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Peeping Leaves from a New Perspective: Your Guide to a Fabulous Fall Weekend in the Northern Berkshires

By Julia Leonardos

Bags of apples straight from the orchard line your pantry. Your stoop is overrun with decorative gourds and festive hay bales. You’ve swapped your shorts and t-shirts for cardigans and lacquered leather boots. You spent the last three hours bushwhacking your way out of a corn maze, your house smells like the Yankee Candle store and Starbucks had a baby, and the Monday Night Football theme song echoes constantly throughout your hallways. That’s right, folks, fall is upon us: nature’s final, fiery burst of beauty before crisp air turns frigid and brilliant trees become barren.

Fall is a pretty big deal out here in the northern Berkshires and so is the weekend that lands closest to the date of October 12. Some call it Columbus Day Weekend, but I’ll refer to it as most Berkshire locals do: the peak of leaf-peeping season. Yes, it is this weekend that the leaf peepers pack up their cars and head to the Berkshires from all directions to see the leaves at their most vivid. And we welcome you, leaf peepers, with open arms, warm hearts, and plenty of picture-perfect landscapes for you to Instagram, no filter required.

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After a while, though, staring at trees can get a little boring. We get it — you might get hungry, decide to do some activities, or feel a sudden, overwhelming urge to stare at something else (maybe some art?) for a few hours. That’s where we come in. MASS MoCA and a bevy of other northern Berkshire institutions are here for you if (and when) you decide you want to peep some leaves from a new perspective this weekend. Here’s our guide for the upcoming fall weekend, designed to enhance your leaf peeping with art, events, food, and merriment…

 

Day 1: Friday, October 10
Arrive at the Porches Inn in North Adams, MA, after work, then, head to Public for dinner and drinks. By 8pm, be at MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center for The Source, Beth Morrison Projects’ latest music-theater work-in-progress. It’s all about Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning’s decision to leak the most classified material ever released to the public, and the worldwide media hysteria that ensued. The Source premieres at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on October 22, so this is an exclusive chance to be a part of the process and see the show before it premieres.

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Day 2: Saturday, October 11

View the Radical Words, Make it New, and Raw Color exhibitions at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown before they come down. In the evening, head back to MASS MoCA for the opening reception of Lee Boroson’s Plastic Fantastic, in Building 5, our largest gallery space (yes, that’s the gallery where Xu Bing’s Phoenix was) at 5pm. You can make reservations for the reception here. Next up, just a few steps away in Building 10, is guitar hero Gary Lucas, who is playing his original live score to the 1935 Chinese cinematic touchstone The Goddess (for only the second time in North America!) up in Club B-10, starting at 8pm. That leaves you plenty of time to chow down on some burritos/sandwiches/ice cream at Lickety Split in between the opening and the show.
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Day 3: Sunday, October 12
In the morning, dive into the 900-acre Berkshire wood for some up-close and personal leaf-peeping at Ramblewild forest adventure park. You can zipline, swing, climb, and slide from tree to tree on one of their many forest trails. If you’re like me and you want to have both of your feet on solid ground as often as humanly possible, you can also (free of charge) take a meditative walk in the forest as you watch the other members of your party jump from tree to tree above you.

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In the afternoon, head to the MASS MoCA galleries to relax and rejuvenate by taking in all of our exhibitions at your own pace. As you head home, look out your car window and admire the rolling Berkshire mountain range that has inspired so many literary greats, and Instagram a couple photos so your friends know that you did, in fact, take in some foliage during your fall weekend in the northern Berkshires.

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Posted October 9, 2014 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Berkshires, BLOG, Exhibitions, Lickety Split, North Adams, Openings, Theater, Uncategorized
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So you want to… produce new theatre.

Have resumes and cover letters become your (least) favorite new hobby? Times are tough out there for recent graduates and young professionals – competition is fierce and you can’t be an intern forever.  In our new blog series, So you want to…, our museum staff offers advice and inspiration for pursuing an arts career. Don’t worry– all those applications will eventually turn into an interview!

Christopher Hibma serves as the Producing Director of Sundance Institute Theatre Program, where he coordinates Theatre Labs in Florida, Wyoming, and Utah, as well as at MASS MoCA and on Governors Island in New York Harbor. His work has supported numerous writers and the creative teams of Spring Awakening, Passing Strange, and Grey Gardens. Previously, Hibma worked for Theater Latté Da in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Boychoir, and on the directing staffs of Broadway’s The Lion King and numerous productions at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

What’s the best career advice you ever received?

