectedly) unexpected, so, bearing the ethos in mind, I'm reposting it in full here.


    Lara Schoorl: Jesse, thank you for finding time for this correspondence! I think we all wish we were one of these writers.... Or not. Often the things that keep me from writing are the things I need to write about and for. Also this delay and slowness suits both the in-process format you suggested and the exhibition we are here to talk about. Since it's an in-process interview, can we keep the message that prefaces your questions? My first response is to that message:

    Lara, hi, hello! I'm so sorry the time has evaded me. I wish I could be one of these writers that just dashes off articles. BUT In the interest of having a piece of capstone press, I was thinking, let's do a process interview? I tried to make the questions sassy...let me know if it worked. Also, if you have other thoughts to add outside the questions, answer them in the "other trashy thoughts" section and we can reverse engineer questions. Oh, and feel free to split duties with your co-pilot. Either way, holler 'em baaaccckkk.

    From our prior correspondence, I know you considered asking me questions to guide you through a review of our on-line exhibition, Institutional Garbage. I think it is interesting how that prospective review becomes an interview after all. It makes me wonder about the accessibility of Institutional Garbage as well as about writing about non-tangible art and spaces more generally. Some of the technical aspects of our online space ask visitors to take their time and have a bit of patience--demands that seem anachronistic to the internet which typically prioritizes speed. Nevertheless, I'd like to think that an online exhibition might be more accessible than some gallery exhibitions, even if you need access to the internet.


    Jesse Damiani: What is all this garbage, huh?

    Caroline Picard: I know, right? My namesake in print is an editor for Good Housekeeping and as such I am constantly getting her press releases--for instance IKEA's 2017 Pantone color of the year is the "trans-seasonal shade" Greenery. Or Soleil Moon Fry's latest line of Easter Decor. Or the fact that each press release encourages readers to save the environment and not print it out, while encouraging the production, consumption, and discard of material goods. It brings me back to a newspaper job where I printed out press releases and compiled my favorites in weekly shopping calendars for readers. The office printer was right next to a staff kitchen that smelled permanently of microwave popcorn and I used to sift through failing budget reports to find my own documents. Recently, I ran into the Ayn Randian who joined the work force right before I left; he has somehow maintained his rule to never bring anything to a potluck. Perhaps what's most depressing is that he said our old boss wants to take an all-expenses paid trip to Macedonia and interview people behind the fake news headlines that claimed Pope Francis forbids Catholics from voting for Hillary, or how 300 buffalo allegedly joined the protest at Standing Rock. 

    LS: Last May, my friend Zoë and I walked around looking for morning glories. We found them wrapped around chain link fences and sprouting through concrete, in the darkest places of the neighborhood. They are one of Zoë's favorite plants and we planned to re-pot them; we thought they would thrive in a sunlit space with fresh soil and water, but they died within an hour of their transplant.

    Institutional Garbage comprises poems, video art, unpublished manuscripts, performance scores, exhibition proposals, manifestoes, and imaginary contracts of more than forty artists. These show the bearings of different (imaginary) institutions, revealing the personal and emotional investments often cloaked by structures or brands institutions use to represent themselves. Together they also form the bearings of Institutional Garbage, these bearings being the only product of the exhibition.
    Do you agree that an exhibition or production of any kind aims to do or provide a product or service? Do you agree that for the production of any kind of service, many hands are involved? Do you agree that without the hands of people typing the press release, cleaning the exhibition space, mailing out invitations, hanging the art, proposing ideas for the exhibition, there would be no exhibition? Then can we agree that those hands that form the bearings are the exhibition?


    JD: Why even bother?

    CP: Sometimes I dream that I'm at work looking at the blank wall of my office. And then I go to work and stare at the same wall. Once I discussed plans for an art space with a prospective landlord. His son ran the bar upstairs and came down to ask what kind of business my friends and I wanted to open. The dad said poetry, "They want to have poetry readings," and the son starting heckling us in Spanish -- the gist of which was like, "Check out these nerds!" We didn't rent the place but I did open a gallery down the street and we host poetry readings all the time. I think it's easy to ask what is the point of art but I'm not sure it's a useful question. Would you ask that of something like Spring Break? I'm suspicious of anything that claims to be direct, on message, and without ambiguity.

    LS: Caroline's dream is my reality also. I am writing this secretly at work staring at a grey wall of my cubicle while contemplating your questions and Caroline's responses. Over the last few weeks I have asked myself, why do I sit here underpaid at a for-profit company while there are people murdered or left dying in Palestine, in Syria, in the streets of Los Angeles, all over the world? I could be underpaid -- even un-paid -- at a place that does more. In mornings and evenings I volunteer for The Green Lantern Press to work on projects and collaborations like Institutional Garbage. An equally non-productive answer is just; "Why not?"


    JD: Why should I care about this trash? (What will I, Joe Audience, get from IG?)

    CP: This sounds like another iteration of the last two questions, but maybe you are being clever. Are you illustrating the limitations of the interview form? Where every question is the same as the last? And since we are discussing imaginary trash, your question is also a kind of trash? A gesture toward empty convention? I saw a Mabou Mines production of Ibsen's DollHouse years ago. All of the female parts were played by very tall actors. Because the leading men were around four feet, the women had to contort their bodies in hysterical ways to maintain eye level with their partners. But maybe you're tricking me with this generic archetypal viewer: Who is Joe Audience? Is this the same imaginary plumber politicians defer to? What's their click-bait? And what about all of the data trails you leave behind wherever you go? Isn't that another example of institutional garbage?

    LS: For his installation, Stand Alone, Thomas Hirschhorn takes sourced images of mutilated, decapitated, and violated male bodies and places so many on cardboard boxes that you can hardly focus on any one individual. Initially installed in Berlin, he points out the unacceptable violence done to humans by humans in the Iraq war, critiquing structures that would normalize such violence. Seen here, in Los Angeles, the piece inherently refers to harm done to marginalized groups of people in America. In each location, the individual body is second to the systemic injustices that led to their unjustifiable death. In an accompanying text to the exhibition Hirschorn asks, "Where do I stand?" followed by "Where do you stand?" So I understand, he is not looking away from violence, but I wonder: what are the politics of these images? Can anyone use the bodies of individual people to let an art audience know that you don't close your eyes?

    JD: How has the community (digital, person-al, or otherwise) dealt with the garbage?

    CP: I don't believe humanity has dealt with its garbage. This is the point of the Plastic Trash Vortex, the film Containment, or the dark web shopper-bot exhibition from 2015.


    JD: What are snippets of advice you would pull from Institutional Garbage for handling a dark future? Or to address the nature of love and the cosmos?

    CP: Join the women's march and protest on January 21. Make a lot of noise. Practice radial openness. Pay attention. Resist the easy way out; it's rarely interesting or long lasting. Resist clean narratives with singular heroes who triumph at the end (especially if they claim to save everyone else). Listen to those who tend to say less. Oppose rugged individualism. Undermine bullies. That's advice I'm following but I don't think it necessarily comes from Institutional Garbage.

    LS: Perhaps words like "success" and "winner" should be reconsidered.


    JD: Other trashy thoughts to share?

    LS: The exhibition will disappear from the Internet on December 31, 2016. But will it really be gone?

    CP: We have decided to make a post publication of Institutional Garbage that archives our no-longer existing imaginary institution. This will be published with The Green Lantern Press in 2017.


