Hybrid Cocktails and Brooklyn Academy of Music

The idea of the hybrid fascinates us. Think about it. It’s not just about fuel economy. There’s the adorable and ever-vexing platypus (is it a mammal or is it a bird?), James Bond’s ride in The Spy Who Loved Me (car or boat?), Dennis Rodman, Pluto, jeggings. In truth, some of these hybridizations seem to carry more value, more weight in the world than others.

My mind drifts to thoughts of the first family dog, Goldie—the terrier meets obscure hound meets God-knows-what mutt. She had a wisdom that outshined that of the younger and leggier Brandie, our purebred miniature collie. Brandie’s beauty was skin deep and her intelligence was on par with that of a newborn hamster. Goldie was a scholar of the streets, shamanic, zenned out. She was real and unpretentious. And I’m sure she was who she was because of that perfect cocktail of “stuff” that made her her. Not one thing, but several.

Gone are the days of Westminster-Dog-Show America where the purest and the most singular is the best in show. Times are too tough for that kind of dillydally, and there’s too much stimuli competing for our attention. These days, for a business to survive it must hybridize, offer and be lots of things to lots of people. This is especially true in the business of the arts.

In this manner, Fort Greene’s Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) has been evolving its way for more than 150 years to its present status as one of the most formidable art spaces in New York City and, perhaps, the country. Don’t be fooled by the name; it ain’t all batons and coattails. Frederick Douglass delivered an address here in 1863. The great pioneer of modern dance Isadora Duncan brought her company to BAM at the turn of the century. More recently, I saw two great productions, Liv Ullman’s take on Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire and Rufus Wainwright’s effusive opera Prima Donna.

If the stage is not your thing and you’d rather see something on the big screen, BAM offers major blockbuster pictures as well as a sampling Sundance would be proud of (and it is once a year when the festival brings its winners to Brooklyn). Looking for live music? There’s BAMcafé Live, which features eclectic programming for all tastes.

There is even something for purveyors of the fine arts. BAM’s walls and halls are adorned with little treasures, cementing the fact that even those of us who suffer with the deepest and most profound of attention-related disorders can find a little solace in its warm and multifarious embrace. bam.org.

The Caretaker // Thru June 17
Harold Pinter’s modern masterpiece explores human compassion, cruelty and loyalty through a tale of two brothers, a homeless man and a decrepit London flat.

An Evening with Anthony Bourdain // June 9
Candid insights about food, work, travels and writing. Audience Q+A.

alan semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a writer, musician, English teacher, and occasional visual artist. Besides LI Pulse, his work has appeared in Newsday, Adbusters, Chain, The Lyric Review and numerous other print and online publications, anthologies, and chapbooks. His first full-length book of poetry is In the Architecture of Bone (Genpop Books 2009). You can visit him digitally at alanarts.com and find out about his music at alansemerdjian.com.