Introducing Vision Resident

JENNY KOONS

 

ABOUT JENNY

JENNY KOONS is a theater director and organizer. Theater Projects: Now Becomes Then (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Men on Boats (Baltimore Center Stage), Speechless (New Blue Man Group North American Tour), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Public Theater Mobile Unit), Burn All Night (American Repertory Theatre), Gimme Shelter (Why Not Theatre, 2015 Pan Am Games commission), A Sucker Emcee (National Black Theatre, LAByrinth Theater Company). Jenny was the 2017 curator of the Encores! Off-Center Lobby Project, co-curator of the 2016 ThisGen Conference and co-founder of Artists 4 Change NYC (National Black Theatre). She has been a facilitator and educator in creating anti-racist spaces and engaging in conversations around race and equity for over a decade, in both non-profit and artistic spaces. She is a steering committee member of The Ghostlight Project, founded and leads Let’s Talk About Hard Stuff, an AAPI anti-racist affinity space and is co-author of the open letter to Biden/Harris demanding cabinet-level representation for Arts and Culture.

 

VISION RESIDENCY SCHEDULE:

The AIR-Vengers
Premieres May 6 @ 7PM ET | $10
Curated & Hosted by Matt “Airistotle” Burns
Featuring Cindairella, Georgia Lunch, KitKat, The Marquis, Mom Jeans Jeanie, Nordic Thunder & Six String Sal
In Collaboration with ViDCo (Virtual Design Collective)
Curated by Vision Resident Jenny Koons
Join us for a one-night-only Air Guitar Extravaganza! Hosted by two-time world champion, Matt “Airistotle” Burns, the evening features brand new stay-at-home performances by the best in the biz — including the current world champion, The Marquis, as well as every US Air Guitar National Champ since 2014 — plus a tutorial led by Airistotle himself, and a community air guitar jam for performers AND audience members! Hop off your couch, give your arms a stretch and let’s rock.
Note: The AIR-Vengers is for everyone — age 0 to 100 — and takes place live on Zoom. Audience participation is welcomed: laugh, clap, and get loud for air guitar.
More Info & Tix

Trés | Tres
Premieres May 11 @ 7:30PM ET | $10
Created, Directed & Performed by Christopher Ash, Stacey Derosier & Jenny Koons
In Collaboration with ViDCo (Virtual Design Collective)
An interactive visual meditation on home, journeys and the worlds we create for ourselves. This experience will invite you to engage with your surroundings in new and surprising ways.
Note: This event takes place live on Zoom, and features audience participation. Additional details on how to participate will be emailed to all ticket buyers in the days leading up to the event.
More Info & Tix

RESILIENCE
Premieres May 14 @ 7PM ET | $10
Lead Artist, Director & Performer Alexandria Wailes
In collaboration with…
     Playwright Aimee Chou
     Filmmaker/Actor Dickie Hearts
     Painter Joyce Hom
     Artist Jubil Khan
Stage Manager Thomas Dieter
Line Producer Siena Rafter
Interpreters for Presentation Justine Rivera & Frenchetta Perez- Kilpatrick
Interpreters for Rehearsals Lynnette Taylor & Stephanie Feyne
In Collaboration with ViDCo (Virtual Design Collective)
Curated by Vision Resident Jenny Koons
An exaggerated triptych revolving around solitude, self-care, communal spaces and Zoom fatigue, RESILIENCE encourages you to reflect upon your own experiences, participation and self-awareness, through the creativity of BIPOC Deaf artists.
Note: This event takes place live on Zoom, and will be captioned for non-American Sign Language users.
More Info & Tix

Stranger Futures: A World-Building Game
Premieres May 20 & 21 @ 7PM ET | $10
Created & Performed by Jessica Creane, Jenny Koons, Nehemiah Luckett, Tyler Thomas
In Collaboration with ViDCo (Virtual Design Collective)
You’re invited to engage in a communal game of imaginative thinking, to time travel and to experiment with new processes for dreaming: alone and in community. What if we spent time imagining new futures as a practice? As we organize and build, how do we become clearer about the dreams we are moving toward?  Join us in excavating new language and possibilities for the future in this live participatory event to imagine utopia(s).
Note: This event takes place live on Zoom, and features audience participation. Additional details will be emailed to all ticket buyers in the days leading up to the event. A strictly limited quantity of tickets are available for this event.
More Info & Tix

 

ON JENNY KOONS — a profile by Chris Gabo

I remember standing on the steps of Fort Greene Park in the final moments of a performance Jenny directed me in when suddenly, out of a yellow cloudless day, it began to snow, and I remember thinking: “This motherfucker planned that.”

And in order to understand her approach as an artist, you have to understand that in a sense: she did. Her insistence on participation, between bodies, and environment is more than an invitation for serendipity. It’s a recipe. 

I’ve seen Jenny Koons’ plays in public parks, nightclubs, traditional prosceniums with red velvet chairs, and the Staten Island Ferry, and in every venue my eye is always forced to follow her gaze to the edge of the frame. Her aperture doesn’t just expand to include the margins, it seeks them out with rabid intention. She is always trying to bend the thing until it breaks. Her perpetual dissatisfaction with form itself is what spurs her awake. 

