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Selected Performance Works
Directed/Dramaturged by Carla Blank

Archival Source Material
choreographed by
Suzushi Hanayagi and Carla Blank
included in
KOOL - Dancing In My Mind  (2009)
a collaboration by Robert Wilson,
Carla Blank and Richard Rutkowski
in homage to choreographer/ dancer
Suzushi Hanayagi (1928-2010)

Suzushi Hanayagi (L) and Carla Blank (R) performing Part III's picture score of "Wall St. Journal (1966),"
that was reinterpreted by the six dancers in KOOL (2009-10).
Photo by Isamu Kawai.

KOOL, a multi-media performance portrait of legendary Japanese choreographer and dancer Suzushi Hanayagi, premiered at NYC's Guggenheim Museum, Works & Process Series, April 17 & 18, 2009, was further developed at East Hampton's Guild Hall, in August 2009, and in 2010 enjoyed its international debut at Berlin's Akademie der Künste and a showing at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. A review on the Huffington Post described the August performance as "sublime." Carla Blank served as dramaturge and choreographer in this collaboration with director Robert Wilson and filmmaker Richard Rutkowski. KOOL combined live dance with archival material from the 1960s through the 1990s and newly filmed material. The work reflected Suzushi Hanayagi's state of dementia during the time the work was created (2008-09) and served as a poetic monument to the artists' working friendships. In 2010, "SUZUSHI HANAYAGI: A Moving Life," a short film by Richard Rutkowski including KOOL research and performance materials, premiered on French television followed by U.S. showings on Sundance Channel. In January 2012, "The Space in Back of You," a 65-minute film by Richard Rutkowski premiered at Lincoln Center's annual film festival, Dance on Camera. It collages many interviews with artists who collaborated with Ms. Hanayagi, including Carla Blank, with archival photographs, videos, and clips from the Guggenheim rehearsals and performance.

 

 

Suzushi Hanayagi (L) and Carla Blank (R) performing Part III of "Wall St. Journal," an improvisation based on a picture score assembled in 1965-66, from newspaper and magazine sources, when the Vietnam War was waging. First performed in 1966 at Judson Memorial Church, this picture score became the source of another improvisation, by the six dancers in "KOOL - Dancing in My Mind."  Photo by Isamu Kawai.

Carla Blank (R) and Suzushi Hanayagi (L) performing a section of Wall St. Journal (1966) that was performed by Sally Gross and Meg Harper in KOOL (2009). Photo by Isamu Kawai.

Carla Blank as "Cat Woman with Sticks" ("Work," MA Thesis Concert,  Mills College Concert Hall, 1972).  For KOOL (2009-2010) six sequences from this score developed by Suzushi Hanayagi and Carla Blank, were performed as solos by the six (unmasked) dancers (Jonah Bokaer, CC Chang, ILLenk Gentile, Sally Gross, Meg Harper, Yuki Kawahisa). These moments, with their considerable clatter, ended the work's six sections, and in later performances the wood sticks, a favorite prop of Suzushi Hanayagi, reappeared to be dropped by all six performers, one by one, at the end the performance.  Photographer unknown.

 

Carla Blank (L) & Suzushi Hanayagi (R) performing "2 Face Dance," in Ghost Dance at Sogetsu Hall, Tokyo, 1973, a score reinterpreted by Jonah Bokaer and Illenk Gentile in KOOL (2009-10). Photographer unknown.

Suzushi Hanayagi (L) and Carla Blank (R) perform "Phony Original Men" in a 1978 performance of Animuls at the Oakland Museum. CC Chang and Yuki Kawahisa performed a reconstruction of this duet in KOOL. Photo by John Roberts

THE DOMESTIC CRUSADERS
by Wajahat Ali

The 2009  Nuyorican Poets Cafe production's Domestic Crusaders' family gathered for a family photograph on the day of the youngest son's 21st birthday,  with (L to R) Salahuddin, the eldest son (Kamran Khan), Fatima, the daughter (Monisha Shiva), Ghafur, the youngest son (Adeel Ahmed), Salmon, the father (Imran Javaid), Khulsoom, the mother (Nidhi Singh) and seated, the grandfather Hakim (Abbas Zaidi)

From 2003 through 2011 Blank served as dramaturge and director of The Domestic Crusaders, the first play by Muslim Pakistani American playwright Wajahat Ali. Starting from a standing room only staged reading at a restaurant in Newark, California, showcase productions were mounted in 2005 at the Thrust Theatre (of Berkeley Repertory Theatre) and San Jose State University Theatre. An Off Broadway 2009 five week standing room only production at the Nuyorican Poets Café garnered wide media acclaim, followed by an international debut at the 2010 MuslimFest in Mississauga, Canada, an 11/14/2010 appearance at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Hall in Washington, D.C., and a showcase production as the anchor for The 9/11 Performance Project at NYC's Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College in September 2011. A 28 minute video, "The Making of 'The Domestic Crusaders," based on the Nuyorican performances is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-ySND7o-6Y.  Photographer unknown.

News From Fukushima:
meditation on an under-reported  catastrophe by a poet
a multidisciplinary performance work by Yuri Kageyama
 

The actor/dancers, musicians, crew, director, and playwright (second from left), following the 2015 premiere in The Club at La Mama in New York City, September 11-13, 2015. Photo by Tennessee Reed.
 

Yuri Kageyama's News from Fukushima premiered in September 2015 at La MaMa, one of New York's most venerated Off-Broadway theaters. It was developed in July 2017 performances at Z Space, a theater presenting new works in San Francisco. A documentary film of the 2017 performance by Yoshiaki Tago premiered at the 2019 Berkeley Video & Film Festival, where it received a Grand Festival Award: cine-dance poem, and continued to gather recognition at over thirty international film festivals.

