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While our spaces remain closed due to Covid-19, the spirit of BAM is very much alive. Visit Love From BAM to peruse our current virtual programs and stay tuned for an announcement of a new season of digital programs for the fall—one that pushes boundaries, celebrates diverse perspectives, and continues our commitment to artists.

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Geoff Sobelle Remembers Adam Max

In addition to his impact on BAM’s staff and board, Adam Max, who passed away July 27, 2020, had a tremendous curiosity for the artistic process. He was an inspiring actor before he pivoted to a career in finance, settling on his role as "enthusiastic audience member." One artist he had a particular connection with was Geoff Sobelle, who memorably brought The Object Lesson (Next Wave 2014) and HOME (Next Wave 2017) to BAM's stages. Here’s what Geoff had to say about his relationship with Adam:

I first knew Adam Max as a “patron of the arts.”

As an independent theater artist, I’ve applied for a lot of grants, asked for a lot of funding from foundations, and have been the grateful recipient of institutional support from universities, grant organizations, and sometimes private people. I’m no stranger to the system. But I’d never met a true patron—that is, the kind of person who was really there purely to help you for no other reason than their personal love of artistic creation and their desire to see a crazy idea blossom.

I’ll put it this way: I’ve never had anyone seek me out, to begin a meaningful conversation with me, to actively take a vested interest in my life as a performing artist, and to do all of that on their own accord. Except for Adam Max. And I’m sure—as I learn more about the other parts of his life—that he remains, by all accounts, exceptional.

Five years ago we met up for lunch in Brooklyn, which Adam loved, because it was so off the “beaten track” for him. Or so he said… Maybe he just liked taking an extra long lunch, or maybe it was actually a huge pain in the ass for him to get all the way out there, but in his joking way he just said how much he liked “going way out of his way for lunch.” You can’t always tell when he’s kidding. And that was something I liked about him right away. That he’s sort of always kidding. You can’t really tell. It’s something people say about me too actually. Maybe that was our connection. And through the jokes—also something extremely serious underneath it all. I’m not sure what that serious thing was to be honest. It was just there. Lots of humor. And underneath—a bedrock of seriousness.

As we talked and got to know one another, we spoke about our families, about our dreams and about New York, and a lot about the theater. He told me about his own background as an actor, and I realize that he was probably—no, most certainly—really very good. In his chosen present he was funny, and he made people laugh. And in his chosen present he could make people feel at home. And in his chosen present, if he needed to, I think that he could also be quite provocative. And I imagine that in his alternative reality as a comic actor, that he was magnetic on the stage. Charismatic, intelligent, always ready with a gag of some kind or other…

He told me that he saw in me a path that he hadn’t taken. Which at first I thought insane. No one had ever said that before. In the theater, I do things like chop vegetables with ice skates and fry an egg on a fishing pole from across the stage. These weren’t the kinds of routines that New York executives and power brokers would normally identify with—or so I had been led to believe. But somehow Adam Max loved the clown show. He saw in all of the mess what we were trying to get at—some kind of overarching metaphor—that as things are falling apart all around you, and you’re grasping at straws, maybe you actually come up with one. Or perhaps not. And then the joke’s on you, I suppose. (If there’s a metaphor in there, I apologize, it was not intended). Life is an overwhelming messy catastrophe, and the clown is just trying to fry that egg from across the stage. I think Adam understood the egg, the storm, the fishing rod… and actually, maybe much more than all of this. Much more than I understand, to be truthful.

Adam valued this “work”—this crazy thing that I and my pals are involved in as a kindred spirit. He loved the madness, he loved the mess, and I think—somewhere inside—he loved the chaos. We would go to see shows together, different things, always a bit off the beaten path, and would talk passionately and even bitchily about the things we saw together. We would tear them apart, we would turn them upside down, analyze them, try to understand them. He was just a passionate man. What can I say? He loved the things that he loved and tried to understand the things that befuddled him; he was extraordinarily active in this rigor and interrogated artistic choices with zeal, respect, and—a kind of buoyancy. It wasn’t heavy. But it was rigorous.

Here’s the thing. Adam supported my work. But he went to the core. He did not come on to support a project. He sought me out in order to support an artist that he believed in. He came in early on my project HOME, that I created as a commission from BAM, but it was never about selling him on an idea, or embarrassing myself and turning myself inside out like a pretzel asking for help. (Very common in this world.) He just loved the work. He adored the stupid jokes, the absurdity, the glory of the pratfall, the sweat, the tears, the blood. He loved the actual “stuff.” And he wanted to be a part of that. We became friends in this time, and he helped birth a show that led to my marriage and then to the birth of my daughter—all of which he was enormously excited about and interested in. Adam was invested in the artist’s life. Not just the project or production. He was actually intensely interested in “home” itself—not the show, but the practice. I responded by throwing an event at his house where a 13 year old invited people to make a fort in his office and a marching band paraded through the living room. And although he bristled at the proposal, I knew that he was tickled at the provocation, and loved the story—the residue of a chaos deployed in his very home.

I have no idea who he was at his place of work. Maybe I have some idea. But not really. I don’t know who he was as the head of BAM’s board. And I don’t really know who he was at home with his family. But I know this man. I know that he was incisive, provocative, deeply loving—if a bit guarded with his sharp-witted, well-aimed teasing jokes—and seriously thoughtful. He was keenly interested in the world, in the work, and how the world and the work came together and fell apart. I so wish that I could ask him now about our present moment. About things falling apart, coming together, falling apart and coming together.

I will miss you greatly, Adam. And I mourn the friendship that we had only just begun five fast years ago. But I promise you many more clown routines—much more madness and all the shtick—in your spirit and in your divine remembrance.

With love,