Tag Archives: St. Ann’s Warehouse

Cynthia Hopkins tells it like it really is

Cynthia Hopkins in character as “the fat lady” for her latest show, “A Living Documentary.”

I’ve long wondered how edgy performance artist Cynthia Hopkins survives.

The answer, it turns out, is: just barely.

Her extremely personal theater work, often presented as slightly bizarre, dreamy (sometimes verging on nightmarish) faux autobiography, has won increasingly wide acceptance. Aside from being the darling of St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, she’s put on her shows at other leading venues such as the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

She’s become a favorite of comedian John Hodgman, who featured her on his end-of-the-world “Ragnarok” show in 2012.

She’s had a Guggenheim fellowship and has won Bessie, Obie and other awards.

(Click through to the jump for videos and more about Cynthia Hopkins.)

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Jherek Bischoff remains composed in the face of his heroes

Curtain call for "Jherek Bischoff Composed" at St. Ann's Warehouse on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh)

Curtain call for “Jherek Bischoff Composed” at St. Ann’s Warehouse on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (© 2014 Steven P. Marsh)

Surrounded by some of the greatest singers and performers at work today, DIY musician Jherek Bischoff managed to remain composed Wednesday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood.

Good thing, too, since his two-night stand at the black box arts center is titled “Jherek Bischoff Composed,” which also is the title of Bischoff’s 2012 album whose works anchor the show. Before you read further, let me tell you now that you really should attend this show. Continue reading

This Strange Freak’s name is fog

The Englert Theatre, one of the University of Iowa's performing arts venues in Iowa City. (Photo courtesy Jacob Yarrow, Unversity of Iowa)

Weather scuttles Stew & The Negro Problem’s Iowa Omnibus show — for now

What does Mother Nature have against Iowa City, Ia.?

Stew at Joe's Pub on Jan. 23, 2012. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

In 2008, the Iowa River overran its banks and devastated the city, destroying much property in the city, including the notable Max Abramovitz-designed Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus.

The flood-ravaged Hancher Auditorium, designed by Max Abramovitz, the architect of Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

The latest natural disaster didn’t cause physical damage that we know of, but the psychic damage is certainly huge. A “freak fog” closed the local airport and kept Stew and Heidi Rodewald and their band, The Negro Problem, from making it to Iowa City in time for their Feb. 2 gig.

As we reported the other day, Stew & The Negro Problem were to present Iowa Omnibus as the centerpiece of a Feb. 2 show at the Englert Theatre, a civic auditorium that is housing some of UI’s performing arts productions. It was commissioned by UI’s Hancher Auditorium, the campus performing arts presenter, inspired by Stew and Heidi’s 2010 Brooklyn Omnibus shows, as well as their hit musical, Passing Strange.

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Stew just can’t shed his Negro Problem

Stew in his breakup show, "Making It," at St. Ann's Warehouse in February 2010. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Three shows at Joe’s Pub mark Tuesday’s release of Stew & The Negro Problem’s new album, Making It

The cover of Making It features a photo by Stew's daughter, Bibi.

First of all, let’s say “welcome black” to Stew & The Negro Problem.

It’s been 10 long years since Stew (born Mark Stewart in 1961) and his band The Negro Problem made a proper, official album: 2002’s Welcome Black. But on Tuesday, Jan. 24, the wait is officially over when Making It gets its official release.

Thank goodness. It’s long overdue. But you’ll surely find it worth the wait.

It’s a crazy, creative look at the breakup of Stew’s relationship with his longtime girlfriend and musical collaborator Heidi Rodewald. The breakup came in the run-up to the pair’s amazing theater project,  Passing Strange, which briefly thumbed its nose at the Broadway establishment from the Belasco Theatre over six months in 2008. (It also lives on in a Spike Lee film of the show’s final performances.)

Heidi Rodewald and Stew. (Copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

Stew and Heidi managed to survive the breakup and continue their artistic relationship, albeit not without some problems. This album documents the breakup, and in some ways, the promise of their continued collaboration.

This is Stew’s fourth album under the rather provocative name of The Negro Problem, though on  this release on TNP records, the band is billed as “Stew & The Negro Problem.” And even though Stew seemed to abandon the band name in favor of his own moniker, Stew and Heidi haven’t released a rock album since 2003’s Something Deeper Than These Changes, billed simply to Stew. (Yes, there was a Passing Strange soundtrack in 2008, but that wasn’t a Stew record, let alone a Negro Problem record!)

