Monday, November 25, 2013

End of the yellow leaves

Dog playing and man with guitar in Central Park. 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, November 25, 2013. Cold in New York. Early Saturday evening there was even a snow shower. For about five minutes. It was coming down horizontally with a strong wind. Ten more minutes and we would have had a white coating all over the cars and the roads. It also meant the end of the yellow leaves that were so ragingly beautiful only last week at this time.

Here is the story of The Tree’s Weekend:
My beautiful tree a week ago Sunday.
This past Saturday evening about 7:30 p.m.
Same tree, this past Sunday morning.
And where the leaves went.
Last Thursday night at Scully & Scully on Park Avenue, they had a book signing for Holly Holden and her new interior design offering “The Pretty and Proper Living Room.”

Click to order "The Pretty and Proper Living Room.”
I mention this because it is a unique editorial project. Because I don’t personally give much if any thought to such things I wouldn’t be inclined to read it. But I did look through it and I can see that it could be very helpful for a lot of people who want to do something right but really know they don’t know how. Or people who like new ideas.

Interior design is a contemporary art at all times, and like any art, its audience is vast and wide-ranging. Holly Holden takes you into her  living room – which pretty traditional – and shows you what she’s thinking.

Last Thursday night I went down to East Fourth Street where La MaMa was holding its 3rd annual La MaMa DIY Season Gala where they were honoring Patsy Tarr, the dance philanthropist and publisher, and theatre critic Michael Feingold, formerly of the Village Voice and now at Theatermania (

A lot of New Yorkers still don’t know about La MaMa which opened its door fifty-two years ago, founded by a fiercely independent impresario of new theatre, Ellen Stewart. Ms. Stewart’s objective nurtured an entire generation of theatre talent, in all area from acting, producing, directing, writing; everything, and her legacy continues today.

Ellen Stewart in her later years. A fashion designer, she started La MaMa when she was 41 to help her brother and his playwright friend, and ran it for the next 49 years.
Stewart was a fashion designer who worked for Saks, Bendels, Bergdorfs.  She started ETC for $55 a month (rent of that same space today) to help her brother and his playwright friends with a place to showcase their work.

In the early years, almost all of it was considered very avant garde -- off-Off-Broadway -- a term that she legitimized -- at its quintessence. And it still is, in terms of objectives. What Ellen Stewart wrought is the world of theatre as it is known today in its most respectable and admired circles. In the half century that she presided, La MaMa presented 3000 productions.

You could see that Thursday night in the theatre company’s hall room/auditorium. Patsy Tarr and Michael Feingold attracted what were once upon a time essentially two different crowds but are now one. The downtown and the up.

La MaMa was catholic in its concept. They are still performing new plays and projects every week. It is a mecca not only for the young theatre talent but also for the veterans who “get” it.  Estelle Parsons was seated at the table next to mine Thursday night has a strong relationship with La MaMa.

It was a very downtown sort of gala – and it was a gala (taking place for the dough-re-mi that every artist is always deeply in need of).

Mia Yoo, Artistic Director of La MaMa, with honoree Patsy Tarr.
There was an excellent dinner (by Della Terra Catering. Comedian/actor/writers Mike Albo and Marga Gomez took the stage to emcee.

There were performances and tributes including one on Dot Dot Dot, the 2wice Arts app (Patsy Tarr is the creator, with Abbott Miller), and publisher of 2wice and its techno-successor Dot Dot Dot) This video was followed by Tom Gold, former soloist for the NYC Ballet who now has his own company “Tom Gold Dance” (

There was also a video tribute to Michael Feingold created by Miller and Ben Louis Nicholas – all passages from his writings which were so trenchant and compelling (theatre criticism), not a little of it cracked me up because Feingold is very funny. 

Then Broadway’s star costume designer William Ivey Long introduced Joan Morris, accompanied by William Bolcom, performing Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s  Surabaya Johnny (with translation by Michael Feingold).

Frank Carucci, President of the Board of La MaMa, then greeted the guests and introduced violinist Yibin Li who performed Moon Reflected on Second Spring by Ah Bing.
The main theatre room at La MaMa on Thursday night.
"A micro history of world economics," danced by Pascal Rambert. Photo by Ilan Bachrach.
This was followed by a video tribute to Patsy by Miller and Nicholas. And then the irrepressible Isaac Mizrahi took the stage to introduce his friend, pointing out firstly that she was a huge fan of Geoffrey Beene and wore a lot of his clothes (which she was wearing on this night).

Isaac is the only American fashion designer with a performer’s personality, and he can always leave ‘em laughing. And thinking.

When Patsy came up on stage, she mentioned that she owns a lot of Mizrahi too. For all her philanthropy and intense interest – passion really – for the dance which she expresses in a constant, even businesslike way (she thanked her husband Jeff Tarr profusely for his unwavering support), Patsy is not shy but openly modest in self-regard.
A teaser for DOT DOT DOT, danced by Ron Gold.
A teaser for FIFTH WALL, danced by Jonah Bokaer.
Then Jonah Bokaer performed a piece which he also choreographed, Trophy performed to a rap recording.  Whether or not you are interested in modern (or is it post-modern?) dance, Jonah Bokaer will get you with his work.

This was followed by mezzo soprano Joyce Castle performing a very clever and charming (and amusing) piece called Bridge Party (Partie Carree), by Martha Clarke and Charles Mee (translation also by Michael Feingold) -- about two married couples who are best-of-friends with each other ... and what happens.

Then Sting dashed on stage with guitar, and with William Bolcom on the piano, Sting sang Brecht and Weill’s Mack The Knife (Michael Feingold translating).
Mia Yoo presenting a tribute gift to Michael Feingold
Joan Morris performing Brecht and Weill's "Surabaya Johnny" Sting performing "Mack The Knife."
Sting was followed by the students of William Alexander Show Choir, Middle School 51 If I Have Not Love – composed by Elizabeth Swados that closed the show and said it all, all about La MaMa, all about theatre and all about the world.

It was an amazingly brief yet rich program of art, dance, comedy, song and youth, the likes of which you would never see uptown and yet which is so of the moment that anyone would love it. Ellen Stewart died two years ago at 92, lives. Goodnight.

The program was directed by David Schweizer with Lighting Design by Joe Levasseur. What a great evening. Learn more:
Sunday afternoon: A dancing barge on the Hudson River ...

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