Theatre. We. LOVE – Ensemble Studio Theatre’s “Year of the Rooster”

“YEAR of the ROOSTER” – An EST/Youngblood Production – Eric Dufault asks you to “WAKE the F*#K UP!”

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

The EST/Youngblood production of Eric Dufault’s ‘YEAR OF THE ROOSTER’ begins its extended run January 2014.

Theatre. We. LOVE at the Angel Orensanz Foundation sits down with the cast and crew of EST’s production of “Year of the Rooster.”

by: Zoe V. SpeasThe Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

The wintry months of January and February mark my second anniversary with the City of New York. Most of my time was spent with one hand gripping onto the handrail of “back home” while I tried to skitter around the perimeter of the city on borrowed ice skates. I’m still here, surviving, but it has taken all of those two years for me to come around to letting go of the rail. I have let go, and it’s due almost entirely to the three-month-long relationship I’ve had so far with the Ensemble Studio Theatre/Youngbloods production of Eric Dufault’s Year of the Rooster.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the ArtsAs you’ll see by the title of this blog and subsequent headers, the point of my post is to tell you about all the brilliant, hilarious, inspiring things that the creative team of Rooster had to say when they generously sat down to talk to their fan (me) for an interview. I will do that. I promise. And let me tell you, sitting around a modestly-sized conference table surrounded by people whose transformations into warrior-roosters and  power-hungry McDonald’s managers – it can be pretty overwhelming.

Not to mention the fact that proximity to playwright Eric Dufault (in all of his humble, talented niceness) kind of makes you torn between wanting to hug and bake for him or beat his brains out in a jealous rage. At least then you could see close-up what the brains would look like of someone who can invite his audience into the world of cockfighting and middle-America and give it the grandeur of gladiators fighting in a Roman coliseum.

Grandeur, I need to add, made possible by director John Giampietro‘s excellent choice to underscore the action of the play with classical symphonies and fugues by Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ensemble Studio Theatre - Year of the Rooster - Theatre. We. LOVE - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Playwright Eric Dufault has always had a strong connection with animals, and much of his work incorporates the idea of “talking animals”, including the ongoing production of ‘YEAR OF THE ROOSTER’ at EST.

“I’ve always written plays that involve talking animals, including chickens,” Eric told me. He explained that he grew up surrounded by animals as a kid, chickens and roosters included. “But I read this book called Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some we Eat and that sparked the idea for Year of the Rooster. It included a section on cockfighting.”

Here’s a kicker. Rooster was the first play he’d written for the Youngbloods.

“I write pretty quickly,” he said.


Anyway, so this relationship – this three-month-long relationship I mentioned having with Year of the Rooster, it began back in the fall when the nightshift bartender from my favorite local pub – McCoy’s, on 9th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen – showed me a graphic postcard advertising for the show at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. It’s this very image (at the top of this blog), the one of a rooster devised entirely out of matchsticks scorched to various degrees, that now graces the front of the program for the show.

The postcard instructed me to “Wake the F#$k Up.”

Which, honestly, I hadn’t managed to do yet since moving to the city two years ago. I figured I could use the caffeine.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Ensemble Studio Theatre presents: Eric Dufault’s “Year of the Rooster”. Above (left to right): Delphi Harrington, Bobby Moreno. Photo Credit: Russ Kuhner

“The energy of this piece – it’s not something you watch. It’s something you go through,” EST’s Bobby Moreno said to me later. Bobby plays the character of Odysseus Rex aka ‘Odie.’ He’s the rooster you root for, the one who wants to murder the sun. You know. That one. “The structure of the play and the way the audience is arranged around it creates an inescapable intimacy in the experience.”

In other words, Dufault’s storyline and Giampietro’s direction wakes you the f$&k up.

By the end of the show, I was doubled over in pain. My stomach muscles were on fire with the pain of laughing way too much and way too loudly.

I didn’t know where I was for much of the production. We sat in a small, intimate theatre on the second floor of the EST building on W. 52nd, but with just a few, sparse blocks of furniture (and an amazingly accurate recreation of a McDonald’s restaurant), I was transported to middle-of-nowhere Oklahoma. Yet it was the physicality of the actors like Denny Dale Bess, an EST member since 2000 who plays Dickie Thimble in Rooster, as he strode through the space, cowboy-booted with a massive ten gallon-hat that transformed the location for me.

