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St. Ann's Warehouse Announces Fall 2020 Season

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Programming includes free, outdoor GET BACK! concerts, a live-broadcast performance of Romantics Anonymous and more.

St. Ann's Warehouse Announces Fall 2020 Season

In October 2001, in the wounded, isolationist aftermath of 9/11, St. Ann's Warehouse opened its first theater in DUMBO, at 38 Water Street, just across the East River from Lower Manhattan. The new location, where the organization had moved after 21 years at the Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights, gave New Yorkers a welcoming, open space, to reconvene, heal, and make sense of a new reality with performances by some of the world's most exciting avant-garde theater-makers and legendary blues musicians. After Sandy devastated the East Coast in October 2012, St. Ann's offered neighbors its second DUMBO warehouse, at 29 Jay Street, for recovery and sustenance. There Yaël Farber brought her South African Mies Julie and Phyllida Lloyd began her Shakespeare Trilogy as paeans to female empowerment.

Now, as New York City struggles to get back on its feet after long COVID-19 shutdowns, and theaters are still months from being able to reopen, St. Ann's Warehouse, which turned 40 this year, has found a range of meaningful ways to program for New Yorkers and more far-flung audiences. This time, instead of welcoming the public in, the organization is bringing art out to the public-activating the theater's landmark exterior with Get Back-style live outdoor music performances on the roof and visual art installations on its brick façade; broadcasting the American Premiere of longtime St. Ann's collaborator Emma Rice's joyous new show Romantics Anonymous, live on stage from the Bristol Old Vic and streamed across the UK and America; and launching a new series of acclaimed, pertinent Legacy Films of historic St. Ann's Warehouse Productions.

Susan Feldman, Founding Artistic Director of St. Ann's Warehouse, said, "In trying to think of how we could give back, support the Black Lives Matter protests, and get artists back to work without the benefit of our indoor space, I was struck by the poignancy of Bill Frisell playing a porch concert with two friends, all wearing masks, sending out the incredible strains of that bold guitar as only he can play it. And it reminded me of a similar feeling I had when I saw the power of the masked protestors in shorts, with bare arms and bare legs, newly pepper sprayed, lined up against the columns of armed police in heavy riot gear. The power of their human effort and vulnerability in the midst of overwhelming grief and loss, and in the face of arrogant impotence and failed leadership, inspired me to turn the building over to vital voices in whatever ways we could. We would deploy the building itself-the roof, the walls, the archways. And if we couldn't invite audiences to gather, we would 'speak' to the people already in the Park."

GET BACK! Concerts on the Roof

This summer, St. Ann's Warehouse launched GET BACK!, a new series that brings world-class musicians to the theater's rooftop to give free, live, unannounced concerts for people strolling or hanging out on the lawn in Brooklyn Bridge Park. With these cultural-life-affirming sets of music, named for the Beatles' legendary surprise 1969 rooftop performance, St. Ann's provides artists with the chance to play together again-in many cases, for the first time in six months-and audiences with the rare nourishment of in-person live music.

GET BACK! kicked off on August 16 with a concert by Grammy-winning guitarist Bill Frisell's trio, including their moving new interpretation of "We Shall Overcome." The series continued on August 19 with Sunny Jain (Red Baraat), the acclaimed bandleader and percussionist who also serves as music director for The Jungle, re-slated to make its triumphant return to St. Ann's Warehouse in 2021. Multi-instrumentalist Eli Fola, joined by cellist El Szilard, followed with the explosive fusion of traditional Nigerian sounds, electronic, jazz, house, and classical music he calls Yoruba Tech Soul, on August 26. Sunny Jain and his band returned on September 2. This week saw performances by The Arturo O'Farrill Family Band and Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog. Coming up are concerts by Bobby Previte and Stew and Baba Bibi.

St. Ann's Warehouse Façade: An Urban Canvas

Street Photography Curated by Kobie Procter

Brooklyn-based street photographer and visual artist Kobie Procter has activated the New Dock Street façade with a series of huge projected photo installations documenting racial justice protests across the U.S. For two months, Procter occupied the walls with large-scale images he had taken of the New York Justice and Equality Riots and Protests of 2020. He then invited iconic downtown New York photographer Janette Beckman's 10 Years of Protest exhibit, featuring images from various history-making demonstrations for racial and social justice of the last decade, and an exhibition by J Boogie, of the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations in New York City . Procter's series concluded with Detroit-based photographer, poet and former police officer Khary Mason, whose work portrays and recognizes, for Black Americans, the interconnectedness of family, neighborhood, and the criminal justice system.

Visual Art in the Archways: Miguel Amortegui - Love in the Time of Corona

The UK-based, Colombian artist Miguel Amortegui's work has previously appeared at St. Ann's Warehouse indoors-and in a different medium: the theater presented photographs from his book Voices of The Jungle in a group exhibition that accompanied the Good Chance/Young Vic/National Theatre/St. Ann's Warehouse production The Jungle. The show will return to St. Ann's and a U.S. tour in 2021-22, having been cancelled in April due to COVID-19.