Let’s just say it’s about time! It’s always seemed to me that Stew needs The Negro Problem to fuel his angry-not-as-young-as-he-used-to-be-man persona. (Truth be told, he’s used The Negro Problem name occasionally in recent years, but this seems to be a definitive return home.) Continue reading

Sufjan Stevens joins Clogs at Merkin Concert Hall

Sufjan Stevens joins Clogs onstage at Merkin Concert Hall. (Copyright 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

The minute I settled into my seat at Merkin Concert Hall on Saturday night, March 12, it struck me that we’d be seeing Sufjan Stevens before the night was out. (Forgive me, I hadn’t checked Brooklyn Vegan before I went. If I had, this would have been much more than just a hunch!)

I wasn’t sure whether it would be as a member of the audience or the onstage ensemble — though I hoped for the latter. After all, the prolific Stevens has never been shy about sharing his talents with his friends. We’ve seen him hang quietly in the back of clubs like (Le) Poission Rouge, listening to the music of one of his musical idols, Steve Reich. And we’ve seen him take the stage with other friends before, including Clogs at the Bell House last March.

Shara Worden and Sufjan Stevens at Merkin Concert Hall. (Copyright 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

Sufjan did not disappoint us. He came, he played banjo and sang We Were Here, acting in his self-effacing way just any other hired musician. It was a wonderful moment and a delightful surprise. But I don’t want to sell Clogs short. The concert was delightful even before Sufjan arrived onstage.

Clogs put on a beautiful show as part of the excellent Ecstatic Music Festival. Wonderfully quirky vocalist Shara Worden, in an extremely colorful ensemble, joined Clogs to sing and play some guitar on several tunes from the latest Clogs album, The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, on which she appears. The band also did some older tunes and a new song cycle, called Unattended Shadow, by the band’s violist, Padma Newsome. (Clogs’ lineup is rounded out by Rachael Elliott on bassoon and Thomas Kozumplik on percussion.)

(Sorry for the iffy photo quality, but Merkin is pretty strict about its no-photography policy.) Continue reading

Fela! visits Brooklyn

Sahr Ngaujah inhabits the character of Fela Ankiulapo Kuti, backed up by five Queens and a super-hot big band. (Photos copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

Cast of Broadway Afrobeat musical thrills crowd in free concert at St. Ann’s Warehouse

Sahr Ngaujah

Sahr Ngaujah and the cast and band of the smash-hit Broadway musical Fela! didn’t let the rain dampen their spirits on Monday night, Oct. 4. And the appealing bunch didn’t even seem to be bothered that they were working on what would normally be their night off for the week, since Broadway theaters are dark on Mondays.

Fela! The Music of Fela Kuti, was a gift to Brooklyn and the city from St. Ann’s Warehouse, a cutting-edge performance organization in Dumbo. It was supposed to draw crowds to Brooklyn Bridge Park nearby, but the rains forced it inside the St. Ann’s space at 38 Water Street. The people at St. Ann’s handled the transition nicely, opening everything up quickly and accommodating a huge crowd with ease.

The show’s hot band and great Afrobeat dancers and backup singers — representing the many wives of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Nigerian creator of Afrobeat whose life story the musical tells in broad brushstrokes — locked in perfectly with  Ngaujah to deliver 90 minutes of music.

Click through to the jump for more photos.

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The new Stew review, comin’ right at you!

Stew in his breakup show, "Making It," at St. Ann's Warehouse on Feb. 21. (Copyright 2010, Steven P. Marsh)

I avoided reading reviews of Stew and Heidi Rodewald‘s new show, Making It, playing  at St. Ann’s Warehouse through tomorrow night. I wanted to go to tonight’s show with fresh, unsullied eyes, ears and mind.

But somehow I just couldn’t resist. And then, once I read the pan by Jon Caramanica, I just knew Stew had to have had something to say about it on his blog. Stew goes in fits and starts, but recently he’s been taking to the blog to set the record straight about inaccuracies in things that have been written about his work. And boy, he didn’t disappoint with his response to Caramanica. He wrote  a highly entertaining, deliciously acerbic post that you can read for yourself by clicking here. (One inaccuracy that Stew didn’t correct in The New York Times review is the tagline that said  the show “continues through Sunday,” it has another performance tomorrow (Monday) night. Has the Times‘ fact-checking  department been eliminated?)

Bottom line here, is that everybody’s entitled to an opinion. But I couldn’t disagree with Caramanica more. Stew’s response may have been rather, ummm, emotional (understandably), but he’s still right. I don’t know what Caramanica was seeing the night he reviewed the show, but he must not have seen the show I saw tonight.