The production was so grounded and sincere in its commitment to each given circumstance – circumstances that grew more and more ridiculous and tragic as the plot progressed – that I forgot the Rooster world was one we can all agree is not “of us.” It’s an “other” world. Cock-fighting. Isolation. McDonald’s (both as an employee and gentically-modified chicken aka the brilliant Megan Tusing, I might add).

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

EST’s “Year of the Rooster” – From left to right: Thomas Lyons, Denny Dale Bess, Bobby Moreno. Photo Credit Russ Kuhner

Suddenly, we’re all from Oklahoma. Which we are, in our own ways. We’re all from that town, the one Eric Dufault creates with the characters of Gil Pepper and his aging mother, Lou. With Philippa and Dickie Thimble.

Of course, Denny’s family actually does originate from Oklahoma, I learned later in our interview, and these ties created a special bond for him with the environment of Rooster.

“I know these small towns,” said Denny, “each character in this piece is a part of my family.” In fact, the actors and Eric told me Denny’s relationship with Oklahoma was in large part the reason for the creative choice to isolate the play in his home state.

 But my wake-up call continued.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

From the Ensemble Studio Theatre production “Year of the Rooster.” From left to right, Thomas Lyons and Bobby Moreno. Photo Credit Russ Kuhner.

I was already shifting uncomfortably in my seat by intermission as I realized I was watching something happen that I dreamed was possible someday for my own writing, my own performance. The stagecraft was genius, reality grounded, characters as specific and genuine as ink-stamped fingerprints. I won’t go on and on about the beauty of the roosters when they really start to rage. It’s like watching a fully-staged battle scene in the opera, Carmen, but it’s just two guys and a bucket of feathers. You have to see what fight director Qui Nguyen came up with for the fight scenes in Rooster. You just have to.

But the wake-up call, it continued long after I had exited the theatre, having trouble focusing on my feet as I descended the stairs to the street, program clutched in my fingers.

I remember calling my mom (because who else do you call when you have one of your twentysomethings’ revelations about life?) as I walked to McCoy’s and telling her I’d found artists, real artists – the ones that create universes out of nothing, the ones who give everything of themselves to it without a thought. As much as I felt it, as a witness, imagine how the actors feel it every night they come together.

“I’ve never been involved in a cast where they show up two hours early to a call to do a line-through,” said Megan Tusing (seen below) during my sit-down. “They never do this show at less than 110-percent.”

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

EST’s “Year of the Rooster” – from left to right: Megan Tusing and Bobby Moreno. Photo Credit Russ Kuhner.

Stage Manager of Rooster Eileen Lalley, who calls such a tight show every night that I’m barely conscious of the passage of time, quickly added to this. “I’ve seen this show over a hundred times. I never get tired of it. I never sit in the dark checking my email, killing time. I can’t. The show always changes every night.”

EST member Thomas Lyons (Gil Pepper) pointed to his face, which had a pretty impressive shiner on the day of our interview and said, “Look at my face. This show doesn’t work on cruise control.”

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the ArtsYear of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

EST Member Denny Dale Bess in “Year of the Rooster” as Dickie Thimble. From the Unfiltered Production.

Watch Thomas for ten minutes as he battles with Megan, Denny, and his deliciously degrading mother played by the fabulous Delphi Harrington, and you see what he means.

EST has been operating for over forty years in New York City, developing new theatre in America to the tune of 6,000 new titles throughout their history. Programs like Youngbloods for playwrights under 30 serve to keep this mission alive.

We’re not blind to it. Budgets hurt. Theatre suffers as we suffer as the economy suffers, and there are no gymnasts flying from the rafters of EST dressed in spandex and shooting webs from their wrists.

I know I sat there among the actors and creative team, gushing about EST and Year of the Rooster, without a real clue of the difficulties and challenges behind keeping even such a historic company as the Ensemble Studio Theatre afloat.

I know, I know. I know. It’s tough. It’s tough as nails. We’re all roosters in a ring in New York City, fighting the biggest, meanest mother of a bird we’ve ever been up against.

But that art like Rooster can exist? Can be born into the world of commercialism on stage and celebrity-driven box office revenue and survive? And thrive? Here?


I guess it’s time to let go of the hand-rail, Zoe. It will all skate right past you if you don’t.

 Like I said, wake-up call.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

EST’s “Year of the Rooster” left to right: Bobby Moreno and Thomas Lyons. Photo Credit Russ Kuhner

So it’s been three months now, and I’ve followed with proud fanaticism the progress of the extension of Year of the Rooster at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. I see the team passing through McCoy’s every now and then and each time I unabashedly sprint towards them and repeat the same garbled lines of “being super excited to see it” when it re-opens.

