The OPENING of the PS122 building after years of renovation proved to be worth the wait!
The two new spaces – Derek Lloyd stage and Neilma Sidney Theatre – were utilized for the OPENING NIGHT ‘Avant-Garde-Arama.’
Here are my images and video from the AGA Extravaganza on this night!
Opening the show in the Derek Lloyd Stage was Pat Oleszko and her beautiful inflatables.
The theater was packed for the AGA show in the Derek Lloyd theater.
Salley May and the ensemble players bust open the place with a great song and dance exorcism.
Mediums: Jacqueline Zahora, Pedro J. Rosado Jr.
Pure Evil: Salley May and Tony Stinkmetal
Kid Evil-Slayers: Louise May, Annabel Sexton-Daldry, Graham Greene, Lois Houck, and Logan Martinez.
Ghosts: Heidi Dorow, Laurie Berg, Agosto Machado, Nicky Paraiso, Annie Lanzillotto, Simba Yangala, Audrey Kindred, Jodi Bender, Sarah Trignano, Diana Y Greiner, Ed Boland, Jessie Weiner, Lizzie Donahue, Julian Fleisher, David Thorpe, and Sam Zalutsky
Frank Maya once said that he turned to comedy “as a way to make the world safe for me.” The first openly gay comedian to appear on MTV and all three major television networks, Maya’s candor and wit helped pave the way for greater acceptance of homosexuality in mainstream media. As ABC News noted in a 1993 introduction to Maya, “Until recently, comics who wanted to succeed in show business never ever admitted they were gay. And they certainly never used their homosexuality as a punchline.”
Maya was born in 1950 to a middle-class Catholic family in Long Island. His Irish and Colombian background later became fodder for much of his comic material. A gifted musician and vocalist, he found work playing in cabarets and folk clubs after graduating from Hofstra University. In the mid-1970s, he met director John Jesurun and began venturing into the alternative music scene, then dominated by the Talking Heads and post-punk New Wave.
Fronting a band called the Decals, Maya became known for satirical songs that combined Latin-infused pop with absurdist poetic patter. Several of his songs also used toy instruments, recorded sound, or found objects such as scissors or a jar full of pennies. In one song, the refrain consisted of Maya shouting, “Pancakes!” with a recorded voice responding, “They’re ready!” Impish and whimsical as his songs were, they also were biting commentaries on consumerism and the banality of everyday life. His lyrics also revealed a quirky way with rhymes, “When you’re home for the holidays do you realize your dog looks upset? Does he realize during dinner, he’s simply the household pet?” The New York Times praised him as “a wacky pop iconoclast with enough star quality to have earned comparisons to performers as dissimilar as Laurie Anderson, David Byrne and Peter Allen.”
Maya was part of Jesurun’s legendary serial theater piece, Chang in a Void Moon, when it premiered at the Pyramid Club in 1982. His music performances had always verged on theater with interludes of acerbic monologues he called rants. In the mid- 1980s, he began focusing more on his rants, joining a growing cadre of solo performers such as Spalding Gray, Eric Bogosian, and Karen Finley, who were similarly examining American society through a personal lens.Pacing around the stage, he tackled pop culture, gender issues, and the mundanity of existence. Thirty years before the current outcry over the lack of minorities in mainstream media, Maya was commenting, “There’re a few movies like Cotton Club where they take all the black actors who’ve been out of work for ten years and put them in the same film… People say, ‘See we’re making progress.” His three-hour-long solo performances were performed at P.S. 122, La Mama, Dixon Place, the Kitchen, and Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun series. He also toured the mid-Atlantic states and performed in Germany.
During that time, Maya was known to paint his ears gold, perhaps to distinguish himself from other solo artists. He soon found a much more authentic way of differentiating himself. While Maya had made a few allusions to his sexual orientation in his music and his rants, he had never been completely overt about his homosexuality. His former partner Neil Greenberg believes that an anti-gay incident may have radicalized him. Whatever the cause, Maya began boldly declaring his homosexuality in 1989. At the same time, Maya was also realizing that he could achieve wider public attention by rebranding himself as a stand-up comic. “In New York they call me a performance artist…” he remarked in a 1989 Washington Post article, “But if you ask the Washington audience after my show, they’ll say, ‘He’s a stand-up comic.’ I always feel that my stuff is misinterpreted — it’s very funny, but it’s got serious points in it… But I’m not afraid of being considered a comedian as long as people like Lily Tomlin are considered comedians.”
Maya made his first openly gay appearance on HA! Comedy Network in 1990. His breakthrough to mainstream media happened at a pivotal time when the AIDS crisis was at its peak. Maya’s self-deprecating humor was a refreshing antidote to the widespread alarm in both the general population and the gay community. Here was a good-looking man without any effeminate traits, talking simply and naturally about being homosexual. “Comedy is about really being truthful,” he stated, “People are hoping the comic will tell them everything. So how can you hide your love life? It just seems impossible.” Though he joked about people in his audience who looked mortified, he said he rarely had hecklers and added, “”I guess people are still recovering from the fact that they can’t believe what I’m saying.”
