“When we really didn’t know what this pandemic was going to be, times got really, really, really rough. And then, around late March, the entire ecosystem just completely collapsed,” Works & Process general manager Duke Dang says in The Way Forward, the film that kicks off the docuseries Isolation to Creation, which premieres on WNET’s All Arts channel on January 27 at 8:00. The half-hour film follows the creative process of a group of artists who found their previously commissioned works postponed so they had to adapt to the shutdown of indoor venues, in this case the 273-seat Peter B. Lewis Theater under the Guggenheim rotunda, where Works & Process has been hosting sneak peeks and behind-the-scenes looks at dance, theater, opera, and music productions since 1984. The organization quickly transitioned to the new digital world, presenting a wide range of daring and beautiful virtual pieces, more than six dozen so far, all under ten minutes and premiering Sunday and Monday nights, filmed outdoors or from wherever the artists are sheltering in place.
In The Way Forward, Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, Archie Burnett, Omari Wiles and Kya Azeen of Les Ballet Afrik, Joshua Bergasse, Sara Mearns, Chris Celiz, José Cruzata, Jamar Roberts, Dr. Wendy Ziecheck, and others discuss the metamorphosis to virtual productions, including Covid-19 testing, forming quarantine bubbles in the Hudson Valley (at Kaatsbaan Cultural Park, Mount Tremper Arts, and Petronio Residency Center), and collaborating while socially distancing. “It’s a complete launch into the unknown for us, and Duke especially just grabbed it and ran,” W&P producer Caroline Cronson explains. The series, directed by Nic Petry of Dancing Camera, continues February 3, 10, and 17 as the artists get ready for showtime, preparing their works in such styles as Afrik, ballet, ballroom, break, flex, Krump, modern, tap, and vogue. W&P has been more than a breath of fresh air during the coronavirus crisis, streaming exhilarating short pieces that remind us of the power of and intrinsic need for art and all that it brings us, particularly when we’re stuck in our homes, and Isolation to Creation enhances that experience in a big way, holding us over until we can once again return to the Peter B. Lewis Theater and be together in the same space.
Who: Dylan Baker, Becky Ann Baker, Christopher Abbott, Deirdre O’Connell, Emily Kuroda, Michael Chernus, Jojo Brown, Dalia Davi, Nicholas Gorham, Carolyn Ratteray, Stacey Karen Robinson, Babak Tafti, Daigi-Ann Thompson, Paul Sparks, Eden Malyn, Amanda Seyfried, Sting
What: New online theatrical works to benefit No Kid Hungry
Where: Link supplied by the Homebound Project after donation
When: January 27-31, $10 or more, 7:00
Why: One of the best theatrical series during the pandemic has been the Homebound Project, short one-act plays, generally between five and ten minutes each, featuring award-winning actors, writers, and directors, filmed wherever the performer is sheltering in place. Among the many highlights from the first five iterations were Alison Pill in C. A. Johnson’s diversions, Marin Ireland in Eliza Clark’s The Jessicas, Kimberly Hébert Gregory in Loy A. Webb’s These Hands, Utkarsh Ambudkar in Marco Ramirez’s Is This a Play Yet, Ashley Park in Bess Wohl’s The Morning Message to the Second Graders in Room 206, Daveed Diggs in Johnson’s Here and Now, Diane Lane in Michael R. Jackson’s Let’s Save the World, Sue Jean Kim in Leslye Headland’s The Rat, Marquise Vilsón in Migdalia Cruz’s Meat & Other Broken Promises, and Brian Cox and his wife and children in Melis Aker’s Fractio Panis. If you didn’t catch them the first time around, when they ran online for four days each, then you’re out of luck. But you can soon catch the surprise sixth presentation, which premieres January 27 at 7:00 and can be viewed, with a minimum donation of ten dollars, through January 31 at 7:00. All proceeds benefit No Kid Hungry; more than one hundred and fifty thousand dollars has been collected so far. Much of the reason why they decided to add this extra edition is because of the continued lockdown of many schools and the resulting food insecurity many children are experiencing.