They’re mercifully patient with me, but I think it’s because we see the same thing when we see that rooster devised of burned matchsticks. We see possibility. We see fire and power and drive. We see the future of art and theatre. And despite the cold and the money and the work and the fatigue, we know that we’re a part of it.

We’re part of that message that EST and thousands of other theatre artists are screaming throughout New York City:

Wake. The. F#^k. Up.

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Year of the Rooster - Ensemble Studio Theatre - NYC - Theatre. We. LOVE. - Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

Setting the Stage: New Year’s Eve 2013 in Times Square

Setting the Stage: Times Square at New Year’s Eve

A closer look at the spectacle of Times Square on December 31st.

By: Al Orensanz, Ph.D and Zoe V. Speas

, The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

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The spectacle of Times Square at New Year’s Eve 2013 consumes the attention of viewers of all ages.

In 1904, the owners of One Times Square assembled parties of friends and co-workers on the rooftop of their building to ring in the New Year. Three years later, in 1907, the first ceremony of lowering the Ball was held in the iconic heart of Manhattan. Tomorrow night, over a century later and in the face of biting cold and ungodly congestion, the tradition continues.

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The New Year’s Eve Ball, made of Waterford Crystal, which will descend at 11:59pm on December 31st.

New Year’s Eve throws Times Square into the spotlight as the single point upon which the urban attention and media distribution of the world focuses as a beacon of celebration for the holiday. The city center becomes a international center, and, despite the performances and A-list appearances, it will be the sea of people gathered along Broadway and Seventh Avenue who are the true stars of the show.

They will make the stage of New Year’s Eve come alive and millions of eyes across America will watch the last few seconds of 2013 tick away with them, wishing they stood beneath the downpour of confetti and flashing 
lights. They are why, for those last ten seconds of the previous year, Times Square becomes the center of the universe. The people.

Paris has fashion. Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe encompass the city of London. St. Peter’s Square has been the cornerstone of Rome for centuries, as with the Acropolis in Athens. But in New York, the energy of the people within provide the city with its most famous trademark. New York City is not the capital of the United States, nor even the State, itself. The people – regardless of personality or social strata – are the character of the town that has sealed its renown.

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The people create the character and the energy of the city, and not just in Times Square on New Year’s.

The official event lineup features live performances such as Blondie, Miley Cyrus, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis; John Lennon’s Imagine, to be performed by Melissa Etheridge, is another beloved classic. Traditional Chinese performances featuring Kung Fu and a colorful fan dance will kick off the festivities early in the evening. The celebration also will be highlighted with exclusive trailers and clips featuring views of Times Square and the surrounding neighborhood.

The backdrop for the festivities tomorrow night will consist of over a hundred buildings coated “from the crown to the toe top full” of neon advertisements and billboards. Thousands of LED lights illuminate Times Square, making it a fully-functional, 24/7 commercial advertising theme park of giant, electronic ad/art that render the buildings they cover completely unidentifiable. Even in “ordinary time”, the buildings along Times Square operate as embodiments of virtual information, carrying very little relativity to the tenants within as opposed to the advertisements assigned to them. The immersive experience of Times Square at New Year’s Eve, as well as the live recording of the night’s events, create blissful accomplices of those assembled beneath the world’s most spectacular advertising strategy.

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New York City at New Year’s Eve.

However, another layer of the visual and perceptual experience of New Year’s Eve at Times Square must be accounted for – the generation of advertisements originating directly from national television networks which are delivered into the living rooms of viewers throughout America and beyond. The messages transmitted through pixels and sound-bytes are intermingled with the physical world and surround the crowds beneath the crystal ball, those gathered around a television at home, or at their local watering hole, blocks away from the hub of it all.

Tomorrow night, Times Square will transform even more potently into a vortex of action and movement for its New Year’s Eve celebration. Technicians and cameramen from New York networks synchronize the activities of the Square among the people, upon the stages, and from the microphones of honored speakers who preside over the event. The reporters and cameramen who supply video feed will move rapidly and efficiently through the crowds, engaging with them in repetitious spurts of gratitude and celebration. The snapshots of the crowds, when viewed remotely, provide the international audiences with the visual representation of their own emotions: smiling, static faces, undulating hands and arms, cameras held high, holiday truisms and well-wishes.

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The fluorescence of New Year’s Eve at Times Square, New York.

The phones in the hands of these representatives feed parallel worlds of messaging and communication systems; there are tens of thousands of smart phones, twitter networks, and Facebook accounts documenting the event from innumerable personal perspectives.