    LS: I want to repeat a sentence that one of the contributors of Institutional Garbage, Zippora Elders, shared in an article about gender and art. It was whispered into here ear by an artist: "If you reject heteronormativity and embrace the darkness, you will find your brothers and sisters within." Perhaps we can whisper that into the ears of those conflicted about asking "Why?"



    Institutional Garbage is here for a few more days. Don't miss it.

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    “It is my duty to voice the sufferings of people, the sufferings that never end and are as big as mountains.” ― Käthe Kollwitz

    The great German artist, printmaker and sculptor Käthe Kolwitz (1867-1945) knew profound personal suffering. After her younger son Peter died in battle in Flanders in October, 1914 she fell into a deep depression that re-shaped both her art and political views. The double sculpture that she finally completed in 1931 for the cemetery in which he son was buried, shows the artist and her husband apparently kneeling in grief. However, when asked about the theme of the sculpture Kollwitz explained that it was about much more than grief: it also represents all parents of her generation, asking forgiveness for having led their sons into war.

    The Grieving Parents, like so many of Kollwitz’ finest works, is grounded in empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. She recognized that she was expressing something greater than her own feelings and that her art could only function if it served an entire society. Grief and loss are universal feelings that bind us, and sharing them with others leads to consolation and social transformation. It is not surprising that in 1936 the Nazi party barred Kollwitz from displaying her work which they branded as “degenerate.” Deep feelings for the sufferings and losses of others—which lead to collective introspection—can lead to resistance against authoritarian politicians and those who advocate war and other forms of sacrifice and suffering.

    It is interesting to note that the idea of empathy is a late-nineteenth/early twentieth century development, that derives from the imaginative act of projecting oneself into a work of art. In her book You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin, author Rachel Corbett writes:

    The invention of empathy corresponds to many of the climactic shifts in the art, philosophy and psychology of fin-de-siècle Europe, and it changed the way artists thought about their work and the way observers related to it for generations to come.

    The development of empathy as a social expectation and custom parallels the development of Expressionism: of inwardness as a gateway to emotional connection. That inwardness—so essential in the modern conception of a self-aware individual—is the hinge that connects to social awareness and the empathetic understanding of others.

    Empathy is, without doubt, a political force that plays a considerable role in attitudes towards social issues. In a recent article for Psychology Today—Beware America’s Shocking Loss of Empathy—attorney and social advocate David Noise argues that empathy and it’s “cousin” compassion are crucial elements in politics and policy, arguing that they “lead to an intelligent assessment of what is happening internally and around the world, a minimal level of humane values, and rational attempts to apply those values.”

    In the context of America’s recent Presidential election, where outrage, uncivil discourse and personal attacks demonstrated a shocking lack of empathy, it seems critical for artists to ask themselves about the role of empathy in their own work. Whether their work is political, personal or somewhere in-between, the element of empathy can allow an artist to “give voice to the sufferings of others,” as Käthe Kolwitz did so nobly in her works.

    Below is a selection of responses posted on my personal Facebook page after I asked the question:

    What is the role of empathy in your art?

    Note: some responses have been edited for brevity.

    Steven Holmes: Making art assumes empathy. Making art is an act of sharing. It is by definition, an invitation to others to leave their isolation and meet others on the same road as you. An artist without empathy is a sociopath.

    Mark David Lloyd: Empathy can be painful. Much of my artwork on a conceptual level deals with suffering in one form of another, empathy is experienced in the making process of the artworks and sometimes by the viewer. When we witness suffering and distress in others, our natural tendency to empathize can bring us vicarious pain.

    Colin Darke: It plays the central role. I only paint or draw in hopes of having a shared experience ― my picture echoing the viewer’s feelings (past or present, happiness/sadness/wonderment) in a new and powerful way.

    Julia Morgan Scott: I have become somewhat suspicious of efforts to consciously insert empathy into painting. It seems IMHO to politicize something natural to the process of simply painting what one truly loves.

    Isaias Sandoval-Streufert: For me empathy is essential, without empathy it will be only apathy, my work is about passion, I can’t paint apathy even if I try.

    Karen Kaapcke: I also have the thought that it is possible that people with high levels of empathy take to the arts as vehicles for that way of being, because it is possibly not an easy way of being (I am thinking of myself when quite young, being almost unbearably disturbed by seeing certain things, or being almost unbearably moved by the beauty of something. Both are equally empathic. A life in the arts might make being that way a little more bearable).

    Nancy Good: Empathy is key as it speaks the language of connection, i.e. connection to the life experiences of the viewer. We are all connected in pain, joy, fear, wonder, hunger, yearning ... all we experience. Empathy in art banishes isolation and invites healing.

    Franck De Las Mercedes: Most of my work stems from an emotionally charged, at times dark, at times painful place. To hear others regard it as beautiful or meaningful to their lives is the biggest compliment. The gift is in sharing and understanding the feelings and experiences of another.

    F. Scott Hess: Empathy is the link that a painter of figures relies on to make others feel the work. It happens before conscious thought, before critical analysis kicks in. You grab your audience by their empathetic guts before they know what’s happening. Gesture, facial expression, movement, composition, and paint application all work together to achieve this end.

    Judith Peck: In order to create, I have to feel very deeply, without that connection I believe my work would be a hollow shell.

    Steph Rocknak: From an article I wrote a few years ago: “Psychology, which in many respects grew out of Hume’s work, is helping us to further clarify the fundamental role that empathy plays in our moral sensibilities. Hume’s work, written over two hundred and fifty years ago, is still profoundly relevant. But great artists have always seemed to know what Hume knew; they hook us up to the empathy machine when we become too self-involved, too isolated. For the most part, artists, not philosophers, keep us human; they can put us—no, sometimes force us—into the other person’s shoes. We see what it is like to be a victim a war, we see what it is like to be terribly conflicted, we see what it was like to be trapped inside the World Trade Center on 9/11. Artists can also expose our horror for what it is; we get a look inside the heads of those who know no empathy: the psychopaths, the sociopaths, the narcissists. Sometimes, we even get to see what it is like to live in an entire society that has gone the way of a psychopath. Once again, Bosch and Michelangelo come to mind, or, more recently, Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road. “

    Dab Zabooty: Without empathy art becomes a technical exercise.

    Tristan Xavier Köster: In German there is this word “Sympathie” (not to be confused with sympathy) which basically means that you can understand and empathize with somebody(always used positively). I think that this sensation of Sympathie, finds itself in nearly all forms of art, allowing complete strangers to feel and see/hear with the artist. ‪Empathy (veiled by a sense of guilt) fuels just about every single melody I write, but I always try and make sure that my music is “sympathisch” to the listener.

    Joseph Bravo: Genuine aesthetic communication rests on empathy between the artist and the viewer. If art is to maintain some intrinsic cultural relevance then the audience indeed needs to be broadened. With that broadening of the audience must also come a broadening of the messages and the identity of the messengers as well, even at the risk of a disquieting cacophony. But ideally, each artist would be endeavoring to expand that empathic communication to edify as wide a range of humanity as possible. If artists are to speak with their audience rather that merely at it, then they should seek to find at least a point of common ground on which to plant that seed of empathy.

    Conor Walton: Empathy assumes reciprocal emotional relations between artist, subject and viewer that are egalitarian insofar as each can identify with the other, and this might naturally be expected to form the basis of an egalitarian art. It might suit a modern style of portraiture or figure painting which takes human equality for granted, but most of the great artworks of the past were produced in a different social context, and embody power relations and notions of social hierarchy that obstruct empathic relations. Are they to be admired less as a consequence? Is a contemporary work that expresses empathy superior to an ancient masterpiece that doesn’t? Or might it be the reverse: that cultivating empathy leads towards an urbane, popular, sentimental art, but places the highest summits of achievement off limits because of its antipathy to the sublime?

