Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition New York: Revel In Cathartic Art Realism

By: Mercedes Vizcaino

Prepare to lose yourself to the magically colorful world of famed Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh with the debut of the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit in New York City, featuring 40 of the acclaimed artist’s masterpieces shown via 74 state-of-the-art projectors. Located at Pier 36 in lower Manhattan, the 70,000+ square foot venue is conducive to large crowds and adheres to COVID health protocols. Art enthusiasts apprehensive about re-joining society in this post-pandemic world can let their guard down in this spectacular space!

The exhibit is comprised of 3 concepts: art exhibition, filmmaking through animation, and experiential – where the public walks through the space and art happens within 360 degrees around them and projected on every surface in the building. Set designer, David Korins (Hamilton, Dear Evan Hansen) was tasked with creating interactive New York-centric installations, unlike no other.  According to Korins, “This exhibit will take you deep within a personal and profound journey, look at Van Gogh’s work through Massimiliano Siccardi’s (creative director, film producer) interpretation and leave you with a deeper understanding of the man and his brand” 

Photo: Nina Westervelt

What to look out for?

The Ceiling, inspired by one of Van Gogh’s most revered work: The Starry Night, was created using 7,800 individually hung paintbrushes dipped in multiple colors – breathtakingly serene and enchanting.  Next: an oversized reproduction self-portrait of Van Gogh, allowing viewers to peek into the artist’s eyes and facial expression – to appreciate the intricacies of his dynamic brushstrokes. A must see: The Synesthesia Experience, which invites audiences to walk through 10 booths, engulfed by light and sound, based on documented research watching people with chromesthesia react to certain colors. Vincent van Gogh had a special form of synesthesia called chromesthesia that enabled him to hear color and see sound. The most interactive yet: Letters from Vincent is an activation based on an artificial intelligence program developed from 1,000 digital scans Van Gogh sent his brother, Theo. Inside the booth, visitors can ask Vincent a question and a response with customized letter addressed to the individual materializes. My favorite exhibit of all, The Sunflower Wall, not just because this mesmerizing painting has been etched in my subconscious since my visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, a while back, but simply because of the emotions it evokes. The images of the sunflowers wash over you gradually and the light and music instill a warming effect you must experience in person; it’s as if you are one with the painting. Composer, Luca Longobardi’s mix of electronica and ethereal piano sounds aids with this transformative state of mind.

Photo: Nina Westervelt

Don’t miss this imaginative and surreal exhibition dedicated to one of the most renowned post-impressionist artists in history. In his short 37 years of life, had he not succumbed to the pitfalls of mental illness, and had the adequate resources to seek help, it makes you wonder how far his creative reach would’ve been.  Tickets for The Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit New York are on sale now at vangoghnyc.com and by phone at 844-307-4644. Tickets range in price from $29.99 for kids to $99.99 for VIP Flex tickets. Oh, and there’s also a fun over-priced gift shop (but, really what tourist attraction isn’t?) and a cute café with Van Gogh self-portrait cookies and refreshing sorbets to beat the New York summer heat.

CREDITS:

DAVID KORINS, Creative Director New York David Korins is the award-winning Creative Director, Designer and Founder of his eponymous New York City based creative studio. In his two decades of creating omnidirectional experiences, he has, along with his expert team, reached hundreds of millions of people all over the world while helping the most influential brands, companies and individuals bring their stories to life. From stage to screen, museums to hospitality, experiential design to singular live events, Korins has traversed the landscape of world building and storytelling through almost every medium available. Korins created the worlds for the Tony Award-winning musicals HamiltonDear Evan Hansen and Beetlejuice: The Musical.