The various elements that create the unique atmosphere of Times Square on New Year’s Eve will change and evolve throughout the progress of the night and its proximity to the sixty-second descent of the Ball at 11:59pm on December 31, 2013.

The only element of permanence in the night, other than the overwhelming joy and hopefulness of a population at the start of a new year, is the backdrop of the city, the enveloping architecture, and the direct flow of communication and advertisement for the multimillion vieweres throughout the world following and celebrating the event from the comfort of their homes.

Taxi Cab: New York City from the Rear Seat

THE REAR SEAT: Answering Questions and Asking Questions.

The Journey of a New York City Taxi Cab

By: Al Orensanz, PhD; Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

taxi cab, new york city, angel orensanz foundation for the arts

The New York City taxi cab serves as a conduit between destinations, but also the interwoven lives of individuals within them.

Most of our day-to-day information accumulates through idle conversations, and it infiltrates our awareness unexpectedly. We interact constantly and randomly with people who talk to us or who listen to us. We are educated through radio and TV broadcasts, and we are constantly alerted by our cellular phones, iPad messages, radio transmissions and commercial ads blinking from the skyscrapers. Throughout the city, we are exposed to taxi cab drivers, vendors, compatriots, old colleagues, spouses, children, receptionists relatives and neighbors.

We traverse the city by taxi cab. Points of interest are brought in by the kaleidoscope of the streets, advertisements, shop windows. The curiosity grows and a decision has to be made: should I engage or retreat? I still have some 30-odd minutes of taxi traveling left. Let me ask the driver. He is most likely talking on a device that I do not see.

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“Light Matter” by Angel Orensanz. The commute, even by taxi cab, can be the venue for inspiration and art.

Darkness engulfs us both. He has the front window available to scout and evaluate traffic strategies. I can see the sides but not my rear window view. My options are very limited. His are much wider and diversified. The driver initiates a conversation with me. The surroundings act as a backdrop. Our conversation gets more intense and specific as our trip progresses. The backdrop of the city moves and evolves as traffic weaves around us, providing context. The centerpiece of the discourse is a reservoir of memories, references, adapted anecdotes that are formulated and adapted to this specific moment and circumstance.

You never ride a taxi twice; you never talk to the same taxi driver twice. The streets are the same, and the buildings blur and dissipate in the immediacy or the distance. The speed renders the faces imperceptible. My attention splits and divides as I interact coincidentally with the driver and the city around me: on-going conversation is syncopated and distracted every few seconds.

Inside a New York City taxi cab, the darkness surrounds both parties. Conversation is either inevitable or avoided at all costs

Inside a New York City taxi cab, the darkness surrounds both parties. Conversation is either inevitable or avoided at all costs

The questions and answers are all stereotypical. We do not see faces but we hear our voices. With that alone, we can establish a bridge of communication. Obviously, our allocated time is short; the view of our faces is limited therefore is not engaging. The context of the streets and roads we circulate speeds ahead of us fast and uncompromising. There is very limited time for self and mutual exploration. Most of the time we instinctually agree on a common subject matter inconsequential for both sides.

The last moments of engagement come when the trip is ended; and we both descend. These are very short moments, seconds, of the encounter. But they are crucial, ceremonial and engaging.

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“Light Matter” by Angel Orensanz. The voyage as a source of inspiration.

While the departure from inside the taxi is uneventful, the farewell is reduced for the most part to the paying of the fare. The departure at the airport is marked by the eventful ceremonial of many other departures and arrivals: the suitcases, the trunks, the flowers bouquets, the gift-wrapped boxes, and the garments.

taxi cab - new york city - angel orensanz foundation for the arts

The New York City taxi cab.

The departure within the city streets and the departure at the airport have very different ceremonials for both the driver and the passenger. The taxi ride within the city has the specific limits of a domestic movement that remain within the domain of the immediate. The trip to the airport has the flare of a departure away from the confines of the routine, the familiar and the controllable.

We never look back to the departing taxi cab as it pulls into the street, having deposited us at our requested destination. The expensive and weary routine has been completed. Whether en route to an airport or twenty blocks home from work, the departure from the rear seat, from the interplay of questions and answers, results in a ever-hopeful forward glance to the journey ahead.

Musicians. We. LOVE. Katy Gunn & Fred Baker – New York Music

Musicians. We. LOVE. – KATY GUNN and FRED BAKER take on the New York Music scene.

by: Zoe V. SpeasThe Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts

The “We. LOVE.” series at the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts is proud to present a new chapter - Musicians. We. LOVE. This week, we’re excited to introduce to you the talents and stylings of Katy Gunn and her brother Fred Baker. 

