In February 2018, the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series will present works by two visionary artists: National Medal of Arts winner Ralph Lemon and Bessie award-winner Okwui Okpokwasili. Both Lemon and Okpokwasili weave complex narratives through movement and text, addressing politics, race, the body, and place. They share an artistic kinship — Okpokwasili has been a principal performer in many of Lemon’s most celebrated works.
Ralph Lemon offers Ceremonies Out of the Air (a lecture/performance), on Friday, February 2, at 8 p.m. in Hepburn Teaching Theater, Goodhart Hall. A highly influential maker of performance, writing, and visual art, Lemon works with the complexities of geography, history, memory, and the body. The New Yorker notes how “his way of describing his dances, with his mind on fire” can be as fascinating as the creations themselves. In Ceremonies Out of the Air, he merges live performance, storytelling, and film to invoke his long-standing exploration of the American South.
The Geography Trilogy Screening with Ralph Lemon and special guests follows on Saturday, February 3, from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Hepburn Teaching Theater, Goodhart Hall. Lemon’s The Geography Trilogy is a profound, and worldwide, 10-year inquiry into the social gravities of art, race, and identity at the turn of the 21st century. The Series video screening will feature the complete Trilogy: Geography (1997), Tree (2000), and Come home Charley Patton (2004), with commentary and readings by Lemon and close collaborators Katherine Profeta (dramaturg) and David Thomson (performer). Audience members will be welcome to come and go during this six hour marathon. See below for details on the films.*
The Series next welcomes Okwui Okpokwasili whose Poor People’s TV Room will be presented Friday-Saturday, February 23-24, at 8 p.m. in Hepburn Teaching Theater, Goodhart Hall. A multi-generational ensemble of women performs movement, song, and text influenced by dystopian folklore, speculative fiction, Igbo cosmology, and the futures and commodities markets. Okpokwasili created Poor People’s TV Room with director/visual designer Peter Born, inspired by two historical events in Nigeria: The Women’s War of 1929, a resistance movement against British colonial power, and the Boko Haram kidnappings of more than 300 girls that launched the “Bring Back Our Girls” movement. This performance contains nudity.
The presentation of Okwui Okpokwasali’s Poor People’s TV Room was made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
EVENT SCHEDULE AND TICKET INFORMATION
Ceremonies Out of the Air (a lecture/performance)
Friday, February 2, 8 p.m.
The Geography Trilogy Screening
Saturday, February 4, 1–7 p.m.
Screening Schedule for The Geography Trilogy:
1 p.m. Geography (1997)
3:30 p.m. Tree (2000)
5:30 p.m. Come home Charley Patton (2004)
Audience members will be welcome to come and go during this six hour marathon.
Poor People’s TV Room
Friday-Saturday, February 23-24, 8 p.m.
All events will take place in Goodhart Hall, Bryn Mawr College, located at 150 N. Merion Avenue in Bryn Mawr, PA. Flex subscriptions of five tickets to remaining series events are $90 each, $75 for seniors. Tickets to individual events are $20, $18 for seniors, $10 for students and Dance Pass holders or members of dancephiladelphia.org, and $5 for children under 12. Tickets, subscriptions, group sales and more information are available online through Brown Paper Tickets, at https://www.brynmawr.edu/performing-arts-series or by calling 610-526-5210.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Ralph Lemon (Creator, Choreographer and Director) is a director, choreographer, writer, visual artist and curator, and the Artistic Director of Cross Performance, a company dedicated to the creation of cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary performance and presentation. His most recent works include Scaffold Room (2014), the innovative dance/film project Four Walls (2012), and How Can You Stay in The House All Day and Not Go Anywhere? (2008-2010), a work with live performance, film and visual art that toured across the United States. The immersive visual art installation, Meditation, which was part of How Can You Stay… was purchased for the permanent collection of the Walker Art Center in 2012. In January 2011, a re-imagined section of How Can You Stay… was performed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in conjunction with On Line: Drawing through the Twentieth Century. Lemon curated the fall 2012 performance series Some sweet day at MoMA, and the acclaimed 2010 performance series I Get Lost at Danspace Project in NYC.