    Vonn Sumner: Empathy is the most important, most essential, most foundational element of painting and drawing. Empathy was the guiding principle of Wayne Thiebaud’s teaching, and he would often state it plainly. He would also say that empathy is the basis of civilization and quote Gloria Steinham: “Empathy is the most radical human emotion.”

    Joao de Brito: A Portuguese Proverb:”O artista é a voz do povo” or “ artists are the voice of the people” empathy is what is channeled by many artists to express what needs to seen or heard from the public when the world is in confusion.

    Ingrid Reeve: My art is not about progress; it’s about truth. Empathy is essential for discerning truth.

    Note: The original Facebook post and all replies can be viewed at this link.

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    The mythical view of artists has placed them in their studios or garrets, waiting for the Muse to inspire some great new idea or image. Were that the case, the wait could be a long one, leaving artists with little to do between brainstorms. In fact, most artists rely on good work habits to solve technical, aesthetic or intellectual problems. These include maintaining a regimen of drawing or painting for a certain amount of time every day as well as pursuing certain ideas to their completion in the hope that they might lead to other, new and interesting concepts. In the mostly hands-on profession of art, inspiration comes from doing.
    In Search of the Muse
    No artist is free from dry periods or mental blocks, when the old ideas seem to lead nowhere and new ones are hard to find. There are really two aspects to this problem: The first is the feeling of having run out of ideas, which tends to be a very temporary condition; the second is a general lack of enthusiasm about creating art itself and losing a sense of what makes art exciting, which can be far more troubling. For artists who have established a market for their work, fear of negative criticism or turning off past collectors may also enter their thinking. "When I'm at an impasse," photographer Sandy Skoglund said, "I try to do whatever feels good. The internal satisfaction has to be the focus." That may be more easily said than done, as some methods work, others don't. Jackson Pollock, who was stung by criticism of his later work, largely gave up painting in the last few years of his life. Italian comic opera composer Gioacchino Antonio Rossini's mental block lasted for the better part of three decades, as he wrote almost nothing of any length or importance for the last half of his life.
    Different artists have approached the problem in various ways. Pablo Picasso, for instance, periodically looked for rejuvenation in various media (ceramics, printmaking, sculpture, stage design) and subject matter (copying Old Masters, ancient Greek mythology). Painter Janet Fish "started doing watercolors as a way of loosening up my use of color. I had begun to find that subject matter had come to dominate my painting." Ben Shahn, who by 1950 felt trapped in the socially conscious work he had done in the 1930s and '40s, took a teaching position at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, which proved stimulating to him. "Black Mountain was a very argumentative place. A lot of the abstract expressionists were there," said Shahn's widow, Bernarda Bryson Shahn. "It helped clarify his ideas, and his work also went in a variety of directions after that. He moved from just continuing on with the same subjects that had come out of the Depression--the poor, hungry and homeless people--to more universal themes."
    The search for a way out of a dry period may also lead to new ideas for artwork as well as energy for the task. Edward Hopper, who is best known for his paintings of urban life, lived most of the year in New York City but he frequently became restless there, unable to paint. His restlessness led him to travel around the country and to Mexico, subsequently yielding a sizable body of paintings devoted to people on trains and highways, at gas stations and hotels.
    Some artists delve into art's past for a source of ideas, although others feel a bit more detached or want to get away from the art of the past altogether. Photographer Mary Frey noted that she gets "solace and sustenence from looking at the work of artists of the past but, after all, I'm a contemporary artist and I need to find the work of contemporary artists. I think that my work has become part of a dialogue with contemporary art, and so it is more important to me to see what similar or not-so-similar things other artists are doing currently." Noting that a mental block indicates "something that you are trying to avoid," Janet Fish said that a dry period "can lead you to stop working entirely. As they say, when you fall off a horse, you have to get right back on the horse because, the longer you wait, the harder it becomes to get back on the horse. You just have to keep painting. Going to museums can easily become another way to avoid working. It certainly is that way for me."
    For many artists, the act of creating a work of art is analogous to following a train of thought, developing and reworking ideas that may or may not come together to form a successful piece. A dry period may arise when artists have not pushed their ideas far enough or when a particular problem has already been solved--leaving artists only to repeat themselves. Janet Fish has found that her response to a problem in her work is to open herself to new ideas and experiences, and to keep working. "Sometimes, I work small when I'm not sure about what I'm doing," she said. "Better a little bad painting than a big bad painting." Fish noted that it is important to distinguish between a dry period, when problems in one's work need to be confronted, and just having a bad day, when nothing seems to go quite right. A particularly rough dry period can lead an artist to "do anything to avoid dealing with the painting." To her mind, the worst thing to do is "indulge in a dry period and let yourself quit working altogether. That way, you lock yourself into a mental block. If you get too polemical, or overly embroiled in a certain narrow idea, you can't go anywhere."

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    Tense, even combative mother-daughter relationships aren't unusual when the daughter is an adolescent. Most of these relationships improve, however, when the daughter has reached her twenties.

    But not always. In The Beauty Queen of Leenane, one of Martin McDonagh's earliest plays--perhaps the first, but that's uncertain--he introduces a terrifying mother-daughter pairing (the toughest in theater annals?). Now the participants' high-voltage family fracas is on scandalizing display in an immaculate revival at BAM.

    Mag Folan (Marie Mullen) rarely rises from her rocking-chair in the squalid Connemara, County Galway home that Francis O'Connor recreates these 20 or so years on from the original Druid production, directed then and now by Garry Hynes. (The print of a beatific Virgin Mary over the door is the only colorful feature. Otherwise, it's all grey walls, aging refrigerator, heater and battered table and old radio.)

    Complaining about her bad leg--the chronic "bone on bone" pain--Mag has no need to do for herself. She has forty-ish daughter Maureen (Aisling O'Sullivan) to do for her. Not uncomplainingly, though. Mag buckles under with hatred lodged in her dominated heart.

    As the daughter nominated by siblings to be the carer for an infirm (or seemingly infirm) parent, Maureen is a sad figure common to many families, and she understandably resents it--all the while only fleetingly recognizing that she's allowed herself to take on the role for unexamined psychological reasons.

    Mag's underlying motivation is her fear that she will be abandoned. To counter that, she's undermined whenever possible Maureen's hope for a life of her own. Prominently, she either lies about or destroys anything that might separate Maureen from her. She's also not averse when provoked to recalling a previous breakdown Maureen suffered.

    Late in McDonagh's taut and chilling two-act play, Mag's loathsome tactics include burning a marriage proposal contained in a letter from Pato Dooley (Marty Rea), who's taken a heart-warming fancy to Maureen and she, at long last, to him. The doomed letter has been delivered by Ray Dooley (Aaron Monaghan), Pato's somewhat dim-witted younger brother, a lad who frequently drops in on the Folans and does enjoy the Kimberley biscuits Maureen stocks simply because Mag dislikes them.

    It's Ray who mentions the unpleasant odor in the Folan home, which Maureen and the audience know results from Mag's pouring her urine in the kitchen sink rather than venturing to the unseen bathroom. (Or it is an outhouse? Could be, given this squalor.) McDonagh has her witnessed indulging this habit relatively early in his script. Mag denies the action, of course.