MASSIMILIANO SICCARDI, Creator
Massimiliano Siccardi studied at the London School of Contemporary Dance of London. But in 1990, he left the world of dance to begin a new journey in the world of video art. Siccardi quickly became the artistic force behind several visual mise-en-scène for choreographers around the world. He also created video scenographies for numerous prestigious festivals and galas around the world. He also re-constructed the video mapping of the Basilica di Giotto for the Teatro Petruzzelli of Bari, where one of his permanent installation’s virtually reconstructs the frescoes of the Cupola. Siccardi is also a celebrated photographer and has had photo exhibitions in Spoleto and Rome, to name a few.

LUCA LONGOBARDI, Composer
Italian composer and pianist Luca Longobardi is a classically trained musician who incorporates the contemporary electronic music into his pieces. Born in 1976, Longobardi studied classical music in Italy and New York and went on to earn his doctorate in digital audio restoration in Rome in 2011. His works reveal a strong interaction between classical and contemporary music. The experience he has gained as a theatre musician has increased his interest in the relationship between sounds and spectacle; he has composed music for ballets and films and accompanied installations and experimental art productions (Atelier de Lumières – Paris, Carrière does Lumières – Baux-de-Provence, Kunstkraftwerk – Leipzig).

About the Producing Team
The producers of Immersive Van Gogh
New York are Corey Ross and Svetlana Dvoretsky, working with Co-Producers Maria Shclover and Irina Shabshis. The presenting organization of Immersive Van Gogh is Lighthouse Immersive.
Corey Ross is the founder of Starvox Entertainment which has ranked in Profit Magazine’s Fastest growing Canadian companies for 5 years in a row. The company produces and manages cross-over performing arts shows and exhibition including the Art of Banksy in London, Canada, the USA, Taiwan, and Japan. He is also a co-founder at Lighthouse Immersive – a company producing the Immersive Van Gogh in 19 North American cities and Illusionarium in Toronto.

Svetlana Dvoretsky is the founder of Toronto’s Show One Productions and a proud recipient of the Order of York by the Government of Canada for her “significant role in arts and culture.” Show One Productions is leading presenter of high-profile international artists in classical music, theater and dance. She is a co-founder of Lighthouse Immersive and co-producer of Immersive Van Gogh.

Maria Shclover and Irina Shabshis are the co-founders of Maestro Immersive Art. Shclover founded Maestro Artist Management in 2004, Shabshis in 2005 and together they have presented more than 1,000 theatrical and classical music performances across the United States, including projects with Michel Legrand, Mikhail Baryshnikov, John Malkovich and more. In 2012, Shclover and Shabshis formed a non-profit organization, Cherry Orchard Festival Foundation, presenting an annual international theatrical festival to audiences in New York City and beyond.

Review: ‘Mr. Soul!’- A Black Cultural Experience To Be Treasured – Hypnotic and Poignant

Photo: Ivan Cury, Courtesy of Shoes in the Bed Productions

Not long ago, when life had some semblance of normalcy, I had covered the Urbanworld Film Festival in person and was tasked with writing about the festival’s anticipated blockbusters. While waiting for one of these films to begin, I snuck into an adjacent theater to watch the documentary, Mr. Soul! by director and producer, Melissa Haizlip.  I was intrigued by the film’s poster; it read: Before Oprah, Before Arsenio…There was: Mr. Soul! As a longtime fan of late-night talk shows, I was irritated and frustrated at myself for not knowing whom this revolutionary pioneer of Black entertainment and culture was. His name: Ellis Haizlip. The producer and host of the PBS variety show: Soul! changed the national scope and existing perceptions of Blacks in a volatile 1960s backdrop – forever! No surprise it won Urbanworld Film Festival’s Best Documentary category and received a standing ovation the Sundance Film Festival.  So what was so extraordinary about Ellis Haizlip and this entertainment show he launched in 1968?