Lemon’s visual art work was shown in a group exhibit When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South at the Studio Museum of Harlem (summer 2014). His solo visual art exhibitions include: 1856 Cessna Road at The Studio Museum in Harlem, NYC (2012); How Can You Stay In The House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2010); (the efflorescence of) Walter, Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans (2008), The Kitchen, NYC (2007) and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2006); The Geography Trilogy, Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT (2001); and Temples, Margaret Bodell Gallery, NYC (2000). His group exhibitions include: When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination & the American South, The Studio Museum in Harlem; Move: Choreographing You, Hayward Gallery, London, UK and The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl, Nasher Museum at Duke University, Durham, NC. Mr. Lemon’s book, Come home Charley Patton, the final in a series documenting The Geography Trilogy, was published in 2013 by Wesleyan University Press.
In 2015, Lemon was honored with the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Barack Obama. In 2012, he received one of the first Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards; he was also one of the first artists to receive the United States Artists Fellowship (2006). He is recipient of two “Bessie” Awards (1986, 2005); two Foundation for Contemporary Art Awards (1986, 2012); two New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowships (2004, 2009); a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship; a 2004 Bellagio Study Center Fellowship; and the 1999 CalArts Alpert Award.
Lemon has been an IDA Fellow at Stanford University (2009); artist-in-residence at Temple University (2005-06); Miller Endowment Visiting Artist at the Krannert Center (2004); Fellow of the Humanities Council and Program in Theater & Dance at Princeton University (2002); and Associate Artist at Yale Repertory Theatre (1996-2000). For the fall 2011 semester he was a Visiting Critic with the Yale University School of Art’s Sculpture Department. He also served as the 2013-14 Annenberg Fellow at the Museum of Modern Art, where he curated a series of “performance essays,” titled Value Talks.
Okwui Okpokwasili is a New York-based writer, performer and choreographer. In partnership with collaborator Peter Born, Okpokwasili creates multidisciplinary projects that are raw, intimate experiences. Their first New York production, Pent-Up: A Revenge Dance premiered at Performance Space 122 and received a 2010 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Production; an immersive installation version was featured in the 2008 Prelude Festival. Their second collaboration, Bronx Gothic, won a 2014 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award for Outstanding Production and continues to tour nationally and internationally. In June of 2014, they presented an installation version entitled Bronx Gothic: The Oval as part of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s River to River Festival. Their latest project is Poor People’s TV Room, an early iteration of which was presented by Lincoln Center in the David Rubinstein Atrium in June 2014.
As a performer, Okpokwasili frequently collaborates with award-winning director Ralph Lemon, including How Can You Stay in the House All Day and Not Go Anywhere?; Come home Charley Patton (for which she also won a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award); a duet performed at The Museum of Modern Art as part of On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century; and, most recently, Lemon’s Scaffold Room. She has appeared as an actor in many productions, including Nora Chipaumire’s Miriam; Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Kristin Marting’s Sounding; Young Jean Lee’s LEAR; Richard Foreman’s Maria del Bosco; Richard Maxwell’s Cowboys and Indians; and Joan Dark (The Goodman Theater/The Linz European Capital of Culture). Film credits include Malorie’s Final Score, Knut Åsdam’s Abyss, The Interpreter, The Hoax, and I Am Legend.
Okpokwasili’s residencies and awards include The French American Cultural Exchange (2006-2007); Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography Choreographic Fellowship (2012); Baryshnikov Arts Center Artist-in-Residence (2013), NewYork Live Arts Studio Series (2013); Under Construction at the Park Avenue Armory (2013); New York Foundation for the Arts’ Fellowship in Choreography (2013); Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Extended Life Program (2014-15); The Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ artist grant in dance (2014), BRIClab (2015), Columbia University (2015) and the Rauschenberg Residency (2015).
