The Kitchen’s 40th Anniversary Gala, Honoring Philip Glass

Last night took me to Little Italy for the Kitchen‘s swank 40th anniversary gala inside the posh Capitale, a former bank designed by Stanford White. It was easily the classiest gala I’ve been to so far, and I was initially a little uncomfortable by the red-carpet affair. But a cocktail and glass of wine in and my nerves settled, as I found myself seated for dinner with a couple of the performing musicians and a cadre of journos there to cover the event for New York mag, the Journal, and so on.

In the main hall, beneath a soaring dome, the attendees paid tribute to this year’s honoree, the composer Philip Glass. Following a performance by jazz pianist Vijay Iyer (in Trio), playwright and monologist Eric Bogosian took the stage to reminisce about the early days of the Kitchen. This was their 40th Anniversary gala, after all, and Bogosian’s story of becoming the first dance programmer by dint of having a dance teacher ask him if they could put on a show was actually kind of touching. The short video that followed, tracking all the way back to the Kitchen’s early days, featuring footage of performances by the Talking Heads (whose first show was played in the space) and the Beastie Boys, with brief interviews with everyone from glass to Meredith Monk to Sarah Michelson, spoke to both the can-do spirit and commitment to risk-taking that’s made the Kitchen the institution it is today.

Glass himself spoke to that during his speech, recounting some of his own early experiences there. “I saw John Cage doing a reading there,” he said, touched to be recognized by organization he’s worked with for so long. The audience began cheering, only to have him complete the anecdote: “It emptied out the house!” Then, laughing, he added, “Amazing things happened here!”

After dinner we wandered back out to the main hall for the after-party. A d.j. was spinning and the wait staff were wandering around with desserts, but most people predictably went for the open bar. I found myself talking with the Kitchen’s archivist John Migliore about his work, and the amazing trove of video and film documentation going back four decades or so tracking the development of dance, theater, music, and live art as it happened at the Kitchen and, by extension, in America. It was truly impressive to be reminded, as I have so many times since moving to New York, that most of the legendary things you hear about in the history of art that took place here actually took place in tiny, uncomfortable, often crappy little lofts and basements that existed only because of the commitment of artists to make their art. The Kitchen’s come a long way in 40 years (and occupies much nicer digs today), but that independent, pioneering spirit lives on. Here’s to 40 more!

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