Who: Ethan Nichtern, Dani Shapiro
What: Book release party for The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach us about Buddhism and Relationships (North Point Press, September 12, $25), featuring a talk and book signing
Where: Deepak HomeBase, mezzanine, ABC Carpet & Home, 888 Broadway at Seventeenth St.
When: Tuesday, September 19, $30 (includes copy of book), 7:00
Why: “Hello. My name is Ethan Nichtern. The Six-Fingered Man was my father’s best friend. Prepare to read.” So begins author and Buddhist teacher Ethan Nichtern’s fourth book, a unique exploration of one of the most beloved films of the 1980s, Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride. Based on William Goldman’s novel, the cult classic begins with a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading his grandson (Fred Savage) the best bedtime story ever. The romance fantasy adventure stars Cary Elwes as Westley, Robin Wright as Buttercup, Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck, Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, Christopher Guest (a close friend of Nichtern’s father since childhood) as Count Rugen, Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, and André the Giant as Fezzik, along with appearances by Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, and Peter Cook. Although the film is not a Buddhist parable, Nichtern, a husband and new father whose previous books, including The Road Home and One City, combine serious philosophy with humor and pop-culture references, examines the Buddhist nature of life, especially his own, through the lens of his favorite film. In the book’s introduction, “Fairy Tales, the Real World, and True Love,” Nichtern writes, “As for the movie’s relation to Buddhism — it may be correlation rather than causation, but here’s the truth: almost everything I know about relationships, I learned over the past thirty years of doing two things that seem to have very little to do with each other — loving The Princess Bride and practicing Buddhism.” Among the chapters in the hardcover are “Find Your Inner Fezzik: The Practice of Friendship,” “Fred Savage Is a Jerk, and I Am Fred Savage: Gratitude for Your Lineage,” and “Have Fun Storming the Castle.” Nichtern will be at ABC Carpet & Home on September 19 to launch the book, in conversation with writer Dani Shapiro (Family History, Devotion) and signing copies of The Dharma of The Princess Bride.
Who: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler, Mira Wang, Vanessa Perez
What: Carnegie Hall concert
Where: Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, 881 Seventh Ave. at Fifty-Seventh St., 212-247-7800
When: Monday, October 16, $40-$250, 8:00
Why: Bill Murray has been singing his whole career, from goofing around as Nick the lounge singer on Saturday Night Live, where he would make up words to the Star Wars theme and annoy Linda Ronstadt, to delivering a rousing rendition of “Let’s Get Physical” on Late Night with David Letterman and a tender karaoke version of Roxy Music’s “More than This” in Lost in Translation. But just as he went from being a comedian to a more serious actor, he will be taking his vocal career to unseen heights on October 16 at Carnegie Hall for “Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends: New Worlds,” an evening of classical music and American literature. Suburban Chicago native Murray and German cellist Jan Vogler, who met on an airplane in 2013, attended a poetry walk across the Brooklyn Bridge together in 2015, and then decided to team up on this project, will be joined by Chinese-born violinist Mira Wang (Vogler’s wife) and Venezuelan-born pianist Vanessa Perez on compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach, Astor Piazzola, Stephen Foster, George Gershwin, Henry Mancini, Van Morrison, Leonard Bernstein, and others; Murray will recite text by Ernest Hemingway, Stephen Sondheim, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, and more alongside Vogler’s Stradivari cello. With its international quartet, the show will also focus on various connections between America and Europe. “I am bathing in this experience, really. I can’t get enough of it,” Murray said in a statement. The New Worlds studio album will be released by Decca Gold on September 9. For a sneak peek at what to expect, check out this promotional video.
You might be used to listening to podcasts with headphones on while at your desk or wandering through the city, but now you can see some of the best of these audio shows at the second annual Now Hear This Podcast Festival, taking place at the Javits Center this weekend. More than two dozen shows are participating, featuring such podcastors as Chris Gethard, Phoebe Judge, Jon Lovett, Aaron Mahnke, Sam Roberts, Jon Gabrus & Lauren Lapkus, Larry Wilmore, LeVar Burton, Alex Schmidt, Colt Cabana, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Kulap Vilaysack & Howard Kremer, and Ryback. Day passes for Friday are sold out, but you can still catch those shows with a three-day pass; single-day passes are still available for Saturday and Sunday. According to the website, among the items not allowed in are pets, weapons, and emotional baggage. Be ready to make some tough choices, as several of the best podcasts are scheduled for the same time; below are only some of the highlights.