Peter Born is a director, designer and filmmaker. In addition to his work with Okpokwasili, he collaborated with David Thomson on a cycle of installation/performances revolving around a post-sexual incarnation of Venus throughout 2015-16. He designed and created the set for Nora Chipaumire’s rite/riot and has created performance videos with Chipaumire, Thomson and Daria Fain, among others. He works as an art director and prop stylist for video and photo projects with clients such as Vogue, Estee Lauder, Barney’s Co-op, Bloomingdales, Old Navy, “25” magazine, Northrup Grumman and The Wall Street Journal, with collaborators including Kanye West, Barnaby Roper, Santiago and Mauricio Sierra, Quentin Jones and NoStringsUS Puppet Productions. He is a former New York public high school teacher, an itinerant floral designer, corporate actor-facilitator and furniture designer. His collaborations with Okwui Okpokwasili have garnered two New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards.
ABOUT THE GEOGRAPHY TRILOGY
In 2005, Ralph Lemon completed The Geography Trilogy, a 10-year project that was a profound self-examination and a sustained inquiry into the social gravities of art, race and identity at the turn of the 21st century. The Trilogy developed a global performance and visual language that was simultaneously modern and traditional, East and West, light and dark, formal and free form. The three evening-length performances that made up The Geography Trilogy featured performers and collaborators from the U.S., Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, India, Japan, China and Taiwan.
The primacy of process, and the richness of materials that process uncovered– artistic, emotional, historical– created profound questions for Lemon as to how best to “translate” the process and “control” the materials in order to bring a work for audiences to the stage. The ongoing struggle between process and production created a tension that became a vital element in the Trilogy works, which ultimately included dance/theater performances, books, video journals, web projects and gallery exhibitions.
Part 1: Geography (premiered 1997), begins with Lemon’s exploration into apparent African and post-African connections to his life as an African American. The cast includes nine men of African descent from Cٴe d’Ivoire, Guinea and the U.S.
In Part 2: Tree: (premiered 2000), Lemon directed his inquiry to Asia, following his attraction to Buddhism and how it might generate an art aesthetic. Tree places the energy and sound of the “Africa” of Geography next to a perceived Asian “quiet,” while exploring the collision of tradition and modernity through contemporary performance. Performers include male and female dancers and musicians from Cٴe d’Ivoire, China, India, Japan, Taiwan and the United States.
For Part 3: Come home Charley Patton (premiered 2004), Lemon returned to America. Here, he visits charged sites from the volatile history of the Civil Rights period, performed ritual “counter-memorials” at lynching sites, and danced in the living rooms of relatives of early blues musicians from the Mississippi Delta. Lemon also weaves ideas from a mix of iconoclastic artists of contemporary literature and performance art, from James Baldwin to Bruce Nauman, into this historically charged research of rural America. Come home Charley Patton investigates how different generations remember the same critical events and places; what kind of narratives do justice to traumatic memories; and what form memories can ultimately take through the aesthetic works of this project. The exploration of these elements contributes to a performance where documentary footage and autobiography shares the stage with the abstraction and fiction of contemporary dance/theater.
Audiences for the live Geography Trilogy had to wait two to four years between performances – the time it took for Lemon’s research trips and intensive rehearsals as he worked with collaborators to grapple with the impossible tasks he had assigned himself.
ABOUT BRYN MAWR COLLEGE PERFORMING ARTS SERIES
Since 1984 the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series has presented great artists and performances to Philadelphia-area audiences, creating an environment in which the value of the arts is recognized and celebrated. Providing talks and workshops free to the public to develop arts awareness and literacy, the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series has partnered in recent seasons with such organizations as the Barnes Foundation, Pennsylvania Ballet, Bryn Mawr Film Institute, and FringeArts. The Series has presented performances by such diverse luminaries as Trisha Brown Dance Company, Meredith Monk, John Waters, Jennifer Koh, the Khmer Arts Ensemble of Cambodia, and Urban Bush Women.
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