Ain Gordon with Josh Quillen: Pick Up Performance Co(s)
Radicals in Miniature (World Premiere)
"Ain Gordon haunts the margins of history…conjur[ing] the sort of distant lives that don’t make it into textbooks, processed into oblivion by what he calls history’s ‘ruthless editing machine.’”
- The New York Times
New York City native and award winning playwright/director/performer Ain Gordon presents Radicals in Miniature, a deeply personal work conjuring seminal but forgotten figures he met while coming of age in the city’s audacious artistic and gay fringe culture of the 1970s and 80s. Radicals... is co-created with composer/percussionist Josh Quillen, who brings his own Ohio panoply of ghosts to the stage. Together, Gordon and Quillen poetically explore the influence of these undersung characters, who endured the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and propelled "alternative" culture forward, including: punk drummer David Hahn, dance reveler Elaine Shipman, club performer John Sex, disco artist Sylvester, and more.
Radicals in Miniature follows two prior collaborations from the work’s co-creators: Where (we) Live (2012) and A Gun Show (2016)—both directed by Gordon and performed by the acclaimed ensemble Sō Percussion, of which Quillen is a member. In Radicals, Gordon makes his first stage appearance since the acclaimed Off-Broadway production Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell.
Radicals in Miniature was created in collaboration with dramaturge Talvin Wilks. Lighting design is by Jennifer Tipton. Projections are by Ed Fitzgerald and Nick Ryckert.
The work was developed, in part, during a Spring 2015 residency at BAC.
Review: Recalling an Electric New York in ‘Radicals in Miniature’
Review: Radicals in Miniature
Passing On the Passed (Past)
Ain Gordon is a three-time Obie Award-winning writer/director/actor, a two-time NYFA recipient and a Guggenheim Fellow in Playwriting. Gordon’s work has been seen at BAM Next Wave Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, Soho Rep., The Public Theater, 651 ARTS, Dance Theater Workshop, Performance Space 122, Baryshnikov Arts Center, HERE Arts Center, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (all NY); the Mark Taper Forum (CA), the George Street Playhouse (NJ), Vermont Performance Lab, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts (VT), Krannert Center (IL), the Kitchen Theatre (NY), OnStage at Connecticut College, MASS MoCA, the Baltimore Museum of Art (MD), DiverseWorks (TX), Spirit Square (NC), VSA North Fourth Arts Center (NM), Jacob’s Pillow (MA), LexArts (KY), and Dance Space (DC), etc.
Gordon’s 2003 work; Art Life & Show-Biz; A Non-Fiction Play, is published in Palgrave Macmillan’s Dramaturgy Of The Real On The World Stage. Collaborations: with Sō Percussion presented at the Walker Art Center (MN), BAM Next Wave Festival (NY), River To River (NY), and Philadelphia Fringe, etc; with Samita Sinha at American Dance Institute (MD) and PS122 COIL Festival (NYC); with Emily Johnson/Catalyst Dance at Northrop (MN), NYLA, On The Boards (WA), and ODC (CA), etc; with Bebe Miller at the Wexner Center (OH), Myrna Loy Center/Helena Presents (MT), and Bates Dance Festival (ME), etc; with David Gordon at American Repertory Theatre (MA), American Conservatory Theater (CA) and American Music Theatre Festival (PA). Gordon appeared in the original Off-Broadway cast of Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell and toured the production to venues including UCLA, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (OR), ICA Boston (Elliot Norton Award nom), the Walker (MN), and New Territories (UK), etc. Gordon also wrote for NBC’s Will & Grace. Gordon’s work has received support from Jerome, Greenwall, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Stage Council on the Arts, Department of Cultural Affairs, AT&T, MAP (four times), ART NY, Mellon, Foundation for Contemporary Performance Art, and NPN among many others. Gordon is a former “Embedded Artist” at the Historic Society of Pennsylvania, former Core Writer of the Playwright’s Center (MN), former Resident Artist at the Hermitage (FL), was the inaugural Visiting Artist at the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (PA), and a 2014 Artist-In-Residence at NYU Tisch School of The Arts. Gordon is Co-Founder of the Urban Memory Project and has been Co-Director of the Pick Up Performance Co(s) since 1992.
Josh Quillen has forged a unique identity in the contemporary music world as all-around percussionist, expert steel drum performer (lauded as “softly sophisticated” by the New York Times), and composer. His collaborations with other composers frequently incorporate the steel drums as a core element. A member of the acclaimed ensemble Sō Percussion since 2006, Quillen has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Lincoln Center Festival, Stanford Lively Arts, and dozens of other venues in the United States. In that time, Sō Percussion has toured Russia, Spain, Australia, Italy, Germany, and Scotland. He has had the opportunity to work closely with Steve Reich, Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, David Lang, Matmos, Dan Deacon, and many others.
Quillen started performing on the steel drums at Dover High School in Ohio, an interest that continued at the University of Akron, where Dr. Larry Snider founded one of the first collegiate steel bands in the United States. He traveled to Trinidad & Tobago in 2002, performing with the “Phase II Pan Groove” ensemble under Len “Boogsie” Sharpe. This interest in the traditional steel drum music of Trinidad ran in parallel with Quillen’s education in western music, first at Akron, and then at the Yale School of Music with marimba soloist Robert Van Sice, where he received his Masters degree in 2006.