Takemi Kitamura created this sword dance, inspired by a line dance from Aizu, the westernmost region of Fukushima, where annually it is offered in remembrance of 19 of the over 300 Byakkotai warriors, teen-age sons of samurais in the White Tiger Battalion who in 1868, during the Boshin Civil War, committed ritual disembowelment (seppuku or hara-kiri) because they mistakenly believed a fire had consumed their lord's castle, which would mean their city had been captured and their families killed. For me, this dance particularly resonates because of where it comes from, how contemporary its formal choices appear, and how as the strokes of the blades go every which direction, it become a metaphor for the ways life can slice us also. Photo by Annette Dorfman.

"Prelude: Hiroshima," a shadow dance by the actor/dancers (Takemi Kitamura with Shigeko Suga and Monisha Shiva), Z Space performance, July 8-9, 2017. Photo by Tennessee Reed.

 

Monisha Shiva as the Poet (C) with Takemi Kitamura (L) and Shigeko Sara Suga (R) delivers "Little Yellow Slut." Z Space, San Francisco, 2017. Photo by Tennessee Reed.

 

"Mythical Monsters" with Monisha Shiva (front), Takemi Kitamura (center), Shigeko Sara Suga (back) in the Club at La Mama performance, 2015. Photo by Tennessee Reed.

Actor dancers Shigeko Sara Suga (c) and Monisha Shiva  (r) holding Takemi Kitamura (inside standard nuclear waste containment bag) with projection of nuclear waste storage area by Yoshiaki Tago. Photo by Tennessee Reed.

 

The Slave Who Loved Caviar,
a theatrical investigation into the relationship between Jean Michel-Basquiat and Andy Warhol
by Ishmael Reed

Following the example of Andy Warhol, Baron De Whit (Raul Diaz, L), a vampire and artist, comes to an agreement with his agent Antonio Wolfe (Jesse Bueno, R) to hire a young Black grafitti artist to save the Baron's art career. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Following virtual readings hosted by the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Slave Who Loved Caviar premiered in a full production at NYC's Theater for the New City from December 23, 2021 through January 9, 2022.

 

Reed writes: "My play...challenged the perception promoted by the Manhattan art industry that painter Jean-Michel Basquiat was Andy Warhol's "mascot." Or that it was because of Warhol's beneficence that Basquiat, born of Haitian and Puerto Rican parents, became famous.  Warhol's reputation was declining when he began the collaboration, and according to some observers, Basquiat's 'new blood' resurrected Warhol."

 

In a cartoon styled play-within-the-play, Reed offers a campy vampire son of Dracula, Baron de Whit, whose agent Antonio Wolfe convinces him to find a young, Black graffiti artist to give his work "new blood," while a parallel investigation by two forensic experts working within the New York Police Department seek to solve who was responsible for the death of Basquiat at the age of twenty-eight because, as one of the forensic experts explains, "Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero." 

 

 

NYPD Forensic Experts I: Grace (Laura Robards, L.) and II: Raksha (Monisha Shiva, R), doubting the popular wisdom that Basquiat died of a heroin overdose, reopen the cold case in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. Photo by Tennessee Reed.

 

Young Blood (Brian Anthony Simmons), a brash grafitti artist in shorts made from the Black Nationalist Flag, berates down on his luck abstract painter Jack Brooks (Robert E. Turner), outside of the Hottentot Gallery which is about to open a show of the works from the collaboration between Baron DeWhit and Young Blood – Photo: Johathan Slaff.

NYPD Detective Mary Van Helsing (Roz Fox, L) rescues Jennifer Blue (Kenya Wilson, R), who had become a victim of the vampire Baron De Whit, after she accepted his invitation to attend a party at his New York City townhouse. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

In a shadow dance scene, "Richard Pryor of the Dream," Pryor (Kenya Wilson, standing) describes the mistakes he made to a sleeping Basquiat (Raul Diaz), to try to warn him why he should leave New York before it is too late.  Photo by Tennessee Reed.

 

THE CONDUCTOR,
a "Living Newspaper" by Ishmael Reed
Theater for the New City
March, 2023 and August-September 2023

Playwright Ishmael Reed with Alison Collins (L) and Gabriela López (R), two former members of the Board of the San Francisco Unified School District whose recall inspired Reed to write The Conductor. Photo by Carla Blank.

Ishmael Reed's play, "The Conductor," continues the tradition of the Federal Theatre Project's Living Newspaper Project, where playwrights and journalists collaborated to create dramatizations of current events (1935-39).

n a shadow dance scene, "Richard Pryor of the Dream," Pryor (Kenya Wilson, standing) describes the mistakes he made to a sleeping Basquiat (Raul Diaz), to try to warn him why he should leave New York before it is too late.  Photo by Tennessee Reed.

 

Journalist Warren Chipp (Brian Simmons, R) shows Recall activist Shashi Parmar (Sri Chilukiri, L) a newspaper article, that reports his betrayal by a white proponent of the SF School Board recall (Aug.-Sept. production).  Photo by Tennessee Reed.

Warren Chipp (Brian Simmons) views White Lightning Network TV anchor Hedda "Buttermilk" Duckbill (Laura Robards) with guest comentator Gabriel Noitallde (Emil Guillermo). Photo by Tennessee Reed.

Kala Parmar (Monisha Shiva, center) joins an interview by journalist Melody Wells (R) with Warren Chipp (Brian Simmons, L), where they tell him he has won a lawsuit and will be reinstated as a San Francisco Chrysalis journalist. Photo by Tennessee Reed.