Ellis Haizlip Surrounded by Members of the J.C. White Choir, Photo: Alex Harsley, Courtesy of Shoes in the Bed Productions

Ellis Haizlip was a visionary and determined to shatter contrived media perception of Blacks at the time, as victims subjected to abject poverty or lawless citizens in the United States. Raised in Washington in a middle-class family and setting his sights on New York to form his production company, his aim was to push Black Arts forward, as it was evident to Haizlip that there was a huge void to fill. Blair Underwood, executive produced and narrates Ellis Haizlip’s thoughts in the film so eloquently and powerfully states: “Before we can educate and entertain, we need to share the Black experience.” And that Ellis did. In its inception, Soul! aired only in New York and managed to go national in 1969. The once local program set forth the careers of the most prominent artists in Black history: Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder and his Wonderlove band, Al Green, Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, and Toni Morrison to name a few. Haizlip was fearless in giving a visual platform to outspoken Black poets like The Last Poets – including 6 female poets, such as Sonia Sanchez, and pushed boundaries by interviewing Minister Louis Farrakhan and Kathleen Cleaver (wife of exiled Black Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver).

Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin in 1971, Film Still Courtesy of: Shoes in the Bed Productions.

In his quest to unleash artists’ natural talents via the television medium, he often prompted poets and singers to take the stage unfiltered and unencumbered. He employed females on his set and advocated for an interview conducted by renowned poet and activist, Nikki Giovanni and literary legend, James Baldwin in England. The footage of the animated and captivating Baldwin and inquisitive Giovanni is unprecedented – a Black female interviewer engaging in a fiery conservation with one of America’s beloved writers is quite impressionable to see in 1971, shortly after, Soul! aired until 1973, defunded and shut down by nefarious forces, as detailed in the documentary.

(L to R) – AMANDA SEALES; TOP – MELISSA HAIZLIP/BLAIR UNDERWOOD; MIDDLE – STAN LATHAN/NIKKI GIOVANNI; BOTTOM – SONIA SANCHEZ/ROBERT GLASPER/THE LAST POETS/BLACK IVORY – Courtesy of Shoes in the Bed Productions

So where are we now? It’s 2020 and social justice continues to be a pressing urgent issue in the United States as police brutality continues to plague Black Americans, exacerbated by the tragic loss of our Black icons this year. Mr. Soul’s recent Kickback premiere reminded us of the past, present, and future Black Excellence represents and the need to cultivate and preserve its existence. Host and comedienne, Amanda Seales led the conversation with guests, Melissa Haizlip (Ellis Haizlip’s niece & creative engine behind Mr. Soul!) Actor Blair Underwood, acclaimed director, Stan Lathan (former director of Soul!) Activist and poet Felipe Luciano who guest-hosted the popular “Shades of Soul” episode, featuring Tito Puente and his orchestra, Haizlip exposed television audiences to Latin music and multi-cultural Afro-Latino bands. To say the Soul! television show was groundbreaking doesn’t suffice; it was one of a kind until this day. The legacy Ellis Haizlip left behind cemented the foundation for Black culture never before seen on a national scale – fusing poetry, activism, theatre, dance, and music for the world to experience and solidify the richness of Black arts. Mr. Soul! is available in more than 70 virtual cinemas worldwide through September 10th. To buy tickets and learn more about Mr. Soul! click here.

Review: ‘A Christmas Carol in Harlem’ – Modern Twist of a Favorite Classic: Delightfully Uplifting

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L to R: Emery Jones as Tiny Timothia and Charles Bernard Murray as Ebenezer Scrooge, Photo: Jill Jones

The holiday season is upon us and as you plan the rest of your entertainment activities with friends and family for the month of December look no further than A Christmas Carol in Harlem to fill you with glee. The Classical Theatre of Harlem brings to the stage a new adaptation of the beloved Charles Dickens novel. Its main character Ebenezer Scrooge, is a real estate mogul and community curmudgeon, who’s acquired his wealth at the expense of others and lacks empathy towards the less fortunate. He refuses to part with his money to help the needy without getting something in return. Scrooges’ lonely existence – and world – is turned upside down by the visit of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s former business partner, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. And, is forced to contend with the error of his ways. Almost two centuries old, this famous tale is as timely as ever with income disparity becoming increasingly prevalent throughout the country and citizens being displaced from their neighborhoods.