These parallel interests led Quillen to break ground in the use of the steel drums in contemporary classical music. To date, he has commissioned over a dozen pieces for steel drums from composers such as Stuart Saunders Smith, Roger Zahab, Dan Trueman, and Paul Lansky. In 2010, Steven Mackey’s quartet It Is Time – commissioned for Sō Percussion by Carnegie Hall and Chamber Music America – featured Josh on a new microtonal lead pan in its Carnegie Hall premiere, receiving rave reviews in The New York Times.
Quillen’s compositions for Sō Percussion are featured in Imaginary City, an evening length work that appeared on the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2009 Next Wave Festival, as well as the site-specific Music for Trains in Southern Vermont. Other ensembles to play his pieces and arrangements include Matmos, PLork, The Janus Trio, Adele Meyers and Dancers, The University of Akron Steel Band, and the New York University Steel Band.
An avid educator, Quillen is a performer-in-residence at Princeton University with Sō Percussion, as well as co-director of the Sō Percussion Summer Institute, an intensive workshop for college-aged percussionists on the campus of Princeton University. He is also co-director of the percussion program at the Bard College Conservatory of Music, and is the director of the New York University Steel Band.
BAC Story by Talvin Wilks
May 12, 2017
A world that as a teenager, I could only imagine through queer memoir reminiscences, my mother’s secretly stashed pulp fan fiction, and my thumbed-through copy of Faggots by Larry Kramer -- all that was available to an Ohio boy’s searching. Ain’s first hand coming of age nostalgia is at once inviting and unfamiliar. I understand the period, the questioning, the wonderment, but the land is foreign.
Through the process of developing Radicals in Miniature, what I have connected with most is the “I was there” fascination with an era, a period, a first person anthropological romp. Ain as “Childe Harold” witness creates an homage to downtown sensationalism, fleeting celebrity, desperation, an insider’s guide to kitsch, hype, camp and everything in-between, where faux celebrity lives, a teenager’s hormonal night dream.
What was most significant about the first BAC residency in 2015 was that Ain, the king of minimal, was able to design the environment from the basic elements in the studio -- tables, monitors, sound equipment, Josh [Quillen]’s eclectic instrumentation, etc... The story was the thing, the tech trappings were there for mere amplification. The elements were immediate, subtle and simple -- a set of keys, a tax return, a pen, carried profound meaning as they were connected and reconnected to a time, a date, a memory. Thanks to BAC, the indelible stamp was discovered early, the environment never changed, it was only enhanced from residency to residency to premiere.
It is the way in which Ain navigates emotion that fascinates me the most. In the early workshops at BAC, he was carefully attentive to the dramaturgical impact of the emotional “reveal,” we discussed the aspect of when and where. Too soon and the entire journey becomes an emotional deluge, too late and the reverence is imbalanced. The key is to understand the depths and challenges of emotion and memory in public, the danger of the reveal. Memory is a tricky thing. Evoking memories in public is a trickier thing. Much of the time is spent mining an endless list of potential story-tellings…which ones to keep, which ones to let go? By the time we reach the end of the first residency, we have begun to experience the ritual, the ghosts join us. Even without lights and all the tech accoutrement, the ritual has arrived, we transcend the technology. There is an immediacy in the room, the dead will have their due.
After one of the first runs in the BAC studio there is a surprise, an unexpected flood of emotion in an unexpected place, it is a brilliant gem that Ain has been reserving. We laugh because almost any moment along the way could be an emotional slipstream for Ain, he must make choices about how he is navigating his feelings, just how revealing does he want to be? Lost in the sense of loss, the wave of nostalgia, the vulnerability…the bittersweet resonance of dashed dreams, memories of the ones who leave too soon, the ones who live long past longing. This is a reoccurrence at every residency along the way, the ghosts travel with us.
Through the experience of Radicals in Miniature we are invited to witness a special time and place and can fill in our own personal radicals. Through the navigation of one life, one street corner, one happenstance, one confluence of events, we remember multiple corners in multiple places, we make a history together.
Emotions creep in, memory is a bitch.
Feelings are not for the weak hearted.
Sentimentality be damned.
Along the way, I make my own discoveries. I add my names to the list. I summon my personal radicals as I watch and witness...the dead will have their due.
Talvin Wilks is the dramaturg for Radicals in Miniature, which was developed during a Spring 2015 BAC Space residency, and premieres at BAC May 16-24, 2017. Wilks is a director, playwright, and collaborative dramaturg based in both New York City and Minneapolis, where he is a professor of theater at the University of Minnesota. His work blurs the lines of many disciplines forming a unique composite of performative expression. This summer will find him in process with four grand choreographic divas - Camille A. Brown, Bebe Miller, Marlies Yearby, and Jawole Zollar/UBW. Look for his new play Jimmy and Lorraine at the Ko Festival in July 2017.