Bill’s Blog: Another Summer Closes Down as the Future Opens
This has been quite some August! Maybe the best way I can talk about it is to just list some of its “landmarks”:
1) Our dear Dr. Oliver Sacks, the subject of our first Live Ideas Festival passed away this morning… Ren Weschler, the curator of our first two Live Ideas (The World of Oliver Sacks – 2013, & James Baldwin, This Time – 2014) sent us the following moving email this morning:
“Oliver died this morning. Peacefully. He had just been sleeping more and more and now this.
My daughter Sara, his goddaughter, got the news in Kampala, where she happened to be rereading The Fire Next Time. And texted me this: ‘It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death — ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life.” – line of James Baldwin I just read.
And he did. They both did. I am tempted to say Amen. Only Oliver would have given me that look. Or not. Who knows.
Love to you both. Ren”
He was so important to many in our community and around the world. Our condolences to his companion, Billy Hayes and his trusted assistant Kate Edgar.
2) August 6 and 9: I am embarrassed to say that the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have slipped by my awareness were it not for my longtime friend and colleague, Eiko Otake of Eiko and Koma engaging me in a conversation around the publication of Trinity to Trinity (published by Station Hill of Barrytown) by Kyoko Hayashi that she translated. The book is a fabulous read both for Eiko’s probing introduction and for her moving translation of Hayashi’s – a “hibakusha” i.e., survivor of the Nagasaki bombing – recounting her pilgrimage to Los Alamos, NM and the Trinity Site (where the first atomic test occurred).
Here is an email I sent Eiko shortly after receiving the book:
“I received your very lovely translation of Trinity have read the introduction and started reading the poetic text. I am very interested, but have some questions. Here is a paragraph from my recent blog that I edited out:
‘Time and space are malleable.’ Eiko said this to me at the lovely gathering ADF Director Jodee Nimerichter threw in honor of Eiko and the BTJ/AZ Dance Company following our respective closing performances at this year’s Festival.
Eiko was saying that the idea of space and time being ‘folded’ was brought home to her when she learned that the subject of our latest work “Analogy: Dora/Tramontane” uses not just another Holocaust story (there are thousands of them says Eiko), but that our subject – Dora Amelan – is alive and, what’s more, Bjorn Amelan’s mother.
Curious: why does a character in a work like Dora/Tramontane gain more dimensions/validity by being alive if this work is based on oral history of a person of extreme age?
There will certainly be a time when the subject is no longer alive. Will the work lose validity as a result?
I look forward to continuing this conversation.
Now, having plunged into the book and understanding more about this great writer and survivor of Hiroshima, I am interested in talking with you about what this means to your work and what my trilogy of characters might mean to my own. I propose a casual email exchange where we ask and answer each other’s questions.”
It is a first attempt at starting a conversation with Eiko on the subjects of memory, history and time, which we are both addressing in our works at this point. Eiko has graciously agreed to start this dialog that I hope to report on in a future blog and, perhaps, make the subject of a future Open Spectrum at NY Live Arts.
3) All praises to Babs Case and her super crew for making our residency and performances of Analogy: Dora/Tramontane at Jackson Hole’s Center for the Arts a big success and a delightful week.
We are so honored to partner with this force of nature, Babs Case, as she sets about building a legacy of support for her Dancers’ Workshop and we are doubly proud that our own longtime friend of BTJ/AZ Co. and current resident of Jackson Hole, Carol Tolan, not only underwrote for the second year in a row our residency, but pledged to take the lead in insuring future creative residencies and presentations of the next two sections of the Analogy trilogy.
One of the most moving moments of our time there was during a Q&A session following an open rehearsal when – just as I had asked the audience what encountering Dora’s story had given them – a 9 year-old dance student asked, “What have you learned from Dora?” The appropriate answer can be found in the trilogy, New York Live Arts and the naked conversations around this era we’re attempting to live through…
4) The Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles partnership with the BTJ/AZ Co. was launched during an exhilarating week of events led by Janet Wong and I-ling Liu. Here is the copy of Janet’s text and photos (with former company member and current Associate Professor of Dance, Roz LeBlanc Loo. This partnership is made possible thanks to the support of Roz LeBlanc, Patrick Damon Rago and Dean Bryant Alexander
“Team LMU. Just finished. It was great. We’re exhausted-Janet”
5) Here are a few pictures taken in the past two weeks, which Bjorn and I have spent in our little house high up on the mesa of Northern NM.
6) Back in NY, Kim Cullen leads our staff with a firm hand as we reassess and reconfigure. We would like to bid a fond farewell full of gratitude to Katie Jennings (Marketing) Elizabeth Cooke (Press) and Carley Manion (Stage Manager, BTJ/AZ Co.) for all they have given the organization and how they have left us in a position of strength. We welcome to our organization consultants TASC Group (press) and Heidi Riegler (Marketing).
We hope you will join us for our coming season, which opens on September 9th with performances by Louise Lecavalier
You like movies? Ironically, the most interesting cinema we have seen recently has been TV. The first season of American Crime is an excruciating, dramatic investigation of our criminal justice system. Ray Donovan confirms my belief that we’re privileged to live through a golden age of TV writing.