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La Mama on 4th Street in the East Village. (Photo by David Shankbone)

La MaMa Announces 2020-21 Season at Intersection of Live and Virtual

Artist residents for its 59th season include Philip Glass, Murielle Borst-Tarrant, Great Jones Repertory, Split Britches, Jerome Ellis, Yoshiko Chuma, and more.

NEW YORK CITY: La MaMa has announced its 2020-21 season, Breaking It Open, which will explore the creation, performance, and viewing of new work in a pandemic. The announcement includes the naming of the artists who will receive La MaMa Residency Grants, which include the resources to create work at the intersection of online and live theatre performance.

“For 58 years, La MaMa has presented 50-60 productions a season in multiple theatres to nurture as many artists as possible,” said artistic director Mia Yoo in a statement. “But model is not synonymous with mission. La MaMa’s mission was and still is to engage artists and further expand the boundaries and forms of the performing arts. We are not trying to replace in-person theatre. There will always be that, and we will always present live performance in a physical theatre space. However, we need to empower artists to experiment with new tools, reimagine existing forms, and invent new mediums that tell stories and examine our humanity through artistic expression.”

The 2020-21 artist residents include Mellon Foundation playwright-in-residence Murielle Borst-Tarrant; Great Jones Repertory with Dan Safer; composer and pianist Philip Glass; Loco7 Dance Puppet Theatre Company; conceptual artist, choreographer, and activist Yoshiko Chuma; actor and writer Paul Lazar; composer, performer, and writer Jerome Ellis; choreographer and dance artist John Maria Gutierrez; choreographer and director Bobbi Jene Smith; feminist performance duo Split Britches; writer, director, performer, dancer and choreographer Shauna Davis; Seattle-based performer Timothy White Eagle; composer and performer Justin Hicks; puppeteer and director Leah Ogawa; and multidisciplinary theater artist Stacey Karen Robinson.

The season will kick off in September with Vital Sign (Sept. 7-13), a collaboration between La MaMa, CultureHub, and Seoul Institute of the Arts. This world premiere interdisciplinary “telematic” live performance will feature performers and musicians in New York collaborating live with performers and musicians in Seoul.

After that will be the world premiere of artist resident Yoshiko Chuma’s LOVE STORY: School of Hard Knocks (Oct. 1-18), which brings together a mosaic of film, dance, music, visual art, and narratives to continue Chuma’s lifetime investigation of ideas surrounding national security and perceived dangers within borders, immigration, and war.

Next up will be Days and Nights Festival (Nov. 9-15), a festival designed by Philip Glass to nurture the future of the arts while exploring developments in the arts throughout history.

Closing out the fall will be Bobbi Jene Smith’s Revisiting Lost Mountain (Nov. 16-Dec. 6), a new work combining live performance, immersive theatre, and cinema to create a live event in the moment and a video on demand experience after the performance cycle ends.

Additional dates are still to be announced.

La MaMa’s 59th season will also include the continuation of weekly digital programming that grew during the pandemic shutdown. This includes Downtown Variety (which will have a special presentation on Sept. 18, followed by the virtual season launch party), La MaMa Kids Online, Café La MaMa Live, and La MaMa LiveTalks. The season will also feature La MaMa’s ongoing virtual programs: Coffeehouse Chronicles, Poetry Electric, La MaMa Puppet Slam, La MaMa Moves, La MaMa Squirts and Experiments Play Readings.

La MaMa will also launch La MaMa DesignFest, a competition celebrating and supporting emerging theatre designers. The judging committee will include Mimi Lien (scenic), Jiyoun Chang (lighting), Justin Hicks (sound), Gabriel Berry (costume), and Hao Bai (projection). The submission deadline is Sept. 9, with the grand prize being announced on Sept. 29. More information, including application information, can be found on La MaMa’s website.

“The internet is radically shifting the ways artists connect and create,” said Yoo in a statement. “As an experimental theatre, it is important that La MaMa’s artists be part of shaping this virtual space. Adrienne Kennedy created her own nonlinear form of storytelling in the ’60s, breaking the conventions of traditional playwriting. When John Jesurun started dragging TVs onstage in the early ’80s, many people questioned it, but artists need to investigate the mediums of their time.”

Founded in 1961, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club is an Off-Off-Broadway theatre company that produces and presents avant-garde performance works from across the globe.

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