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Michael Zerang

Laura Molzahn: What did you do at Links, and for how long?

Michael Zerang: I was the Artistic Director from 1985 to 1989. I have been a board member since 1989.

How did you come to be involved? What was it like at Links in the 80s?

I am a musician and a composer, and in 1977 I began accompanying dance classes at MoMing [Dance & Arts Center, which closed in December 1990], and soon after started composing music for various choreographers. Since Links Hall was geographically near MoMing and many dancers worked there, I spent a good amount of time collaborating at Links Hall. I met Bob Eisen, Carol Bobrow, and Charlie Vernon in the late 70s. In 1980, I was part of a performance collective called MUSICA MENTA. We worked regularly at the Links Hall space from 1980 to 1985, taking the late-night slots three times a week during that period.

In 1985, Bob Eisen asked me to step in and program some shows at Links. I explained that I was a musician and composer, and these were the kind of things I could offer. I was hesitant to take on this task since Links had been such a vital place for dance and movement explorations, but he urged me to do it anyway. So, in November 1985, I launched the Links Hall Performance Series, which primarily consisted of experimental music concerts, world music concerts, and literary readings, with the occasional dance and performance artwork presented as well. (A complete list of these shows can be found here.)

During this period, in 1988, my friend (and future Links Hall board member) Leigh Jones opened up a cabaret/bar performance space in the basement of the Links Hall building called Club Lower Links. It became an important venue in the USA for cabaret-style performance art and experimental music. For a while, the two spaces and their programming were very much intertwined, and people referred to them as Upper Links and Lower Links.

After my stint as Artistic Director was over, I became a board member, and Links Hall reverted back to a space primarily for body-based performance exploration. I recently celebrated my 20th year as a board member.

Do you have stories to share about Links back then?

In April 1988, I programmed a fund-raiser for and at Links Hall with a 24-hour marathon of performances. The staff and I decided that, as of this event, we would institute a no-smoking policy at Links (seems like a long time ago now!). Everything was going pretty well, but about halfway through the marathon, poet Lori Jackson (now deceased) finished her performance by lighting a smoke bomb that was much too powerful for the relatively small space. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, and it took hours for the smoke to clear enough to see the stage. Nonetheless, Links Hall has been a smoke-free space ever since!

What is the Links legacy, in your mind, and what do you hope for its future?

Links Hall has always been an egalitarian environment, allowing for several different streams and approaches to art making in the performing arts. A strong emphasis on artistic research and development makes Links one of only a handful of organizations in the country with this focus.

Interview conducted via email September 2, 2009, and edited by Laura Molzahn.

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