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Friday, February 9, 2018

Behind the Scenes—Noel Vega, BAM ticket services

Noel Vega. Photo: David Hsieh
Noel Vega is a grandfather, a writer, a life-long Brooklynite, and a 20-year-old veteran of BAM’s ticket services. The staff of ticket services has grown three-fold since he started in 1997, forcing it to move out the Peter Jay Sharp Building to larger offices in downtown Brooklyn. Technological advancements have made remote working possible. But the core of the work remains the same: to ensure ticket buyers have the best answers to their questions, whether by phone or by email. Vega tells us how that’s done.

David Hsieh: What does the ticket services job encompass?

Noel Vega: Our responsibilities include taking orders from people, answering their questions about current and upcoming events, giving them suggestions on where to eat, park, directions to the theaters, etc. People call us for everything—I can’t buy a ticket on the Website, I can’t use my ticket tonight, what do I do? What movie is playing?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Introducing Beyond the Canon

BAM’s senior programmer of cinema Ashley Clark talks about the impulse behind this new, monthly repertory event. Screenings take place at BAM Rose Cinemas, 30 Lafayette Avenue.

Chantal Akerman on the set of Golden Eighties

Starting in February, BAMcinématek invites audiences on a journey beyond the canon. Through a new monthly program, we investigate and challenge how traditional histories of cinema—best-of lists, awards, academic recognition, films deemed worthy of “serious” discussion—have tended to skew toward lionizing the contribution of the white male auteur while overshadowing other groups.

Beyond the Canon will feature two films back-to-back, in an old-school double-bill format. The second film to screen will be an established, well-known classic, more than likely directed by a white male. It will be preceded by a stylistically or thematically linked film that is directed by a filmmaker from an oft-marginalized group: women, people of color, queer people, and the intersections thereof. 

It is worth making one point clearly. There is no slight intended on these canonical titles—they are great films crafted by eminently skilled filmmakers, and they have unquestionably been formative in our film education: that’s why the series is not called “Destroy the Canon”! Rather, a key aim of this program is to place the films in dialogue with each other, spark ideas and discussion, highlight some overlooked gems of world cinema, and provoke thought about how a future, more equitable canon might look. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Fight the Power: Black Superheroes Trading Cards

This February, we celebrate the under-appreciated black screen heroes and heroines who challenged the establishment power structures through their sheer existence. From blaxploitation icons to supernatural avengers to anti-colonial outlaws, Fight the Power: Black Superheroes on Film spotlights industry-defying images of black heroism and empowerment in films that are as socially and politically subversive as they are downright fun.

To kick off the series, we collaborated with illustrator Nathan Gelgud to create ten digital trading cards for some of the films' superheroes. Catch them in action Feb 2—18 at BAM.

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Wendy's Subway Wrap-Up

Our stages may be dark, but there's still plenty going on here in Fort Greene. The Wendy's Subway Reading Room, for instance, remains on display through this coming Sunday, January 28 and is FREE and open to the public all weekend from 12—5pm. The space, located in the BAM Fisher Lower Lobby at 321 Ashland Place, features literature selected by international, independent, and artist-run libraries, as well as a collection of books selected by last season's Next Wave Festival performers and visual artists. Below, we highlight some of our favorite pieces from the visual and performing artist-curated reading lists. For highlights from donating libraries, be sure to peruse the #WSxBAM hashtag on Instagram.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Qyrq Qyz—Ancient Girl Power, Rejuvenated

Qyrq Qyz. Photo courtesy the artists.
By David Hsieh

Central Asia is landlocked and perennially contested. Containing an area of roughly 1.5 million square miles, it is hemmed in by Russia, China, the South Asia subcontinent, and the Middle East, with some of the most arid places on earth. Deserts and nomadic life have been co-dependent through human history. No wonder this region has produced some of the fiercest warriors on horseback that humankind has known. 

Even though for at least 1000 years Central Asia has been at the crossroads of the east and west, people outside the region seem to know more about what passed through it (Roman coins, Persian glasses, Byzantine icons, Islamism, Buddhism, silk, tea, etc.) than what was produced within it (except, perhaps, those unstoppable warriors). Fortunately scholars, artists, museums, and institutions have begun to correct the ignorance in recent years, most noticeably through the Silk Road Project founded by Yo-Yo Ma. Another piece of knowledge will be proffered when BAM presents a major multimedia music work called Qyrq Qyz (Forty Girls) in March, 2018.

Friday, January 12, 2018

MLK Comes to BK

This coming Monday, January 15, activists, intellectuals, civic leaders, and artists will gather at BAM for the city’s largest public celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 2018 marks the 32nd year of this event, but the revolutionary leader has been celebrated in the county that bears his name since the 60s. Dr. King had deep ties to New York City, and visited Brooklyn in 1963 to deliver a sermon at the historic Plymouth Church in Brooklyn Heights.