    The relatively minor activity in Mag's string of abuses remains only one of the many accumulating taunts she aims Maureen's way--taunts that Maureen doesn't shy away from meeting and raising. Eventually, the mounting mother-daughter battle, particularly the disappeared letter, leads to a radical development that won't be described here.

    That eventuality probably doesn't catch too many audience members off guard. It's something that doesn't attain the reassuring end the perpetrator hopes, and it has everything to do with McDonagh's immense playwriting skills.

    For those who don't know, The Beauty Queen of Leenane is the first of McDonagh's Leenane Trilogy. (The others are The Lonesome West and A Skull in Connemara.) These plays along with the Aran Island Trilogy (The Lieutenant of inishmore, The Cripple of Inishmaan and the still-unproduced The Banshees of Inisheer) were all written in the early 1990s, mostly in McDonagh's extremely fertile 1994.

    Instantly, McDonagh demonstrated that he possessed a unique vision. Born in London of Irish parents who, like many before them, moved to England in search of work, he visited Ireland in summers. So though he had experience of his parents' homeland, he was also brought up with the English attitudes towards the myth of Ireland. Undoubtedly, that accounts for the hint of spoofery that permeates the playwright's vision of Ireland.

    Director Hynes, the first to take a chance on McDonagh, refers to it as "mythic" and "distant."
    Thereby comes the dark humor, not to say the hilarity, common to the plays as well as the recurring macabre atmosphere. Laughing heartily while gazing in shock is hardly an unusual response to McDonagh's works. His unmistakable hallmarks are spread like margarine on bread throughout The Beauty Queen of Leenane, which, by the way, McDonagh wrote in three weeks when he was 25.

    A particular talent McDonagh has is lodging in his plots implications of what's to come so that spectators sense the untenable pickles in which his characters will find themselves immersed. He's diabolical at the kinds of things that have ticket buyers silently screaming "Don't go that, don't go there" at the endangered figures. The skill is a good part of his torturing fun.

    (Incidentally, by the mid-'90s, McDonagh announced he would no longer write for the stage and turned to movies, like the brilliant In Bruges. He has since resumed with the not-top-drawer A Behanding in Spokane and the scintillating-for-myriad-reasons Hangman, which has yet to be produced stateside. Apparently, there is even a newer play ready to go.)

    Returning to, and perhaps even enhancing her achievement, now that she's taken it up again, Hynes, the first woman to in a Tony for direction, does so with a remarkable cast.

    As Pato, Rea has a masculine sincerity about him. He's especially effective sitting in a square of light at the act-two beginning reciting the crucial letter he sends brother Ray to put directly into Maureen's hands. Monaghan's Ray starts many of his lines with a high, breaking voice that then settles in a moderate range. It's only one contributing factor to his Kimberley-loving, easily-gulled-by-Mag performance.

    AsMaureen, tall, fit, wired O'Sullivan is an upright battering ram. Alternately giving mother Mag as good (as bad?) as she gets at times and tied in metaphorical knots at other times, she has a toolbox full of hard looks to aim at her tormenter. It's a gallant show, maybe no more gallant than in her final undone moments.

    Then there's Mullen's Mag. The irony here for longtime Beauty Queen of Leenane fans is that Mullen appeared as Maureen in the original production. Now she's turned into her mother (as so many women eventually do, while men turn into their fathers) in the most impressive way. Ceaselessly needling O'Sullivan's Maureen, she's savage. Maybe the cruelest of her traits, though, are the pleased grins she lets slip (out of Maureen's view) when she thinks she's one-upped her unfortunate daughter.

    For many theater-basted patrons, getting to see Mullen in this switch will be a wonderful gift, as is, unquestionably, the new production.

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    ZEALnyc, January 16, 2017

    The popularity of independent films has increased dramatically over the past decade, and the trend doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon. There are approximately 3,000 active film festivals throughout the world, and there have been close to 10,000 festivals that have occurred over the past fifteen years. While the majority of the film screenings tend to take place in either festival settings or in specialized venues in larger urban areas, the independent film is also finding its audience through dedicated cable channels (Independent Film Channel (IFC); Sundance Film Channel; AMC, among many others), media behemoths Netflix and, as well as "on-demand" features offered through most cable and satellite providers.

    New York City hosts a large number of festivals each year and has a number of theaters committed to presenting this genre of film regularly, so now add one more to the list: The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. The inaugural festival is scheduled for August 4-13, 2017 and will take place at the historic Kew Gardens Cinema, with the actual structure dating back to the 1930's.

    As a competitive festival, the program will run for 10 days and consist of more than 100 remarkable short- and feature-length films from all genres, including often-overlooked categories such as documentary, horror, comedy, animation and experimental. Each film will be judged in its respective category by the Festival's specially selected jury of industry professionals. Along with filmmaker Q&A's after each screening, the festival will also hold industry panels featuring some of the best names in independent cinema discussing their strategies, their struggles and how they broke into the film business.

    The specific line-up for the festival is yet to be announced since submissions are currently being accepted from filmmakers through April. Please stayed tuned for more information in the coming months as we plan to be covering this new addition to the festival scene.

    For more information on submitting films for consideration, or for information about the festival, please click here.

    For more features from ZEALnyc read:

    'Dr. Feelgood: Dealer or Healer?' -- a closer look at the prescription drug epidemic

    With an Eye for the Icon-Oscar Abolafia is a Cognescenti of the Camera

    'The Present' is a Gift to New York Theatergoers

    The Best and Worst Musicals of 2016

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

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    Tony Williams must trust me.

    He must trust me a lot.

    He trusts me so much that he let me appear in his Urban Nutcracker this past December in Boston.

    Williams has presented the Urban Nutcracker for 16 years, so it's unlikely that I could have loused the whole thing up forever, but still.

    Obviously I need to back up and explain a few things.

    I've taken hundreds of dance classes over the decades--hip-hop, Latin, ballet, and so on. After almost every class, the instructor has singled me out and asked the same question:

    "Is this your first dance class?"

    Nureyev I'm not.

    Still, I can move, and occasionally I can move gracefully. But Williams had never seen me dance, and indeed had never met me face to face prior to his agreeing to allow me to join the Urban Nutcracker cast.

    That's trust.

    Williams, Boston Ballet's first mixed-race dancer and the first African American to dance with that company back in the 1960s, founded the Urban Nutcracker in 2001.

    He had just started a dance school in the inner city in Boston. Of the hundred kids who showed up, 20 were boys.

    Williams had to figure out how he was going to get those boys on stage.

    So he hit upon the idea of the Urban Nutcracker, which blended Tchaikovsky's traditional music with hip-hop, Duke Ellington, doo-wop, and other musical genres more familiar to his charges.

    Duke Ellington's composition in the show is, in fact, the Nutcracker Suite.

    Urban Nutcracker has since become a Boston institution, moving from its original Dorchester home to the John Hancock Hall, also known as the Back Bay Events Center, where 13 performances take place each December, including an autism-friendly version and an LGBTQ edition as well.

    Ballet dancers, including professionals, perform ballet alongside the hip hop and tap dancers in the Urban Nutcracker--so it's not just a hip hop or tap ballet.

    I wrote a piece about the Urban Nutcracker in November, and I thought, wouldn't it be fun to go up on stage with all those kids and dance a little bit.

    Williams liked the piece I wrote, so he agreed.

    The first time I met him was at the first and only rehearsal I attended.