St. Ann's Urban Canvas will expand to fill the archways and light boxes on Old Dock Street and Water Street with blow-ups of Amortegui's wildly colorful paintings in an exhibit called Love in the Time of Corona. These works, using vibrant colors and intense brush strokes, dramatically convey the humanity and hope of the marginalized and misunderstood. "In my paintings I show the complexity of us humans and our lives-our feelings, passions, sadness, hopes and traumas-filling each stroke with all the colors these feelings have to offer," Amortegui explains.

Exhibition on Old Dock Street and Water Street facades begins later this month.

St. Ann's Warehouse at Home and On Screen

Livestream: Romantics Anonymous (American Premiere)

St. Ann's Warehouse reunites with director Emma Rice, a frequent collaborator since the organization presented the American Premiere of Rice's Brief Encounter in 2009, catapulting the show to an acclaimed Broadway run. Numerous works from the former Artistic Director of Kneehigh and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre have followed, most beloved of which was the timeless Tristan & Yseult. This time Rice returns with a new company, Wise Children, and Romantics Anonymous, a musical, adapted from a French film, that The Guardian has called "a multi-faceted gem, chock-full of love, generosity and joy."

Romantics Anonymous is a delicious love story about breaking the mold. Angélique is so a??timid she faints when people look at her, a??and Jean-René is so awkward he relies on self-help tapes to relieve embarrassing sweating. When she takes a job in his struggling chocolate factorya??, ta??hey find each other anda?? the courage to be happy.

In order to bring Romantics Anonymous to theaters around the world after the show's tour was cancelled due to COVID-19, Wise Children has pioneered a new model for streaming live performance, adapting live TV broadcast from the 1950s by embedding cameras and crew on stage and into the show. Before rehearsals began at the Bristol Old Vic, where the show will be performed and broadcast to UK and international audiences, the entire Romantics Anonymous team was tested for COVID and quarantined together in a large "bubble," allowing the company to perform the show live-with singing, dancing, kissing-from the stage. Major theaters around the world where the show might have toured are joining forces to build audiences and sell tickets.

Performances will be tailored with introductions to each particular theater, and will run September 22 - 26, with the performance on the 26th, at 3:30pm EST, dedicated to the U.S. theaters. St Ann's will also feature an exclusive conversation with Artistic Director Susan Feldman and Emma Rice at 5pm on Sunday, September 27.

Tickets ($20 in advance, $25 day-of) can be purchased at Audiences will be invited to register for the talk.

Based on the film Les Émotifs Anonymes by Jean-Pierre Améris and Philippe Blasband, Romantic Anonymous features a book by Emma Rice, lyrics by Christopher Dimond, and music by Michael Kooman. The Romantics Anonymous virtual tour is co-produced by Wise Children, Bristol Old Vic, and Plush Theatricals. The world premiere of Romantics Anonymous was originally produced by Shakespeare's Globe for the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse by special arrangement with Radio Mouse Entertainment.

Legacy Films

Donmar Warehouse All-Female Shakespeare Trilogy Directed by Phyllida Lloyd

St. Ann's Warehouse screens Phyllida Lloyd's gripping films of the groundbreaking Donmar Warehouse Shakespeare Trilogy. All three plays had their U.S. premieres at St. Ann's: Julius Caesar in 2013, Henry IV in 2016, and The Tempest in 2017.

In the Trilogy, Lloyd empowered all-female casts to play the parts originally written for men. Her metatheatrical approach made the actors inmates in a women's prison assuming the characters in Shakespeare's plays. The layered motif brought out the tense and often brutal power dynamics evoked by Shakespeare, magnified in the context of a prison, designed to isolate and strip people of their agency in a time and place where violence can erupt at any moment. The consequences of social and criminal justice inequities could not be more relevant, and the all-female casts evoke with gusto that raw, tragic pain we relive today.

The diverse casts were led by Dame Harriet Walter, one of the greatest living Shakespearean actors, and included numerous other celebrated performers, such as Cush Jumbo ("The Good Wife", "The Good Fight"), who played Marc Anthony in Lloyd's Julius Caesar. Ben Brantley of The New York Times described the trilogy as "a multilayered act of liberation." Susannah Clapp of The Observer has called it "one of the most important theatrical events of the past 20 years."

In addition to her towering theatre credits, Phyllida Lloyd is a renowned film director whose credits include the Oscar-winning The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep, and the screen adaptation of Mamma Mia! She shot the Shakespeare trilogy films in front of a live audience at The Donmar Warehouse King's Cross in 2016. The footage was edited for the screen to include separately shot, hand-held and GoPro footage, breaking the formality of the traditional live camera "capture" of stage productions.

St. Ann's Warehouse, which presented the American premiere of the films in 2018, now brings them back for a limited engagement, as part of its Fall Legacy Films series, October 9 - November 1. Audiences will have the chance to see the onscreen versions in separate weeks-Julius Caesar, October 9-15; Henry IV, October 16-22; The Tempest, October 23-29-or over the course of one marathon weekend (October 30-November 1). A series of talks will accompany the presentations of the films.

