Transforming the Stage

Whether there’s any validity to it or not, the “we only use 10 percent of our brain” theory is solid food for thought. The idea that there is a whole world of unexplored gray stuff up there suggests the potential for us to get better and more evolved as a species. There’s always the idea of more. I mean…it makes a lot of sense. The sky is never the limit, right? How far does the universe stretch? What’s beyond infinity?

Most of us don’t know this, but the typically stuffy and culturally conservative Lincoln Center universe transforms every summer into an extravaganza of inventiveness and eclectic world-class programming that will activate the 90 percent of the brain that lies dormant. It’s called the Lincoln Center Festival and it’s been shaking the halls of the plaza since 1996. Think of it as the crème de la crème of a Fringe festival on steroids. There’s an international flavor and a fierce emphasis on experimentation. Highlights this year include the much-lauded retelling of a Chinese classic by Gorillaz creators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. Monkey: Journey to the West, July 6-28, is aerial antics and musical theater peppered with animation and some wild contortionists to boot. There’s also Lera Auerbach’s The Blind, July 9-14, a multisensory sound installation of sorts that asks for the audience to remain blindfolded for the duration of the performance. John Zorn makes the festival this year as does Sinead O’Connor and a host of other notables. It’s a veritable hootenanny of high art made accessible for the masses with affordable ticket prices and plans. And it’s nothing like your grandmother’s Lincoln Center.

Actually your grandmother’s Lincoln Center is also pretty amazing and not the culturally conservative operation I hinted at earlier (for the purposes of dramatization, forgive me). This summer, Emmy Award winner Holland Taylor (Two and a Half Men) lights up the stage, for instance, as Ann Richards, the infamous late governor of Texas in Ann. And there’s always the Mostly Mozart series for those of us who can’t get enough of Wolfie’s little ditties. When the Lincoln Center Festival comes to a close at the end of July, do not fear that there will be nothing to see or do here. For most of us, that 10 percent has counted for something thus far, no?

words: Alan Semerdjian
photo: Mark Bussell

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 and find out about his music at