La MaMa 2022-2023 Season

World-premieres by  John Kelly, Erik Ehn, Elizabeth Swados, Witness Relocation/Dan Safer, Bobbie Jene Smith and Ping Chong, along with the live, in-person stage debut of Split Britches’s 2021 digital production LAST GASP and the first-ever revival of Maria Irene Fornes’ EVELYN BROWN are among the productions that highlight La MaMa ETC’s 61st anniversary season

These works by artists long-associated with La MaMa will be joined by world and U.S. premieres by theater artists from Croatia, Italy, Slovenia, Ukraine, Brazil, Japan and Iceland over the course of the 2022-23 season during which La MaMa will present more than 40 theater, music, dance and puppet productions from eight countries along with projects at the intersection of art and technology by CultureHub, the ever-popular La MaMa Kids and exhibitions at La MaMa Galleria and La MaMa’s other ongoing programs. The season’s theme – “Remake a World” – will be reflected throughout the season, as well as in La MaMa’s gala on November 10 during which the company will celebrate the start of its 7th decade…

Ping Chong – who has debuted works at La MaMa throughout the five decades of his distinguished career – will celebrate the 50th anniversary of PING CHONG + COMPANY with the world-premiere of LAZARUS from September 29-October 16 in La MaMa’s Downstairs Theatre (66 E. 4 St. in NYC). This production marks Ping’s final work with the Company as Artistic Director. LAZARUS is described as an interdisciplinary meditation on the resurrected man, transplanted from its Biblical setting to the urban purgatory of New York City.

LAST GASP: RECALIBRATION by Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver, aka SPLIT BRITCHES, debuted digitally during La MaMa’s 2020 lockdown season and will now have its official stage debut with performances at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (66 E. 4 St.) October 13-30. Landing somewhere between the realms of live and virtual, present and absent, between staying home and venturing out, LAST GASP – about how to survive a loss – combines spoken word, movement and Zoom technology to respond to the world we live in now. LAST GASP is one of several pandemic-era theater works that debuted online but are now getting live, in-person stage productions. In a New York Times feature on Split Britches in 2020, Elisabeth Vincentelli called LAST GASP “not just one of the 40-year-old company’s best pieces, but among the most evocative art to emerge from the Covid era.” 

Heirloom: Mindanao Pusaka (October 20-23, 2022 – The Downstairs) by Kinding Sindaw, a resident company from the Southern Philippines celebrates their 30th Anniversary with another edition from the Mindanao performance series that explores themes of displacement, resilience, and collective healing through ancestral arts. 

THE HISTORY OF EMPIRES by Witness Relocation/Dan Safer (world-premiere) is a dance-theater work about exorcism, dystopia and happiness co-created by ballet dancer Marcus McGregor (DTH) and composer Christian Frederickson, based on text by Chuck Mee (BIG LOVE, FIRST LOVE, TRUE LOVE). This marks Safer’s eighth production with La MaMa. His previous works include UBU SINGS UBU. Witness Relocation formed by Safer in 2000, has performed extensively at Abrons Arts Center, Bushwick Starr, Dixon Place and American Repertory Theatre. THE HISTORY OF EMPIRES runs October 27-November 6 at the Downstairs Theatre. 

BETSY is a world premiere dance performance work by Neil Greenberg, made in collaboration with Zeena Parkins and James Lo (composers), Michael Stiller (lighting design), and Paul Hamilton and Opal Ingle (dancers). BETSY is a subject that does, acts, and performs, but that may remain elusively challenging to get a handle on. (November 12-20, 2022 – The Downstairs)

The fantastical life of Samuel Steward (1909-1993) is the subject of John Kelly’s new dancetheater work, UNDERNEATH THE SKINAn openly gay novelist, tattoo artist, sexual outlier and author or erotic fiction, Steward counted amongst his friends Gertrude Stein and Andre Gide, and took as lovers Rudolph Valentino, Lord Alfred Douglas, and Rock Hudson. Combining Steward’s actual words with his tattoo designs and erotic illustrations along with movement, UNDERNEATH THE SKIN is a salute to a queer rebel, creative spirit and social outsider. Steward was a meticulous keeper of records, right up to his death at 84; Kelly’s new show provides a unique window into a gay man who lived authentically. Performances at the Ellen Stewart Theatre, December 1-18.