I don’t recall who I received this advice from, but I believe the best advice I received is that relationships matter. It’s easy to maintain work relationships when everyone gets along. It’s a much harder task to do so with individuals who drive you crazy. But, I’ve found that people (whether you meet them outside of work or in your professional life) really just want to feel heard. Listening is an active tool toward maintaining healthy relationships.

How would you encourage recent graduates to make the most of internship experiences?

I always tell people, “Ask for what you want.” I find that when you’re specific about what your hopes and dreams are, those hopes and dreams are more likely to become a reality. You have to be clear about your intentions and be brave. Individuals who are more established in their chosen professions are quite open to offering their support when they’re able. Ask for a meeting with the founder of your institution. Take your boss out to lunch. Be kind and always open to doing anything asked of you.

What was a formative art experience for you as a young person?

I was in Oberammergau, Germany, in 2000, to witness the day-long Passion Play that is produced once every decade in that mountain village. I didn’t much enjoy the production, but Robert Wilson’s 14 Stations (set at MASS MoCA in this video) was set up in an adjacent area. This wild take on the traditional 14 Stations of the Cross was transformational for me. I loved his “out of the box” representation of a very traditional Christian expression (plus I’m really drawn to Shaker/Puritan aesthetics). I understand the installation was subsequently at MASS MoCA in 2003. I wish I had seen it here!


What is one of your current social media or web obsessions?

I got an iPad this year and I’m kind of obsessed with apps. I loved how innovative media companies were during the Election Cycle with their apps tracking voting.

Fill in the blank: The future of the arts depends on visionary thinking.

Do you have questions for next week’s So you want to…? Tweet them @MASS_MoCA !

Posted December 11, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Exhibitions, Interns, Theater
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My Favorite MASS MoCA Moments

Katherine Myers reflects on her 14-year relationship with MASS MoCA as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations.

Besides my 16-year marriage, 14 years is the longest I’ve stayed anywhere. These have been particularly milestone-filled years:  I’ve lost two parents and a lot of eyesight, gained a daughter and a legion of remarkable friends and colleagues, and witnessed more great art than anyone living in a town of less than 15K could possibly dream of.

Given that long history, it’s a challenge to provide a “Top 10” List, but a recent plane trip offered me time for contemplation. Here’s what I came up with, presented in no particular order.

1. Michael Oatman has popped up regularly over the last decade and a half.  I first met him when he was in Unnatural Science (2000) where his incredibly detailed installation schooled me in Vermont’s scandalous history of eugenics. When I was introduced to his collages in Becoming Animal (2005), I was even more taken with him. His suspended Airstream trailer is an absolute marvel and he is a delightful person. Every institution should be so lucky to have an artist like Michael in their “stable.”

2.  I love that MASS MoCA does some events that are pure camp, simultaneously high quality and totally over the top.  On this list: Tragedy (2011), our heavy metal BeeGees cover band who repeatedly told us “We love you North Adams City!” and Corn Mo and the Wau Wau Sisters (2005) which involved a trapeze, a sparkly jumpsuit, Meatloaf covers and Catholic school uniforms.  What a night.

3. Hotel Pool (2005) was produced by MASS MoCA but took place in the pool at the Williams Inn. It was a play and a water ballet with some shocking moments. Incredibly well-crafted and enjoyable.

4. It’s probably no surprise that the shows I like best are the ones with the coolest stuff to see. Crowd pleasers are easiest to sell and, when attendance rises, everyone is happier. On my favorite shows list: Oh, Canada (2012), Unnatural Science (2000), Huang Yong Ping’s retrospective (2006), Uncommon Denominator (2002), Becoming Animal (2005), and Cai Guo Qiang’s exploding cars in Inopportune (2004).

5. Dean & Britta’s 13 Most Beautiful… Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screentests (2009): The films are completely mesmerizing on their own and Dean & Britta’s score and live performance only served to enhance them.

6. Ann Hamilton’s corpus (2003) taught me the magical power of an art installation.  My father-in-law passed away while Ann’s falling paper was on view.  His death was not unexpected and he had lived a good, long life. When my husband called me that morning with the news, there was no reason to head home but a pause for reflection did seem appropriate. It was before the museum opened; I just started to wander in the galleries and, without thinking, found myself in corpus which was truly the ideal place to reflect on a loss and a life well-lived.

