Open Studio with Jared Bowen

S9 E5 | FULL EPISODE

State vs. Natasha Banina, DATMA returns, and more

The Arlekin Players Theatre presents State vs. Natasha Banina, a new play presented live on Zoom on Sundays, then DATMA returns with a second year of summer programming with LIGHT 2020, plus another look at HUMAN IMPACT: Stories of the Opioid Epidemic at the Fuller Craft Museum and Native American beadwork from Nevada.

AIRED: July 31, 2020 | 0:26:46
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TRANSCRIPT

>> JARED BOWEN: Welcome toOpen Studio,

WGBH's weekly spotlight on arts and culture

from around the region and the nation.

I'm Jared Bowen, coming up onOpen Studio,

the local play that's become a national sensation

by toying with our reality.

>> Karen, do you have a dream?

Are you real Jared Bowen?

>> BOWEN: Then, let there be light in New Bedford.

>> I figure if I present, maybe, a special nook

or a building façade with a certain piece of artwork,

that it will draw people to that place

and help them reimagine where they live.

>> BOWEN: Plus, artists take on the opioid epidemic.

>> It has to be the most painful, intense interaction

I've ever had in my life.

>> BOWEN: And the bead goes on.

>> So I'm coming up with beadwork designs.

I often first start with the essence of the piece.

>> BOWEN: It's all now onOpen Studio.

First up, one of the few silver linings of the pandemic

is that theaters and artists putting their work online

now have a global audience.

Which means a small theater company

like Needham's Arlekin Players can find itself

with a rave review byThe New York Times

and people around the world Zooming in

to see its latest play.

State vs. Natasha Banina introduces us to Natasha,

a Russian orphan who falls in love

with a journalist writing about her story.

>> I want real love, I want a bridal veil

and chocolate candies.

And I want all our girls to follow us in a line,

and for all of them to be dying of envy.

>> BOWEN: But we meet Natasha as she wants we, the audience,

to believe she's innocent

of the manslaughter charges against her.

And I met its creative team, appropriately, on Zoom.

Dasha Denisova, the star of the piece,

thank you so much for joining us.

Igor Golyak, director and artistic director

of Arlekin Players Theatre.

We thank you both for being here.

We should mention that you're partners

in this project and in life,

which is why we don't see social distancing before us.

But we thank you both for being here.

>> Thank you so much for having us.

>> Thank you so much.

>> BOWEN: I'm excited to talk about this,

because I had this moment--

you gave us this moment

where we got to have live theater again.

We may not have been in the theater space,

but I got to go into my study, sit down,

at the appointed time, I had to be there on time.

I saw the fellow audience members,

and we saw this piece, which we'll talk about.

But, Dasha, first take us into who Natasha is.

We find her in this state,

as we find her in this room.

Tell us a little bit about her.

>> Natasha Banina is a 16-year-old girl

who basically grew up in a state-run foster home in Russia.

My mom called me her abortion,

that one that survived.

What am I going to do,

tell him about Vadim the pimp, who snuffed out my mom?

She got into the orphanage at the age of four or five.

And...

She, she committed a crime out of passion.

That's how she ends up in this jail cell.

>> BOWEN: And she is...

She, by way of you, are in our faces, right up in our screens.

What is this moment-- and, Igor, I'll bring you into this, too--

what is this moment that we're having?

>> This moment is when Natasha is pleading,

basically, for her life, for her existence, for her world.

And trying to understand, trying to make us understand

the world that she lives in.

>> Then one day, she comes home with this letter for me.

"Dance," she says, "your mama sent you a letter."

I'm, like, "What do you mean, dance?"

And she says, "Dance."

So I danced some, and then she says,

"Now, while you're dancing, start taking off your dress."

And she laughs like a horse, she was really drunk.

>> BOWEN: How did this occur to you

that this would work in this moment?

We can't be together in a live theater,

but we do have our laptops.

>> Well, the thing is that,

I think when a director enters any space--

be it a virtual space or a physical space--

one of the first things that a director must do

is to analyze the space and look for the opportunities

in the space-- that's why we changed it around

to having, having audience be the jurors.

And that's the most important part

of a virtual theater working,

that an audience needs to have a role in the, in the show.

Otherwise, we're competing with a film.