New York Music

Musician. We. LOVE. Katy Gunn in performance.

FOLLOW THESE LINKS for a sampling of Katy Gunn’s track, “Beautiful Things” and Fred Baker’s “Pocket Full of Detritus”.

New York Music

Musicality as an inherited trait: Katy Gunn practices the violin with her older brother.

I’ve believed for a long time that musicality is an inherited trait as specific and definite as brown eyes vs. blue, or a crooked thumb vs. straight.

Katy and Fred have the gene, it’s undeniable, and while they both trained from their youth in classical violin and guitar respectively, today they’re searching for the soul of the city in their respective songwriting and poetry-rap explorations in the world of New York music.

New York Music

Fred Baker performing his unique style of what his sister refers to as “poetry-rap”

I first encountered these musicians at a private concert hosted by the Lower East Side’s New York music venue - the Living Room – a gorgeously intimate “talent incubator”  established in 1988 by Jennifer Gilson, who owns it with her husband, Steve Rosenthal.

Katy Gunn was one of the last few performers to have a night at the Living Room before it closed its doors temporarily.

It was not Katy’s first time at the venue—she has performed there before with other musical groups—but the evening was made even more special by the invitation I received by two wonderful members of the team at NOoSphere Arts on East Houston Street in the Lower East Side. Founding Artistic Director Sol Kjøk and gallery manager Annemarta Mugaas are friends of Ms. Gunn’s and have adopted her as a musician-in-residence at NOoSphere, where the brother and sister team have performed frequently in the past, often in conjunction with performance art and dance pieces sponsored by the gallery.

New York Music

Katy Gunn and Fred Baker perform at NOoSphere Arts on E. Houston Street in the Lower East Side.

Before I first parted the curtains to the private backroom performance space where Katy and her brother were performing, I was expecting a fully stocked band complete with percussionist, strings, guitar, and back-up vocals.

New York Music

Katy Gunn performs at the Living Room in New York’s Lower East Side with Fred Baker and vocalist, Thea Beemer.

When I stepped into the room and found only Katy and her brother and vocalist Thea Beemer, I was amazed. The trio created such fullness and variety of sound through Fred’s work on the sound pad and Katy’s ability to sing and orchestrate her violin simultaneously as Thea harmonized seamlessly with her melodies.

New York Music

Musicians. We. LOVE. Katy Gunn, New York Music.

The problem with my music,” said Katy of this complicated blending process, “is that there’s so much wacky instrumentation and orchestration—it’s a challenge to make it work live.

Through use of live sampling, Gunn’s multifaceted sound elicits the intimacy of a jazz/blues background, with an infectious pop/electronic dance beat.  The lyrics she composes touch on a variety of issues, from religion and faith (“All the People”) to the obsessive and all-consuming nature of love (“Beautiful Things”)—they speak to the search of an artist trying to understand the world and New York music through louder questions, and more colorfully.

“The more we divorce ourselves from religion, if art doesn’t replace that idea of spirit, we’ll all be in trouble,” Gunn says.

Learning about the process and resultant navigation of the New York music world can be an overwhelming experience, even sitting across from Katy Gunn and Fred Baker at a cozy Thai restaurant on the Lower East Side. Especially when she doesn’t seem to recognize it as such in the least.

Katy Gunn - New York Music

from – Katy Gunn’s photoshoot in Brooklyn.

As I ask her about the process she undergoes to develop a new song or new lyric idea, and she begins to explain – with difficulty, at times – I’m comforted to realize that it’s the same challenge, the same difficulty even that I face as a writer, grasping at wisps of an idea in the hopes of weaving it into something resembling a story.

It starts as an imprint,” says Gunn. “One I keep coming back to. I get a beat down, and then find lyrics that match with that rhythm. Sometimes I’ll wake up after sleep with ideas and I’ll try to go and find them again. When it’s something, I’ll listen to it and think, ‘I must have heard this somewhere before…’”

I’m nodding and swallowing heaps of Pad Thai at this point. I think Katy notices my far-off expression and dismisses my confusion with a sweep of her hand. Then she says something to me and to Fred that I’ll remember forever. Especially his response.

New York Music

Katy Gunn and Fred Baker, in performance.

