Written in Sand OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Hunter Canning
  • NY TIMES

  • THEATRE IS EASY

Opening Night:
October 2, 2014
Closing:
October 26, 2014

Theater: Baruch Performing Arts Center / 55 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 10010

Synopsis: 

Written in Sand includes performance pieces and writings on AIDS Finley wrote between 1983 and 1994, many performed publicly for the first time. Some of Karen Finley’s most searing work on the subject of AIDS, Written in Sand was wrote at a time when medical treatment was ineffective and when she was losing her friends to the disease on a continual basis. Some pieces are excerpted from her earlier shows of the era; others are based on writing she did at the time that has never been published or performed. Interspersing the Finley pieces are musical selections originally written or performed by musicians who died of AIDS during this period, performed by jazz artist Paul Nebenzahl.

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF Written in Sand

    A Raging Lament of Raw Memory Karen Finley Relives the AIDS Epidemic in ‘Written in Sand’

    Ben Brantley

    October 15, 2014: The grieving didn’t stop when the memorial services ended. Three decades after AIDS first cut a swath through her Manhattan, killing many of the people she was closest to, the performance artist Karen Finley still wears her sorrow like an open wound. It is a loud, angry and public sorrow — the kind that insists on expression in wails and howls that grab at the viscera of anyone within hearing distance. “I relive all my friends’ deaths over and over and over again till it’s all one big death,” Ms. Finley says, and there’s such thunder in her voice, you half expect the skies to open in a “Lear”-like deluge of empathy. That declaration comes from a piece that was first performed by Ms. Finley 20 years ago. But in Written in Sand, her new show at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, she speaks the words with the rawness of someone discovering them for the first time and being jolted by how much they hurt. It feels impolite for you to keep looking at and listening to this grief-deranged woman. But then, it would be even ruder to turn away. Generating such discomfort has always been the specialty of Ms. Finley, who became internationally famous when the National Endowment for the Arts denied her a grant in 1990 because of the perceived obscenity of her work. But though her notoriety was rooted in her use of nudity and sexual explicitness, Written in Sand reminds us that Ms. Finley’s most truly unsettling nakedness is emotional.

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  • THEATRE IS EASY REVIEW OF Written in Sand

    It's Karen Finley, doing what only she does. Even with her clothes on, she leaves an impression

    Regina Robbins

    October 13, 2014: Karen Finley is an icon in the world of performance art, but not necessarily for the reasons she would like. Back in the 1990s, she sued the federal government for revoking her National Endowment for the Arts grant solely on the basis of “decency” (or lack thereof). Her name is on a Supreme Court case. Fortunately, none of these legal matters have stopped her from doing her thing. Over the course of her career, Finley has performed in theatres and nightclubs, played Martha Stewart and Liza Minnelli, smeared food on her nude body, posed for Playboy, and taught at NYU. Her new show, Written in Sand, repurposes material from that long career while simultaneously creating something very much of the present. Like every artist living and working in New York in the ‘80s, Finley witnessed the worst years of the AIDS crisis. Thirty-plus years on, the trauma of that period is being relived by many of the people who survived it, in the names of those who did not. Some of the pieces Finley has gathered here -- they include “He’s Going Home,” “In Memory Of” and “Positive Attitude” -- may be “old,” but the way she approaches them makes them seem fresh, even raw. Finley takes the stage looking like a cabaret singer -- elegantly coiffed, wearing a long gown and heels, then gives a performance that is anything but smooth. She acknowledges friends in the audience and asks us to make room for those friends who are gone but here in spirit. She chats and laughs between monologues, joking about the minimalist set and her runny nose. She takes her time preparing for each emotionally draining piece. It’s all worth it.

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