PS122 Gala at Abrons (early edition)

Just got home from the PS122 Gala – another fabulous, star-encrusted evening of downtown and glamour and fun. I conscripted Jeremy to cover the after- and after-after parties. Let’s hope he has some juicy details to report.

As for me, I played it responsible – I got there for the beginning and the main show and only stayed for a little while at the reception- long enough to see the newest Ethyl Eichelberger Award winner receive her prize – Peggy Shaw. It is hard to believe that it was six (or so) years ago when I was sitting in a loft at PS122 with Lucy Sexton and came up with the idea for the award. We were sitting with Anne Dennin – then the E.D. of PS122 – working on planning the 2005 gala. Lucy wanted to theme the entire gala after Ethyl and I thought maybe it would be better to start an award that would link the new generation with the previous generations, something that wouldn’t just end with a benefit but be an ongoing legacy. Also, a way to ensure that PS122 retained a commitment to queer performance. We all agreed and thus the Ethyl Eichelberger award was formed. Over the years the artists who have received the award have varied from early career to established, but one way or another it has enabled them to pursue projects and creative impulses that maybe they would not have been able to pursue otherwise. So it was very touching to see John Kelly, Jennifer Miller and Mx. Justin Vivian Bond onstage as they gave the award to Peggy. I’m sure Peggy will make a great new show and continue the new(ish) legacy of this great award.

In other news – the gala was superfun. I got there early and hobnobbed with friends old and new. After an hour or so of cocktails and snacks and catching up with folks it was time to head in for the show which honored Danny Hoch, Carmelita Tropicana and Justin Vivian Bond. It was also PS122’s 30th anniversary gala which resulted in a special “founder’s award” that was given to Tim Miller, Peter Rose, Charles Dennis and Charlie Moulton (in absentia).

John Kelly and Lisa Kron were hosts in the most fabulous tradition and introduced some wonderful performances from Nilaja Sun, Rufus Wainright, Lois Weaver, Peggy Shaw, Mo Angelos and more. One of my favorite performances of the evening was the first one – a restaging of an excerpt of Ann Carlson’s piece with four (real) lawyers dancing. It was called “Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg & Moore” and was originally staged in 1986. It totally captures the mix of high/low art, of fun and seriousness that PS122 embodies at its best. Just a really wonderful piece and a great way to start the show.

Those kids at PS122 know how to throw a party – and it is always a pleasure to see so many legends of downtown performance in one room. It is a good way to remember that PS122 was founded at a time when performance art and dance was taking itself very seriously and it was part of its mission to really invigorate things, shake things up and give the hidebound mainstream a kick in the pants. Now PS122 is the big dog – and it is definitely a challenge to balance being irreverent and avant-garde with playing with the other big dogs. But all things told they do a great job and we’re better for it.

Here’s to thirty more years!!!

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