“Anyone can do it, if you put your mind to it,” Katy Gunn assures me. Fred looks up from his curried chicken and rice dish and lifts an eyebrow. “Not anybody,” he adds firmly, and she doesn’t argue. Just smiles.

The truth of the matter is that Katy and Fred do what they do for the same reason that an artist creates, or a writer composes, or an actor takes the stage.

“When I do it well, it’s the only thing that makes me happy,” says Gunn.

“I’m totally paranoid leading up to it, but if it goes well, I’m lost in this lovely place—there have been times I’ve performed when I find myself in a separate world, watching it all happen. There’s no self-identity. It’s a living meditation.”

Listening to her music – and to the music of other up-and-coming new singer/songwriters of the New York music scene – is to participate just as fully as performing it. You become aligned with the artists’ message, you’re rooting for them, like noble underdogs fighting for the survival of art in the face of an increasingly oppressive Gotham City.

Follow Katy Gunn at her website for updates about performances, music downloads, and album releases!

Zoe V. Speas is a writer and editor for the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts. Follower her on tumblr and twitter.

TEDx Lower East Side at the Angel Orensanz Foundation

TEDx Lower East Side at the Angel Orensanz Foundation

by: Zoe V. SpeasThe Angel Orensanz Foundation

TEDx Lower East Side comes to the Orensanz

TEDx Lower East Side comes to the Orensanz.

I’ve been watching TEDtalks forever. I rely on them constantly to fill me with inspiration and renewed purpose to pursue – uh, whatever it is I intend to pursue in life. That part’s a work in progress.

Point being: TED is brain food.

Favorite TEDtalk? Easy. Larry Smith: Why you will fail to have a great career

TEDx Lower East Side

“Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy” – This is Lucy. Lucy wants a green lawn with a picket fence with a team of rainbow unicorns grazing inside it.

Actually, I’m not the first of my friends to report this talk  as one of their favorites.

Especially seeing as most of us between the ages of 21-30 have no real clue as to what we’re doing, if we’re being honest – there’s a particularly relevant Huffington Post article entitled Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy that speaks to this predicament.

It’s all about this formula:

TEDx Lower East Side

From the Huffington Post website: Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy.

TEDTalks and TEDx Lower East Side help with that, you know, the confusion thing? Somehow having visual and auditory proof that people out there have their stuff figured out makes you a little bit more confident that you’ll figure yours out, too.

TEDx Lower East Side

Angel Orensanz, founding artist of the Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts.

But the thing about working at The Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts is you have to learn to be content to watch from the sidelines as people from organizations around the world walk through our beautiful front gates and transform the space into a vessel for change, development, art, science, and the future. Whether it’s Target’s Launch of Chris March’s designs for Halloween or a fundraiser for the Lowline project,  - I peer out from the office in the corner of the great hall and watch with eyes wide as saucers as the place just explodes with life and innovations.

That’s me: the wallflower of the Orensanz. 

Until now. Forget sidelines. I’m jumping into the game on this one.

Why, you ask? Oh, I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you.

TEDx Lower East Side is coming to THE ORENSANZ.

That’s right, folks. Lovers of knowledge from around the world rejoice. TEDx (in which x = independently organized TED event) is hosting their TEDx Lower East Side event at the Orensanz this Friday, October 25th between the hours of 11:00am and 8:30pm.

TEDx Lower East Side

From the TEDx website: TEDx Lower East Side comes to the Orensanz.

The TEDx Lower East Side event this Friday is entitled The Hero’s Journey and deals with the questions of why we are drawn to stories like Star Wars or The Matrix – basically, the journey of extraordinary people, or better yet, ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Speakers in attendance may be found here with bios and links to more information on their background and speaking points. TEDx Lower East Side describes their mix of presenters as hailing “from a variety of backgrounds including scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, yogis, monks, educators and activists.”

Bring your brains and and prepare to melt them. I’ll be the one gnoshing on popcorn from the rafters with my ear pressed to the floor to listen in. 

New York City Weekend

Finally, it is Friday, so here are the Angel Orensanz Foundation suggestions for you to have a great weekend in New York City.

First, let’s pay homage to our neighborhood, the beautiful Lower East Side, where the art gallery ABC no Rio stands, starting today at 7 pm, they will be hosting Family Misfit Healing a 8 hour show in which 8 performers will create, from scratch, a dynamic family portrait. To know more, click here.

Tomorrow, you can enjoy a late Halloween in the L.E.S., since Killers: A Nightmare Haunted House at Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center  has joined with nearly 40 merchants to give candy away to Trick ‘r Treaters between 4-7 pm.  When you see a sign inside a window that says “Participant in Halloween Too” you know that’s a spot that you can Trick ‘r Treat. To see the list of participating stores, click here.

