La Mama’s 59th season artists. (Photos courtesy of La Mama.)
La MaMa has announced its 59th season, “Breaking It Open,” which explores how new work is created, performed and viewed in a global pandemic. Through La MaMa Residency Grants, Artist Residents will be given the time, space, and resources to make work using new creative tools and formats at the intersection of online and live theatre performance.
“For 58 years, La MaMa has presented 50 to 60 productions a season in multiple theatres to nurture as many artists as possible, but Model is not synonymous with Mission,” said La MaMa Artistic Director Mia Yoo. “La MaMa’s mission was and still is to engage artists and further expand the boundaries and forms of the performing arts. We are not trying to replace in-person theatre. There will always be that, and we will always present live performance in a physical theatre space. However, we need to empower artists to experiment with new tools, reimagine existing forms and invent new mediums that tell stories and examine our humanity through artistic expression.”
La MaMa’s creative community is uniquely positioned for this moment. With the theatres as broadcast studios and the artists’ work livestreamed, the potential to experiment with audience configurations, and the innovative resources of La MaMa’s immense family of experimental artists, La MaMa’s “Breaking It Open” season looks to the future with hope and anticipation for the daring work to come.
The Artist Residents for the 2020/21 season will include Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence Murielle Borst-Tarrant; Great Jones Repertory with Dan Safer; composer and pianist Philip Glass; Loco7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company; conceptual artist, choreographer, and activist Yoshiko Chuma; actor and writer Paul Lazar; composer, performer, and writer Jerome Ellis; choreographer and dance artist John Maria Gutierrez; choreographer and director Bobbi Jene Smith; feminist performance duo Split Britches; writer, director, performer, dancer and choreographer Shauna Davis; Seattle-based performer Timothy White Eagle; composer and performer Justin Hicks; puppeteer and director Leah Ogawa; and multidisciplinary theater artist Stacey Karen Robinson.
In addition to providing the above Artist Residents with the resources they need to create and develop new work, Artist Residents will also strengthen and expand the creative ecosystem that La MaMa nurtures with residents, participating in curation, cultural exchanges across distance, panel discussions, and workshops that redefine the audience/performer dynamic.
The season will officially launch September 18, 2020, at 8 p.m. ET with a special presentation of Downtown Variety, followed by a virtual season launch party.
In addition to their Artist Residents, La MaMa’s 59th season will see a continuation of their weekly Digital Programming that grew out of the shutdown, including Downtown Variety, La MaMa Kids Online (including both workshops and performances from Federico Restrepo, Lake Simons, Leah Ogawa, Nephrii Armenii and more), Café La MaMa Live, and La MaMa LiveTalks. The season will also feature La MaMa’s ongoing virtual programs: Coffeehouse Chronicles, Poetry Electric, La MaMa Puppet Slam, La MaMa Moves, La MaMa Squirts and Experiments Play Readings.
When La MaMa’s theatres closed in March 2020, La MaMa was able to pivot seamlessly to live online performance using LiveLab, a software developed by La MaMa partner organization, CultureHub. LiveLab is a free, open-source, video-call software that empowers artists and arts presenters to meet, create, collaborate, rehearse, and ultimately produce multi-location performances from virtually anywhere in the world. This innovative video collaboration software expands the current field of offerings by allowing users to customize media in ways that best suit their needs.
Artists have already experienced the impact of performing their work online. Since their theatres have been closed, La MaMa has presented 348 artists and panelists, 50+ hours of programming, and received a total of over 30,000 views from around the world. Live viewers per show averaged 1,500 per livestream over the past five months.
“The internet is radically shifting the ways artists connect and create,” explains Mia Yoo. “As an experimental theatre, it is important that La MaMa’s artists be part of shaping this virtual space. Adrienne Kennedy created her own nonlinear form of storytelling in the ’60s, breaking the conventions of traditional playwriting. When John Jesurun started dragging TVs onstage in the early ’80s, many people questioned it, but artists need to investigate the mediums of their time.”