Friday, September 8
Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, with Chris Gethard, Fracture Theatre, 7:00
Lovett or Leave It, with Jon Lovett & Friends, Virtue Stage, 7:00
Found, with Davy Rothbard and special guests, Podswag Stage, 7:00
Saturday, September 9
Black on the Air, with Larry Wilmore, Virtue Stage, 11:30 am
Nancy, with Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, Podswag Stage, 1:30
The Flop House, with Dan McCoy, Stuart Wellington and guest flopper Ronny Chieng, Fracture Theatre, 3:30
LeVar Burton Reads, with LeVar Burton and special guests, Virtue Stage, 5:30
Comedy Bang! Bang! with Scott Aukerman and special guests, Stitcher Stage, 7:30
Sunday, September 10
Doughboys, with Nick Wiger and Mike Mitchell, Virtue Stage, 11:00 am
The Art of Wrestling, with Colt Cabana and special guests, Mack Weldon Stage, 12:15
StarTalk All-Stars, with Helen Matsos and Neil deGrasse Tyson, Virtue Stage, 1:00
The Weeds (from VOX), with Matt Yglesias, Sarah Kliff, and special guest, Fracture Theatre, 1:00
Conversation with the Big Guy, with Ryback, Pat Buck, and friends, Mack Weldon Stage, 1:30
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through September 17
“Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends” is almost too much of a good thing, a massive MoMA retrospective of the interdisciplinary artist who died in 2008 at the age of eighty-two. The exhausting exhibition consists of more than 250 works, highlighting his collaborations while celebrating the vast nature of his practice. “Oh, I love collaborating, because art can be a really lonely business, if you’re really just working from your ego,” he says in an old interview on the audio guide. The show follows the Texas native from his Black Mountain College years through his time in Italy and North Africa, from his early combines and classical-influenced pieces to performances, silkscreens, objects, “Experiments in Art and Technology” (E.A.T.), and more. Many of his greatest hits are here, including “Bed,” “Monogram,” “Canyon,” “Gift for Apollo,” and his illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, alongside collaborations with Jasper Johns, John Cage, Jean Tinguely, Willem de Kooning, Susan Weil, Brice Marden, Sturtevant, Alex Hay, and more. Among the most unusual works is the bubbling “Mud Muse” created with Carl Adams, George Carr, Lewis Ellmore, Frank Lahaye, and Jim Wilkinson. And most entertaining is Rauschenberg’s involvement in the dance world, making sets for and even performing in pieces by Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown and Laurie Anderson, Harry Shunk and Janos Kender, and others, some filmed by Charles Atlas. The exhibition is supplemented with works by such Rauschenberg contemporaries as Aaron Siskind, Cy Twombly, Lucinda Childs, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Robert Whitman. Meanwhile, the audio guide includes contributions from Yvonne Rainer, Calvin Tompkins, Weil, Marden, Brown, Virginia Dwan, Atlas, Julie Martin, and Rauschenberg’s son, Christopher. So how does one make sense of it all? MoMA is hosting a series of talks and performances to help sort everything out. The exhibition continues through September 17; the below “gallery experiences” are free with museum admission, with no advance RSVP required. (Only the September 12 “Dante Among Friends” performance requires paid ticketing.)