Not very much a Halloween person? You can go to the other side of the island to celebrate the The New Yorker’s Passport to the Arts, a celebration of the New York art scene, or better, a self-guided gallery walk through premier art destinations in Chelsea and Soho. The event begins with a champagne reception and culminates in a wrap party and silent art auction with 75% of proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross Greater New York Region. Know more and get your tickets here.

Don’t want to go outside? No worries, the New York Historic Society and MoMA have great art exhibitions to keep you occupied. In the first destination you can enjoy John Rogers: American Stories, which is the first full retrospective of the most popular American sculptor, whose subjects included scenes from the front lines and the home front of the Civil War, insightful commentaries on domestic life, and dramatic episodes from the stage and literature.

On MoMA you can see Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone. The Polish sculptor reconceptualized sculpture as an imprint not only of memory but also of her own body, using provocative objects that evoke Surrealism, Nouveau Réalisme, and Pop art.

Weekend Pickings (Art in NYC)

Finally, it is Friday again, which means we here at the Angel Orensanz Foundation will offer you suggestions of artfull things to do during the weekend in New York City!

First, there are three big festivals going on now in NYC that you shouldn’t miss. The first one is at Licoln Center, the White Light Festival. The multidisciplinary monthlong festival mashes together all types of performances and brings together artists from all over the world, like a choir from Latvia, and China’s Wang Li. To see the whole schedule, click here.

The second ends tomorrow, but you can still enjoy lots of bands that will perform. It is the CMJ Music Marathon, a cutting-edge indie music celebration that takes over New York City rock clubs with comncerts by more than 1,300 bands.  To see the whole schedule, click here.

Finally, if you enjoy food and movies, make sure to enjoy the NYC Food Film Festival, where movie lovers can watch mouth watering food-related films and then sample those foods for a full-body experience (how delicious is that?). this year there are fine wines, whisky, Japanese cousine and more. To know more about it, click here.

For the visual art lovers we in the Angel Orensanz Foundation recommends the exhibition Collectors of Skies, in Andrew Amdlin Gallery. The show was curated by Valérie Rousseau and Barbara Safarova, exposes 18 works of artists from different cultures, eras and artistic backgrounds. From Victor Hugo to Vik Muniz, the exhibition was inspired by the short story “The Collector of Skies” by the French art critic and folklorist Champfleury (1820–1889), which recounts the observations of a man fixated on the movements of the sky. On Sunday you can pass by the MET, for a gallery talk with the author of From Margin To Center Julie H. Reiss , who will share her views in how contemporary artists select sources of inspiration for their art. To know more, click here.

Last chances(artful weekends)

Today the Angel Orensanz Foundation blog is sharing with you four things: two artful events and two exhibitions you shouldn’t miss. Read along, enjoy and leave your comments bellow!

First off, The Camera Club of New York is hosting the third annual Zine and Self-Plubished Photo Book Fair this weekend. The fair highlights contemporary photography and recent artist publications and invites the public to mingle with people involved in the art publishing scene. For more info, just click here.

Also this weekend, the Taiwan-based multidisciplinary artist Chin Chin Yang will be performing “Kill Me or Change” in the Queens Museum of Art. He will suspend 30,000 aluminum cans (apparently the average number of cans a person throwns away in a lifetime) 30 ft above ground in a crane that will hover over the audience, to then be dropped in his head, in a colorful and striking display of how much waste we produce. Yang wants to show us, quite literally, the effects of personal polluting and he hopes the piece will be a wake up call for the audience to reexamine their waste habits.

Now for the last chance exhibitions that you should enjoy this weekend before they are gone for good. The first one is F-111, from the pop american artist James Rosenquist. The monumental installation is a compose of 23 panels installed in the Leo Catelli Gallery at the MoMA, telling the story: “flying through the flak of consumer society to question the collusion between the Vietnam death machine, consumerism, the media, and advertising.” as the artist explains.

The other exhibition is The Clock, an epic video by Christian Marclay that shows a 24 hour journey through the clocks of cinema. The Lincoln Center is presenting the whole 24 hours over the weekend in the David Rubenstein Atrium. Go in and enjoy classic moments of cinema, in reel and real time and see the seconds ticking in the film, as they tick in your watch. Because The Clock will stop running Wednesday.

sources: hyperallergic, moma, licoln , queensmuseum

Artful Weekends

Happy Friday the 13th! Today the Angel Orensanz Foundation blog will share with you our suggestions for you to enjoy a very artful weekend.