7. Anouk Van Dijk’s Stau (2006) started with dancers emerging from underneath your seat. Then, somehow in the middle, you were standing and all the seats were gone and you were milling about in a pitch black theater when suddenly spots came up illuminating dancers, sometimes right in front of your nose.  The piece ended with dancers and audience writhing against the wall to a deafening percussive soundtrack. Sound crazy? It was, but it was also probably the most viscerally affecting performance I’ve ever experienced.

8. Of All the People in All the World (2007), which involved millions of grains of rice representing various population statistics arrayed in the Hunter Center, brought a 100% lovely group of British actors from Stan’s Café to North Adams for a couple of weeks.  We get to know many wonderful artists but these Brits count among the most delightful. Coupled with the beautiful, clever, moving installation, it was an exceptional experience.

9. Material World (2011) made great use of MASS MoCA’s strengths; the exhibit utilized our remarkable space to great effect from the Wade Kavanaugh and Steven Nguyen’s paper forest to Tobias Putrih’s illuminated fishing line, inspired by our local Hoosac Tunnel.  It was accessible, jaw-dropping, fun, and interesting for all ages.

10. Canadian singer Patrick Watson’s performance this past summer (2012) was nothing short of magical.  At first, we were disappointed that the show was inside on a beautiful summer night. Yet, when we saw what he did with the lights, we were so glad that he had insisted on the darkness that only Club B-10 could provide at 8 PM on an evening in late June.

And one more for good measure…

11. Solid Sound Festival is really non-stop work for our staff. At the first Solid Sound (2010), the only music I actually listened to was the first three songs of the Mavis Staples set which included “The Weight.” Bone-tired late in the day on Saturday, I enjoyed Mavis’s performance from a special rooftop vantage point and received a much-needed spiritual boost (and sitting down for 15 minutes didn’t hurt either).

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What did you like the best over the past 14 years?

Posted December 7, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Exhibitions, Film+Live Music, Material World, Music, Oh Canada, Staff, Theater, Tragedy: The All Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees, Wilco Solid Sound Festival
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Artist Spotlight: Emily Johnson

Performing Arts intern Julia and Marketing/Public Relations intern Elizabeth team up for a chat with our artist-in-residence, Bessie-award winning choreographer/performer Emily Johnson (founder of Catalyst Dances) to discuss Johnson’s artistic background and the inspiration for her new work Niicugni (Listen).

Describe your dance and artistic background.

I grew up in a very small town in Alaska. I was an athlete growing up, mainly basketball, long distance running, and softball. Those were my absolute loves. Either sports instilled a love of movement or I had a love of movement going into it.

Dance was not in my life until I got to college. There was a great confluence of teachers at the University of Minnesota when I got there with a heavy focus on improvisation. I loved that suddenly there was movement that wasn’t connected to the game or the race. I could move fully; I could be feeling and thinking. My thoughts could change my movement and my movement could change my thoughts.

What inspires your movement vocabulary?

Movement always comes from an internal thought or feeling first. I’m always trying to get it out of my body, past the skin. In a way, I don’t care if people watch me or my dancer’s arm moving. It’s about what can be communicated between my arm movement and the audience. What is communicated in that space?

There has to be such intentionality in the movement. It’s not that any moment is more precious than the next but, in every moment, we have to know where we are in our story. We have to stay connected with that story and that effort in order to communicate it.

What were the conceptual seeds of Niicugni (Listen)?

A few thoughts crossed paths when I was looking into beginning a new piece. I saw an exhibit at a gallery in Homer, Alaska. It was an exhibit of work made entirely of fish skin. Salmon has always been part of my family’s life but I had never worked with the skin before. This image of 50 fish skin lanterns hanging in the stage and in the house, creating this secondary diagonal, was the first visual image of this piece before I even knew how to work with the skin.

Around the same time, my dad laid out a map on the counter in my parents’ house in Alaska. He had just received land from the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Though the Settlement Act was created in 1970s, his land just finally came through. It just really very suddenly struck me that we would have to figure out how to build a relationship with that land.

I was struck with “What does this mean?” This land is now my father’s. It will eventually be passed to my brothers and me. How do we get to know land that is ancestral land? I was looking at this piece of paper that did not give me the information I needed. Maps tell us how to get somewhere, not how to live with land and what’s really there or who has been there before or who will be there after. This piece really started with all of those questions.

What about the vocal storytelling that is woven through the piece? How do those moments connect to the choreography?

To me, it’s all part of the dance. The stories are as much the dance as we are. Making these lanterns is as much the dance as anything. It’s not that they are just parts that are important; they are dance.