Wednesday, September 6, 11:30 & 3:30
“Dance among Friends: Robert Rauschenberg’s Collaborations with Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor,” featuring Changeling, Three Epitaphs, Tracer, You Can See Us, and excerpts from other works, Sculpture Garden
“Robert Rauschenberg’s Process,” with Lauren Kaplan
Wednesday, September 6, 11:30
Thursday, September 7, 1:30
Wednesday, September 13, 1:30
Thursday, September 14, 11:30 & 1:30
“No One Is an Island,” with Kerry Downey
Thursday, September 7, 1:30
“Rauschenberg Among Friends,” with Elisabeth Bardt-Pellerin
Saturday, September 9, 11:30
Sunday, September 17, 1:30
“100 Ways to Make a Picture,” with Petra Pankow
Sunday, September 10, 11:30
Monday, September 11, 11:30
“A Bit of This and That: Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines,” with Jane Royal
Tuesday, September 12
“Collaborators, Friends, Lovers,” with Tamara Kostianovsky, 11:30
“Dante among Friends,” with Robin Coste Lewis and Kevin Young responding in music and poetry to Rauschenberg’s Thirty-Four Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno, curated and hosted by Terrance McKnight, $5-$15, 7:00
Born in Alaska of Yup’ik descent, Bessie Award-winning multidisciplinary artist and Guggenheim Fellow Emily Johnson has been forging a unique identity as an innovative creator for more than fifteen years, engaging with a wide range of diverse collaborators to present immersive works that combine dance with other artistic forms, structured around a heartfelt connection with the natural environment, civic responsibility, and Indigenous cultures. A charming, ever-enthusiastic dancer and choreographer who recently moved from Minneapolis to New York City, Johnson and her aptly named Catalyst troupe have been crazy busy preparing her biggest project yet, Then a Cunning Voice and a Night We Spend Gazing at Stars, a PS122 production that takes place on Randall’s Island from 6:00 pm Saturday night until just after sunrise on Sunday morning, for an audience of three hundred very lucky people. Directed by three-time Obie winner Ain Gordon, the unique gathering will feature stories by Muriel Miguel of Spiderwoman Theater, Karyn Recollet leading a kinstillatory activation and roundtable discussion, specially researched food by futurist Jen Rae, visual design by textile artist Maggie Thompson, lighting by Lenore Doxsee, and performances by Johnson, Tania Isaac, and Georgia Lucas, all situated on and around four thousand square feet of quilts made at sewing bees around the United States and Australia and Taiwan. Johnson, whose previous pieces include Niicugni, Shore, and The Thank-You Bar, somehow found some time to discuss her latest project in this exclusive email interview.
twi-ny: A lot of years have gone into this project. Are you nervous about August 19? I imagine it’s a massive undertaking.
emily johnson: It’s so big. Everything about it. Moving the quilts from where we have them stored on Randall’s Island to the bit of land we lay them down on — that itself is a massive undertaking we do twice a day. The amount of story . . . the movement of light. The ideas written on the quilts — hundreds and hundreds of ideas from hundreds of people who have voiced what they want for their well-being, for their futures. The bringing of care packages, of blankets, of food to the audience. The connection between ground and sky. The hunting and fishing and harvesting. The continual learning of this land and these waters — the stories, plants, histories, and futures here. For two years now I’ve been saying — we can keep preparing. We could go on preparing forever. But in a way, there is only so much we can prepare for. We prepare and prepare and then — the more difficult part — we let go of needing it to go the way in which we’ve prepared. Not totally, of course. Even writing that is hard. But we have to be ready to hold the movement of the night. Because what we have been preparing for is a shared thing. A shared night. We will host you — we will hold you with these quilts, these stories, this movement, this food we’ve made. And we have a beautiful plan, but the biggest part of this plan (ha) is the unknown. We now also have to be prepared to move and respond and be with the collective energy. We have to hold the night, guide it, but listen, too. So, we’re ready. We have to be. I mean all of us. All of us who gather on this night — audience and cast and crew; beings seen and unseen — we have to be ready to listen, to let go of things moving in the direction they are on, and of course to put our actions into moving things in a direction that is good. We have to be ready to pay attention to one another, to rest and then gather the resources of time, energy, intent to actually make this world one we can continue to live in, one our kids can live in, one that the kids seven generations from now will not curse us for but, instead, be thankful for. That’s our job. And, of course, what is special about this night is that it is a continuation of this labor. We have gathered ideas, made quilts, made stories and dance, harvested food. . . . But really, what I can say is that hundreds of people have gathered these ideas, made these quilts, harvested, hunted, farmed, and gifted vegetables, meat, fish, fruits, herbs . . . so . . . What is there to be nervous about? (I say that with a smile, of course.) We are all in this together.
twi-ny: How did you come about choosing to do this on Randall’s Island?
ej: Randall’s Island is something special. To me it’s an energy. We are in the city but we are on another island in this city. The actual ground we lay the quilts on is backfill from one of the subway constructions, so it’s actually land from Mannahatta, built up for these baseball fields and picnic areas. We are on the bank of the East River — which you can’t really access in such a way most other areas in the city. There is a mix of baseball, soccer, families picnicking, people fishing, the farm on the island, also the industries — the hospital and fire department training grounds, the shelters. What I like is that through this night of community, of performance, of sharing, of discussion — in the morning, we are right here. In the city. In the place we need to begin. Baseball players coming to practice; people coming to fish. We see Rikers Island, we hear the Bronx and the traffic, we see tugboats and the barges moving by. We are not separating this art, this movement, this discussion, this imagination, this action from the world. It’s all here. We step into the day.
