Did you love Beer Garden last year? Look what is in store this summer!

We hope you had the pleasure of visiting The Chalet: a bar/art installation by Dean Baldwin over the Oh, Canada opening weekend.  Dean built and outfitted a fantastic A-frame inside our Building 8 and served drinks to Canadians and Americans alike last Friday and Saturday. As was the case last year when our dear friends from Bureau for Open Culture  ran the Beer Garden, it proved to be a popular spot for socializing.

We’re delighted to announce that the tradition continues. Starting June 21, The Chalet will be open every Thursday from 6 – 9  PM (with special appearances by Dean himself, on occasion!). A full bar will be available and you’ll be able to sit under the trees along the river to enjoy your beverage of choice.

Please stop by for the kick off on Thursday, June 21.

We start summer gallery hours then too, so you can visit the galleries until 6 and then relax at the bar before attending Here Lies Love in the Hunter Center.

See you there eh?

Posted June 5, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Here Lies Love, Oh Canada, Parties, Secrets of MASS MoCA

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Artist Spotlight: Chatting with Playwright Ain Gordon

Playwright/actor/director Ain Gordon is here in residency this week in preparation for the performance of his work-in-progress play Not What Happened, which centers on historical reenacment in 1800s New England. Marketing Intern Cora sat down with him to chat about the piece.

Ain Gordon in rehearsal with actress Betsy Aidman.

Could you explain the plot in a little more detail?

Well, I’m not a story-driven guy. I tend to be more interested in characters in a situation and what happens to them rather than a plot unfolding. So, it’s pretty simple. There is a rural, solitary woman alone in her summer kitchen in 1804, baking bread, surrounded pretty much only with the mental remnants of other days, and talking to herself. And it’s about what happens to her, in her head that day. And then a historical re-enactor two centuries later on the same piece of ground, which is now a deficit-ridden historic site, leads the tourist through her ability to re-enact that same day.

How has it developed since the shows that you did at the Vermont Performance Lab and Marlboro College?

At VPL, we only did half of it. That was the very first time working with actors on it. It’s brand new. So we spent five days there, and we did some rudimentary staging and just showed the first half. Then we were at the Baryshnikov Arts Center for another five days, and we pushed through to the end and showed all of it. Then we had a week off, and now we’re here. And we’re going to show all of it again. Each space is one step bigger—at VPL it was in an 1800s meeting house, very small, very intimate, beautiful space. At BAC it was in a larger studio with raked seating. And here it’s in a theater! So we’ve been kind of getting used to leaving behind the intimacy of table work, studio work, theater work etcetera, and building up to being bigger. And here is the first time that we will have basic lighting, and basic use of projections, which we haven’t done at all before.

Right, I read that this is the first time that you were introducing the element of photography to the piece, with photographer/historian Forrest Hozapfel’s projections. Has that influenced the play at all?

We kind of researched together—he lives in Marlboro—and we took walks in the forest together, and looked at cellar holes and that kind of thing. Definitely his thinking and his body of knowledge influenced the writing. And early on, I had his images in mind for what I wanted to see as the set. Here, you’re kind of seeing a sketch of that because we don’t have a giant screen. So this is very much just another stage of showing the piece with some tech.

Can you talk about the local history aspect of the play and how New England ties into it?

With almost all of my work, I’m interested in the idea of marginalized or neglected history as source material for theater. Particularly because in most places, but certainly in America, the writing of mainstream history is kind of a ruthless editing machine, and there’s a lot of stuff that hits the cutting room floor. I’m pretty interested in what hits the floor. And I had been thinking that with this piece, I wanted to reach further back in time to an era that yields even less evidence—sort of the pre-industrial era when things are handmade; things are used until they’re broken and then they’re gone. So there aren’t 80,000 artifacts. And I was interested in looking at a rural landscape, which I had never done, which would be a landscape in which there would be even less manmade evidence manufactured, ever. And the natural distances between manmade outpost and manmade outpost is so huge, that stuff just disappears back into the landscape. So I was interested in that, and then the relationship with VPL started to happen at the same time, and so it just made sense to put it in New England. So we used the Brattleboro-Guilford-Marlboro area as a research launch pad. The play is not situated directly in any place, it sort of uses the ethos of unsettled New England at that time, as opposed to Boston or somewhere like that.

How does the audience or the setting for each performance change your ideas for the play?

Well the good thing about the way this has played out—which I can’t claim credit for—is that three showings in three very different locations for three very different audiences is a great way for me to accrue notes for going to a next draft. With One showing in one place, it’s pretty hard not to just be incredibly reactive. I’m either like “It went well” or “ it didn’t go well”—you either are good or you’re bad. Three showings really gives you a chance to hear it in front of very different communities and get an idea of what to do next. The play doesn’t premiere until the fall of 2013, so I’m going into a whole other rewrite time.

And just in general, what inspires you as a playwright?

As I say, history is certainly my “thing,” but I think that I’m pretty interested in the interstitial, particularly. I’m interested in the moment between the moments that seem to matter, and that evidently matter, and how we can theatricalize insignificance for a new significance. So, the idea of this woman in 1804—she is essentially, by most standards, a woman of no importance, engaged in an action of no consequence, on a day of no significance (laughs). And what does that look like if we actually frame it and pay attention to it?



Posted April 25, 2012 by MASS MoCA
Filed under Artist Spotlight, BLOG, Theater, Work-in-progress
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Performance Artist John Kelly Talks about his Residency

Our managing director Sue Killam offers this background information for John Kelly’s video.  Stay tuned from more videos from John about the residency.