THE WEAK AND THE STRONGrunning December 8-18, is Erik Ehn’s new play inspired by the apostle Paul’s letters to the Romans and Hebrews, with a contemporary update about a rodeo rider too old to be riding and how his family struggles with the right ways to care for his emotional and physical well-being. (world-premiere)

La MaMa will present two productions as part of the 2023 UNDER THE RADAR FESTIVAL: Timothy White Eagle’s THE INDIGO ROOM (January 5-15) a ritual theater piece inspired by Native American beliefs and traditions; and the music-theater production GILGAMESH & ENKIDU (world-premiere, January 12-22) by Seth Bockley, Ahmed Moneka and Jesse LaVercombe about an exile from Iraq searching for a new home in Canada. The piece is performed by Moneka and LaVercombe, accompanied by Moneka Arabic Jazz ensemble.

TURINGOV STROJ is a new work from Croatia and Slovenia, written by Benoit Soles. (US premiere January 19-29 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre). Inspired by Hugh Whitemore’s play BREAKING THE CODE and based on the book ALAN TURNING: THE ENIGMA by Andrew Hudges, the play is Soles’s take on how his life as a scientist outlined the foundations of modern computer science and its complicated legacy. TURINGOV STROJ is created by Mini Theater, a Slovenian theater with a long history of avant-garde work, begun by Robert Aslti and Ivica Buljan in 1999. A Croatian, Ivica Buljan is director of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb. 

Written by Marco MartinelliFEDELI D’AMORE is a stage poem combining Dante and contemporary text about love and how it is what makes us rebel. The work is a vehicle for the renowned Italian actress Ermanna Montanari, known worldwide for her vocal research and voice studies, and recipient of the 2018 Best Italian Actress Award. Martinelli and Montanari are founders of Teatro delle Albe. US premiere January 26-February 12 in The Downstairs.

THE CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS by Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre (world-premiere February 2-19, Ellen Stewart Theatre) is a puppet rock opera about humans yearning to fly. Based on Peter Sis’s award-winning illustrations inspired by Farid ud-Din Attar’s acclaimed 12th century Sufi poem, BIRD is created by the Czech-born Peter Sis, composer Michael Kocab from Prague, and the acclaimed Irish writer Seamus Heaney. Directed by Vit Horejs, this long-anticipated collaboration had been stymied by attempted censorship, exile, and persecution in Central Europe. Newly immigrated from Prague, the Marionette Theatre was founded in 1990 and remains dedicated to creating new work based on the well-known marionette traditions of their homeland.  

RADIO 477! by Yara Arts Group (US premiere) will run March 9-19 at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre. This new music-theater production is adapted from the 1929 revue HELLO, THIS IS RADIO 477! by the avant-garde Soviet-Ukrainian theater troupe Berezil in Kharkiv, a network of studios, museums and a theater school that was influential in the Russia and Ukraine from 1922-33. Structured like the popular German revues of that era – equal parts satire, dance and drama – RADIO 477! is inspired by the songs of the renowned 20th-century Ukrainian composer Yuliy Meitus, who wrote 14 operas, numerous orchestral works and hundreds of songs. Virlana Tkacz directs.

Several puppetry arts productions will be featured in the new season at La MaMa, starting with the return – by popular demand – of LUNCH WITH SONIA by Loco 7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company, La MaMa’s resident puppet troupe (March 16-26). Directed by Denise Greber and Federico Restrepo, LUNCH WITH SONIA was a breakout hit last season during the International Puppet Festival at La MaMa, when Laura Collins-Hughes of The New York Times wrote that LUNCH WITH SONIA is “achingly beautiful.”

Other puppet productions include February performances of LA MAMA PUPPET SLAM curated by Jane Catherine Shaw; and THE HIP HOPERA OF 5P1N0K10 by Tarish Pipkins a.k.a. Jeghetto. Set in an alternate timeline, The Hip Hopera of 5P1N0K10 imagines a years-long war as a reaction to the African nations uniting and banning Eurasian countries and corporations from the continent. 

From March 23-April 2 in the Downstairs, the Brazilian Companhia Nova de Teatro will present A SCREAM IN THE DARK (US premiere), a new multimedia play about dictatorship and censorship in Brazil from 1964-85. Based on the testimonies and letters of political prisoners, the play focuses on women who were arrested and tortured during the Brazilian Military Regime. Directed by Lenerson Polonini, a founder of Companhia Nova de Teatro in 2001.  