I like to work with the similarities and differences in how bodies and minds respond to stories and movement. What happens for someone listening to a story? How does a body take in a story? What images are created in your mind? Where does your mind go with that story? Then, how does your body take in movement? It’s the conversation between those two forms of communication that I find really interesting.

How your work evolved during your residency at MASS MoCA?

Very specifically, being here has allowed us to work on our rigging. We were able to work with all the crew here and our crew to create two improvements and a whole rigging system. That will have a profound impact on this work in terms of its touring life.

In a broad sense, the piece is always informed by the place we’re in because we think very specifically about the building and imagine feeling the ground beneath our feet. We think about how the ground moves in all directions. It’s the support for us here. It’s a new kind of mapping as we work to experience many places at once.

See Niicugni (Listen) in the Hunter Center at MASS MoCA on Friday, November 16 at 8 PM. Find tickets here.

Posted November 14, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Dance, Interns, Theater, Work-in-progress
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Up in the Club: on-the-rise performers take the stage

 

This is our Club B-10 theatre. It’s got a small stage, a full bar, and room for just 200 seats. When a band’s onstage, the lead singer’s just inches away from the audience. That is to say: Club B-10 is a cozy, casual space for you and 199 of your closest, coolest friends to see some mega talent up-close and personal.

This fall, we’re hosting some of the sweetest, smartest, standout performing arts concerts up in the club. Club B-10, located on the third floor of MASS MoCA (hence “up” in the club), will be home to several artists from different genres, all of whom promise a performance that packs power and punch for audiences in this intimate space.

Whether they’re still new to the scene and about to make it big (you can say you “knew them when”), or they’re already well-loved, these musical, comedy, and theatre groups are sure to make your night up in the club well worth while (and under $20!):

The Bandana Splits

Saturday, October 6, 8 PM – Buy tix


This charming trio of singers (Dawn Landes, Lauren Balthrop, and Annie Nero) combines bubblegum and doo-wop for a sweet sound reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters and The Ronettes.

 

Nerd Nite

Saturday, October 13, 8 PM – Buy tix

This smart comedy group will have you laughing within seconds, as they give hilarious presentations about mumblecore, sex, and technology.

 

Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra (featuring TK Wonder)

Saturday, November 3, 8 PM – Buy tix

Drummer Ben and his Moodswing Orchestra float between jazz, rock, and even experimental tunes to create deliciously hypnotic grooves. The group’s also got MC TK Wonder in tow, who’s supported the likes of Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu.

 

Alsarah and the Nubatones

Saturday, November 10, 8 PM – Buy tix

Sudanese-American singer Alsarah blends vintage Sudanese pop, Western soul, and traditional Nubian songs in what becomes as much a concert as a musical journey through diaspora.

 

Tim Crouch’s My Arm, presented by Sundance Institute Theatre Lab

Saturday, December 1, 8 PM – Buy tix

Sundance Lab Fellow, Tim Crouch, performs a reading of his piece My Arm, a story about a man who has become a celebrated medical specimen and an icon of the New York art scene. My Arm is told through live performance and the animation of everyday objects supplied by the audience.

Posted September 26, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Comedy, Dance, Music, Theater
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Artist Spotlight: Here Lies Love Director Alex Timbers

MASS MoCA Marketing Coordinator Emily Evans sat down with Here Lies Love Director Alex Timbers to find out what it’s like being a director, working with artists like David Byrne, and making theatre at MASS MoCA.

Director Alex Timbers

I was a dance major at Conn College, my mentor being that wonderful dance maker David Dorfman, and I know you’ve co-directed some of his work. How is directing dance different than directing theatre or musicals?

David’s great – I’ve been a dramaturg for a couple of his pieces. I think dance works in a more abstract, less narrative way. There’s a sense of pacing and scale and variety that I think is also true to directing a musical. [With dance] you’re working much more with a sort of principal nature of the elements, because you’re serving a story and emotional palette that is much more visceral and abstract. In a musical, you’re trying to get that richness, but you ultimately have to serve a prescribed script and set of songs.

Do you have a preference, a favorite thing to direct?

I love to direct theatre, and I’ve really enjoyed working on shows like Peter and the Starcatcher and The Pee Wee Herman Show, that are kind of what I like to call “plays plus.” They have all the attributes of a play, a sort of naturalism and an emotional hook, and yet they also have song elements and dance and movement and a certain heightened design. They feel inherently and richly theatrical, instead of the type of play that could take place in a living room or a kitchen. They are sort of epic in scale and yet emotionally more grounded than more traditional or conventional musical theatre.