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L to R: Kaden Jones as Young Ebenezer, Charles Bernard Murray as Scrooge, Eryn Barnes as Ghost of Christmas Past, Photo: Jill Jones

Set in present day Harlem, this dynamic cast’s interpretation is replete with magical strobes; hip-hop, lively dance numbers and singers with impressive vocal range. The festive and wintry backdrop sets the tone and Charles Bernard Murray (Honkey Tonk Nights) portrays the miserly Scrooge with conviction and wit. The most memorable ghost in the production: Christmas Past, as she sashays across the stage with interpretive dance to transition between Scrooge’s past memories – a wonderful creative touch as only the Classical Theatre of Harlem group can conceive.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary season, The Classical Theatre of Harlem brings A Christmas Carol in Harlem production, with a 90-minute runtime, to the City College Center for the Arts’ Aaron Davis Hall from now through December 21, 2019. Don’t miss this spectacular holiday show for children and adult of all ages. To learn more about A Christmas Carol in Harlem and buy tickets, click here.

CREDITS:
The company of “A Christmas Carol in Harlem” includes: Eryn Barnes (as The Ghost of Christmas Past), Reed HarrisButts (as Bennie),  Kahlil X Daniel (as The Ghost of Christmas Future), Gabrielle Djenné (as Fan and Belle; The Bacchae), Daniel Echevarria (as Fezz; In The Heights, Something like a Fairytale, The Open Gate), Ure Egbuho (as Sierra Jones; Good Friday, Locked Up Bitches; SCRAPS), Paula Galloway (as Claudette; The Colored Museum, Ain’t Misbehavin’), Steve Greenstein (as Jacob Marley; Flashdance the Musical), Emery Jones (as Tiny Timothia), Kaden Jones (as Child Scrooge and Bennie), Charles Bernard Murray (as Scrooge; The Bacchae), Andrei Pierre (as The Ghost of Christmas Present), Angela Polite (as Clock Shop Lady; MARY SPEAKS, Flambeaux), Jeffrey Rashad (as Bob Cratchit and Young Scrooge), and Kenzie Ross (as Mrs. Cratchit; Blood at the Root, When We Left). The ensemble features dancers from Elisa Monte Dance includingTracy Dunbar, Kat Files, Daniela Funicello, Ashley LaRosa and Sai Rodboon.
Based on the Charles Dickens Novella; Adapted by Shawn René Graham; Director: Carl Cofield; Choreographer: Tiffany Rea-Fisher; Costume Design: Lex Liang and Margaret Goldrainer; Lighting Design: Alan C. Edwards; Music Director: Kahlil X Daniel: Scenic Design: Izmir Ickbal; Sound Design: Kathy Ruvuna; Production Stage Manager: William V. Carlton; Projections Designer: Shawn Boyle; Props: Samantha Shoffner.

 

Broadway Review: ‘Tina’ – Riveting, Heartfelt, and A Testament To Tina Turner’s Indelible Star Power

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Photo: Manuel Harlan

Upon hearing that the Tina Tuner musical was coming to town, I had trepidation and a bit of skepticism. As a theatre and musical lover, I had no choice but to succumb to a new rendition of one of my childhood idol’s life portrayed on the Broadway stage. Would the actress playing Tina measure up? Would she be able to convey this powerhouse of a woman justly? Would the music move me? The answer to all my resounding questions: Absolutely! Tony-nominated actress, Adrienne Warren (Shuffle Along, Bring It On: The Musical) reprises her role of rock legend, Tina Turner; Warren had performed ‘Tina’ in London’s West End this past spring with rave reviews. And, now she’s traveled to New York to shatter all expectations of fans and critics alike. Warren’s portrayal of Tina Turner is sensational. The octaves in her similarly raspy voice to Turner’s are spectacular. Warren interprets Tina’s signature moves with grace, sans mimicry.