Sure, Making It is not Passing Strange. But it doesn’t pretend to be. It’s a document of a breakup — somewhat fictionalized, like every good work of art— presented in the form of a staged concert. And it rocks!

If you want to see this show, you are probably out of luck. The last show is tomorrow (Monday, Feb. 22) night, and as of a couple of minutes ago, there were only three seats left, priced at $78 apiece. But don’t take my word for it, check out the St. Ann’s Warehouse  web site. If you do get to see it, you’ll be glad you made the effort. It is an amazing show.

Darker and more deviant than ever: The Tiger Lillies at St. Ann’s Warehouse

Martyn Jacques, darker than dark, with a voice like a countertenor from Hell!

The Tiger Lillies' frontman Martyn Jacques at St. Ann's Warehouse: Darker than dark, with a voice like a countertenor from Hell! (Photos copyright 2009, Steven P. Marsh)

The Tiger Lillies are at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn, tonight. You should be too.

The dark and cynical British trio (their web site declares them to be “The world’s formost Death Oompah band”) took the stage there last night for the first of two shows celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band. The result was a spectacularly entertaining romp through the enormous Tiger Lillies catalogue of deviance and black humor, including their award-winning work for the off-Broadway show Shockheaded Peter.

Behind the cynical exterior is musical genius. Jacques sings — often in a falsetto or countertenor range oozing with evil — and commands the stage in white face makeup that gives him the air of a demented, evil clown He’s supported by his bandmates, who bring their own amusing styles to the show: bassist Adrian Stout (the tall one), who grins a bit and mugs from time to time,  and drummer Adrian Huge (the stout one), who is the complete clown of the group.

The Tiger Lillies perform at 8 o’clock tonight. St. Ann’s Warehouse, 38 Water Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn. Tickets are still available. Click here for more info. $32.

Adrian Huge is angry.

Adrian Huge is angry.

Here’s a taste of The Tiger Lillies performing “Angry” at Raimundhof in Vienna, Austria last February:

Check out a host of photos of last night’s madness after the jump.

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Escape to an island with Cynthia Hopkins

Cynthia Hopkins

Cynthia Hopkins: Musical chameleon

Who is Cynthia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair and wise is she;
The heavens such grace did lend her,
That she might admiréd be.

Apologies to William Shakespeare, but those lines of his came to mind as soon as I started thinking about Cynthia Hopkins. She’s the founder of the band Gloria Deluxe and the raconteur who created The Accidental Trilogy, a mind-blowing theatrical series in which she morphs and time-shifts in an apocalyptic tale of amnesia, love, loss and the end of the world. The series has been seen locally at  St. Ann’s Warehouse.

This Saturday, Cynthia and Gloria Deluxe takes the outdoor stage on NYC’s Roosevelt Island for the latest installment in the Roosevelt Live concert series. I can’t really predict who Cynthia will be on Saturday. Chances are it won’t be Cameron Seymour or any of the other characters from her trilogy. But will she be Cynthia? And if she is, will we really know for sure? Who cares? It’ll be great fun.  You can count on a theatrical, foot-stomping afternoon of rock-inflected alt-country from Gloria Deluxe. And if the weather holds — and as I write this, weather.com is predicting a partly cloudy day with a high of 82 degrees — it will be the perfect way to kick off the Labor Day weekend.

Here’s some background on Cynthia and the band, from her concert bio:

Cynthia Hopkins and Gloria Deluxe – In the spring of 1999, Cynthia Hopkins formed a band in order to record some songs and make an album. The album and the band were both called Gloria Deluxe. The album was released that September and since then, Gloria Deluxe has played at the Bowery Ballroom (opening for David Byrne), the 2001 Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, Pete’s Candy Store, Tonic, and Joe’s Pub, among numerous other venues, In the band’s first performance outside of New York City, they opened for Patti Smith at MASS MoCA, in one of the museum’s outdoor theaters. Gloria Deluxe is Cynthia Hopkins on accordion, guitar, and saw; Kristin Mueller on drums; Josh Stark on upright bass; Philippa Thompson on violin, washboard and spoons; Karen Waltuch on viola; and everyone on vocals.

SHOW DETAILS: 4 pm, Saturday, Sept. 5. Roosevelt Live, Riverwalk Commons, Roosevelt Island.  (It’s a short walk from the Roosevelt Island on the F line. Click here for a map) Gloria Deluse opens, followed by Ethan Lipton and his orchestra, a lounge act. Free.