The theme of the first five installments were “Home,” “Sustenance,” “Champions,” “Promise,” and “Homemade”; taking on the prompt of “2021” are the following exciting actor/writer/director collaborations: Christopher Abbott and Deirdre O’Connell / Lucy Thurber / Caitriona McLaughlin (Port Isabel); Dylan Baker and Becky Ann Baker / David Lindsay-Abaire / Paul Mullins (The Narrows); Jojo Brown / Cece Suazo / Jenna Worsham (Things That Were Said to Me); Michael Chernus / Adam Rapp / Adam Rapp (Sand and Snow); Dalia Davi / Ren Dara Santiago / Jenna Worsham (Someone’s Family); Nicholas Gorham / Brian Otaño / Tatiana Pandiani (close your eyes and count to ten); Emily Kuroda / Kate Cortesi / Jenna Worsham (I love parties); Eden Malyn and Catya McMullen / Catya McMullen (She’s a leaper); Carolyn Ratteray / Bekah Brunstetter (My Mouth); Stacey Karen Robinson / Sharon Bridgforth (bull-jean & dem/dey back); Paul Sparks / Brian Watkins / Danya Taymor (Thing on the Dash); Babak Tafti / Colette Robert / Taylor Reynolds (notes from a survivalist); and Daigi-Ann Thompson / Julissa Contreras (Essential), with special appearances by Amanda Seyfried and Sting.
Who: Arin Arbus, John Douglas Thompson, Isabel Arraiza, Danaya Esperanza, Ian Lassiter, Ajay Naidu, Alfredo Narciso, Graham Winton
What: Pair of readings and talkbacks about The Merchant of Venice
Where: Theatre for a New Audience
When: Wednesday, July 27, 7:00, and Saturday, July 30, 3:00, free with RSVP
Why: Theatre for a New Audience is planning on staging an in-person adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice once theaters are allowed to reopen in New York City. On January 27 and 30, TFANA will give a sneak peek at its take on the problematic play for the new series “Artists & Community.” Director Arin Arbus and award-winning actor John Douglas Thompson, who have previously worked together on Othello, Macbeth, Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and Strindberg’s The Father, are teaming up again for the Bard’s seriocomic work about romance and moneylending. Thompson, who will be playing Shylock, will be joined on Zoom by Isabel Arraiza, Danaya Esperanza, Ian Lassiter, Ajay Naidu, Alfredo Narciso, and Graham Winton, performing Act I, Scene III; Act II, Scenes III and V; and Act III, Scene I on January 27 at 7:00 and Act IV, Scene I: The Trial on July 30 at 3:00. Both free readings will be followed by a talkback with Arbus and members of the cast, moderated by TFANA founding artistic director Jeffrey Horowitz, who said in a statement, “On January 9, the Royal Shakespeare Company, with TFANA and the Young Vic, copresented a livestreamed concert that began an investigation into the 1939 Broadway musical Swingin’ the Dream. I’m thrilled that TFANA will now offer another first look: a behind-the-scenes exploration of Shakespeare’s provocative, polarizing play.” Among the lines they are likely to examine is Portia’s courtroom question “Which is the merchant here, and which the Jew?”
Who: Salamishah Tillet, Rebecca Belmore, Zena Howard, Bryan Lee Jr., Mayor Marvin Rees, Justin Garrett Moore, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Zsuzsa Szegedy-Maszák, Cecilia Alemani, Melanie Kress
What: Discussions on monumental public sculpture sponsored by the High Line and Next City
Where: Next City
When: Wednesday, January 27, pay-what-you-wish, 1:00; Friday, January 28, pay-what-you-wish, 1:00 (suggested admission $20 for both events)
Why: In June 2019, the High Line installed its inaugural plinth commission, Simone Leigh’s Brick House, a sixteen-foot-high bronze bust of a Black woman on the Spur at Thirtieth St. and Tenth Ave., overlooking traffic. The woman’s eyes are rubbed out and four cornrow braids with cowrie shells fall from her afro onto a skirt based on the Natchez, Mississippi, restaurant Mammy’s Cupboard as well as the Batammaliba (“those who are the real architects of the earth”) building style of Benin and Togo and the nearly extinct dome-shaped Mousgoum teleuk clay dwellings that can be found in Cameroon and Chad. The Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based Leigh will represent the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale, and she recently unveiled the twenty-inch-tall limited-edition sculpture Sentinel IV, raising money for the nonprofit organization Color of Change. Brick House, which also evokes the Commodores hit (“Ow, she’s a brick house / She’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out / She’s a brick house / That lady’s stacked and that’s a fact / Ain’t holding nothing back”), will remain up through the spring, casting an imposing figure across the area, dominating the space around it with a powerful energy at a time when public statues and sculptures are being reevaluated and, sometimes, torn down because of their subjects’ historical connections to racism, misogyny, slavery, and other societal ills.