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Photo: Manuel Harlan, Steven Booth as Phil Spector, Adrienne Warren as Tina

The musical begins with Warren seated on the stage floor wearing Turner’s iconic red leather dress reciting a Buddhist chant. Turner, a Buddhist since 1973, credits the religion for helping her endure life’s hardships. Then the audience is introduced to a young Tina (given name: Anna-Mae Bullock) played by Skye Dakota Turner masterfully, belting out church songs with fervor in her hometown of Nutbush, Tennessee, where her mother, Zelma, played by the talented Dawnn Lewis (A Different World, This Is Us) isn’t too pleased and constantly scolds her for being to loud and boisterous. At the behest of her grandmother, played by Myra Lucretia Taylor (Macbeth, A Streetcar Named Desire), she pursues her talents as a singer, and moves to St. Louis to be with her mother and sister.

The pacing of the musical is perfection. There are no lulls. We transition through the different phases of Tina’s life with Tina’s hit songs and sets so visually stimulating the rest of your senses have to play catch up! The scenes between Tina and Ike are electrifying. Their chronicled relationship is replete with success and abuse at the hands of Ike Turner played by Daniel J. Watts (Hamilton, The Color Purple). Ike Turner is undoubtedly the villain from what is known about his persona and documented past relationship with Turner. Watts does an excellent job of balancing the complexities of Ike, as the abusive husband, yet talented musician that discovered Anna-Mae Bullock’s talents at 17 years-old, Watts is able to convey this atrocious man, with comedic flair at times, while showcasing his singing and dancing abilities. After all, this is a musical and the tone shouldn’t be too gloomy.

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Photo: Manuel Harlan, Adrienne Warren as Tina, Daniel J. Watts as Ike Turner

Executive produced by Tina Turner, directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia, The Taming of the Shrew), and choreographed by Anthony Van Laast (Mamma Mia!, Sister Act) ‘Tina’ is a true gem for biopic and musical aficionados. Run! Don’t walk to see this fantastic production of the Queen of Rock n’ Roll. Tina, The Tina Turner Musical will be on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre through September 2020, for upcoming performances, click here.

 

PRODUCTION: A presentation by Stage Entertainment, James L. Nederlander, Tali Pelman, Feste Investments B.V., David Mirvish, Nattering Way, Teg Dainty, Katori Hall, Mark Rubinstein Ltd., Warner Chappell, Peter May, Eva Price, No Guarantees, Caiola Productions, Jamie DeRoy, Wendy Federman, Roy Furman, Independent Presenters Network, John Gore Organization, Marc Levine, Carl Moellenberg, Al Nocciolino, Catherine Adler, Tom Perakos, Daryl Roth, Iris Smith, Candy Spelling, and Anita Waxman, in association with Tina Turner, of a musical in two acts, with book by Katori Hall (with Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins), originally produced at the Aldwych Theater in London, by Stage Entertainment, Joop van den Ende and Tali Pelman.
CREATIVE: Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Choreography, Anthony Van Laast. Sets & costumes, Mark Thompson; lighting, Bruno Poet; sound, Nevin Steinberg; projections, Jeff Sugg; hair & wigs, Campbell Young Associates; orchestrations, Ethan Popp; musical supervision, arrangements, additional music & conductor, Nicholas Skilbeck; production stage manager, Kristen Harris.
CAST: Adrienne Warren, Dawnn Lewis, Nkeki Obi-Melekwe, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Daniel J. Watts, Steven Booth, Nick Rashad Burroughs, Gerald Caesar, Holli’ Conway, Kayla Davion, Charlie Franklin, Judith Franklin, Matthew Griffin, David Jennings, Ross Lekites, Robert Lenzi, Gloria Manning, Jhardon Dishon Milton, Destinée Rea, Mars Rucker, Jessica Rush, Carla Stewart, Jayden Theophile, Skye Dakota Turner, Antonio J. Watson, Katie Webber.