Con Edison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter, Issue No. 54
Pangea: Readings & Performances
On January 17, NYFA Curator and Director of Programs David Terry and Producing Director Jonathan Cerullo collaborated to transform NYFA’s office and exhibition space into a live performance space.
Through dramatic lighting, a staging platform and skillful use of the open floor-plan, Cerullo and his team created three multi-dimensional stages for a mostly standing audience. Once the stage was set, the performers included the audience on their global journey through dance, poetry, prose, and music. The performances — much like the continents that formed Pangea — connected the audience with one another and with the performers.
The evening started with Jorge Montalvo, Director of the Office for New Americans, who spoke passionately about the need for more support for immigrant artists through programming like NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Program. Luna Atamin, NYC Manager of FWD.us, continued by adding the importance of empowering the immigrant artist population by passing comprehensive immigration reform.
As the lights dimmed, focus shifted to the first of the three stages as the audience listened intently to Death of an Idealist, a dramatic monologue directed by Barbara Rubin and performed by Megan Metrikin, both from South Africa. As described by Rubin, the piece is based on documentary material, found text, a book of the same title by Beverley Naidoo, and an interview with Elizabeth Floyd by Joseph Lelyveld that appeared in the NY Times in 1983. When asked about her experience, Rubin said, “It was so exciting to participate in an event with other performing artists. The spirit of creativity and community was inspiring. I hope it was the first of many for NYFA.”
After a short pause, Ephrat Asherie took the audience to Brazil, where dance performances can take place at any moment and anywhere, saying: “The solo I performed at Pangea was inspired by my recent trip to Brazil, made possible through a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant. Dancing in NYFA’s beautiful gallery space was intimate, and it was the perfect space to experiment with ideas of audience interaction and blurring the lines between performance and social gathering. It was a wonderful event to be a part of.“ The audience created the dance floor, and as the Ephrat began moving through the audience, they encouraged the crowd to join in the dance, creating a feeling of joy and community. (To view Ephrat’s performance of Brasil Pandeiro, click here) Full video of the performances coming out soon.
Dance continued as the next performer, Martita Abril, expressed the duality of the immigrant experience in an intensely powerful piece. Abril made a circular border between herself and the audience with blue painter’s tape; she also used the same tape to draw a line to ‘divide’ herself in half, explaining, “I chose Bifur/cacion for the Pangea performance because the piece is inspired by a feeling of being divided into two distinct separate cultural and social identities—an underlying theme to my own life—and a theme that I thought was relevant. The piece travels, and the space allowed for the audience to view from various vantage points.” The piece concluded with Abril’s removing the dividing tape from her body to create arrows on the floor, which led her on a new path right out the front door of NYFA’s offices. Afterward, Abril stated: “I want to thank everyone that helped to make this event possible; it was truly an honor to participate.”
The audience was further moved by the compelling, inspiring and humorous poetry and prose of the literary artists showcased that night: Amy Lawless, Grace Jahng Lee, and Carlos Cesar Valle. Finally, audience and performers alike were taken to the final of the three stages through the language of music. Composer Octavio Vazquez created a listening station for the piece he composed. Addressing his work and his experience in the Immigrant Artist Program, Vazquez said, “I wrote the ‘Guernica’ piano trio prompted by the massive, unresolved trauma of the Spanish Civil War and subsequent dictatorship. It is both one of my best pieces and one of the best recordings of my work currently available. It just seemed like the perfect item to showcase at Pangea.” After solo performances from Oded Tzur and Neil Rolnick, the evening concluded with a never-before-performed improv piece that included musicians Volker Goetze, Oded Tzur, and Neil Rolnick, with visuals by Joshue Ott. The warm pink light, visual effects and electronic and brass instruments created a cacophony of sound which mesmerized the audience.
Pangea curator David Terry concluded:
"When curating this exhibition and subsequent performance, I never could have imagined how wonderfully exciting and inspiring the event would be for everyone involved. The multi-disciplinary performances and collaborations takes me back to what our Earth, Pangea, may have been like 300 million years ago … all inhabitants living and creating together collectively in one space.”
— By Jennifer Catton, Program Associate, NYFA Learning/Professional Development