AHA! A House for Arts


AHA! | 605

Weaver Cyndy Barbone creates ghostlike images of women whose stories parallel the broader issues facing women today. Jean-Remy Monnay discusses why he started the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York. The Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company performs in studio.

AIRED: March 09, 2020 | 0:26:46

(enchanted music)

- A weaver creates ghost like images of women whose stories

parallel the broader issues facing women today.

Jean-Remy Monnay on why he started

the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New york

and a performance from the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company.

It's all ahead on this episode of AHA.

- Funding for AHA has been provided by your contribution

and by contributions to the WMHT Venture Fund.

Contributors include the Leo Cox Beach

Philanthropic Foundation, Chet and Karen Opalka, Robert

and Doris Fischer Malesardi, The Alexander

and Marjorie Hover Foundation,

and The Robison Family Foundation.

- At M+T Bank we understand that the vitality

of our communities is crucial to our continued success.

That's why we take an active role in our community.

M+T Bank is pleased to support WMHT programing

that highlights the arts, and we invite you to do the same.

(soft tense music)

- Hi I'm Lara Ayad and this is AHA!

A house for arts, a place for all things creative.

Greenwich New York resident

Cyndy Barbone is recording the faces of women

she knows whose stories parallel some of the broader issues

facing women today using an ancient medium

largely associated with women's work.

Cyndy weaves a loose open structure that is both fragile

and strong as a way of describing the new energy

of women's voices rising up for equality around the globe.

(soft music)

- I have always thought I would be an artist.

In college I walked into a weaving studio

and just taking a tour and just liked the energy.

There was something about the technology of the

loom that interested me.

And I had always my mom taught me to sew

at six years old so I've been doing you know

sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery all of my life.

But the weaving part I just knew I'd love it.

And it wasn't until I was a junior in college

that I finally took a weaving course.

I think it was the idea that it was mechanical.

There's something about my personality

that I just really love the repetition of it

the set up is thread by thread, it's row by row

so it's not like drawing where you can work a whole paper

and revise it's really hard to revise in fact you don't.

So there's those peices that have attracted me I guess

and challenged me.

(subtle music)

I've been doing portraiture for a long time

using the human form but recently I've been focusing

on like just the portrait to tell really women stories

weaving has such a history of being considered women's work

and I'm using people I know whose stories really relate

to like current issues that women are facing

all over the world.

So not taking famous personalities but really people

I know intimately.

(soft music)

I was looking at mythology in weaving

and there was a story about Philomela.

Women did not have a voice in the society of the day

so she wrote her message to her sister in weaving

and I've always been interested in sort of

because woven work came before language

in this symbols in weaving how it would relate to

a story and how you could get your message seen

through weaving.

So the warp are the long threads that are put on the loom

in yardage it would just be that length of fabric

and then the weft is what goes in to make the weave

and that goes edge to edge.

Historically in tapestry they would have a drawing

or painting that they would use behind the warps

of the weaving.

I will use a print out of a photograph.

So I'll use the photograph I tweak it a bit in Photoshop

to reduce the number of values because I found

that if I use four different values in the weaving

it can be recognizable more then that it's just

to subtle you don't see the differences.

And then I use different weights of thread to get

portray those values in the white on white.

(subtle music)

They very almost ghostlike and I kind of feel like

that relates then to this lack of voice

that you do have to look really hard or you have

to listen really hard to hear something.

And I think even though we have these movements

that are putting light on women's issues

it's a work in progress and we working to get

that equality.

So I think my work goes along with that

because it is very, very subtle

And I have to actually put a black piece of cloth

behind it to make it more visible.

We can't live without art I mean it gives you

a lens in which to look at your culture.

You know we surrounded by you know just screens

and images which we don't know if they real or not

and we don't know like you look at a screen

you don't know the size, you don't know anything about it

and I think with art if you see it in person

if you do it, it's real and its very its physical

and it's the truth.

- Originally founded in 2009 as

The Soul Rebel Performance Troupe,

The Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York

has been hard at work fostering the appreciation,

understanding and participation of

the performing arts among communities of color.

Let's sit down with it's founder and director

Jean-Remy Monnay to learn more.

Jean-Remy Monnay welcome to the show

it's a pleasure to have you .

- Thank you, thank you it's a pleasure to be here too

- And you prefer to go by Remy is that right?

- You can call me Remy if you like

- Okay

- But you did a great job earlier by saying Jean-Remy

- Jean-Remy the very French way

- Yeah, Jean-Remy Monnay

- Yeah

(both laughing)

Welcome to the show Remy

- Thank you

- You the founder and artistic director of

The Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York.

So the group I know was formally known as

Soul Rebel Performance Troupe

but can you tell us a bit about how this all started,

you know how did you form the troupe,

what might've inspired that?

- Well I've been performing since I was nine years old

and then I move up here

and then from New York City

first from Haiti and then to New York City

and then New York City up 97'

and then I've been performing in English

here, up here in about 2003 before we realized

that I was you know like one of three person

of color on a local stage so

and I say all right this is fun for me

I'm getting a lot parts but this is not good

I need to do something about that.

So a friend of mine decided to start the group in 2009

mainly so we can bring more diversity, more people of color

the local stage so we started it as

The Soul Rebel Performance Troupe

but it didn't last so um

- And why didn't it last?

- Well we had different vision and me and the friend

we had different visions so we realized

that things wasn't working so it was better

it was dissolved and then a year later in 2010

I started over you know and because it was too important

to just let it go and then a year and a half ago

I decided it was time the best way was to change the name

to The Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York

that was one of the best decision I've made

because you know people can find us.

- So how has this Black Theatre Troupe also evolved?

I mean what is it's major goal and what do you think is

it's mission right now on where it's going?