La MaMa will also launch a brand-new initiative, La MaMa DesignFest, a juried competition to celebrate and support emerging theatre designers in time of the pandemic. The Judging Committee is comprised of Mimi Lien (Scenic), Jiyoun Chang (Lighting), Justin Hicks (Sound), Gabriel Berry (Costume), and Hao Bai (Projection). La MaMa DesignFest grand prize announcement will be livestreamed on Tuesday, September 29 at 7 p.m. For more info and submission guidelines visit: http://lamama.org/designfest/
Resident Artists will begin their residency and work within La MaMa’s virtual and physical spaces.
Monday, September 7 – Sunday, September 13, 2020
CultureHub, Seoul Institute of the Arts and La MaMa join forces on Vital Sign, a world-premiere, interdisciplinary telematic live performance between New York and Seoul. Performers and musicians in New York will collaborate live with performers and musicians in Seoul. Korean contemporary music group described by New York Music Daily as “Towering, Hypnotic, Psychedelic Korean Post-rock Majesty”, Black String, will perform with musicians Bill Ruyle and Peter Zummo in NYC.
DOWNTOWN VARIETY and 59th Season Victual Launch Party
Friday, September 18, 2020 at 8PM ET
La MaMa and CultureHub have teamed up to create Downtown Variety, which uses emerging technologies to create a new venue for artistic expression and creative connections. Powered by LiveLab, a browser-based media-router, CultureHub is developing for networked collaboration between artists, technologists, and audiences. This September 18th edition of Downtown Variety will have a virtual afterparty to launch La MaMa’s Season. Featuring: Belarus Free Theatre, Annie-B Parson, Stacy Stearns, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky, D’Mani Thomas and more.
LA MAMA DESIGNFEST: Grand Prize Announcement
Tuesday, September 29, 2020, at 7 p.m. ET
DesignFest is an online theatre design festival to celebrate and support emerging theatre designers in time of pandemic and beyond. The goal is to foster and realize new ideas and generate opportunities in the disciplines of lighting, scenic, sound, projection and costume design. The Judging Committee is Jiyoun Chang, Mimi Lien, Justin Hicks, Hao Bai and Gabriel Berry. The grand prize announcement will be livestreamed on September 29, 2020, at 7 p.m. ET.
LOVE STORY: School of Hard Knocks
By Artist Resident Yoshiko Chuma
Thursday, October 1 – Sunday, October 18, 2020
The world premiere of LOVE STORY: School of Hard Knocks marks the 40th Anniversary of Yoshiko Chuma’s School of Hard Knocks. With Love Story, Chuma returns to La MaMa with a new project that assembles a mosaic of films, dance, music, visual art, and narratives. With appearances by an international cast of over fifty artists consisting of veterans of The School of Hard Knocks and a new generation of artists from New York, Ankara, Madaba, Tokyo, Caracas, Tehran, Hong Kong, Berlin, Los Angeles, Brussels, Kabul, Palestine, and Dakar. Choreographer/director/instigator/movement-explorer/performer, Yoshiko Chuma continues a lifetime investigation of ideas regarding national security, perceived dangers within borders, immigration, and war.
DAYS AND NIGHTS FESTIVAL
By Philip Glass
Monday, November 9 – Sunday, November 15, 2020
National Medal of Arts winner Philip Glass returns to La MaMa with his Days and Nights Festival celebrating music, theater, and film. The Days and Nights Festival is the premier program of the Philip Glass Center. Developed by Philip Glass, the festival is designed to encompass and nurture the arts in a way that welcomes the future while exploring the seminal developments in the arts throughout history. It is committed to the cultivation, promotion and development of the arts.
REVISITING LOST MOUNTAIN
By Artist Resident Bobbi Jene Smith
Monday, November 16 – Sunday, December 6, 2020
Former Batsheva Dance Company member Bobbi Jene Smith’s new work, Revisiting Lost Mountain, combines the high stakes of live performance, the choice and freedom of immersive theater, the heightened aesthetic and emotional content of cinema and a two-fold manifestation as both a live event in the moment and video-on-demand experience after the performance cycle.