    At the rehearsal, kids of all sizes and shapes were everywhere. But they were all focused, and they were all focused on dance. And they danced amazingly well.

    My job was to somehow not mess the whole thing up.

    At the rehearsal, a couple of the dancers took me under their wing and showed me where I would be standing, where I would be chassé -ing, and what other stage business I would attend to in my 20-minute guest shot during the first act party scene.

    I would pose for a selfie with the rest of the group, be astonished at magic tricks, converse gaily with other guests, and, think of it, dance a little.

    The night of the performance, I did not really have time for backstage jitters. I actually sing with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and we had just concluded our last performance of Holiday Pops an hour before call time for the ballet.

    As I drove from Symphony Hall to the John Hancock building, where the theater is located, I changed out of my tux and into my costume for the ballet.

    Once at the theater, I found myself surrounded by kids who were all business. They knew what they were doing, they knew about their costumes and makeup, they knew where to go to warm up, and they knew where to wait for their entrances.

    It was a well-oiled machine.

    It was also a happy, lively, focused machine, but perhaps that's the wrong word.

    I'll tell you exactly what I found: it's a family.

    The older kids look after the younger ones, and the adults are there to handle whatever concerns the kids have. There were very few adults compared to the massive number of young people ready to perform.

    By this point, the performers needed little direction. They did what they needed to do, because of the trust that Tony had placed not just in me but in them.

    That's what's so spectacular about the Urban Nutcracker--it's not just a great show, as professional and endearing as any Nutcracker you could hope to see, with the added benefit of the varieties of music and dance that the word "urban" implies--hip-hop, jazz, and doo-wop, blending in seamlessly with Tchaikovsky's score.

    Tony Williams doesn't just teach young people to dance.

    He teaches them that they are trustworthy, and that they can trust themselves.

    Is there a better lesson you could provide kids?

    The show began, the familiar strains of the Nutcracker filled the theater, and I waited anxiously for my 15 minutes of not quite fame; more like being a backdrop.

    And then it was time. My scene began. The dancers showed me where to go, and I hit the stage, knowing that a full house was watching, including my wife and kids.

    I'm happy to say that I hit my marks and did everything I was supposed to do--be an extroverted and interested guest in the party scene, pose with the group for the selfie, be dazzled by the magic show, chassé to the couch, make small talk, and ultimately, exit appropriately.

    Tony said I did fine.

    I'm honored by the trust Tony placed in me, but now that I've been part of the Urban Nutcracker, I understand why trusting comes to naturally to Tony Williams.

    It's because trust turns out to be a phenomenal tool for getting results--not just on stage, but in the lives of the young people who have the benefit of coming under Williams' care.

    And if you'll pardon the pun, for me, that's what made this Nutcracker...sweet.

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    The bloody show is part of the birthing process and it might be a good subtitle for "Artemisia Gentileschi et il suo tempo" at the Museo di Roma which deals with the career one of the great woman artists of all time. Artemisia might not have been " "untimely ripped" from her "mother's womb" but there are heads everywhere in the iconography of the world in which she would eventually make her mark. Her father Orazio was a noted painter in his own right who did "David Contemplating the Head of Goliath" (1610-12). Nicholas Regnier would take on the same subject (1625-6). Artemesia painted "Judith Slaying Holofernes" (1614-20) as did Cristophano Allori (1620) and Bartolomeo Manfredi (1618-20). Giovanni Baglione did "Herod, Herodias and Salome With the Head of John the Baptist" (1615-20). It was a heady time, filled with both violence (Artemisia had been raped by the painter Agostina Tassi) and beauty. The influence of Caravaggio is unmistakeable; in fact Artemisia painted her Judith the year of his death. But heads were not all that was cut. The exhibition includes Simon Vouet's "The Circumcision" (1620) and Mario Balassi's "Ghismonda Receiving Guiscardo's Heart" (1635). However, it's important to remember that that this was also a period in which the humanistic spirit soared to great new heights. Cosimo II di Medici was one of Artemesia's patrons and it was at his court that Artemisia met Galileo. Paintings with titles like "Time Reveals Truth and Unmasks Deception" and "Intelligence, Memory and Will" (1624) are noteworthy. The painter Crisofano Allori was also the author of "The Poetics of Affection." Roland Barthes is quoted thusly by the curators,
    "The strength of Gentileschi's paintings lies in the brusque reversal of roles. It is informed by a new ideology, which we moderns received already: the vindication of women."

    {This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

    Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi

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    By Dan Ouellette, ZEALnyc Senior Editor, January 17, 2017

    When Miho Hazama headlined Jazz Standard on September 30, 2015 in celebration of her spirited second album, Time River, her authentic music and graceful poise as the conductor of her 13-piece chamber band called m_unit proved to be the proclaiming of an engaging new voice on New York's jazz scene. As such, the award-winning composer and arranger who grew up in Tokyo and now lives in Harlem represents the energetic next generation of the large ensemble leaders, ably joining the continuum of such established orchestra leaders as Maria Schneider and Ryan Truesdell.

    In fact, Schneider in many ways has served as a mentor. "Maria has helped me a lot, including helping me to get my first dream show at Jazz Standard," says the 30-year-old Hazama who graduated with a Masters in Composition from the Manhattan School of Music in 2012 studying with the influential Jim McNeely after previously earning her Bachelor in Classical Composition from Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo in 2009. "I heard Maria's music for the first time when I played in a big band in Tokyo. Later I met her at MSM where she taught a master class, then later I interviewed her for a Japanese jazz magazine. I gave her my first CD [2013's Journey to Journey] and she loved it. Since then, she has supported and encouraged me."

    While her Jazz Standard date was a thrill, Hazama's bigger dream show in New York was to be showcased at Jazz at Lincoln Center's classy club Dizzy's. As a result of meeting the nightspot's bookers and passing along her recorded music, she scored a gig there (January 25) with m_unit, which this year will include saxophonist Steve Wilson, who had been a guest on Journey to Journey. "I get my inspiration as a composer from people who are in my band," she says. "So I'm writing a piece for Steve to solo on. I'm dedicating it to him. I love his timbre and originality on the saxophone."

    Hazama's music is complex, teeming with unexpected twists and jolting turns as well as pockets of frenzy that lead into wonder. Case in point: the opening tune of Time River, the uplifting "The Urban Legend." It has an element of swing in 5/16 time but also features horns darting over lush strings, a scampering rhythm that leads to a rolling piano solo and a tenor saxophone sprint before the band returns to the tune's catchy motif that appears, disappears and reappears throughout the song. "The inspiration for this comes from the music I compose when I travel," Hazama says.

    The music at Dizzy's will included tunes from her past two albums, including "Dizzy Dizzy Wildflower," which, she says, has nothing to do with jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie, but seems appropriate for the date. She's also working on three new compositions, two of which she will debut at the show. "Writing a composition for 13 people takes a long time," she says, talking about her upcoming show in a conversation at Lincoln Center's Atrium three weeks before the big date. "When I compose on the piano, I hear a lot of improvisation in my head, musical ideas that take a long time to get from my brain to my hands. It's part of the reason why I'm not focusing as much as I should on my piano playing. Right now with m_unit, it's about composing, arranging and leading the orchestra."

    Hazama has been garnering impressive stature as a remarkable composer. In 2011 she received an ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award, and in 2014 she garnered the Japanese 24th Annual Idemitsu Award, the first time a jazz composer has won the prestigious prize. In 2015 she was awarded the 16th Annual Charlie Parker Jazz Competition Prize for her work "Somnambulant," and last year she was also acknowledged by DownBeat as one of "25 for the Future."


