Running AMOC

DEC 4, 2019

The rising ensemble of boundary-breaking artists returns to A.R.T.

It is a thrill for me to be returning home to A.R.T. for this year’s Run AMOC! Festival. Just when Matt Aucoin and I had brought together the artists of our company—representing the most thoughtful, brilliant, and virtuosic colleagues in music and dance that we know—A.R.T. committed to giving us our very first performances in 2017. That significant early commitment (and true leap of faith!) has led us to what is now the third year of our Run AMOC! Festival. In this context, we’ve been able to experiment with new ideas, workshop projects in process, and give first viewings of new shows. Our relationship with A.R.T. is happily manifold—Matt received his first full-length opera commission from the A.R.T., which became the staggering Crossing, directed by Diane Paulus here and at BAM; we have five Harvard graduates in our ranks; and last fall, together with Michael Schachter and my AMOC colleague Davóne Tines, I developed The Black Clown, which opened the A.R.T. season and then moved to Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival this past summer.

As a director, my perpetual charge at opera houses around the world is to make things of extremely high quality very quickly with a group of virtual strangers. While occasionally there can be a special alchemy between new people that results in something of great beauty and depth, I desired a more consistent workplace—a community of collaborators who would challenge me, form an almost geological accumulation of shared vocabulary and references, create shorthand, and frankly not have to start at square one on every new project. Many of my friends and colleagues were feeling the same way, so we decided to band together and form a repertory company committed to working together over a long period of time to make a new body of discipline-colliding work. AMOC is that company. We are a group of artists—a think tank, of sorts—whose main line of inquiry is: “What constitutes interdisciplinary collaboration? What is it, and what can it be?” Made up of seventeen leaders of the rising generation, we make work that aims to destroy the strict boundaries that separate one genre from another, removing obstacles so people can communicate better. What could be more important than that? While the members of our company all work at a world-class level in their own individual fields (members have starred at the MET Opera, appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, and danced with the Batsheva Dance Company, among other achievements), they’ve come together in AMOC to pool their collective skills and resources in order to expand the potential for storytelling on stage.

Davóne Tines in El Cimarrón.

This year, we are presenting three distinct, full productions at the Run AMOC! Festival, each of which exemplifies the way we are making new theater out of combinations between music and dance. One production attempts to rethink what a piano recital could be; another forwards the genre of dance-theater by engaging musicians as embodied protagonists; and the third chips away at the division between singers and musicians in an opera. Cage began last year when the extraordinary pianist Conor Hanick and I spent one week collaborating with lighting designer Christopher Gilmore in The Ex at the Loeb Drama Center. We were trying to figure out how to elevate an evening of John Cage’s music for prepared piano into a poetic journey of operatic scope, using the raw materials of a standard piano recital but totally re-ordered. With Care, a quartet for two dancers and two violinists by the formidable choreographer/director Bobbi Jene Smith in collaboration with violinist Keir GoGwilt, grows out of an earlier work seen in our first festival at the A.R.T., A Study on Effort. Bobbi has expanded here on her early collaboration with Keir to create this thrilling piece of dance-theater—an idiom Bobbi is taking to wholly new places—that also includes new music by Matthew Aucoin. Our third offering is my production of Hans Werner Henze’s tour-de-force chamber opera El Cimarrón. This piece tells the true story of Esteban Montejo, an Afro-Cuban slave who escaped bondage on a sugar plantation, survived in the jungle, fought for Cuban independence from Spain, and lived to tell about it all before dying at the age of 113. It is staged as a chamber work where the three instrumentalists, who have all memorized this immense musical score, participate in the drama as characters alongside bass-baritone Davóne Tines. It also brings back together the brilliant designers with whom I worked on The Black Clown: Carlos Soto and John Torres. Just as we value long-lasting relationships amongst our company members, we try to establish relationships with institutions that are similarly enduring. So it’s a special pride to be returning again with new and old family to the A.R.T.

Zack Winokur is Co-Artistic Director of AMOC


Image Credit
Davóne Tines in El Cimarrón: Stephanie Berger.

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