>> BOWEN: Actors always tell me they need the audience.

You feel the energy when you walk into that room.

Did you feel that?

It seems like you certainly do as you're doing this via Zoom.

>> Yes, I certainly do feel it.

Karen, do you have a dream?

Joshua, do have a dream?

There's a huge screen in front of me,

which the audience obviously doesn't see.

And I see everybody's faces who, I mean,

people who leave their cameras on.

I see their faces, I see those eyes.

And there's definitely an energy exchanged.

There's, the connection is pretty strong.

>> BOWEN: Well, tell me a little bit more about how this happens,

where it happens, how you're shooting it,

because the other great moment, as I mentioned at the outset,

is, this is live.

>> There is two or three parts

where the faces of the audience comes up during the shows.

And when she's addressing, "Jared, what is your dream?",

"Anne, what is your dream?", and so forth--

"Ed, what is your dream?" >> (chuckles)

>> All the, all the critics... (all laugh)

And their faces come up,

and everyone sees it, so they know that it's live.

>> BOWEN: Wow, that's thrilling.

So you start this show, this little theater company

from Needham, Massachusetts, and you're going along.

And then all of a sudden, The New York Times reviews you.

The New York Times makes you a critic, Critic's Pick.

Up there with all the great musicals in New York

and the other great shows in New York.

How has that changed everything?

>> I think, well, it definitely changed,

changed our audience.

I mean, our audience, we were, last night...

The last show that we had,

we had audience, I think, from around 27 states

and six different countries.

We had people from Egypt, from China, from Australia,

Mexico, France, you know, and all these people are joining,

and they're introducing themselves in the chat

before the show,

and they're all this collective jury.

And our world has changed, because, you know,

we've, we've hit our, um,

maximum capacity on Zoom,

and we're, now we're hoping to go onto a world virtual tour

with this production. >> (chuckles)

>> BOWEN: You're, you're laughing, yet,

I mean, this is just unbelievable, right?

(laughs): That this could happen.

I mean, how do you process this kind of success?

>> Well, it's really difficult. (all laugh)

It's, it's exciting, I don't know, it's exciting.

We're excited to share this work.

What do you think?

>> It's thrilling and it's overwhelming.

>> BOWEN: You're kind of inventing a new form,

aren't you, in the middle of this pandemic, as we all,

as we all consider what art is,

as we all consider how we do art and how we engage in it?

What do, what do you see happening

as you've molded it here?

>> I think we're just scratching the surface of what's possible.

And in my opinion, it's definitely not a stopgap

of what's, what's happening right now.

This is going to stay.

And it's going to evolve because it works,

because it's impactful.

>> BOWEN: I don't mind being immodest again

and saying I'm not on the bandwagon for this one.

I was there at show number one,

so congratulations on all that you've experienced.

And it really is fantastic.

Thank you so much.

>> Thank you very much. >> Thank you so much.

>> Thank you for having us.

>> BOWEN: Next, we head toward the light.

"It's All Good"-- that's the theme

of this summer's public art initiative in New Bedford.

It's brought to us for free by DATMA,

the Massachusetts Design Art and Technology Institute.

Lindsay Mis, executive director of DATMA,

thank you so much for being with us.

>> Thank you for having us again.

>> BOWEN: So this is your second year, the theme is "Light,"

all through the city of New Bedford.

How did you arrive on this?

Just to remind people, it was wind last year, light this year.

Tell me about it.

>> Yeah, so, you know, it was important for us

as a new organization,

uh, that we create work that really resonates

with the community and wanted it to be about the community.

New Bedford has a very important fishing industry

that really is the core of the city,

and has been for hundreds of years.

And in the 19th-century whaling history,

New Bedford was noted "the city that once lit the world."

And, uh, we see that happening again,

where we might lit the, at least light the region

through, uh, wind energy.

And, um, so it's exciting for us to be at this forefront,

and we want to recognize the technologies coming our way.

And we're really inspired

about what "Light" would mean for New Bedford tomorrow.

>> BOWEN: Well, we'll talk about the individual pieces

in a moment, but first, to back up a little bit,

you've described this as "curating the city."

Not a gallery, not a museum, but the city.

Elaborate for me.

>> I walk through the streets every day.

