A Day @: The Brooklyn Academy of Music — It’s Time To Discover (or Rediscover) This Awesome Cultural Gem
By Anne Marie Kelly, Contributing Writer, May 24, 2018
Music may be front and center in its name, but the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is so much more than “merely” music. This cultural hub in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood offers cutting-edge theatre, dance, cinema and, yes, music.
BAM was founded in 1861 as the home of the Philharmonic Society of Brooklyn. But these days it’s a performing arts mecca. BAM has three locations — all within a couple of blocks of each other – and all historical and interesting in their own ways.
For instance, Jeremy Irons and Leslie Manville are currently at BAM’s Harvey Theatre performing Long Day’s Journey into Night — Eugene O’Neil’s masterwork about love, family rivalries, and addiction. They came straight from their successful London run to a three-week stint in Brooklyn which typifies the sophistication of BAM’s theatre productions and overall programming. The Harvey is not your everyday venue to see a performance. Built at the turn of the century, it lay abandoned for decades before BAM bought it in the1980s. Their unusual renovation style preserved the theater’s deterioration and sense of abandonment. The result is what might be described as an “intentional wreck” where the original interior’s decay is part of the space’s look. But somehow, it works. Next up is Love and Intrigue, Friedrich Schiller’s tragedy of class warfare, which begins its run in early June.
For all the “larger” events there is the Howard Gilman Opera House, designed and built at the turn of the 20th century by architects Herts and Tallant (responsible for the Lyceum and New Amsterdam Theatres in New York City). This elegant Beaux Arts style performance venue hosts a variety of performances throughout the year reflecting both BAM’s programming as well as outside artists presenting concerts and performances such as pop music artists Adele, Rufus Wainwright, comic Sarah Silverman, as well as New York City Opera, American Ballet Theatre, among many others. Coming up this weekend is DanceAfrica 2018, again reflecting the variety of the programming offered.
Also housed within the Peter Jay Sharp Building (the original BAM structure) is the Lepercq Space which hosts the BAM Café, open prior to select performances for purchasing food and beverages, but also featuring its own series BAMcafé Live, offering musical performances.
Serious film lovers will delight in BAM Cinématek’s extensive offerings of new and traditional movies, shown in the stunning Beaux Arts Peter Jay Sharp Building. Just coming to an end is A Different Picture: Women Film Makers in The New Hollywood Era, 1967-1980. This series reveals how women filmmakers of this era radically altered the medium’s form and structure with films like Hester Street with Carol Kane and It’s My Turn with Jill Clayburgh and Michael Douglas. The BAMcinemaFest, now in its tenth year, begins on June 20, 2018, showcasing gems of the American indie cinema. It features cinema’s brightest up-and-coming talents, filmmaker Q&As, outdoor screenings, and much more.
The Brooklyn Academy’s third space is the Fisher, which houses the Fishman Space, a multi-functioning performance space which can be configured in a variety of ways to suit specific productions, as well as the Fisher Hillman studio, available as a rental space for performances, and the Rooftop Terrace, featuring the Stutz Gardens, which is also a year-round event space featuring lovely views of the neighborhood and beyond.
Adding to BAM’s appeal is its neighborhood. There is so much to enjoy in one small area. BAM is part of the newly-developed Brooklyn Cultural District and the Polonsky Shakespeare Center, the Mark Morris Dance Center and the Barclay Center are all within the surrounding blocks. All these attractions sit in the historic Fort Greene area of Brooklyn, where there are tons of restaurants, bars, and cafes. And, by the way, Fort Greene Park, a verdant 30-acre jewel designed by Central Park’s mastermind, Federick Law Olmstead, is just a short walk away. So go explore — you’ll be sure to find much more than you ever expected.
For more information on upcoming performances and events at BAM click here.
For information about Open House New York’s upcoming event on June 23 covering downtown Brooklyn click here (scroll down for specifics).
Cover: Exterior of the Brooklyn Academy of Music / Peter Jay Sharp Building; courtesy of BAM.