How did you get into directing? How did you discover you had this passion?

I was in college and I was doing a lot of improv and sketch comedy. I had acted a little bit (just sort of in the way that everyone acts in college or high school) and I got very interested in the mechanics of comedy, so I decided to direct a farce, and then another farce, and I got really into directing. I started running the college theatre company, and then I snuck into graduate school classes at Yale School of Drama and started learning about the management side.

When I graduated, I worked as an intern at Manhattan Theatre Club, and I realized no one ever tells you that in the real world, people don’t hire young directors – it just doesn’t happen. [If you’re young,] no one’s gonna hire you to direct Thornton Wilder or Shakespeare because they’re entrusting you with a lot of money, and they don’t trust you. In film and TV, you’re trying to appeal to young people as often as older people, so it makes sense to let [a young director] be the voice. But in theatre, you’re not going after really young audiences, so why would you ask a young director or playwright? So what I did was create my own opportunities. I created a company – that’s where Les Freres Corbusier started.

How did you get involved with Here Lies Love?

I had done a show for The Public Theater called Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, that was sort of a classic example of the shows I was doing with LFC – sort of about historical figures but done in an irreverent, post modern way. It combined pop and rock music and big visuals. The Public Theatre was also developing Here Lies Love, and the artistic director Oskar Eustis put me in contact with David [Byrne]. I think there were a couple of directors that interviewed for it, but David and I hit it off pretty immediately, and I think the impression I had of what the piece should be in 3 dimensions, more than just an album, was similar to what David always had in mind for it.

Can you tell me what Here Lies Love is about in 4 sentences or less?

Sure. Here Lies Love is a fully immersive club musical that tells the story of Imelda Marcos’ rise and infamous fall. It’s told entirely through song, without dialogue and without seating. It takes place all around you – it’s what I call a sort of 360 degree theatre piece. It refuses to glorify Imelda and is examining the politics of power and the psychology or pathology behind a person that so desperately wanted to be loved and yet was thrown out by her own citizens.

What’s it like working with this particular cast and crew, and with David Byrne and Annie-B Parson?

In terms of the cast (David and the choreographer and the crew), it’s really fantastic, because these are people who I’ve for years looked up to! I had seen Annie-B Parson’s Big Dance Theatre shows for many years.  I’ve been listening to David’s music and reading his writing for years. So to collaborate with these people is phenomenal. And the design team is this great mix of downtown and uptown people – they are downtown theatre artists but they have Broadway experience. There’s a really exciting mix (just as the show is) between a kind of left of center sensibility and a delivery of the great pleasure principles of musical theatre.

How has MASS MoCA and this particular space impacted the development of the piece? Is it different from where you guys have been before?

Absolutely. I’ve been coming to MASS MoCA for about 7 years now, and I’ve always been mesmerized as much by the art at MASS MoCA as by the architectural surroundings of this place. When the idea came up to develop the show outside of New York, one of the questions I had was, “Can we not do it at a place where it will feel like a musical?” (Which it’s not.) So this idea came up to do it at a museum as a sort of art installation. I think that sets up your expectations for the piece better.

I have a long history with Williamstown Theatre Festival, and [artistic director] Jenny Gersten has been an incredible friend and advisor, so the idea of triangulating The Public Theater and WTF and MASS MoCA started to feel like a really exciting convergence of great arts institutions. The thought with the residency at MASS MoCA was that we could really build the piece – it wasn’t that we’d be delivering some sort of finished product, but we would have the space and staff and collaborators here to create a 360 degree art environment.

Every day there have been new songs coming in, we’re changing staging on the fly, and just today before we started talking I saw new choreography for the opening number! We’re assembling it here in a way you couldn’t do with the pressure of New York or you’d go crazy. The space here is unbelievable –  it’s huge! – and there are 2 things we’re examining: how can we make the best possible performance here at MASS MoCA, and how can we honor the spatial limitations Here Lies Love will confront when it eventually moves to New York?

What’s next for Here Lies Love?

After this it will go to The Public Theater in New York, and it starts performances in March 2013 at the Luesther, one of the five theatres of The Public – it’s a downtown space.

That’s exciting.

Yeah, I think it’s pretty cool.

Alex Timbers and David Byrne at opening night of Timbers’ Peter and the Starcatcher

Posted June 18, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Dance, Music, Theater, Uncategorized, Work-in-progress
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