The High Line and Next City, a nonprofit news organization whose mission is “to inspire greater economic, environmental, and social justice in cities,” have teamed up for the Future of Monumentality Speaker Series, which kicks off this week with two events moderated by Salamishah Tillet focusing on monumental public sculpture just as Brick House prepares to start giving way to the second plinth commission, chosen from shortlisted artists Jonathan Berger, Minerva Cuevas, Jeremy Deller, Sam Durant, Charles Gaines, Lena Henke, Matthew Day Jackson, Roman Ondak, Paola Pivi, Haim Steinbach, and Cosima von Bonin. On January 27 at 1:00, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Justin Garrett Moore, and Zena Howard will discuss “What Is Monumentality?,” exploring the connections between art and architecture, the narrative of the work in relation to the audience, and who can tell which story. On January 28 at 1:00, Rebecca Belmore, Bryan Lee Jr., Mayor Marvin Rees, and Zsuzsa Szegedy-Maszák will talk about “Alternatives to Monumentality,” examining form and function, displacing and recontextualizing, and storytelling traditions. "Monuments have hurt our communities, but they can also be used to heal,” Next City executive director Lucas Grindley said in a statement. “Now is the time to learn from the many practitioners already doing the work of reimagining monuments.”
The High Line has just announced the twelve finalists for the third and fourth plinth commissions, scheduled to be installed in 2022 and 2024; the list of eighty proposals has been whittled down to submissions by Iván Argote, Nina Beier, Margarita Cabrera, Nick Cave, Banu Cennetoğlu, Rafa Esparza, Teresita Fernández, Kapwani Kiwanga, Lu Pingyuan, Pamela Rosenkranz, Mary Sibande, and Andra Ursuţa. You can see their maquettes either on the High Line at the Coach Passage at Thirtieth St. through April or online here.
Who: Bobby Cannavale, Marisa Tomei
What: Livestreamed reading produced by Tectonic Theater Project
Where: Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and YouTube
When: Tuesday, January 26, free (donations accepted), 8:00 (available through January 30)
Why: Originally commissioned for public television, Jon Robin Baitz’s Three Hotels consists of a trio of confessional monologues by executive Ken Hoyle and his wife, Barbara, dealing with personal tragedy and professional complications. First presented by Circle Rep in 1993 with Ron Rifkin and Christine Lahti, it played the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1995 with Richard Dreyfuss and Lahti and the Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2011 with Steven Weber and Maura Tierney. Tectonic Theater Project is now teaming up with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS for a benefit reading of the work with Bobby Cannavale and Marisa Tomei, helmed by Tectonic cofounder and artistic director Moisés Kaufman. “I think I first conceived of Three Hotels as an act of vengeance on my parents’ behalf — this being the kind of hubris only children are capable of, and only when they believe, erroneously or not, that they have witnessed the humiliation of a mother and father,” Baitz writes in an introductory note to the published version. “Memory is everything to me.” The play will stream live on January 26 at 8:00, with an introduction by two-time Pulitzer finalist Baitz (The Substance of Fire, Other Desert Cities) and two-time Tony nominee Kaufman (The Laramie Project, Torch Song), and will be available through January 30. Every dollar donated will help fight HIV/AIDS, Covid-19, and other critical illnesses across the country; Broadway Cares will also be presenting Anjou: The Musical Horror Tale on January 29 and ABC Daytime: Back on Broadway on February 11 with Bobbie Eakes, Melissa Claire Egan, Vincent Irizarry, Eva La Rue, Susan Lucci, Cameron Mathison, Eden Riegel, Chrishell Stause, and Walt Willey from All My Children, Kristen Alderson, BethAnn Fuenmayor, Kathy Brier, Kassie DePaiva, David Gregory, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Catherine Hickland, Mark Lawson, Hillary B. Smith, Jason Tam, and Brittany Underwood from One Life to Live, and Bradford Anderson, Brandon Barash, and Anthony Geary from General Hospital.