I'm a New Bedford resident, and I just see the beauty

in the architecture that you, you can just see the decades

and really, um, you know, centuries of life.

And I don't think enough of it is appreciated,

so I figure if I present, um, maybe, a special nook

or a building façade, uh, with a certain piece of artwork,

that it will draw people to that place,

and help them reimagine where they live

and also appreciate where they live,

and perhaps see it in a way that they haven't seen it before.

>> BOWEN: Well, talking about façades in particular,

that leads us toVessels-- tell me about that piece.

>> The pieceVessels was created by a group, MASARY Studios,

and they're actually Boston-based.

And we, we had been in contact last year

when, uh, whenSummer Winds was really underway.

That was the name of our program series last year.

And they reached out and they said

that they liked what we were doing

in presenting art in this public way,

and wanted to try to at least become friends

or perhaps put a project together.

And we had them come down and,

and we just walked around the city together, we took a walk

with my program committee, and tried to present to them

some of the places that we really saw as potential.

There's Abolition Row, or just go down Union Street.

There is the old Rose Alley, but the waterfront,

which, I totally understand why, it, it just

was so captivating to these artists.

Ryan Edwards and Samo Okerstrom-Lang,

they're some of the founders of MASARY.

They, their way of creating this interrelated media works

offered projection and music and animation and performance.

And in one way or another,

we felt like those artistic mediums could, uh, you know,

kind of capture the, the theme

and the current moment on the waterfront.

>> BOWEN: And your other major installation

is by Soo Sunny Park, which just looks glittery and dazzling.

Tell me about this piece.

>> Sure.

Another artist that worked with "Light" this year

is Soo Sunny Park, and she's based in Vermont.

And the piece for us, um, was really captivating

because she considers herself as an artist that works with light.

So her medium is light and she's sculpting with light.

What was so, uh, captivating about this piece in particular

was her use of non-traditional materials,

such as a diamond fence that normally creates barriers.

And she welds it in such a way

where she forms it into this almost, um,

vortex of continuous space,

and filling each diamond with this silver plexiglass

to create endless amounts of reflections.

On top of that, she's also using cameras and projectors

to use artificial light and recordings to try

to, you know, add to that element

of different types of light.

So you can see it during the day or in the evening.

And it really is amazing.

>> BOWEN: What is it like to see that in person,

to be there with those reflections?

>> Oh, God, I, to be honest, during the day,

um, it's a completely different experience

as visiting it at night.

Um, I see a lot of diamonds all over the sidewalks.

And I, I, what I really enjoy

when I've been looking at the work lately,

uh, is just seeing how people are responding to it.

There were many institutions

that had to push their programming a year.

And it brought us a lot of joy to make sure

that we were presenting artwork

for our community and for the organizations

that wouldn't be able to open up their doors.

>> BOWEN: And I suppose that you, now that you've seen the,

the community reaction, the patron reaction,

the visitor reaction,

you realize that this was what you had to do.

I mean, what really solidified that for you?

>> I think what solidified it

was when we had the opportunity to project

one of the MASARY projections on one of the façades

of a fellow nonprofit that had their doors closed.

And, you know, it was just meaningful for us to be able

to include them in this way.

We're asking people to just walk by this institution--

it was at the Whaling Museum, specifically.

And I don't know what the arts and culture would be like today

if the Whaling Museum hadn't paved the way decades ago.

So it was important for us to take that first step

and have that first presentation ofVessels

with a very important partner to us.

>> BOWEN: And, of course, the Whaling Museum

is open now for, for visitors, as well.

So even more reason.

And finally, you grew up in the city,

you've been part of the city for a long time.

What's it like for you to, to see

this transformation that happens?

You saw it in a big way last year, when you could have

lots of visitors for the Wind Festival.

But to see what's happened

even in a more diminished capacity this year.

>> For me, at my age

in my career, I'm just so happy I get to be part of it.

And it brings me a lot of joy and pride,

and just to see it happen, I get a little emotional about it.

It's, it's meaningful.

The city, when I first walked through those streets,

just had so many empty storefronts.

And I just thought, "Why?

"This place is so beautiful.

"It has so much potential.

What can we do?"

And I can't believe

I'm in a position where I can actually make a difference.