- You know when we started I couldn't even find people

enough people to put on a show

because I had to train new people

I had to go out and meet new people

and since 2010 we went uhm

we've been working and meeting people every day

having you know small production and reading in libraries

and cafe's and working with the community,

with other theatre companies and working with new people,

new actors kids and adults and uhm

and now going forward I can actually do a play now

with twelve black actors or Hispanics with no problems .

The local theatre now is more diverse now partly

because of what we've been doing.

- Okay.

- I'm not taking all the credit

because there are other small group

that's doing the same now.

- Sure.

- But we, it's much better now.

I have people calling me you know everyday looking

for actors, black actors because I can find those actors

- Right

- A lot of those actors now are out there

now doing bigger things performing at Caprep

and doing movies and stuff because of what

you know how we've been working with them.

So the main goal was to give the people of color

in local artist who never had the experience

give them a chance to show what they can do their talent

- Right.

- And then you know to have more of what's out there for

um to make the local stage more diverse.

- Right.

- So the goal it's working.

- And these new people they don't have to come in

with any prior training am I correct about that?

- No, I work if you tell me you interested

that's something you always wanna do

you never had the chance nobody else was giving

you the chance because you had to have the experience

there was no work for people of color

so you tell me you interested just come in

and I work with you I'll hold your hand

and then many of our actors uhm and you come

and see them on stage and then you ask them

how you long been doing this, you are so good?

I said they'll tell you

uhm yeah just four weeks.

- That's incredible .

So I can just like go tomorrow

and just play the role of Hamlet if I wanted to?

- I will hold your hand, I will show you I'm patient

because and uhm and give you the experience

- Yeah

- Yeah that's what we've been doing

and there's no money involved

because we trying to work with your kids

and adults everyday so everything's been good so far.

- I'm kinda curious to know

you know like what stories in particular do you feel drawn

to directing and how do you choose the play's

that you want to direct?

- I read a lot okay

and I know that you know my way one way

everybody's fighting for you know injustice and equality

and racism and I do it through theatre

- Mmm.

- Okay I find the stories way to teach people

you know black, white or any race and to teach people

and I read, I read I have play's I have people

who knows that the kind of things that we do

they send me plays , I have black play write

all over the countries now even in London in England

and sending me there play's

because they said they been following us

and I'm reading everyday.

So I'm on Amazon.com all the time looking for work.

I have a million plays to do to bring those stories out

there and most stories that they don't teach you

in school I put it on stage

- Yeah

- And people usually tell me thank you

for bringing the stories here black or white

who never heard of certain stories and I bring it to them.

- Yeah so it sounds like you see theatre

as something of like an educational tool.

What do you think theatre can do for the stories

that we tell about race in America that other forms

of writing or art or debate cannot?

- I make sure that I bring stories that

of course people are gonna be uncomfortable

you know once you watch it because this is something people

you know you hear it you don't wanna talk about it

but me I bring this stories about waste relations

and then that feels positive for both all the races

and then after the show I make sure we have a talk back

so people can connect, people can understand each other

because you can come in and watch the play

and then you go home and you learn something

but when you go out there you don't share it

but if we sitting together we talking, we sharing stories

after the play, we understand each other

I think you feel better now,

everybody make you feel comfortable.

You can go out there and share what you learnt

from the play that you just watched.

- Right, so it's not just about the human connection

that you get from watching other people perform

- Right

- It's also the human connection you have even

with other audience members after the show.

- Exactly and we give everybody a chance to you know

to even share their stories, your feeling you know

how your reaction and with other you know

people of different races.

So uhm now that after you've sit down we'll make you

feel comfortable we have a talk back I think you feel

a little more relaxed now and comfortable mainly

because you understand each other more.

So if you understand each other more

and when you go out there you definitely won't have

any problem you feel more comfortable to talk

to your husband or your wife about that subject.

- Can you tell me Remy I hope you don't mind

is there any one particular moment that you had

with those talk backs after a show that you really felt

you know stuck out to you or kind of struck you as like

a moment of this understanding that you talking about?

- I mean me personally I get that a lot every time

especially as a black man and who deal with racism

in many different forms and whether it's going driving

from here and going to Oval Park

and going to the Washington County

always make sure that you know

I'm driving I get pulled over then I say okay

am I gonna make it home tonight?

- Mmm.

- Okay, so when we have talk back

and then this kind of subjects and we talk

and people are sharing their stories

and then many time that yes I feel

that and its like bring tears in my eyes.

- Mmm.

- Okay because I also feel that I have to share

you know what I experience when I'm out there.

So that way if you never really understand

what we going through by listening to me talking

telling my stories then you do understand

and then next time you go out there you hear something

you say okay I know that's what they going through

so I understand it now.

- Right.

- So I can talk to my children then and this is America.

- Yeah well that's very powerful it's a powerful story

about race in America.

Thank you so much for being on the show Remy

it's a real pleasure to have you.

- No thank you I'm glad to be here

and I hope you come see some of the stuff we do.

- Absolutely I can't wait to check them out.

- Thank you, Thank you.

- A pillar of the capital region dance scene

for twenty nine years please welcome

The Ellen Sinopili Dance Company.

(cultivated art music)

Thanks for joining us.

For more arts visit wmht.org/aha

and be sure to connect with wmht on social.

I'm Lara Ayad, thanks for watching.

(upbeat music)

- Funding for AHA has been provided by your contribution

and by contributions to the WMHT Venture Fund.

Contributors include the Leo Cox Beach

Philanthropic Foundation, Chet and Karen Opalka,

Robert and Doris Fischer Malesardi,

The Alexander and Marjorie Hover Foundation,

and The Robison Family Foundation.


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