    Starting to play the piano when she was 5, Hazama grew up in a household rich in music. "My parents listened to a lot of classical, but they also loved all genres," she says. "They were into rock, disco, Japanese pop, and they also loved jazz. When I was 8 and learning piano through the Yamaha Method, I had a composition teacher who told me this is what you have to do, and he played a 10-minute improvisation." That planted the seed for jazz even though she continued to study classical music.

    When she joined in with her undergrad college big band on piano, Hazama experienced jazz in the midst of the contemporary classical and rock music it was playing. But she didn't fully plunge into jazz until she came to New York--not focusing on being a pianist but as a composer. "My composition process starts on the acoustic piano and I tried out some of my early pieces in a jazz trio," she says. "But I chose to be a composer because I was interested in geometry and logical concepts I could explore."

    Even so, in delving into math-inspired jazz, Hazama concluded that her music needed a more soulful depth. "The first time I showed some of my earlier music to my mother, she was shocked," she says. "She didn't understand it. That's when I realized that I have to keep in mind that I want to entertain as well as be an artist. So, I began to express things emotionally, and instead of focusing on harmony only, I needed to keep melody in mind to make my music memorable to the listener."

    As revealed in her Standard show, Hazama exuded confidence--so much so that she doesn't shy away from asking marquee artists to guest on her recordings. For Journey to Journey, she enlisted Wilson and vibraphone ace Stefon Harris. For Time River, she sent email requests to sax titan Joshua Redman and accordionist/arranger Gil Goldstein--both musical heroes. "I just emailed Joshua," she says. "I had never met him, but he emailed me back and said he wasn't sure. I had already completed the tune I wanted him to play on, so I sent him the score and a demo. He replied right back and said, 'This is beautiful and challenging.'" Indeed Redman's buoyant and bold voice uplifts the gentle-to-riveting title track.

    Hazama's musical introduction to Goldstein came from his producing and arranging Michael Brecker's 2003 Quindectet recording Wide Angles, one of her favorite albums. While she was working as an arranger/orchestrator with Ryuichi Sakamoto, she discovered that he had worked with Goldstein and knew him well. So she emailed him and sent him a copy of her first album. He replied that it was great and that he was now a fan. He sent her a link to a YouTube song he performed on which reminded her of a song, the emotive "Under The Same Moon," that she had written when she was 20 but never recorded. "It's one of my favorites that I had written for a quintet, so I rewrote it so that Gil could play it with m_unit," she says.

    "Miho wants to make her big band not sound like a big band," he said. "She brings the aesthetic and sensibility from Mike's work to herself, and she's special in how she knows how to compose the licks and nuances. She does what all grown-up composers do: express a distinctive idea and develop and unfold it. It's that unfolding that makes her part of that young generation of artists that are wiser than their years. A lot of jazz musicians are interested in covering old territory, but she's someone who's taking the development of jazz a step further into the future. She's so gifted, she could write a piece for 12 accordions and it would sound great."

    While Hazama composed eight of the nine pieces on Time River, like with Journey to Journey, she covered a pop tune arranged in her distinctive voice. For the latter, it was a hip take on Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi." Then she wanted to close Time River with something that originated in classical or church or rock or maybe even metal. She opted for the heavy stuff by turning the alternative metal band A Perfect Circle's gripping tune about a stripper, "Magdalena," into a wildly hook-laden, swinging take with sirens of horns and an exciting jump-for-joy ending.

    "I liked that band when I was in high school," she says. "I came across the song again when I listened to a tape I had a long time ago that my parents kept in a box of my stuff and hadn't thrown away. Almost all the songs on my album are in a minor key, so I wanted to end in a major key and have lots of bright colors. I wanted to make a closer, like a bonus track. So this is perfect. It's the happiest song ever!"

    For her Dizzy's date, she's taking a pass on performing those tunes so that she can focus the show on her originals.

    Meanwhile Hazama has upped the ante as a vital young artist who is delivering a singular style of music steeped in a variety of idioms. Not to be too fenced in by her large ensemble, Hazama has also broadened horizons, performing with other musicians in creative endeavors. She's presently working on a commissioned composition for New York City Ballet principal Ashley Bouder for a performance with a big band at Symphony Space, March 17-18. "I'm really excited about this," Hazama says. "I used to take ballet classes when I was younger, so this is another dream--to write a piece for ballet and conduct the band."

    Recently she stretched in another direction: performing on piano a collective project with Argentina-born bandoneon player and composer J.P. Jofre that featured String Quartet from the New Asia Chamber Music Society. At Joe's Pub on January 2, this unique ensemble of artists performed distinctive originals and compositions/arrangements inspired by jazz, tango and classical. Hazama says that this was fully collaborative. "We wrote a lot of new compositions," she says. "Some I would start and he would finish, some he started and I finished. We had been playing together as a duo but wanted to collaborate with strings too, to make them more a part of developing the music." Last year Hazama and Jofre performed some of their works in a sold-out show in Japan using a local classical string quartet.

    An added benefit for this project was that it gave Hazama the opportunity to play the piano and improvise more. "I love playing the piano," she says. "I have a classical music background and working with J.P. brought me back to that because most of his music was written out fully, while mine was written out but also included room for improvisation. With m_unit, I don't get a chance to do that because I'm conducting."

    So that focus on piano will be a part of her future, Hazama says. In fact, she says she really owes it to her piano mentor in Japan, renowned free jazz pianist Yosuke Yamashita who formed a well-regarded trio with bassist Cecil McBee and drummer Pheeroan akLaff that played regularly from 1988-2001 at the now defunct New York club Sweet Basil. He also toured as an opening act in 2006 for Ornette Coleman and even sat in with him for tunes. "I've known Yosuke for a long time, and he's been a special personal friend who's always been helpful and supportive," says Hazama. "My career as an orchestrator started when he asked me to orchestrate one of his piano concerto pieces [2008's "Piano Concerto No. 3 Explorer"]. Yosuke is an encourager, but he's always asking me when I'm going to be playing more piano. So, I need to get back to that, and I would love to record in a few years a solo piano album that I will dedicate to him."

    Dan Ouellette, Senior Editor at ZEALnyc, writes frequently for noted Jazz publications, including DownBeat and Rolling Stone, and is the author of Ron Carter: Finding the Right Notes and Bruce Lundvall: Playing by Ear.

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    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

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    The New York Times and others have reported in recent months that hate crimes against minorities are on the rise. According to numbers from the FBI adjusted for underreporting by the Matthew Shepard Foundation, there are more than 9,000 hate crimes committed in the United States on an annual basis. These include everything from vandalism to murder motivated by bias based on race, religion, being LGB or T, among others. Although we may find this alarming, unless it is happening to us directly, it can be difficult to continue to be emotionally touched by such events, much less appreciate their impact on affected individuals and communities. Fortunately, there is an antidote in a movie that has been recently released.
    Love is All You Need? is an independent film based on the multi-award winning short of the same name that has an alternate reality backdrop of a world inverted: heterosexuals are the deviants in a world dominated by gays and lesbians. A poignant scene early in the film shows a woman with her young daughter, Emily (Kyla Kenedy), both wearing crosses, welcoming a new neighbor with muffins and asking if they have children. When the neighbor, a woman, says no but they plan to, the mother innocently asks, "Who is going to carry?" meaning whom between her and her assumed female spouse is going to get pregnant. When the male spouse appears, the shocked woman can't get her and her daughter out of the house fast enough. As recognizable and painful as this scene is to anyone who has experienced it in reverse, it is only a warm-up for the trauma to be inflicted on the main characters.

