Whitebox Pleasures at 14th Street Gallery Theater, Manhattan

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Manhattan’s Theaterlab, led by Carlo Altomare and Orietta Crispino, has launched a new gallery theater space at 137 West 14th Street, 2nd floor (between 6th and 7th Avenues), to present an ongoing program of interdisciplinary theater and art events. The space is a white box theater, a reflective and meditative canvas in which the immediacy and intimacy of the creative act becomes the drama of the performance. It is both literally and virtually situated between the worlds of art and theatre.

Naoki Iwakawa and Carlo Altomare in Excavation, an action painting event.
Naoki Iwakawa and Carlo Altomare in Excavation, an action painting event, to be presented April 3 and 10 by Theaterlab in its 14th Street Gallery Theater. Photo by Orietta Crispino.

Theaterlab’s season includes a series of collaborative projects and unique performance experiences, from action painting to live installations, headined by “Appearance – A Suspense In Being,” an original theater work created by the company and directed by Carlo Altomare and Orietta Crispino.

Carlo Altomare is America’s foremost authority on Meyerhold’s Biomechanics, a former member of the Living Theatre, a director and composer. Orietta Crispino is a director from the Italian stage, performance artist and writer. They met in New York 10 years ago and have focused their work on examining the interplay of the fundamental elements of their art.

The series of arts events to be presented in Theaterlab’s 14th Street Gallery Theater are interdependent, creating a thread of continuity which always points back to the theater. Altomare writes, “There’s a intrinsic and dynamic incongruity in the idea that an art installation, which you could see in a gallery, is shown at a ‘theatre.’ It creates a question, a displacement, that seems vital to us in order to rethink the theatre and its function.” He adds, “Theaterlab is a laboratory of real-time experiments. It addresses both artistic questions about the theater and theatrical questions about. It is a place where unique performances are shown, a place for germination at the crossroad of Theatre and Art. We want to open and expand the way we think about the theatre and the way we think about art.”

SCHEDULE

Naoki Iwakawa with projection.
Naoki Iwakawa with projection.

April 3 and 10, 2008

“Excavation,” an action painting event with Naoki Iwakawa (action painting), Carlo Altomare (prepared piano), Jay Eckardt (video projections) and Terrence Kelleman (body art).

Art is everywhere. But what is the creative process for the artist? Naoki Iwakawa uses his physically dynamic action painting events to record the process of surrender and discovery. Mr. Iwakawa literally throws himself at the canvas, splashes paints from shallow bowls and blows pigments from the palm of his hand. His performances are always done in collaboration with improvising musicians who also work to provide a barrage of dynamic and rapidly changing musical fields. The result is both meditative and dynamically kinetic, a kind of “crisis Zen.”

A single large canvas is painted in a series of 13 sessions creating layers of hidden paintings. Altomare accompanies each session and Eckhardt records and simultaneously projects video fro the previous sessions on the canvas. The object is to create a kind of archeological art object which contains in a single canvas the buried evidence of the series of painting performance events.

These sessions began privately and will now open out into public performances. When the series is finished the canvas will be presented in an installation with documentation (slides, video projections, audio, various objects) which offer evidence of the process at different stages.

Audience members will receive the passwords to bid on the work product of “Excavations” in a private online auction.

Life on the Diagonal, a quirky evening of storytelling, through monologues, original music and spoken word, performed by Barbara Colacello
Life on the Diagonal, a deliciously quirky evening of storytelling, through monologues, original music and spoken word, performed by Barbara Colacello, will be presented April 2426 by Theaterlab in its 14th Street Gallery Theater.

“Life on the Diagonal,” a deliciously quirky evening of storytelling, through monologues, original music and spoken word, performed by Barbara Colacello

This one woman show celebrates life’s mysteries and imperfections with humor, sexuality and a little madness. Colacello steers us on a bumpy ride that weaves and diverges from her Italian Catholic upbringing in New York to her present incarnation as a wife, mother and artist. Barbara Colacello was an intimate of the Warhol Factory scene in the ’70s and is now holed up in North Florida. Her brother, Bob Colacello, founded Interview Magazine. His most recent book is “Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up.”

Vanessa Cuccia, Liza Cassidy, and Leila Gaudin in Appearance A Suspense in Being.
Vanessa Cuccia, Liza Cassidy, and Leila Gaudin in Appearance A Suspense in Being, presented by Theaterlab in its 14th Street Gallery Theater. Photo by Orietta Crispino.

“Appearance – A Suspense in Being,” an evening of Jazz Acting (World Premiere)

“Appearance – A Suspense In Being” is a performance piece about acting. It is the centerpiece of Theaterlab’s Spring season and represents a fundamental component of their investigative work into the theatre: the actor as artist. Carlo Altomare and Orietta Crispino have devised a performance structure which focuses primarily on the actor’s work revealed to the audience in a series of solo “exhibits” and group improvs. These are rendered a special technique called “Jazz Acting” which draws from Meyerhold’s Biomechanical etudes and applies them to a contemporary sensibility of radical discontinuity, repetition, and cognitive velocity. A centerpiece text is taken from the poetry of Octavio Paz which expresses the issue of the experience of being, the self, and the other. Other verbal and nonverbal texts are drawn from the actors’ unconscious and their reporting in real time about their experience and intention.

Vibeke Jensen and Orietta Crispino in Camera Obscura
Vibeke Jensen and Orietta Crispino in Camera Obscura, a live installation, to be presented by Theaterlab in its 14th Street Gallery Theater May 23 to 30. Photo by Vibeke Jensen.

May 23 to 30, 2008

“Camera Obscura,” a live installation with Orietta Crispino and Vibeke Jensen

“Camera Obscura” is an still life performance that started as a collaboration between an eye and a wounded body. Intimate close-ups were captured with a camera in one hand and a light in the other. The body is portrayed as a container of memory, identity and history. Its surface carrying ever changing signs and evidence of past events. The surrounding wall, a witness of human action with its own cracks and scars; layers of peeled off paint, wear and tear, a long gone nail, was investigated using the same tools. Inside a room, the visitor encounters a black alcove in which a body is resting; the light from a slide projector, operated by Jensen, alternately illuminates the front and back of the living torso. Projected close-up images of folds, scars and marks on the skin, and cracks in the wall, are transforming this still life in front of our eyes. Spectators have the sensation of looking at the body for the first time. Poetic and hypnotic, the encounter lasts for four hours between the photographic eye of Vibeke Jensen, the body of Orietta Crispino, and the public.

AUDIENCE INFORMATION

Information on events presented by Theaterlab in its 14th Street Gallery Theater can be obtained by calling (212) 929-2545. The organization’s website is www.theaterlabnyc.com. Online ticketing is available through SMARTTIX, 212-868-4444; www.smarttix.com.

Jonathan Slaff is a New York publicist in the specialty of international cultural events. Jonathan and his writers keep us ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.