First blog of 2017!

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Welcome to my first blog of 2017! I hope to catch up on what’s happening at New York Live Arts, in house and in the world. In case you’re wondering about the creature above: It is a reminder of our January 21st drive from the company’s performance of Story/Time at Santa Barbara’s Granada Theater as part of the University of California Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures Series. A sublime ride up Highway 1 wherein the only conflict was the powerful crashing of waves against the shore while the rest of the country and the world were exploding in the many Million Women’s Marches across the nation and world.

My itinerary had been:
Miami, FL for the annual Young Arts gathering wherein my role as adviser, I addressed a group of 17-18 year-old dance and theater artists about the why and how of being a professional artist. Warm feelings, some crazy laughter and even tears.1024w_x1024h_programs-engage-partnershipsMeanwhile, back in NYC, this years Fresh Tracks artists were performing at New York Live Arts.f53d01b4-a6dc-4f06-87d8-f006618e2a1c
The following day, Julio LeParc’s revelatory retrospective at the Perez Museum delighted the eye, tickled the mind and raised questions about the canons of artistic innovation: If your work happened outside of NYC, did it really happen?

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Traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah for an encounter with dance students at the University of Utah and a stimulating three way conversation with performance artist Taylor Mac and Flea Theater Artistic Director, Niegel Smith, who directed Taylor’s recent astounding A 24-Decade History of Popular Music 6 decades of which were commissioned by NYLA (and was my Associate Director on Fela!). The event was moderated by Doug Fabrizio, host of Radio West, a syndicated Salt Lake NPR daily show.
Art & Activism.

The dinner that followed that encounter hosted by Raymond Tymas-Jones, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, and, Brooke Ellen Horejsi, Assistant Dean for Art & Creative Engagement at the University, was, like many such dinners these days focused on how to do the right thing under the Trump administration!
 What a trip!

Ta-Nehisi_CoatesAt breakfast the following morning at our hotel we ran into the essential Black intellectual, Ta-Nehisi Coates as he prepared to give a keynote address in partnership with the University’s Office for Equity and Diversity. Thank you to Brooke Ellen Horejsi and Raymond Tymas-Jones at Utah Presents, the Office for Equity and Diversity, Utah Humanities, and Tanner Humanities Center, Bob Goldberg and Anne Freed-Goldberg. to make all of the above happen!

From Utah, Bjorn and I flew to Los Angeles. Driving from the airport to Santa Barbara for a performance of Story/Time. A big shout out to the irrepressible Celestea Billeci and Annette Caleel.
Bill T Jones & Celesta Billeci     Photo credit: Dean Zatkowsky

Annette Caleel, Bill T. JonesPhoto credit: Dean Zatkowsky

Rain, rain, rain:

Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 8.24.56 PMThe California drought must be over by now! Right?
 Our stay there allowed us to reconnect with the lovely Tana Christie – a participant in the first (1992) of Still/Here’s Survival Workshops, which was held in Austin, TX – and her husband Joe.
Upon our arrival in San Francisco, the city’s streets were still vibrating from the previous day’s Million Women’s March. Looking towards the March workshop of Opera Philadelphia’s production of We Shall Not Be Moved, the new opera composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain which I am to direct and choreograph, I met with librettist, Marc Bamuthi Joseph as we continue to develop the characters’ storyline and the overall sense of our hybrid opera. We wrestled with the final confrontation between two north-Philly bred women who come to represent poles in our national debate on police violence, minority communities, failing education system and, once again, what it means to “do the right thing”:
We both made a choice miss, you and me, shit was too real at home and we left…
But we both chose a family to run with
How come your brother cops haven’t found you here yet?
Who cries for the brown girl gone missing?
I’m just asking for a head start

I’m asking you to put the gun down

UN/SUNG (with OG)
I’m asking you for permission to try to survive

The one with the gun has the moral high ground, no?”


Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 8.25.08 PMThat evening, I delivered a lecture title Empathy at San Francisco’s Jewish Community Center. The address dealt with the inevitable questions: how do we come together and find common ground in our divided era? Can we fashion a new political movement that reaches past our various bubbles?

After a couple of days home, Bjorn and I headed back out to Chicago to deliver a lecture titled Return as part of the Arts AIDS America exhibition, at the invitation of the Alphawood Foundation in collaboration with the DuSable Museum of African American History in who’s theater the lecture was held.

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Me next to David Wojnarowicz’s work.

Warmly received talk and a vibrant, sometimes head-scratchily esoteric Q&A period stemming from the question: “Who in this room still believes in Democracy?”

The Museum’s Director, Perri L. Irmer, in walking us to our car took us through a powerful show, Freedom, Resistance and the Journey Towards Equality where I was confronted by one of the most chilling items I have ever seen:

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A period Black Panther poster superimposed over the very bullet-ridden door the police blasted through on the night Fred Hampton was killed – a loan from painter Kerry James Marshall.

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Back home again, it was snowing in the garden