Irish Rep Online
January 26 - February 21, free (donations accepted)
New York City’s Irish Rep has been one of the busiest and most innovative companies during the pandemic lockdown, presenting a steady stream of online programming, highlighted by new virtual productions of previously staged shows, each available for a limited time. Called “A Performance on Screen,” the works range from gleeful musicals to haunting tales, filmed at the Irish Rep, in actors’ homes, or over Zoom using technology that makes it appear that the characters are in the same space, interacting with one another directly. Nine of the shows are having four encores apiece for the Theatre @ Home Winter Festival, running January 26 through February 21; tickets are free, although there is a suggested donation of $25 (or $100 for the full festival) if you are able to give. The Irish Rep has been a treasure since its founding in 1988, so it is a joy to see it continuing its established tradition during these challenging times. Below is more information about each show as well as a pair of bonus events.
January 26, February 6, 13, 18
Molly Sweeney: A Performance on Screen
Geraldine Hughes and Ciarán O’Reilly reprise their roles as Molly and Frank from the Irish Rep’s 2011 production of Brian Friel’s Molly Sweeney, joined by Paul O’Brien as Mr. Rice, whom he played in Keen Company’s 2012 revival. Directed by Charlotte Moore, the story of isolation and fear focuses on a blind woman who is convinced to try to restore her sight through medical means.
January 27, February 2, 14, 17
YES! Reflections of Molly Bloom: A Performance on Screen
It doesn’t get much more intimate than Aedín Moloney and Colum McCann’s adaptation taken from James Joyce’s Ulysses, in which Moloney plays a lustful and heartbroken Molly Bloom, wife of Leopold. Featuring music by her father, Paddy Moloney, the show was recorded on an iPhone from a bedroom in Miami, where Aedín holds nothing back in a bold and moving performance.
January 27, February 6, 10, 19
The Weir: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep virtual restaging of its 2013 and 2015 productions of Conor McPherson’s ghostly play will make you feel like you’re in the pub with Finbar (Sean Gormley), Jim (John Keating), Jack, (Dan Butler), Brendan (Tim Ruddy), and Valerie (Amanda Quaid) as they share ghost stories and drink on an eerie night. Directed by Ciarán O’Reilly, the show is one of the best recorded events of the pandemic.
January 28, February 3, 14, 20
Love, Noël: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward — A Performance on Screen
Steve Ross and KT Sullivan reunite at the historic Players club for a virtual edition of their summer 2019 sold-out hit at the Irish Rep, Love, Noel: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward. Written and devised by Barry Day and directed by Charlotte Moore following Covid-19 protocols, the show features the music and letters of the English bon vivant, including catty comments about Gertrude Lawrence, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Elaine Stritch, Lynn Fontanne, Virginia Woolf, Edna Ferber, and the Queen Mother.
January 29, February 7, 13, 17
Belfast Blues: A Performance on Screen
Irish actress and playwright Geraldine Hughes says goodbye to her 2003 autobiographical one-woman show, about her childhood growing up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, in this farewell performance recorded in 2019 at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, directed by Carol Kane. Hughes portrays twenty-four characters as she relates her story with candor and humor, in front of a hugely appreciative home audience.
January 30, February 7, 10, 21
Give Me Your Hand: A Poetical Stroll through the National Gallery of London — A Performance on Screen
Dermot Crowley and Dearbhla Molloy lead the audience through the National Gallery of London in this performance recorded at the Coronet Theatre in London and directed by Jamie Beamish. Crowley and Molloy discuss works by Van Gogh, Van Eyck, Rubens, Gainsborough, and others, enhanced by the poetry of Paul Durcan.
