LIVE performance 5, 1980/81

Patricia Jones, “‘Dialogues’: Just Above Midtown Gallery (October),” LIVE: performance 5, pp. 33-35. Performing Arts Journal, Inc., New York, 1981.

Although JAM/Downtown, a Tribeca alternative arts center, attempted to bring together the diverse and divergent groups that make up the “downtown” just-out-of-the-mainstream part of the art world, few of the participants made use of the theme — “Dialogues.” The performances presented were for the most part “monologues” with passive audience participation.

The lack of communication was most apparent on the program that featured a poet, Native-American dancers/storytellers, a fiber artist and a visual artist. The evening began with great promise. At the door, funny sunglasses were sold for about a dollar and once they were on the faces of the purchasers, the audience looked like a campy photograph of people waiting to see a 3-D movie. After a long wait, the program began with Roberto Ortiz-Melendez. He sat down in the large white space and read a catalogue of wrongs without a whiff of originality of thought.

“Echoes of the Past and Present,” performed by Marie Antoinette Rodgers and Jane Lind, concerned stories of suffering and death as well as affirmations of Native American culture and eminence.

Despite the powerful themes, the piece seemed insincere and ill-conceived. As Rodgers and Lind danced, using minimal props and music, one realized that they were attempting to fuse natural disasters (the Past) with national malevolence (the Present) as if they were one and the same. It was an odd piece, its saving grace the simple yet resonant poetry of Mona B., a blind Native American from Oklahoma. Her twangy recitation had the integrity that the rest of the piece seemed to lack. ( … )

Halloween brought out a large and curious crowd of costumed fun seekers as well as friends and fans of the performers. The mood was festive but the pieces were mostly serious, a couple very melancholy. John Malpede — who has the face of a Wendell Corey-type B-movie actor — performed “Too Much Pressure” [see photo]. His deadpan delivery, choice of music, and arch storytelling did center on the dialogue theme. ( … )

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