    The primary plot of this inverted world is of the star quarterback of an all-female college football team, Jude (Briana Evigan), falling in love with Ryan (Tyler Blackburn), a male reporter for the college paper. Jude's jilted girlfriend (Emily Osment), the homecoming queen, outs Jude by posting candid photos of her and her secret boyfriend all over the dormitory, precipitating all hell breaking loose in both expected and unexpected ways. That storyline is interspersed with the heart-wrenching storyline of Emily being bullied at school for presumably being a "ro" (heterosexual). Not unlike the suspense film "Seven Pounds", the viewer must put the puzzle of the narrative together slowly from disparate and increasingly disturbing pieces until the sequence of events and connections between the characters become clear. Like any great suspense thriller, we cannot be sure whom the ultimate victim(s) is/are until the final, great reveal.

    Although the level of violence actually shown on screen is, according to the filmmakers "less than PG-13" levels, in a pre-viewing by a primarily LGBT audience, I witnessed several people averting their eyes and even leaving the room at various points, so disturbing were the scenes depicted. But in true Hitchcock-style, less is made to be much, much more through expert editing of camerawork and sound. The final credits had us all sitting in stunned silence as we absorbed the impact of this incredible work of film art.

    The screenplay was written by David Tillman and Kim Rocco Shields, who also directed the film. Says Shields, "I originally considered using inversion approaches founded on race, religion and appearance. I decided the lens of sexuality works best in speaking to intolerance for this story, because love is universally important."

    Although the social message is clear, this film is a far cry from any after school special or even your typical activist indy-film; the cast (including such big names as Jeremy Sisto, Ana Ortiz, Elisabeth Rohm, Katherine LaNasa, and Leisha Hailey from L-Word fame), writing, directing, editing, and soundtrack rival any major Hollywood production. Love is All You Need? Is currently available on iTunes, Amazon Video, and Google Play.

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    To describe the last few weeks and the upcoming days as tumultuous would be an understatement. I believe that now, more than ever, we need an extra dose of art to distract us and keep our spirits high.


    Top: Jacob Hashimoto speaking in front of Another Cautionary Tale Comes to Mind, 2016
    Mixografia, Los Angeles
    Bottom: Installation view of Jacob Hashimoto, Gas Giant, 2014. MOCA Pacific Design Center: Courtesy of the Artist

    Last Saturday, I went to see the exhibition of new works by Jacob Hashimoto at Mixografia, a print workshop in Downtown L.A. renowned for producing and publishing limited edition prints and sculptures by leading contemporary artists. Currently based in New York, Jacob Hashimoto started his career here in L.A. and I've been following his work for years. Three years ago, he had a very ambitious sculptural installation at MOCA's satellite Pacific Design Center. Thousands of Hashimoto's trademark small paper kites were suspended from the ceiling in the shape of billowing clouds.

    Jacob Hashimoto, Through the Chaotic Corridors of Light, 2017; Paper, acrylic, wood, bamboo and Dacron

    On Saturday at Mixografia, the artist gave a talk about his new prints, which have an unusually rich 3-dimensional texture. After looking at them carefully, one is tempted to describe them as sculpted paper reliefs rather than traditional prints.

    Installation view of Van Gogh, The Bedroom, 1889. Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.
    On loan from Art Institute of Chicago

    That same day, I managed to get over to Pasadena, to the Norton Simon Museum to see the famous Van Gogh (1853-1890) painting, Bedroom at Arles, on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. There are two more versions of this painting: one in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum and another in Paris at the Musée d'Orsay. But somehow, this Chicago version of Bedroom (1889) has extra oomph, with its more pronounced brushwork and slightly brighter palette. If you haven't been to the Norton Simon recently, I highly recommend going there before this great painting returns to Chicago on March 6th. Until then, you can enjoy seeing it accompanied by half a dozen of Van Gogh paintings from the Norton Simon Museum's permanent collection.

    Installation view of 3D recreation of Lichtenstein's Bedroom at Arles, 1992. Skirball Cultural Center.
    Photo: Robert Wedemeyer

    And here's yet another welcome distraction; A few months ago, I talked about the exhibition at the Skirball Cultural Center, Pop for the People: Roy Lichtenstein in L.A. The exhibition runs until March 12th. As a pure coincidence, the Skirball's curators chose one of the prints by Lichtenstein -- his homage to Van Gogh's Bedroom at Arles -- to build into a life-size recreation of the bedroom as reimaged by Lichtenstein. There is plenty of tension hovering in this interior due to the dramatic relationship between Van Gogh and Gaugin, who stayed together in Arles for a few weeks. But here at the Skirball, you have the choice of asking your kids to sit on the bed, smile, and -- drama be damned -- snap a happy picture.

    Susan Jaques & Edward Goldman in conversation at the Getty Center; Jan. 15, 2017
    Photo: Penny Wolin

    Sunday at the Getty Center, I had the pleasure of joining Susan Jaques in conversation on the stage of the Harold Williams Auditorium, where we talked about her new book Catherine the Great: The Empress of Art. According to Jaques, Catherine "was a self-proclaimed 'glutton for art' and she would be responsible for the creation of the Hermitage, one of the largest museums in the world, second to only the Louvre". There were plenty of fascinating stories to share, including secret sales of the Hermitage's masterpieces by the communist government in the 1920s to Andrew Mellon, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury. Years later, when Andrew Mellon established the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and donated his private collection to the Gallery, some of the paintings bought by Catherine the Great for the Hermitage ended up proudly displayed in Washington.

    "All About Almodóvar" Retrospective at Cinefamily, January 6 - 22

    Now, let's step into the rather crazy but amusing world of Pedro Almodóvar, the Spanish filmmaker whose films are part of the current retrospective at the Cinefamily. Almodóvar's films are an incomparable combination of profound and hilarious observations on human nature. Few directors can create female characters as intriguing, complex -- and yes, crazy -- as he does.
    With all of the above, it's time to evoke the Latin saying ars longa, vita brevis -- which, in my imperfect translation, goes "life is short but art is forever".


    Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.

    To learn about Edward's Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website. You can also read more about his classes in the New York Times here, and in Artillery Magazine.

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    When Kjell Askildsen sent his first collection of short stories to his father, a central member of the Christian community in his small Norwegian town, he responded by burning the book. Hear the preeminent short prose writer of Scandinavia tell the story.

    Growing up in a pious family a lot of Askildsen's work stems from "when the innocent years of my early life ended." In this interview he relays personal anecdotes of his upbringing; his older brother's illicit jazz records, the moment he stopped believing in God and the banishment of his first collection of short stories from the local library because of sexually explicit content. "I was delighted that it was banned," says Askildsen, who remained a vocal critic of extremism. "Because it illustrated so well all that my father stood for."

    Kjell Askildsen (b. 1929) is an award-winning Norwegian writer. His first collection of short stories was published in 1953, but he is most known for his signature minimalism developed over the course of his career. He is the recipient of multiple prizes, among others the 1991 Norwegian Critic's Prize for Literature for his novel 'Et stort øde landskap', the 2004 Norwegian Academy's Prize and the 2009 Swedish Academy Nordic Prize.

    Kjell Askildsen was interviewed in his home in Oslo, Norway, by Christian Lund in January 2016.

