This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001




Who: Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, Jason Reynolds, Gene Luen Yang, Jerry Craft, Raul the Third, Renée Watson, Christopher Myers, K. A. Holt, more
What: Children’s book community call to action
Where: Facebook Live and Zoom
When: Thursday, June 4, free, 7:00
Why: In another part of my life, I work for a major children’s book publisher. During the pandemic, many parents, teachers, and children have turned to books more than ever, not just reading them at home but watching authors, celebrities, and others read stories online. The industry has also been a strong leader in the diversity movement, and on June 4 at 7:00, members of the kids’ book community will gather for a virtual call to action and rally for black lives. Hosted online by the Brown Bookshelf, which “is designed to push awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers,” the #KidLit Rally for Black Lives is organized by Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jason Reynolds, who will be joined by Gene Luen Yang, Jerry Craft, Raul the Third, Renée Watson, Christopher Myers, K. A. Holt, and others. At 7:00, there will be a live discussion with young people, followed at 7:45 by a talk with parents, educators, and librarians. As the Brown Bookshelf explains, “People around the nation are hurting. This is a time to come together and stand up. Our kids need us, and we are here for them.”


life anew

Who: Gabriela Adameșteanu, Ioana Nicolaie, T. O. Bobe, Simona Popescu, Robert Șerban, Andreea Răsuceanu, Carmen Firan, Ioana Ieronim, Ioana Es. Pop, Andrew K. Davidson, Carrie Hooper, Andreea Scridon
What: Weekly online literary performances
Where: Romanian Cultural Institute Facebook page
When: Tuesdays from June 2 to August 4, free with RSVP, 2:00
Why: The Romanian Cultural Institute in New York (ICR New York) is a small gem in Murray Hill, for decades offering unique arts events while serving the needs of Romanians and Romanian Americans here in New York City. The organization has been busy during the Covid-19 crisis, hosting daily online sociopolitical talks, concerts, film screenings, theater presentations, and more. Its latest initiative, held in conjunction with the National Museum of the Romanian Literature, is “Life Anew: Writers Imagine the World after the Pandemic,” taking place every Tuesday at 2:00 through August 4. Each week, authors, some with translators, will share their thoughts through poetry and prose about what the world might be like once we get back to normal, if normal is ever possible again. The lineup features authors Gabriela Adameșteanu, Ioana Nicolaie, T. O. Bobe, Simona Popescu, Robert Șerban, Andreea Răsuceanu, Carmen Firan, Ioana Ieronim, and Ioana Es. Pop and translators Andrew K. Davidson, Carrie Hooper, and Andreea Scridon. Admission is free with advance RSVP here.



Unorthodox cocreator and writer Anna Winger will discuss the show during JCC overnight Shavuot celebration

Who: Anna Winger, many more
What: Live Q&A with series creator of Unorthodox
Where: Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan
When: Thursday, May 28, free (donations accepted) with advance RSVP, midnight (Shavuot celebration runs May 28 at 9:00 pm to May 29 at 5:00 am)
Why: One of the runaway television hits of the pandemic has been Netflix’s Unorthodox, about a young married Orthodox woman in Brooklyn who runs away to Berlin to escape the suffocating life she is trapped in. The four-part series has led to the breakout success of Israeli actress Shira Haas, who has a smaller but critically significant role in the earlier Israeli series Shtisel, which also involves Orthodox marriage. Unorthodox was inspired by Deborah Feldman’s memoir Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots; while the Brooklyn segments of the show are based on the book, the Berlin sections are fictional. On May 28 at midnight, one of the writers and creators of the show, Anna Winger, who also wrote and created Deutschland 83 and Deutschland 86, will participate in a live Q&A during the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan’s Paul Feig z”l Tikkun Leil Shavuot.

The celebration usually occurs overnight at the JCC on Amsterdam and Seventy-Sixth St. but has gone virtual in 2020. Among the dozens of other events, all free, are “Koolulam in Conversation” with Rabbi Joy Levitt at 9:00 pm, “Studying Harry Potter as a Sacred Text” with Casper ter Kuile at 10:00, “Reimaging Life, Loss, and Love during Covid-19: Text, Ritual, and Story to Lift Our Spirit” with Jeannie Blaustein, Rabbi Dr. Jenny Solomon, and Rabbi Sydney Mintz at 11:00, “Idan Raichel: Stories and Songs” at 1:00 am, “Franz Rosenzweig on the Notion of Revelation” with Rabbi Michael Paley at 2:00, “The History of Israeli Fashion: From the Kibbutz to Tel Aviv” with Liraz Cohen Mordechai at 3:00, and “Noa: A Closing Concert for Shavuot” at 4:00.


(photo by Monique Carboni)

The cast of The Hot Wing King will reunite for launch of latest Signature Theatre online initiative (photo by Monique Carboni)

Who: Julia Jordan, Sarah Ruhl, Melissa Crespo, Katori Hall, Steve H. Broadnax III, cast of The Hot Wing King
What: Virtual launch of artist-driven theater publication
Where: Signature Theatre Zoom and Facebook
When: Wednesday, May 27, free with advance RSVP, 6:00
Why: The Signature Theatre continues its online programs with the launch of 3Views, a publication that will focus on shows that had to be shut down, postponed, or canceled because of the pandemic. On May 27 at 6:00, 3Views will do a deep dive on The Hot Wing King, which had to close more than a week before its scheduled date in March. I called Katori Hall’s play “a tantalizingly spicy, robust and savory contemporary comedy that sticks to your ribs like only the best, well, hot wings. . . . The show is not specifically about gay men, or black men, or gay black men; it’s about four friends coming together to reach a goal, attempting to fight off various obstacles that are out of their control.” The discussion will feature 3Views founding members and playwrights Julia Jordan and Sarah Ruhl, Signature resident playwright Hall, Hot Wing King director Steve H. Broadnax III, and the cast of the show (Toussaint Jeanlouis, Korey Jackson, Sheldon Best, Nicco Annan, Eric B. Robinson Jr., and. Cecil Blutcher), moderated by 3Views editor Melissa Crespo. Also coming up at the Signature are a SigSpace Arts Lunch with Margo Seibert on May 29 at noon and a SigSpace Summit on June 3 at 5:00 with Lauren Yee and Chhaya Chhoum.