twi-ny: You’re very tuned in to the land and the environment; have you encountered anything particularly unique or surprising about the specific space where Then a Cunning Voice is being held?
ej: When I walk up to the spot at Sunken Meadow where we will be most of the night I immediately relax — maybe it’s the expanse of water. Maybe it’s the anticipation of gathering people there. It’s like the ground is waiting for this night. The other day we walked from Wards Meadow to Sunken Meadow through a Native flower garden and a praying mantis on Sweet Joe Pye Weed caught my eye. I spent time looking at it. It turned its head toward me. There is energy on Randall’s Island — one that is calling for this relationship, for this exchange.
twi-ny: Your quilting events have been held all over the country as well as in Taiwan and Australia. When you started, did you ever foresee the kind of results you have gotten? What kind of community has been built around the quilts?
ej: What I have been so beautifully surprised with is the way in which the sewing bees have accumulated, how people and organizations have and keep asking if they can host them. I had no idea people love to sew so much! It’s showing me again and again how deeply people want to spend time together. I have many favorites — the times when the sewing bees are casual and people stop by for a brief time or spend hours. These have been hosted in living rooms, art centers, dance studios, museums, parks. . . . And there are more formal sewing bees, like Umyuangvigkaq, which we hosted with PS122 as part of the Coil Festival in January, a seven-hour-long sewing bee and Long Table Discussion centered on Indigeneity in the performing arts world and the world at large. We gathered a brilliant council of Indigenous women to lead the provocations — Karyn Recollet, Dr. Mique’l Dangeli, Lee-Ann Buckskin, Vicki Van Hout, myself — and built a day of deep discussion. I could feel the shifts happening. The cracks opening. I looked around and saw a large gathering of people dedicated to this conversation, to making the deep personal inquiries that go into healing. Because this is what we need. We need those deep personal inquiries that go into decision making but that come from our own narratives and histories. This is where change/shift/possibility comes from. This spring at a school in Melbourne, I was working with a group of students who are newly arrived refugees to Australia. They are separated from their families. They are having a difficult go. They are hopeful. As we sat and sewed, laughed, and talked about what we each wanted for the well-being of the world, one of the students looked up and said, “These quilts — they’re like maps to the futures we envision.”
twi-ny: You are working again with Georgia Lucas, who was part of Shore. She’s now twelve; what is so special about this young talent?
ej: During the first provocation of Umyuangvigkaq, which was about confronting perceived invisibility and led by Lee-Ann Buckskin and Dr. Mique’l Dangeli, Georgia looked up from her sewing and said to the large gathering of adults in the room, “This conversation makes me understand . . . I was born here . . . but the land does not belong to me. I belong to the land.”
She knows and learns and inquisites deeply. She shares her energy through her stories and movement in a way that is calculated — she knows and feels when is right and if she trusts you, you’ll receive what she has to share. I think this is a pretty brilliant way to perform. I’ve actually never seen someone perform like this before. We teach one another about sharing energy. Also, she’s just awesome to hang out with. And she knows the best superhero movies to see.
twi-ny: People will be spending ten to twelve hours on Randall’s Island, from dusk to after sunrise. What is the one thing they shouldn’t forget to bring with them?
ej: This process has brought us to create a work in which we are all part. We are all responsible for making this night a good one for one another. Partly that’s in being game — to be outside, through bugs and wind (oh god, hopefully not rain!), to be up all night or most of it, to be at but also inside of a performance, to engage in discussion, to be asked to understand the reality of being a guest here — if you are a guest here, which, if you are not Lenape or of one of the Indigenous Nations with deep ties to Lenapehoking, you/I/we are. How are we good guests — of this night, of this land? How do we let this knowledge be resonant in our lives and how does this change every single thing about how we relate to and understand where we live — the physical place and the circumstantial place of August 2017? So, how do I say — “Don’t forget to come with an open heart!” without sounding totally cheesy? But we need that. We need open hearts. I say it in one of my stories: “We unfold our hearts.” I hope for that. For this night but also for the shifts we must become ready to make for our future and our world. And on the practical side — we are sharing a gorgeous bounty of food and food knowledge conceived of, researched and prepared by food futurist Jen Rae (Metis) — as this is a zero-waste event — don’t forget your cup, your bowl, utensils, and cloth napkin!
twi-ny: You’ve long been an Indigenous activist; what are your views about the Dakota Access Pipeline and Standing Rock Indian Reservation? What are some other Indigenous-related problems going on in America that are not getting as much publicity?