January 30, February 4, 12, 16
A Touch of the Poet: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep was four weeks into rehearsal for its spring revival of Eugene O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet when the pandemic lockdown shuttered theaters across the city. But the troupe soldiered ahead, reimagining the show for a virtual audience, shipping Alejo Vietti’s costumes to wherever the actors were sheltering in place as well as using Robert Charles Vallance’s hair and wig design, Joe Dulude’s makeup, Ryan Rumery’s original music, and even Charlie Corcoran’s set. The original cast of Belle Aykroyd, Ciaran Byrne, Robert Cuccioli, Mary McCann, Andy Murray, David O’Hara, Tim Ruddy, David Sitler, and John C. Vennema, led by a terrific Kate Forbes as Nora, makes you feel welcome in the Boston tavern owned by the Melodi family, even if this is not one of O’Neill’s best plays.
January 31, February 5, 10, 20
On Beckett / In Screen — An Exploration of the Works of Samuel Beckett: A Performance on Screen
Bill Irwin adapts his exquisite one-man show for the pandemic, adding elements of the lockdown as he delves into his long relationship with the works of Samuel Beckett, in particular Beckett’s 1955 collection Texts for Nothing, his 1950s novels The Unnamable and Watt, and the classic Waiting for Godot. Directed for the camera by M. Florian Staab and Irwin, it begins with Irwin walking down West Twenty-Second St. and entering the Irish Rep, an act that is both sad and defiant; we might not be able to go inside right now and watch him perform in person, but he’s not about to let that stop him from sharing his fabulous story while implying that we will all be inside, together again, at some point.
January 31, February 3, 11, 21
Meet Me in St. Louis: A Performance on Screen
The Irish Rep drew raves for its abridged virtual version of the 1989 Broadway musical Meet Me in St. Louis, itself based on the 1944 Christmas movie and the 1941-42 Kensington Stories by Sally Benson. This online production was adapted and directed by Charlotte Moore, who played Anna Smith in the original Broadway cast; the book is by Hugh Wheeler, with songs (“The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door,” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”) by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Shereen Ahmed stars as Esther Smith, with Melissa Errico as Mrs. Smith, Max Von Essen as John Truitt, Ali Ewoldt as Rose Smith, and Ian Holcomb as Warren Sheffield, along with William Bellamy, Rufus Collins, Kerry Conte, Kathy Fitzgerald, Austyn Johnson, Jay Aubrey Jones, Kylie Kuioka, and Ashley Robinson.
BONUS I: January 29, $10, 3:00
The Gifts You Gave to the Dark, Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival
In May, the Irish Rep premiered Darren Murphy’s The Gifts You Gave to the Dark, a short play told over a smartphone, one of the first livestreamed theatrical works to deal with Covid-19, as Tom (Marty Rea), sick with the novel coronavirus, cannot visit his mother, Rose (Marie Mullen), who is dying and being cared for by her brother, Larry (Seán McGinley). You can watch a rebroadcast on January 29 at 3:00 as part of the Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival.
BONUS II: Ongoing
Plaguey Hill: A New Work by Paul Muldoon
The Irish Rep is currently streaming Plaguey Hill, a twenty-minute piece featuring fifteen newly composed sonnets by Paul Muldoon (Incantata, The Dead, 1904) about how he is dealing with the lockdown, read by Liev Schreiber onstage at the Rep, with gorgeous musical interludes by saxophonist Lenny Pickett.
Who: Natalie Portman, Nina Totenberg, Tiffany Haddish, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Abigail Pogrebin
What: Series of talks with inspirational women
Where: The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center
When: Tuesday, January 26, free with RSVP ($20 with book), 7:00 (through Thursday, March 11)
Why: For its new series, “Women Inspiring Women,” the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center asks the question “Who inspires the women who inspire us?” Free, live discussions will look at successful, inspirational women who will talk about their role models, heroines, and influencers, beginning January 26 at 7:00 with actress, activist, and author Natalie Portman in conversation with writer Abigail Pogrebin; for $20, you will receive a copy of the brand-new children’s book Natalie Portman’s Fables, in which Portman retells three classic tales in a gender-safe environment “so we’re not telling any of our children that boys’ inner lives are more valuable to imagine than those of girls.” The series continues with Nina Totenberg on February 9, Tiffany Haddish on February 17, Mayim Bialik on February 25, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on March 2, and Hillary Rodham Clinton on March 11.