P R E S S R E L E A S E S 2002
May 21, 2002
MASS MoCA Commissions First Performing Arts Work
Dance/Theatre piece by Martha Bowers Focuses on History of North Adams
(North Adams, Mass.) As part of MASS MoCA's MASS Manufacturing series, choreographer Martha Bowers and her dance company Dance Theatre Etcetera will showcase a site-specific work about North Adams and MASS MoCA on Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22, at 8:00 P.M. The Dream Life of Bricks is a performance event with live music that will take the audience on a journey through portions of MASS MoCA's Marshall Street complex that are not yet opened to the public. As the site has been the economic heart of the North Adams community for decades, the industries that have inhabited the site have defined the lives of generations of families. This project explores how the buildings have come to embody the community's identity, its relationship to the world, and how the advent of MASS MoCA has changed these perceptions for North Adams residents. Each brick has a voice, each passageway a story, large rooms contain an ambient atmosphere that lingers from a previous time, windows offer a view of the aspirations of a community in transition. The performance will take the audience on a tour of the complex, visiting alleyways, archways, where short vignettes are staged based on images of the site's past.
"Ever since I visited MASS MoCA during its opening season in the summer of 1999, the site has fascinated me," Martha Bowers has said of the complex. "I was intrigued by the massive scale of the complex, the simple beauty of its architecture and by the enormity of what the Museum sought to achieve.... I began to think of the site as a two-hundred year old person, asleep for a long time. If a building could dream, what would those dreams look like?" Composer Philip Hamilton will design a score for voice and a small ensemble of musicians. He will work with a choir from the North Adams community. The piece will be performed by a core group from Dance Theatre Etcetera: actress Judith Sloan, dancer Bethany Formica, dancer/actress Leslie Farlow and actor/dancer Scot Willingham, as well as an inter-generational group of people from the North Adams community. The design team includes set designer Ed King and MASS MoCA's own Larry Smallwood as lighting designer.
"This is the first performing arts work that MASS MoCA has commissioned, and we are very pleased to present it," commented Jonathan Secor, director of performing arts at MASS MoCA. "Martha has spent a lot of time in North Adams in the past year and has connected with many groups in the community. We are really looking forward to seeing the finished product."
In addition to the evening performances, during her two-week residency Bowers will offer an event for children called Daydreaming and Dancing with Martha Bowers on June 15 at 10:30 A.M. For this Saturday morning event, Bowers will engage children in an interactive exploration of her site-specific dance piece about MASS MoCA's past, present, and future. The children's event is free with museum admission; advance reservations are required.
Martha Bowers has worked extensively as a choreographer, performer, and teacher since 1978. Her work has been presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, DTW's Bessie Schonberg Theater, PS 122, St. Mark's Church, the Dia Center for the Arts, Central Park Summerstage, the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and at Prospect Park's Picnic House and Bandshell. She is a recipient of choreographic fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1984, '88, '96), the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art, and has received commissions for new works from the Jerome Foundation through DTW's First Light program, the Main Festival, Mayfair, Dancing in the Streets, the 651/Kings Majestic-An Arts Center, the Brooklyn Arts Exchange and the Wagon Train Project, among others. Bowers has focused her work in recent years on the creation of large-scale, interdisciplinary performance events designed to bring community members together with professional artists as performers in site-specific works. Recently commissioned works include Safe Harbour-Cork for the Institute for Choreography and Dance in Cork, Ireland, and a new work for the Warwick, N.Y., Summer Arts Festival. Bowers' work has been commissioned by numerous professional dance companies including the Dance Alloy, the Toronto Dance Makers, DansTheater Uppercut and Dublin's Contemporary Dance Company.
"His ethereal vocal quality and the range within which he is capable of composing from Muslim-influenced chants to Jazz scat make him a perfect partner," Bowers said of Philip Hamilton, her top choice to compose the piece. The New York Times calls Hamilton's musical style "contemporary and cutting edge." After graduating from Middlebury College, this West Medford, Mass; native studied at Berklee College of Music and Longy School of Music. Though well-known for his vocal talents, he also plays trumpet, guitar, marimba, vibraphone, melodica and percussion. Now based in Brooklyn, Hamilton has collaborated with such musicians as John Cage, Special EFX, Pheobe Snow and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He has recorded and performed with Pat Metheny, Gilberto Gil, Spyro Gyra, Donald Fagan of Steely Dan, Ronnie Jordan, Bill Evens, and Mike Manieri. He has performed at The Blue Note, The Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, The Bottom Line, SOB's, and Beacon Theater in New York; The Kennedy Center and Blues Alley in Washington, DC; and some of the world's most exciting festivals including the Montreaux, Newport, San Sebastian and Montreal Jazz Festivals; Brazil's Blobo-FM Music Festival; and Japan's NHK Music Series. Hamilton composed the musical How the World Got Wisdom based on African folk tales as well as the theme to the Emmy-winning PBS series, Say Brother, and was the featured vocalist on the movie soundtrack for Harriet the Spy. His critically acclaimed score for Ritmo y Ruido, a ballet by Tony-winning choreophrapher Ann Reinking, was commissioned by Ballet Hispanico.
Founded in 1981 by Martha Bowers, Dance Theatre Etcetera (DTE) exists as a vehicle to produce performance projects, educational programs and community events. Its primary mission is the creation of innovative performance works that involve diverse populations both within and beyond the confines of conventional theaters. DTE often augments its core group of performers through collaborations with musicians, actors, composers, and visual designers. At the core of the company's vision is a strong belief that the arts provide an effective language to explore, celebrate, and acknowledge both personal and cultural differences. DTE has recently received support from the Rockefeller Foundation MAP Program, The Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Independence Community Foundation among others.
Martha Bowers' residency and work-in-progress showing are partially funded by Rockefeller Foundation's Multi-Arts Producation (MAP) Program and the Bari Lipp Initiative for Dance. The Dream Life of Bricks is sponsored by The Porches Inn at MASS MoCA.
The showing is part of MASS MoCA's MASS Manufacturing series. In its role as a laboratory for contemporary art, MASS MoCA established MASS Manufacturing artist residencies to provide performing artists, theatrical innovators, dancers, visual artists, and musicians the opportunity to develop and explore new works. Each MASS Manufacturing residency culminates in a public work-in-progress showing. The artists use the showings to try out new ideas and gauge audience reaction to the work and have often welcomed questions and feedback after their performance. Artists who have participated in MASS Manufacturing residencies include Laurie Anderson, Shirin Neshat, David Dorfman, Lee Breuer and Basil Twist with Mabou Mines, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar of Urban Bush Women, among others.
Tickets to The Dream Life of Bricks are $15 and are available by calling the MASS MoCA Box Office at 413.662.2111 or by visiting www.massmoca.org. Tickets may also be purchased in person from 11-5 every day except Tuesday until May 31 at MASS MoCA off Marshall St. in North Adams, Mass. After June 1, Box Office hours are 10 - 6 every day. Seating is very limited, and advance reservations are recommended.
MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located on a 13- acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. MASS MoCA focuses on the work of visual and performing artists charting new territory.
For Immediate Release