ej: I like this question, Mark. But first I need to shift the second part to read: Indigenous-related solutions. Because this is what I see — Indigenous people, Indigenous women especially, at the center, at the apex, at the front lines always, always, always of the solutions. We are a steady working, powerfully supple and surgent force. It is Indigenous women who began the stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is Indigenous women who lead the legal, political, cultural, and familial decisions and discussions. I refuse to say fight. It is Indigenous women — with the help of our Indigenous men, Two-Spirits, children, ancestors, and non-Indigenous allies who see what needs to change and who work through language, art, politics, protections toward the solutions that are part of our everyday — food sovereignty, land rights, education, economic growth, and justice in our communities, healing. We are doing this work. Individually, collectively, in large circles and smaller ones. We need ally-ship. We need those of you who are from the dominant, settler side of things to take a step back, to listen more than you speak, to be in relation with us so we can do the work we need to — for all of us.
twi-ny: You were born in Alaska, lived for a long time in Minneapolis, and recently moved to New York. How are you liking it here? I see you out a lot, so you seem to make time to enjoy the city even as you prepare for Then a Cunning Voice.
ej: I love living here. Every time I come back here from tour, from Australia, from Alaska, I am so happy that this is now my home. The two places in this country I feel most myself are Alaska and NYC — it’s the landscape, I think. Different landscapes, of course. But huge. Huge landscapes that you must tune attention to, be in relation with. Both places call for a kind of looking out for one another. You help your neighbor. You ask for help. Because we all can see the reality of not helping. If you pass someone by broken down on the road in the bush in Alaska — well, you don’t — because you recognize the danger that the weather or the wilds can present. It’s the same here — just different weather and different wilds. I see more kindnesses extended here each day. And actually, as a shy person . . . it’s so nice to step out into it, become part of it.
twi-ny: Then a Cunning Voice is very much a positive look at our future. These are very tough times in America; do you really have that much hope in humanity?
ej: I do, Mark. I have that much hope.
55 Walker St.
Wednesday, August 16, free, 7:00
Ugo Rondinone’s citywide celebration of his husband, “I ❤ John Giorno,” continues Wednesday night with a special poetry jam at Artists Space organized by Bowery Poetry Club, the downtown institution down the street from John Giorno’s apartment and studio. The free event will be hosted by Bob Holman, Nikhil Melnechuk, Ashley August, and Mason Granger and feature readings by Julius Baltonado, Stefan Bondell, Steve Cannon, Lynne DeSilva Johnson, Timothy DuWhite, Joel François, Myles Golden, David Henderson, Sam Jablon, Amy Lawless, Lisa Markuson, Sam O’Hana, Noel Quiñones, Shawn Randall/Symphonics Live, Patrick Roche, Hannah Wood, and Anton Yakovlev. Swiss artist Rondinone’s tribute to his life partner, the eighty-year-old Giorno, a poet, painter, musician, and performance artist who has no time for rules, is taking place at thirteen venues, with exhibitions, wall murals, film and video, portraiture, at the Kitchen, Hunter College, the New Museum, White Columns, Sky Art in Hell’s Kitchen, the Swiss Institute, Red Bull Arts New York, Artists Space, and the Broadway and Washington Square windows.
Who: Staceyann Chin, Ntozake Shange, Sarah Kay
What: SummerStage program with Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Where: East River Park, FDR Drive between Jackson & Cherry Sts.
When: Wednesday, August 9, free, 7:00
Why: Any chance to see poet, playwright, activist, novelist, children’s book writer, and feminist Ntozake Shange is a special opportunity, so don’t miss her on August 9 when she comes to East River Park in a spoken-word SummerStage program held in conjunction with the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Winner of Obie Awards for Mother Courage and Her Children and for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, the Pushcart Prize, and a Guggenheim fellowship and nominated for a Tony, a Grammy, and an Emmy, Shange changed her given name from Paulette Williams while in graduate school, choosing one that means “she who comes with her own things” (Ntozake) and “who walks like a lion” (Shange), which represents her quite well. She’ll be joined at East River Park by Brooklyn-based, Jamaica-born Staceyann Chin, a self-described “out poet and political activist” and single mother who has appeared on and off Broadway and written a memoir, The Other Side of Paradise, as well as New York poet and Project VOICE founder and codirector Sarah Kay, who began reading her poetry publicly in the city when she was fourteen, has published such books as No Matter the Wreckage, b, and The Type, and gave the extremely popular TED talk “If I should have a daughter . . .” in 2011.