John Cale and Lou Reed's Songs for 'Drella and Lou Reed's Berlin

Many people do not know the pre-DUMBO, musical roots of St. Ann's Warehouse. Upon the tragic loss of Music Producer Hal Willner to COVID-19 this past April, and the public response of St. Ann's audiences to his virtual tribute, it occurred to Artistic Director Susan Feldman that this was a moment to take note of St. Ann's history with politically engaged artists, beginning at the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity. Producing these two seminal concerts defined the daring, risky, and transgressive tone for what St. Ann's Warehouse would eventually become.

St. Ann's Warehouse screens films of two landmark theatricalized concert productions that were also key moments in rock music history. These acclaimed, arresting cinematic documents include John Cale and Lou Reed's Songs for 'Drella - A Fiction, co-commissioned with the Brooklyn Academy of Music and shot by Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Ed Lachman (Carol, Velvet Goldmine) in 1989; and Lou Reed's Berlin, Live at St. Ann's Warehouse, directed by Academy Award nominee Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), who also helmed the 2006 stage production captured on screen. The films are offered free of charge and with newly programmed, contextualizing live conversations. They give home-bound St. Ann's Warehouse audiences access to historic performances that helped cement St. Ann's reputation, over four decades, as a commissioner and producer of major new works at the intersection of theater and rock and roll.

John Cale and Lou Reed's Songs for 'Drella - A Fiction, to screen November 13-19, is an intensely personal tribute to pop artist Andy Warhol, their longtime friend, collaborator, and former manager. The project reunited Cale and Reed for the first time since their notoriously acrimonious split as founders of the pioneering rock band the Velvet Underground nearly two decades earlier (and 50 years ago last month). Their reconnecting, and the work they created in Songs for 'Drella, had all the passions that had brought the two together and driven them apart in the first place.

The song cycle proceeds chronologically through Warhol's life, with poignant post-mortem reflections on his death, expressed in Reed and Cale's raw, literary lyrics and emotionally charged live music. Rolling Stone has described the work as a "shining, tense merger of visions" that rendered Warhol as only those with a close relationship with him could, as "both immediate and mythic." Its title borrows John and Lou's nickname for the iconic artist-an affectionate combination of Dracula and Cinderella.

Songs for 'Drella was commissioned and premiered in 1989 by Arts at St. Ann's, as the organization was then known, at its original home in the Church of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights, and it was performed and filmed later in the year at the BAM Opera House as part of the Next Wave Festival. Inspired by the reconciliation of John and Lou, drummer Moe Tucker and guitarist Sterling Morrison joined them for a European Velvet Underground Reunion tour in 1993.

'Drella now returns at a time when it can once again offer healing and inventiveness in the face of grief.

Director Ed Lachman, who went on to garner wide acclaim as the keen-eyed cinematographer of films by Todd Haynes, Todd Solondz, and Steven Soderbergh, captures the Cale/Reed connection-and their connection to their late friend and mentor-at close range, along with the rich visuals projected on the stage, designed after Warhol by Jerome Sirlin.

After Songs for 'Drella, Reed continued to be a regular at St. Ann's. At Feldman's urging, he returned to a project that had long been a cult favorite but had also been, for Reed, a source of both pride and painful disappointment. He had recorded the Berlin album in 1972, when he was at a peak in his solo career, having just released Transformer, which included the Top 20 hit "Walk on the Wild Side." Expectations were high that Reed would achieve another big commercial success, but, in Berlin, he instead delivered a gorgeously dark concept album about drifting, tormented addicts in love, broken-hearted and self-destructive, on the outskirts of a divided city.

Although now widely recognized as a masterwork, Berlin was panned by critics, didn't approximate the sales of Transformer, and was never performed live. That is, until St. Ann's Warehouse and the Sydney Festival joined forces to produce a fully staged version of the album. It featured additional performances by Sharon Jones, Anohni, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, set design and direction by Julian Schnabel, lighting design by Jennifer Tipton, and musical direction by album producer Bob Ezrin and Hal Willner, a beloved frequent collaborator of both Reed and St. Ann's. Lola Schnabel, Julian's daughter, provided on-stage visuals that imagined the inner world of Berlin central characters Caroline and Jim.

The world premiere at St. Ann's Warehouse-five sold-out performances-was an ecstatic, late-career triumph for Reed, captured on film by the great rock cinematographer Ellen Kuras (Dave Chappelle's Block Party, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). Reviewing the concerts for The New York Times, Jon Pareles wrote, "Berlin was less startling but no less ambitious or, in the end, touching. The music stayed rightfully at center stage: close to the album's original arrangements, but with more room for guitar solos, more clarity and the immediacy and dynamics of a concert. Mr. Reed wasn't revisiting his songs as oldies or artifacts; he was reinhabiting them."

When it was released theatrically in 2008, Stephen Holden, in a Critic's Pick review for the Times, called Schnabel's Berlin: Live at St. Ann's Warehouse "a grimly majestic concert film." St. Ann's Warehouse gives it a rare showing, November 20-26.

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