It's... I... I don't...

It's very new-- it's a new feeling for me.

>> BOWEN: Well, you've made a huge difference.

I look forward to, to next year,

when we can talk about this outside together

once again.

That will be a great, great moment.

So nice to see you. >> You, too.

>> BOWEN: Dancing and whaling--

we have it all in Arts This Week.

The Fitchburg Art Museum has reopened with an exhibition

made for this moment.

After Spiritualism is an invitation for reflection.

See it Sunday.

>> ♪ Hello Dolly

♪ This is Louis, Dolly (crowd applauds)

>> BOWEN: Tuesday marks the birthday

of jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

Known for his classics

"Hello Dolly" and "What A Wonderful World,"

he was born in 1901.

The New Bedford Whaling Museum welcomes visitors again.

See scrimshaw masterpieces and artwork of whalers

from around the world Wednesday.

Thursday, catch a Jacob's Pillow virtual dance festival.

See beloved past productions,

including the Dance Theatre of Harlem's performance

Harlem on My Mind.

The Boston Public Library's Concerts in the Courtyard

summer series is coming to you.

Experience live-streamed music ranging from jazz to Latin

to classical, from the comfort of home Friday.

As of this weekend, the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton

is the latest museum to reopen.

And it's briefly extending its exhibitionHuman Impact,

the show the museum created when it realized

it had to take action to counter

the state's devastating opioid crisis.

Solemnly standing at the center of this exhibition,

a pillar of poppies.

>> 3,600, to be exact. >> BOWEN: Why 3,600?

>> Each one represents 200 individuals

who have died due to opioid-related complications.

>> BOWEN: This is one of 11 pieces

commissioned forHuman Impact,

a show conceived by the Fuller Craft Museum

to address the opioid-overdose epidemic.

How difficult was it to, to choose the group here?

>> Oh, it was really, really tough.

I mean, with over 70 artists that were submitting,

and all different types of media and expression.

>> BOWEN: Beth McLaughlin is the museum's chief curator

and, perhaps, activist.

Troubled by the thousands of opioid-related overdoses

that have placed New England above the national average,

she decided the museum had to act.

What place does a museum have in this conversation?

>> Well, I think museums, um, just by their charter,

are responsible for reflecting society in which we live.

>> BOWEN: So she put out a call to artists

to address the crisis.

Here, their responses range from tender teardrops

to veritable crime scenes.

>> Each of the pills has this decal

that has the name of a man that passed

and his birth date and his death date.

It's almost like an epitaph, um, on a gravestone.

>> BOWEN: Some but not all of the artists featured here

already had personal connections to addiction.

But to give them direct insight into the opioid epidemic

before they made these works,

the Fuller connected the artists

with people directly impacted by the crisis,

including family members who've lost loved ones.

>> Just having somebody listen to their story is so important.

>> BOWEN: Gabrielle Peruccio

is with High Point Treatment Center,

one of the organizations that facilitated artists

getting an unfettered look at the cost of addiction.

>> They just need that right opportunity

and that right moment

to be able to share their story.

And it takes a lot of courage to be able to do that.

>> It has to be the most painful, intense interaction

I've ever had in my life.

>> BOWEN: Jodi Colella is the artist who made the poppy piece,

a sculpture she created after meeting a woman

who lost her 36-year-old son Dale in 2017

to an opioid overdose.

>> I was with her for almost two hours,

and I really uttered maybe five words.

The whole time was her describing to me

every phase of what she went through,

and all the anguish and frustration and shame

and confusion and then loss.

>> BOWEN: Colella created this 12-foot-tall sculpture

to stand as a memorial.

The poppies are made from donated clothing,

including Dale's.

But at the center of each, there is darkness.

>> The black is a black plush velvet,

which is meant to be funerary.

The clothing is very vibrant--

lives, when they were alive.

And the centers are hollow

to represent the void and what we've lost.

>> BOWEN: But found in vivid remembrance here.

In Nevada now, artist Teresa Melendez practices

the art of Native American beadwork-- a vision and craft

she's cultivated since she was 15.

>> My favorite form of indigenous artwork is beadwork.

I really enjoy beading.

I find it relaxing.

I enjoy thinking about the designs

and the type of materials that I want to use,

the look that I want to create.