I am reminded of that old story about how Stanislavsky noticed through a crack in the curtains: a janitor mopping behind a play performed with mask and gesture and said “Goddamnit, that guy’s really doing something there and I can’t take my eyes off of him” and then two seconds later we had realism. I have had the pleasure of careening in and out of Jenny’s artistic life as both audience and participant and every single time I feel like she’s inventing a new form. Every single time it’s like she’s seen the janitor mopping behind the curtain and gone “Dead everything you think you know. That’s the North Star now.” 

And look: I don’t know and frankly I don’t care, whether or not she would appreciate this comparison, but I have to make it because it’s true: Jenny approaches this oft-dead art as an adrenaline junkie. She looks at an empty space the same way Phillipe Petite looked at the twin towers and drew a line in his head for him to dance upon. She sees what isn’t there with the same clarity that you and I see the color red. Which is why I would follow her work into Blue Man Group with the same enthusiasm that I’d follow her work up a steep narrow hill on 191st and Wadsworth Terrace. 

Lemme put it like this: there is truly nothing scarier than how unafraid white people are in Boston and I’ve braved that land of light denim and forward hats to see her work and ended the night resenting her for leaving me transformed, in that bleak corner Massachusetts of all places. 

She is always searching. And because that search is honest and brutal, any audience lucky enough to show up at the right place on the right night discovers themselves in her wake time and time again. 

This past year I have dodged the desperate translation of ‘theater’ from living organism to the internet with the intensity of Keanu Reeves bending time to dodge bullets in flowing black leather. But when I opened the portal to hear Jenny scheme to me about how to take this residency and explode it I thought, “if there is one person on this earth who could make this two-dimensional flattening of viscera into a thunderbolt it is her because she is a chemist.” 

The programming that she has curated for the Vision Residency is a distillation of her obsession with participation. She, unlike, me doesn’t see the internet model of theater as a brick wall, she sees it as a floral meadow, an endless expanse, a nameless tundra. Why? Because she understands something inherent about people in our generation: all of us foolhardy participants in this ancient ritual insist that there is nothing more alive than the divine moment in the theater and yet who among us hasn’t had the best sleep of their lives on 42nd and Broadway? And by contrast who among us hasn’t wept into our phones? Shut the laptop with a shaking hand? Flinched at an email as if it wore spears on its knuckle? 

The digital world is just a series of pathways with direct access to the human spirt and that’s what she’s getting at here. Her strategy with this latest gesture is to amplify the claustrophobic intimacy that the pandemic-era screen silo has provided us and use it as a tool to strike the tendon-like a bell. 

That’s why it’s going to be alive. Because it is in the maker’s nature to make a parade of her own living. ■


About the Author

Chris Gabo is a son of Colombian immigrants, who was born and raised in Tampa, Florida in an era where genre was permeable, where hip hop and punk rock were nothing if not synonyms. Fast, loud, strange defiant. Plus: all those weirdos were theater kids. After singing in a long series of bands, the first time he rapped on stage as a solo artist was opening up for a death metal band on prom night and it only got weirder from there. He takes his namesake ‘Gabo’ from the nickname Colombians give the father of magical realism, Gabriel García Márquez, and his complex imagistic lyrics live up to the moniker. Between soundchecks on tour as a kid was where he wrote his first plays in piss-stained dance-floors across the American South. A recent graduate from The Yale School of Drama’s Playwriting MFA program under Tarell Alvin McCraney, his music has an art school bent that coalesces into a punk and Latin influenced rap sound with a definitive pop sensibility helmed musically by his older cousin The Brainius who started producing for Gabo at family reunions. His play The Surgeon and her Daughters was workshopped at the 2015 Ojai Playwrights Conference; it was a semifinalist for the Sundance MENA Theatre Lab, a finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, and was part of the Cherry Lane Mentor Project in 2016 mentored by Rajiv Joseph. His play Locusts was a finalist for Sundance MENA Theatre LAB and was workshopped at the 2019 Ojai Playwrights Conference. His play In The Palm of a Giant was a finalist for the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. He is currently under commission from Long Warf Theatre and had a lead role as an actor in Jim McKay’s critically acclaimed film On The 7th Day. His musical collaborations include Cakes Da Killa, Lazerbeak, DJ Trackstar of Run The Jewels, and Company Flow’s Bigg Jus, he has opened up for Ana Tijoux and DJ Rob Swift and licensed music to Broad City and Champs-Elysees Film Festival’s Coldwater. He currently lives in Oakland with his wife, the poet Safia Elhillo.

 

ABOUT THE VISION RESIDENCY

Designed to foreground Ars Nova’s values through the creation of more equitable and power-sharing curatorial practices, the Vision Residency expands Ars Nova’s artistic vision by inviting seven artist-curators to populate our digital platform with their own work as well as work by artists they champion and admire.

Each Resident is given broad support from Ars Nova’s full staff, and spends two months planning for one month of activity on Ars Nova Supra. Each will be paid for their curation and administrative work, as well as a program budget to allocate towards the creation, development and presentation of work during their curated month. Vision Residents are encouraged to invite other artists they feel inspired by, want to collaborate with or simply wish to amplify, to make and share work using the budget and resources of the residency during their month of programming.

The 2020/21 Vision Residents are:
Starr Busby, nicHi douglas, JJJJJerome Ellis, raja feather kelly, Jenny Koons, David Mendizábal & Rona Siddiqui.

For more information, click here.