    Camera: Simon Weyhe
    Editing: Klaus Elmer
    Produced by: Christian Lund
    Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2017-01-17

    Supported by Nordea-fonden

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  • 01/18/17--05:52: Rome Journal: Pluperfect
  • 2017-01-18-1484747397-3963666-IMG_16262.copy.jpg

    Rome is an archeological site. Layers of history co-exist with an urban infrastructure that allows the current iteration of civilization to perpetuate itself. Railway lines run alongside ancient aqueducts. Futuristic structures, remnants of the Mussolini era, are punctuated by arches and monumental sculptures that reflect both a nostalgia and idealization of the classical age. The juxtapositions on almost any street corner of the city can be surreal and the contemporary culture often reflects these contrarieties. A former power station becomes an exhibition space for antiquities. There are tracks everywhere, but the timeline is the subliminal means of transport by which the populace navigates its daily destiny. Nature itself is less predictable. The Tiber runs through the city and the refulgent vegetation and palm trees are reminders that Rome is almost tropical, a rain forest out of which the first stirrings of an empire that bridged the gap between the pagan and Christian worlds, would come to life. Rome is a pageant in which the alliance between the past and the present is dramatic, theatrical and inescapable. In the Eternal City precious collective memories are recaptured by ancient architecture.

    "Pluperfect" watercolor by Hallie Cohen

    {This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture}

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    By A. E. Colas, ZEALnyc Contributing Writer, January 18, 2017

    The Outsider Art Fair is in its twenty-fifth year of presenting galleries and artists who specialize in what was formerly known as art brut, a French phrase that can translate as 'unrefined art.' This was not meant to be an insult to the works in question, but merely a way to define those creators who were perhaps on the social and cultural fringes of their communities, or had not received formal education in artistic techniques. Later on, various critics began to redefine the term by using other phrases such as 'contemporary folk art,' 'self taught art,' and 'outsider art.' These labels describe an enormous variety of mediums, styles, and points of view, making this fair one of the most stimulating art experiences of January. There are sixty galleries schedule to show this year, from nine countries, although the bulk of the exhibitors and artists are from the United States. Some highlights are works from Gee's Bend Quiltmakers, Madge Gill, Eugene Von Bruenchenhein and Carlo Zinelli.

    The fair is located at The Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street. For more information click here. To purchase tickets click here.

    A. E. Colas, a Contributing Writer for ZEALnyc, writes about art and museum exhibits, as well as lifestyle features.

    For more features from ZEALnyc read:

    Art Break: A New Art and Museum Series for Your Lunch Break

    With an Eye for the Icon-Oscar Abolafia is a Cognescenti of the Camera

    'Exhibitionism--The Rolling Stones' is a 'rocker's Nirvana'

    Calling all filmmakers -- there's a new Festival coming to town!

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

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    JFK at Martha's Vineyard in the 1960's. John Coltrane on the cover of the classic jazz record "Blue Train". Tom Cruise dancing his underwear and white socks in "Risky Business". There is something about classic American style that looked good fifty years ago, and, I would wager, will continue to look good fifty years from now. It's a style that brings elements from American Universities, or "The Ivy Style", and mixes it with a comfortable familiarity that is at one timeless and modern.

    To me classic American style is a combination of many contradictions. The mood and the attitude can be traditional and irreverent at the same time. Look at Miles Davis Live at Newport wearing an oxford cloth button down shirt and a seersucker jacket. It's casual and dressy at the same time, look at JFK in chinos on his sailboat eating ice cream with his daughter.

    These are all the references I was thinking about when the GAP hired me to direct these videos, and also what I think about in my own style. The video loops were advertising classic underwear in a surreal yet effortless manner, and I wanted to capture many of the contradictions and the moods listed above. In many of the works that I film, there is a certain signature whimsical aesthetic layered on top of a strong fashion feeling. This comes from the composition, the angles, the mood, the lighting, and some other elements that are indescribable I suppose. And in those in-between areas is where the magic comes to life.

    I started thinking about a cool downtown loft, drenched in sunlight, that would set the stage for a series of whimsical and surreal activities that the protagonist could engage in, of course all in his underwear. I sought a tone-on-tone color palette of neutrals and taupes to blend in with the model's skin tones, and then to introduce elements with the GAP's signature blue color. The art direction also incorporated touches of yellow to bring out the feeling of a sunny morning, and even a lush velvety blood maroon inside the saxophone case, which was a nod to the jazz era of New York.

    Visually, the style is an infinitely looping GIF where elements of the video are composited to remain still and others are composited to loop seamlessly forever. The effect is at once strange and familiar, and makes you look twice. It's a style I pioneered on my "Selfie a Day" series on Instagram, where I am filming myself behind the scenes or in my travels in this style of infinite loops. That work on Instagram is also a moodboard or sketchbook for the types of commercial work, seen here.

    Follow more of my infinitely looping adventures in advertising and selfies as @mikemellia

    Director: Mike Mellia
    Creative: Carlos Figueiredo
    Client: GAP
    Agency: Untitled

    About the author: @mikemellia
    Mike Mellia's Instagram is currently featured on Instagram's Mens Style Channel (with over 200,000 views), where the everyday has never looked so whimsical. Mike Mellia's Instagram selfie series has also been the inspiration for many of the commercial works he has filmed for brands including The GAP, Swarovski, Hearst, Intel, Pierre et Vacances, BETC Paris and more in New York, France, and Italy.

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    "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ― Howard Thurman

    Welcome to the Porch Light Profiles. This year I'm shifting the focus of my blog to writing about men and women who allow their light to illuminate the world. What do I mean by that? I mean people who know who they are and express their inner selves to humanity. This expression always brings them joy and manifests itself in their life's work. I'm discovering that if you follow what most excites you, the right people, resources and opportunities will appear to help you share your gifts with the world.

    Although "Porch Light People" are a part of all walks of life, I'm going to begin by focusing on artists. For me, it's easiest to see this principal in action in them. Growing up they learned the same societal belief most of us did: you must find a career path that will earn you a living. Yet the flame inside urging them to create, burned so brightly it was impossible to ignore. Instead of asking, "How can I support myself?", they said, "If I don't do my art, I can't go on."

    Doing what makes your heart sing, seems like a good way to starve in the logical world. We may reason that the only sure way to keep ourselves safe is to follow the cultural rules of survival. Often, that means turning your back on doing what makes you feel alive. Some get so good at suppressing what brings them joy that, sadly, they lose touch with it. They never learn that paying attention to the "still small voice within" is what will help them succeed. Those who have a wide-open connection to that voice are who I'll be writing about. They know their work flows through them from another source. That doesn't necessarily mean they take part in a formal religion. What it does mean is they don't control the process, but let something greater than themselves take the reins.

    Here are some questions I hope to answer over the next few months:

    Do we all have an inner guidance system that will direct our path if we listen?

    Can you make a living by following your heart?

    What happens when you give into fear and move away from your passion?

    Can following your bliss lead to your life's work?

    Is doing what we love and answering our calling the same thing?

    In these profiles, I hope to give evidence that it is safe to share your deepest self with the world. In fact, I believe that is what we are here for. Being who we are and doing what feeds our soul is our life's work. When we allow ourselves to shine, the world can't help but be drawn to us. Our life has become a prayer. In that state of being, it doesn't take a lot of thought or planning to figure out how to share your gift with others. Like moths to a flame they will find you.

    *Coming up next: Profile of New York Times best selling author, Anita Moorjani

    Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved.

    *Click to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free 5×7 print!

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