author dinner

Who: Judy Blume, Natalie Portman, Misty Copeland, Raj Haldar, Marie Lu, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Rep. Ilhan Omar, Carmen Maria Machado, Zerlina Maxwell, Joy Harjo
What: Annual events honoring adult and children’s book authors
Where: BookExpo Facebook
When: Wednesday, May 27, and Thursday, May 28, free, 5:30
Why: Two of the hottest tickets every year at BookExpo are the Adult Book & Author Breakfast and the Children’s Book & Author Breakfast. Because of the pandemic shutdown, the convention has moved online, and the breakfasts have become virtual dinners, taking place for free on May 27 and May 28 at 5:30. The adult celebration features Rebecca Roanhorse, author of Black Sun; Rep. Ilhan Omar (This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman); Carmen Maria Machado (The Low, Low Woods); Zerlina Maxwell (The End of White Politics — How to Heal Our Liberal Divide); and U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo (An American Sunrise). The participants for the children’s party are Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Natalie Portman’s Fables); ABT principal dancer Misty Copeland (Bunheads, illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey); Raj Haldar, aka Lushlife, (No Reading Allowed); Marie Lu, (Skyhunter); Kwame Mbalia, (Tristan Strong Destroys the World); and Judy Blume, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. “This event showcases the diversity of genres, book types, authors, and publishers within the world of children’s and young adult literature,” BookExpo event director Jennifer Martin said in a statement. “We’re extraordinarily thrilled to have such a varied group of authors who will bring such unique and different perspectives to our show. We know all our attendees will walk away with valuable insights about how these books, and ones like them, can help their own bookstores, libraries, and retail shops.” BookExpo runs online May 26-29 with other free panel discussions, author talks, and showcases, followed May 30-31 by BookCon.


festival of the arts

Who: Charles Busch, Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Austin Pendleton, David Amram, F. Murray Abraham, William Electric Black, more
What: Live concert and summit (and many other events)
Where: Theater for the New City
When: Saturday, May 23, free, 8:00 (festival runs May 22-24)
Why: Since 1996, Theater for the New City’s annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts has been a harbinger of summer, three days of multidisciplinary performances taking place in and around the organization’s East First St. home. But the twenty-fifth anniversary of the popular weekend event goes virtual because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but that doesn’t mean it’s slowed down in the least. From May 22 to 24, the festival, whose theme is “Renaissance: Arts Alive 25,” will feature 250 participants providing music, dance, theater, discussion, and more, all for free. The centerpiece occurs on May 23 at 8:00 with “The Mt. Olympus of LES Love!,” a concert with an amazing lineup consisting of Charles Busch, Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Austin Pendleton, David Amram, F. Murray Abraham, and William Electric Black, followed by a summit that attempts to answer the question “Where do we go from here?”

The three-day celebration will feature such speakers as Nii Gaani Aki, Michael Musto, Brad Hoylman, Carlina Rivera, and Candice Burridge; theater excerpts with Barbara Kahn, Anne Lucas, Eve Packer, Greg Mullavey, the Drilling Company, Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater, Nuyorican Poets Café, and others; comedy from Reno, Stan Baker, Trav S.D., Wise Guise, Izzy Church, Epstein and Hassan, and Ana-Maria Bandean with Gemma Forbes; dance with Ashley Liang Dance Company, Constellation Moving Co., Dixon Place, H.T. Chen & Dancers, Wendy Osserman Dance Company, Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, and Zullo/RawMovement; music by Donald Arrington, Allesandra Belloni, Michael David Gordon and the Pocket Band, Art Lillard, and Yip Harburg Rainbow Troupe; cabaret with KT Sullivan, Marissa Mulder, Eric Yves Garcia, Aziza, and Peter Zachari; and poetry readings by Coni Koepfinger, Tsaurah Litzky, Lola Rodriguez, Bob Rosenthal, Lissa Moira, and Brianna Bartenieff; along with puppetry, film screenings, children’s events, and visual art, all for free, although donations are gladly accepted.


NMAJH panel discussion uses The Plot Against America as a jumping-off point

NMAJH panel discussion uses The Plot Against America as jumping-off point to discuss modern-day anti-Semitism

Who: Michael Berenbaum, Pamela S. Nadell
What: Livestream panel discussion
Where: National Museum of American Jewish History Facebook page
When: Thursday, May 21, free with advance registration, 6:00
Why: We recently finished watching HBO’s six-part series The Plot Against America, based on Phillip Roth’s 2004 novel, and it scared the hell out of us. The story presents an alternate history in which Charles Lindbergh beats Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 to become president of the United States, but the famous aviator turns out to be a far-right America-first anti-Semite. Just as the main character’s wife begs him to leave New Jersey and head to Canada, my wife has been urging us to find safer environs, to escape Donald Trump and move to Portugal or another country, since anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise in the United States and around the world. On May 21 at 6:00, the Philadelphia-based National Museum of American Jewish History will host the timely panel discussion “The Plot Against America: Antisemitism Run Amok,” with independent consultant and Jewish Studies professor Michael Berenbaum and Women’s & Gender History professor Pamela S. Nadell. Admission is free with recommended RSVP; if you want to ask questions, you have to watch the program on Facebook and not on the NMAJH website.