FEED was delighted to host an extraordinary talkback after a recent performance of Jackie Sibblies Drury’s WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT… The topic, What Is Meta-Theater?, was approached with lightness, sagacity and great humor via the expert moderation of Hilton Als (New Yorker theater critic) and his three hand-picked guests: Young Jean Lee (Director and Playwright), Mark Russell (Artistic Director, Under The Radar Festival) and performer/singer Helga Davis (Soho Rep’s JOMAMA JONES: RADIATE and most recently the Philip GLass/Robert Wilson/Lucinda Childs’ epic EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH).
HELGA DAVIS is a New York based artist. She is presently staring in the 25th anniversary production Einstein on the Beach by Robert Wilson and Philip Glass, Oceanic Verses, by Paola Prestini which had its debut at the Kennedy Center in June and returned to BAM’s Next Wave Festival in Elsewhere, a new multi-media opera featuring cellist Maya Beiser with music by Missy Mazzoli. This past summer she was the Artist-in-Residence at The Park Avenue Armoury. Previously she was the co-star of The Temptation of St. Anthony, also directed by Robert WIlson with libretto and score by Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock, as well as The Blue Planet by Peter Greenaway and directed by Saaskia Boddeke. In March 2007 Davis began hosting Overnight Music on WNYC and was awarded the ASCAP Deems Taylor Multimedia Award for hosting 24:33: twenty-four hours and thirty-three minutes of the playful and playable John Cage. Robert Wilson says of Helga, “Helga Davis is a beautiful, natural performer with an inner power and strength that is truly unique. She combines voice and movement in a united whole that is spellbinding. Her genius in her stillness and quietness evoke a very deep emotion. She is radiant in every way.”
YOUNG JEAN LEE is a playwright and director who has been called “the most adventurous downtown playwright of her generation” by the New York Times and “one of the best experimental playwrights in America” by Time Out New York. She has written and directed nine shows in New York with Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company and toured her work to over thirty cities around the world. Her plays have been published by Theatre Communications Group (Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven and Other Plays, The Shipment and Lear) and by Samuel French (Three Plays by Young Jean Lee). She is currently under commission from Plan B/Paramount Pictures, Lincoln Center Theater, Playwrights Horizons, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She is a member of New Dramatists and 13P and has an MFA from Mac Wellman’s playwriting program at Brooklyn College. She has received grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Creative Capital, NYFA, NEA, NYSCA, the Jerome Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the Rockefeller MAP Foundation. She is also the recipient of two OBIE awards, the Festival Prize of the Zuercher Theater Spektakel, a 2010 Prize in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2012 Doris Duke Artist Award.
MARK RUSSELL is the Director of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival coming up this January 9-20. Russell began Under the Radar in 2005 as a pre-conference symposium for the Associate of Performing Arts Presenters. The festival moved to the Public Theater in 2006 and has been a core part of its programming ever since. From 1983-2004 Russell was the Executive/Artistic Director of Performance Space 122.
HILTON ALS became a staff writer at The New Yorker in October, 1994, and a theatre critic in 2002. He began contributing to the magazine in 1989, writing pieces for The Talk of the Town. Before coming to The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. He has also written articles for The Nation and collaborated on film scripts for “Swoon” and “Looking for Langston.” Als edited the catalogue for the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition entitled “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art,” which ran from November, 1994, to March, 1995. His first book, The Women, a meditation on gender, race, and personal identity, was published in 1996. In 1997, the New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He was awarded a Guggenheim for Creative Writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002-03. In 2009, Als worked with the performer Justin Bond on “Cold Water,” an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and videos by performers, at La MaMa Gallery. In 2010, he co-curated “Self-Consciousness,” at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin, and published Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis, his second book. Als has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College. He lives in New York City.