ICELAND, an original two-act opera (world premiere) will be performed at the Ellen Stewart Theatre March 23-April 2. Written and composed by O-Lan Jones and Emmett Tinley, ICELAND is a contemporary love story steeped in the living mythology of Iceland: a chance encounter between an architect and a wilderness guide embark on journeys across the Langjokull Glacier, rich in the cultural history of The Hiddenfolk and the Mythic Beasts. Among the numerous instruments for which ICELAND is scored is the traditional dulcimer-like Icelandic langspil.

BROKEN THEATER by Bobbi Jene Smith (world-premiere) is a dance-theater and music work that considers what happens when the audience leaves and the lines between the part you play and the person you are disappear. Created within the walls of La MaMa (April 20—30 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre), BROKEN THEATER is the latest offering from Smith, a former member of Batsheva Dance Company. Her previous works include A STUDY ON EFFORT, WITH CARE, and LOST MOUNTAIN at La MaMa in 2019.

From April 27-May 7 in The Downstairs, the world-premiere of HONG KONG MISSISSIPPI written and performed by Wesley DuCraig Belknapof Direct Theatre will direct this solo play about a young Chinese boy whose unhappy home life forces him to break away from his Asian upbringing and find solace in an African American community.  

The first-ever revival of EVELYN BROWN (A DIARY) by the late Maria Irene Fornés will be presented May 18 – June 4 in the Downstairs Theatre. Directed by Alice Reagan, EVELYN BROWN is described as a moving meditation of the nature of women’s work. A Cuban-American playwright – and winner of nine Obie Awards – Fornés remains beloved for her singular body-of-work that includes FEFU AND HER FRIENDS, MUD, SARITA, and LETTERS FROM CUBA.  

Previously postponed due to the pandemic, the late Elizabeth Swados’s musical BEAUTIFUL LADYwill have its world-premiere at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (May 2023).  Directed by Anne Bogart, THE BEAUTIFUL LADY is set in an artists’ café during the Russian Revolution and is comprised of the poetry by influential writers of the time. The piece considers what happens when a revolution turns on itself and begins to persecute its own. Until her death in 2016, the iconoclastic composer Liz Swados was one of Ellen Stewart’s earliest and most frequent collaborators at La MaMa with a wide range of works that include LA CELSTINA, MEDEA, THE GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN and MYTHOS OEDIPUS. Her popular work RUNAWAYS earned an Obie Award and was nominated for a Tony Award in 1978.

THE DARK STAR FROM HARLEM: The Spectacular Rise of Josephine Baker by Glynn Borders and Mario E. Sprouse (June 2023). This musical follows 19-year-old Josephine Baker, arriving in Paris for the first time, as a cast member of La Revue Negre, an all-Negro performance troupe from Harlem. Their mission: introduce the French to a new music called jazz and the dance that went along with it, the Charleston. 

ONCE UPON EL BARRIO by Enrique Cruz, artistic director of Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company will debut November 17-20 at the Ellen Stewart Theatre.  Marking the company’s 50th anniversary, EL BARRIO is inspired by the writings of Piri Thomas (DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS) and celebrates the movement, sounds and rhythms of Spanish Harlem.  

Other works of note included in La MaMa’s upcoming season:

–EXPERIMENTS IN STORYTELLING by Culture Hub – exploring the potential of emerging technologies to create dynamic and engaging live storytelling experiences.

–LA MAMA SQUIRTS, annual festival of new queer performance

— the much-celebrated LA MAMA MOVES! Festival April 6-23

–NEW WORK by the experimental choreographer YOSHIKO CHUMA (June 1 – 4)

Throughout the season, LA MAMA KIDS will present family-friendly programs featuring dance and puppetry performances, workshops and demonstrations, a dance hula workshop and crafts building and storytelling by a wide range of artists from Lady Xok, Marina Celander, William Electric Black, Loco7 Dance Puppet Theatre, Tom Lee, Leah Ogawa, and Sova Dance and Puppetry.

LA MAMA GALLERIA (47 Great Jones St.) will exhibit works by Tura Oliveira, Alex Chowaniec, Helen Lavelle, and other artists and filmmakers during La MaMa’s 61st Season, as well.

La MaMa Coffeehouse Chronicles continues this season, beginning on Saturday, October 1st, celebrating the life of actor GEORGE BARTENIEFF. Other Coffeehouse Chronicles this season will include LOCO 7 DANCE PUPPET THEATRE COMPANYO-LAN JONES, and ANNE BOGART.

La MaMa also announces that its 61st Season Resident Artists will include: Tristan Allen, Stefanie Batten-Bland, Pat Catterson, Dream Adoption Society, Kayla Farrish, Deepali Gupta  and Maiko Kikuchi.