Throughout the early 1990s, Maya appeared regularly at Caroline’s Comedy Club and MTV’s “Half-Hour Comedy Hour.” He also starred in his own half-hour special on Comedy Central. His last show Paying for the Pool ran at the Atlantic Theater for eight weeks. It was described as, “A one-man show in which Maya talks about his childhood and coming-out experiences.”
Maya was diagnosed with AIDs in 1995 but continued to perform. In The Queerest Art: Essays on Lesbian and Gay Theater, Carmelita Tropicana remembers him at a conference for the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) four months before he died. Despite a high fever, he did his entire set and had to be persuaded to go home early. Although friends were tearful over his impending death, Tropicana recalls, “[Frank] hated the tender sweet image of white helium balloons flying up to the sky in memory of those who have died of AIDS. He was angry, he wanted something loud, an uzi, a bomb to explode.” An upfront iconoclast to the end, Frank Maya was 45 years old when he died.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1986 Postcard for Frank’s performance at CBGB
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1986 Postcard for Franks Maya’s performance at LaMama Cabaret
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1990 Postcard for Frank Maya’s performance at The Kitchen.
“But when Ray sits back and lets the music wash over him, there’s dignity in his awe-struck stillness. His raptnessmakes us want to hear through his ears. And when the theater fades to black, as it does intermittently throughout the show, and we sit in the darkness with the music, sound becomes tactile, and even pop-station babies and longhairs are likely to feel like true believers in the gospel of Ray.”
On May 1st and 2nd Abrons Arts Center hosted the ever so popular PS122 show Avant-Garde-Arama. Curated by Salley May and featuring numerous downtown performance artist. Friday night was hosted by Erin Markey and Penny Arcade and Sat night was hosted by Erin Markey and Carmelita Tropicana. The list of performers is as follows:
Friday night: Jennifer Miller & John Jasperse, Animals, niv Acosta, Theodora Skipitares, Rebecca Patek, The Ballez by Katy Pyle, Ismael Houston-Jones.
Sat night: John Fleck, Uzi Parnes and Ela Troyano, Half Straddle, Martha Wilson, Travis Chamberlain (for Jennifer Monsoon) Holly Hughes, Jack Ferver, Yin Yue Dance and the Institute for Psychogeographic Adventure.
This video is the OPENING sequence of both nights!
Here are some memorable images from both nights!
Salley May busts thru the “Social Reform” tissue and starts to cause havoc to society.
RCo-Hostesses Erin Markey and Penny Arcade start the show off right.
Representing ‘Movement Research’ – Jennifer Miller and John Jasperse in a dance duo.
Representing Dixon Place – ‘Animals’ performance group.
Representing PS122 – niv Acosta performed a ‘sing along’ with the audience.
Representing LaMama – Theodora Skipitares was projected on a video screen while 2 puppeteers performed on stage.
Representing BAX – The Ballez Dance duo with Katy Pyle
Representing Movement Research – Ishmael Houston-Jones dance a wonderful solo blindfolded.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Carmelita Tropicana and Erin Markey hosted the Saturday night show with Salley May pitching in.
Representing LaMama – John Fleck performed a lovely solo with flashlight and courage.
Representing The Bushwick Starr – Emile Owens performed a solo on behalf of Half Straddle.
Representing Franklin Furnace – Martha Wilson performed as Tipper Gore.
Representing The New Museum – Travis Chamberlain (for Jennifer Monson) charmed the audience into moving in the theater.
Representing WOW – Holly Hughes performed a monolog.
Representing Abrons Arts Center – Jack Ferver with Reid Bartelme performed a ‘spoken word’ dance duo.
Representing Russell Projects – Yin Yue Dance company did a beautiful piece.
Also present in the show was:
Representing The Chocolate Factory – Rebecca Patek
Representing The Performing Garage/Wooster Group – The Institute for Psychogeographic Adventure
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Video of John Fleck, Yin Yue Dance, Half Straddle, Jack Ferver and Martha Wilson to coming soon!
Andrew Schneider is a multimedia artist, designer, and performer living in New York City. He is the co-founder and Associate Artistic Director of the Chicago-based theatre company, BigPictureGroup. His solo performance work has been seen at P.S.122, The Prelude Festival, Monkey Town, and The Tank. His multimedia devices have been featured in Wired, TimeOut NY, Maker Faire, SIGGRAPH, The Telfair Museum of Art, and at the Center Pompidou in Paris. His Solar Bikini has been featured internationally. His current projects include Experimental Devices for Performance (.com) and Acting Stranger (.com). Andrew Holds a Masters Degree in Interactive Telecommunications from NYU. Find out more at http://andrewjs.com