I also really enjoy making beadwork

because it's functional artwork.

(laughs)

Beadwork is a form

of traditional Native American artwork.

So anywhere around the country,

as you visit different tribal nations,

you'll see different styles of beadwork.

I've been making beadwork since I was about 15.

And usually, when I design beadwork and I create beadwork,

it's for use for cultural events or ceremonies

or powwows.

So I'm a powwow dancer, I'm a fancy shawl dancer.

I like to dance jingle and traditional

from time to time, too.

But my kids and I, we powwow-dance,

and so a lot of the beadwork that I make

is for our powwow outfits or our regalia.

So when I'm coming up with beadwork designs,

I often first start with the essence of the, the piece.

So I'm really thinking about the person that I'm designing for,

and then the use of the final product

and the look that I want to create.

I like to lay everything out on graph paper,

and then I'll translate that paper to material,

and I'll sew it down to the material

so that I have a pattern to work with.

And then I just start beading.

Beadwork is incredibly time-consuming.

As you look at these different beaded pieces,

you know that each one of those beads was hand-sewn on.

Different artists will have their own techniques.

And so I like to put on four beads

and then go back through two.

Every single bead is touched by the artist at least once,

but sometimes multiple times, depending how they tack it down.

And so the larger pieces,

they could have hundreds of hours of man-time.

I would say one of my favorite parts about beading

is watching the piece come together.

'Cause you have this vision,

and lots of times, your vision is pretty true

to the final product, but sometimes it's not.

And so it's fun watching the piece come together,

but actually seeing the colors come together,

and the designs come together,

it's really exciting and it provides me a lot of motivation,

'cause I'll be, like,

"Two more hours and I'd have this piece complete,

and I can finally see what it's gonna look like."

When I make beadwork, I make it for really specific purposes.

So my husband and I got married about seven years ago.

I wore a traditional woodland outfit for our wedding,

and then my husband wore a traditional Paiute outfit

for the weddings.

And then our daughters, they wore some beaded pieces, also.

My 14-year-old, her name is Siyabi, which means wild rose.

And so you'll see in those pieces

that there's an image of a rose.

And then Pasitiva, our little one,

her name is wild iris,

and so there's an iris beaded into her hair ties.

And then in my bandolier bag,

there are several different flowers that are beaded in that.

There's a flower that represents

me, my favorite flower, and then my husband's favorite flower.

And there's a hummingbird, which symbolizes love.

And then going up the straps are the flowers of our kids.

So Busceppi, his name is red earth.

I beaded a red star-like flower for him.

One of the pieces that I brought was the medallion I made

when I graduated with my bachelor's degree.

I went to Michigan State University.

The medallion's in the shape of the Spartan "S"

with a little sash across

with the abbreviation "S-O-C" for sociology,

and then the year I graduated,

'cause I graduated with a bachelor's degree in sociology.

So it's common in indigenous artwork to see things like that,

that are symbols that are very specific to the individual

or specific to that ceremony.

All of my beadwork that I create has a lot of symbolism.

It feels good to wear our traditional artwork,

because I know it comes from a special place.

I know that there's a lot of meaning behind the pieces,

but I also think it's important as Americans that we see

the indigenous people who live here,

and who've always lived here.

Here in Nevada, there are 27 federally recognized tribes.

That's a lot of tribes.

(laughs): That's a lot of tribes.

Most states don't have 27 federally recognized tribes.

Sometimes, when we think about indigenous cultures

and indigenous arts,

we think about them as history,

something that's in the past or something that's not current.

There's all kinds of beautiful work

that's being done by artists around the country,

where they're capitalizing on contemporary materials, themes.

It's beautiful to see art evolving, even indigenous art,

'cause what's indigenous is also contemporary.

>> BOWEN: And that is all for this edition ofOpen Studio.

Next week, one of the few places in America

where you can go to see live theater.

We check in on Berkshire Theatre Group'sGodspell.

Plus, one of the first places in America where musicians

have gathered-- safely-- to perform.

We hear from Boston Landmarks Orchestra.

Until then, I'm Jared Bowen.

Thanks for joining us.

As always, you can visit us online at wgbh.org/OpenStudio.

And you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter,

@OpenStudioWGBH.

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