Performance and visual artist John Kelly is currently in residence at MASS MoCA.  He’s created over 30 pieces to date, and he is in the process of re-mounting his Bessie Award-winning work Find My Way Home.  Created in 1988 during the height of the AIDS epidemic, Find My Way Home deconstructs genres of opera, period dance, and cinematic acting, and includes scenes and arias from Gluck’s baroque opera Orfeo Ed Eurydice.

While we host a lot of artists-in-residence, what’s most interesting about this residency is that as John re-visits this work, reviving backdrops, props, character dummies, choreography, and movement from the original.  As he explained, the piece has been in storage for over 10 years and time has left its mark.  For example, only a third of the original painted backdrop (pictured above) was found so now it has to be pieced together from old photographs and reconstructed.  It’s become a group effort to bring the backdrop back to life, adding more layers of those who this piece has touched.   And as this resurrection commences, it’s natural to reflect on the original creators who have since passed.   Breathing new life into Find My Way Home is a mash-up of old and new, present and departed, original ideas and evolution.  Please join us on Saturday at 8pm and become a part of the story of this piece.

YouTube Preview Image

Posted October 13, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Dance, Music, Theater, Work-in-progress
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Can’t beat dinner and a show for $35!

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Taylor’s to offer a special package for Chautauqua! Just $35 gets you a delicious dinner and a delicious show.

Stop by Taylor’s before Chautauqua! and choose from a special three-course prix fixe pre-theater menu:

Start with a garden salad

Then choose from

  • Cheese ravioli with spinach and sun dried tomatoes in a cream sauce
  • Baked cod with mashed potatoes
  • Chicken picatta with mashed potatoes

Finish it off with a piece of yummy chocolate cake.

You have to reserve in advance but you can do so up until 5 PM on Friday, April 8. Reserve by calling MASS MoCA Box Office at 413 662-2111, then press 1.  We’ll take care of the rest. (Well everything but the gratuity.  Please don’t forget to tip your server generously!)

Posted April 1, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, chautauqua, Dining, North Adams, Theater
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What am I looking at?

Habit has been rather all-consuming for our staff as you can tell by our blogging.  Managing Director Sue Killam weighs in here on her impressions of David Levine’s installation.  Come anytime Thurs noon – 5, Friday 2-8, Saturday noon- 8 or Sunday noon – 5.

The audience experience at MASS MoCA is one of the many aspects of my role here. Being an audience member affords the opportunity to share a live exchange with the artist and each other.  And because of the art we present, our audience experience is always changing.  Sometimes we present a traditional experience, seated in rows, dark, quiet, watching and the other times we make you leave your shoes at the door and take away your chair.   But in my time at MASS MoCA never has the audience experience become such an integrated part of the message as it is with our current presentation of Habit, by David Levine.  This piece is a one of a kind experience you should catch.

Habit blurs the lines of where performance takes place and how we, the audience view it. It brings front and center how we engage and how we view.  As a viewer, you decide how much or how little you want to see; how close do you want to get, how long do you want to stare?  Decisions that are similar to how you view art in a gallery, or how long you look at an accident driving by.  The audience navigates the space around a house– not just a set—a real house with real plumbing, electricity, windows, walls, doors, a stocked refrigerator, music, video games — a house like any one of us might have lived in or visited.   There are actors and a script—real actors, lines and characters, but the stage direction constantly evolves as the actors live their lives right in front of us.  The script loops for 6-8 hours.  The actors never leave and live and act right before us blurring the lines so they are indiscernible.  In response, you, the viewer,  make choices: The choice to watch the full loop or only a few minutes. The choice to pull back the curtain and get real close or to spy through windows unseen. The choice to watch it live through windows and doors or televised on a large screen.

As a result of this control and choice, Habit forces us to notice our own act of viewing and level of voyeurism.  Raising questions of audience experience, what is reality and realism, where does performance begin and end?  I suspect, Habit will linger with you long after you’ve left and pop up the next time you find yourself peering into your neighbor’s lit house at night.

Posted February 24, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Habit, Theater, Work-in-progress
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Actors in their Habitat

Watching Habit by David Levine is unlike any play you have ever seen…guaranteed. Think you’ve seen it all?…We promise you haven’t. Every performance of Habit is, by nature, undoubtedly different than the next.

The play is set within a house that has been built in the middle of MASS MoCA’s, Hunter Center. The audience must walk up to the house and peer through the windows to view the action within the four walls.

The set has been built, the props have been purchased, and the actors have analyzed their characters with David, but the staging and the viewing of this performance is explicitly spontaneous.

When walking up to the house of Habit you will hear actors at any given point in the script. Will you enter during the pumpkin sex scene? Or will you arrive during the fight? Or Mitch’s serenade to Viv? There is no way to tell.

So you walk closer to the house…feeling a little nervous. Almost like you shouldn’t be there. But you’re curious. You want to know what they’re talking about. So you open the curtains and find three young characters (Doug, a cocaine dealer, Mitch, his naïve younger brother, and Viv, an addict who is “crashing” with the boys) in the midst of an existence that revolves around sex, drugs, rock n roll.

As your interest grows for the intoxicating story, you begin to move around the house to follow the character of your choice. A special interaction takes place within the audience as you begin to shift around each other. You must share window space with the person standing next to you, you can glance at each other during a questionable scene, and you may silently agree not to peer through the bathroom window when a character is “relieving themselves”.

The eerie and essential effect of voyeurism is executed by the absence of interaction between the actor and the audience. There is no “wrong” time to begin watching the show and no “right” time to leave. So now, we DARE you to see Habit THIS WEEKEND. It may ruffle your feathers a bit, but why not make life a little interesting?

Click here for more info about show times and ticket prices for Habit.

Thanks to Miss Danelle Cheney for the photos =]

Posted February 22, 2011 by MASS MoCA
Filed under BLOG, Habit, Theater, Work-in-progress
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