Below, illustrator Nathan Gelgud explores Dr. King's 1963 Brooklyn speech and the legacy of the church that helped give voice to the iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Black Superheroes on Film

Tamara Dobson in Cleopatra Jones. Photo courtesy Warner Bros./Photofest
By Maureen Masters

Taking inspiration from this winter’s release of Disney’s Black Panther, BAMcinématek presents Fight the Power: Black Superheroes on Film, February 2—18. Drawing from the more daring elements of science fiction, comic book, and Blaxploitation films, the series includes 27 features and a shorts program highlighting the tenacious spirit of black fictional characters while reimagining the textbook definition of superheroes.

The series is programmed by BAMcinématek Senior Programmer Ashley Clark. “Marvel’s Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), is one of the most hotly anticipated blockbusters of the year,” says Clark, “and is rightly seen as a new high watermark in the representation of black characters in the fantasy genre.”

Monday, January 1, 2018

A New Year's Wish

Photo: Mike Benigno
New Year’s Day is traditionally a day on which we look back and look ahead. We consider the importance of good friends and family, and also assess what we hope to improve—in our lives, our communities, and the world. The first day of a new year always presents a fresh start in our efforts to work toward a better future.

This past year has been a difficult one for so many. Global, national, and local communities have experienced natural disasters, terrible acts of violence, insecurity and fear. Indeed, there are so many people today who find themselves vulnerable. At such time, BAM reaffirms its commitment to being an open and inclusive place, one that respects multiple voices, cultures, and beliefs.

Complex problems can’t be sorted out easily or immediately. What we can do is to offer our home as a place for consciousness raising and communal gathering. Whether by hearing from thought-leaders, engaging in discussion, or by exposure to a variety of artists’ perspectives on our society—expressed on film or on stage—there is strength and support in those moments when we gather knowledge and clarity.

BAM is a home for adventurous artists, audiences, and ideas. To us, adventurousness is showing compassion in the face of hate, courage in the face of adversity, and open-mindedness in the face of ignorance and uncertainty. It’s providing artistic work that both provokes and consoles, which questions preconceptions and opens our minds to ideas beyond our comfort zone or familiarity—and which provides a forum for those voices not often heard, for the widest audience we can reach.

I wish you peace and happiness in 2018, and hope to see you at BAM.

Katy Clark
BAM President

Friday, December 22, 2017

Behind the Scenes—Jackie David and Raven Jones

Raven Jones and Jackie David. Photo: David Hsieh
Long-time BAM audiences will recognize Jackie David and Raven Jones, two stalwarts on the usher floors for the past 25 years. When they started (within three months of each other), the Harvey Theater was still called the Majestic and the Rose Cinemas were the Carey Playhouse, where a 35-year-old Robert Lepage made his BAM debut with a one-man show Needles and Opium. Neither of them expected to stay “more than two or three years.” But a quarter-of-a-century later, they have seen BAM grow along with their own families. They spoke with BAMbill.

Jackie David: I started because of my brother. He was an assistant manager in ticket services then. He told me about the usher opening and I started in September, 1992. Actually two of my brothers used to work here.

Raven Jones: It’s a family legacy! I started in December, 1992. My first show was Mark Morris’ The Hard Nut. I also came because one of my brothers was a choreographer and wanted to see the show from the audience’s point of view.
I was a school teacher. He said this would be perfect because I finish at three o’clock and could jump on a train and get here on-time. I intended to be here only two or three years. But that BAM thing happened and I kept up coming back. It has been a very rewarding and challengeing experience.

JD: After a year I became a supervisor. One day Christine [Gruder, theater manager] asked me to fill in for someone who couldn’t come in, and that was it—I was promoted.

RJ: Being an usher at BAM is very intense. You have to be on top of everything. You have to keep everything flowing. Every usher has a “station” to be in. You cannot leave that station. You don’t just disappear after you seat the audience.

JD: Before the house opens, I check it from top to bottom: make sure the lights are on and the exit doors are clear. After the show we check the house to make sure nothing is left.

RJ: When we had our 15th anniversary, all the ushers gave us a cake. We cut the cake and they said, “Feed the bride!” so we fed each other cake. I will always remember that day.

JD: Some of the board members and patrons know us by name. That make us feel very special.

RJ: They’ll share stories about their kids and I’ll share stories about my grandchildren. It feels very nice.

© 2017 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

In Context: Bangsokol: A Requiem for Cambodia

Two survivors of the Khmer Rouge, composer Him Sophy and filmmaker Rithy Panh, attempt to return dignity to their country’s fallen with Bangsokol–a musical ritual remembering the Cambodian genocide. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of related articles and videos. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BAMNextWave.