We have already told you one reason you should visit the Whitney Museum, that is the groundbreaking artists Yayoi Kusama and here is another: Sharon Haeys. Her exhibition “There’s so much I want to say to you” has filled with words and an environment designed by the artists herself in collaboration with Andrea Geyer the third floor of the beautifully designed museum. The New York artist does have a lot to say,  with her photographs, films, videos, sounds, speeches and performances, she explores the connections between politics, history, speech and desire.

The first thing you see as you step out the elevator is a wide white curtain with black-inked words that say : “Now a chasm has opened between us that holds us together and keeps us apart.”, a barrier to the rest of the exhibition, a door to Haeys mind. Once inside her world, the installations are visible, the placards she collected over the years, the footages, the video projections, and her voice that echoes in the cacophony of visuals and sounds.

After exploring the Whitney, go downtown and to the East Side, close to to the Angel orensanz Foundation, here in the Lower East Side onto the New Museum on Bowery to see The Parade: Nathalie Djurberg with Music by Hans Berg, an ambitious multimedia installation, with a lot of birds in a crazy variety of colors and shape and videos that are tales of revenge, lust, submission, depravation, of human emotions almost bearing our animality.  ”It is very easy to see yourself as a victim. It is hard to see yourself as a perpetrator.” – she says , and the phrase surely resonates the exhibition that explores our most animal instincts, as Djurberg knows that the only real barrier from realing them is our society training.

You know we always advise: go outside! Last time we showed you the art in Madison Square Park, this time, we are going ever more to the west into the train track transformed park, the HighLine. From it you can see stunning views of the city, but we want you to keep your eyes on the road and play an art treasure hunt: Lilliput; the group exhibition that takes place in the beautiful park features miniature sculptures in unexpected places from six artists from around the world, Oliver Laric with Sun Tzu Janus Alessandro Pessoli with Old Singer with Blossoms, Tomoaki Suzuki with Carson,  his first outdoor sculpture, Francis Upritchard with The SeductionErika Verzutti presents Dino Abacate, Dino Tropical, Dino Pot, and Dino and Allyson Vieira joins in with Construction (Rampart). 

sources: nytimes, artinfo, huffingtonpost  , artbook, highline

Polka Dot princess is in New York City

The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama cames back to the city that never sleeps to open her exhibition in the Whitney Museum and for a collaboration with the iconic Louis Vitton.

Born in Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan in 1929 she started creating her art when she was young and staged various solo exhibitions of her paintings in her birth city and Tokyo, but tired of the Japanese style, she decided to move to New York in 1957. She found her place soon enough in the avant-garde art scene of the city, influencing Andy Warhol (in fact, she claims that he stole her ideas, when they were neighbors) and Claes Oldenberg and gaining fame with her groundbreaking happenings and exhibitions.

The “happenings” occurred in NYC landmarks like Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park and often involved nudity and polka dots. She looked for maximum exposure and she protested (she wrote an open letter to Richard Nixon offering to have sex with him if he would stop the Vietnam war) against the Vietnam war and in favor of the homosexuals (In 1968, Kusama presided over the happening Homosexual Wedding at the Church of Self-obliteration in New York).

But under intense psychological pressure, she returned home in 1973 and in 77 checked in a mental hospital in Tokyo where she lives today. But she didn’t stop working, in fact she became of the most prominent contemporary artist in Japan. And now Yayoi Kusama is back in New York City for the exhibition of her retrospective.

“…a polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement… Polka dots are a way to infinity.” – Yayoi Kusama

Her work based in conceptual art, minimalism, surrealism and infused with autobiographical sexual power is now on view (until Sep. 30) in The Whitney Museum. The exhibition, her first NYC retrospective in 15 years, has traveled to London, Madrid and Paris in 2011 before its arrival on the final destination.

The retrospective reveals her prolific carrier in astonishing variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation and also includes archival publications: photographs, posters, letters, films, and even sketchbooks.

“This is the best moment of my life,” Yayoi Kusama told Whitney Museum Director Adam Weinberg

After emerging from the inside of the Whitney, don’t forget to check out her  installation outside on Pier 45 of the Hudson River Park, a playful and daring art installation (we can be reminded of Angel Orensanz’s daring and interactive installations in New York City) called Guidepost, that has her signature polka dots in red and white.


Sources: wsj, artlog, wikipedia, tate, artinfo, guardian