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.
Who: Michael Chabon, Ayelet Waldman
What: Virtual launch of Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases
Where: The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center
When: Thursday, January 21, $26 with book, $10 event only, 6:30
Why: In celebration with the publication of Fight of the Century: Writers Reflect on 100 Years of Landmark ACLU Cases (Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster, January 21, $27), the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center is hosting the virtual discussion “Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman: The 100-Year Struggle for Civil Liberties.” The husband-and-wife duo coedited the book, which features contributions from Scott Turow, Neil Gaiman, Meg Wolitzer, Salman Rushdie, Ann Patchett, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Louise Erdrich, George Saunders, and more, writing about specific legal cases, both famous and lesser-known, in honor of the centennial of the establishment of the ACLU by Helen Keller, Jane Addams, Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and others. “Things, we feel, have been getting worse,” Chabon and Waldman write in the introduction. “Liberty and equality are everywhere under attack. And that’s why the work of the American Civil Liberties Union feels more precious than ever before.” Tickets are $26 with the book and $10 without.
Who: Red Bull Theater company
What: Livestreamed benefit reading of The African Company Presents Richard III
Where: Red Bull Theater website and Facebook Live
When: Monday, January 11, free with RSVP (donations accepted), 7:30 (available on demand through January 15 at 7:00); “Bull Session” Thursday, January 14, free with RSVP, 7:30
Why: As winters go, this one has been pretty chock-full of discontent. Thankfully, after a much-deserved holiday hiatus, Red Bull Theater is back with its next live benefit reading, Carlyle Brown’s 1994 play The African Company Presents Richard III, a tale of a battle of Shakespearean proportions. In 1821, the nation’s first Black theater troupe, the African Company of New York, started by William Henry Brown, was staging Richard III downtown, starring James Hewlett. Angry that the production was attracting Black and white audiences, Park Theatre manager and duelist Stephen Price produced a competing version while trying to stop the African Company’s.
“Exactly two hundred years ago, the real events that form the plot of The African Company . . . took place not much more than a stone’s throw from where I’m sitting typing these words at this moment in New York City, isolated. Carlyle's play gives us a personal and poetic window through which to look in on our ever-present racially charged past, helping us better understand our own times — and how we all might think about who gets to tell whose stories,” Red Bull founder and artistic director Jesse Berger said in a statement. The reading is directed by Carl Cofield and features Clifton Duncan, Edward Gero, Dion Johnstone, Paul Niebanck, Antoinette Robinson, Craig Wallace, and Jessika D. Williams. The reading will premiere live on January 11 at 7:30 and will be available on demand through January 15; on January 14 at 7:30, Red Bull will host a live “Bull Session” discussion with Brown, Cofield, scholar Marvin Edward McAllister, and members of the company. The two programs should help bring some of solace during this “weak piping time of peace.”
Times Square, HERE Arts Center, and online
January 8-16, free (except for Modulation, $25-$75)
During the pandemic lockdown, theater, dance, and music creators have had to reimagine what they do, transitioning to online works instead of in-person productions, at least temporarily but for longer than initially anticipated. That has given audiences access to plays, concerts, operas, movement pieces, and other live and prerecorded shows from around the world, allowing them to explore disciplines they might not have known much about before the coronavirus crisis. I’ve watched dozens of works by international and American companies that I’d never been able to see previously, and it has been a boon during this challenging time while venues are shuttered.
One January festival that might not have been on your radar is Prototype, an annual collection of experimental opera that usually takes place at such locations as Baruch Performing Arts Center, the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, the Joyce, BRIC House, FIAF, St. Ann’s Warehouse, and festival presenter HERE Arts Center. The ninth season, running January 8-16, has gone mostly virtual, and five of the six events are free, with two that require you to leave the confines of your apartment, one in Times Square, the other at HERE on Dominick St. Below is the full schedule, including live Q&As and discussions with the artists; be adventurous and check out one or more of these works to see what kind of innovation has been happening during quarantine.
January 8-16 (live event after January 8 show at 8:00, $75), $25
Modulation, featuring works by thirteen composers investigating isolation, identity, fear, and breath during the pandemic.
January 9-16 (live event January 12 at 5:00), free
Out of Bounds: Times3 (Times x Times x Times), by composer Pamela Z and theater artist Geoff Sobelle, site-specific sonic experience in and about Times Square.
January 9-16 (live event January 14 at 5:00), free
Ocean Body, multimedia presentation set in the waters of the Gulf Coast, composed and performed by Helga Davis and Shara Nova, directed and filmed by Mark DeChiazza, with embodied sculpture by Annica Cuppetelli, HERE Arts Center, advance RSVP required.
January 10-16 (live events January 10 at 8:00 & 9:00), free
The Planet — A Lament, staged song cycle and live dance about the creation of the world and impending environmental disaster, composed and performed by Septina Rosalina Layan, directed by Garin Nugroho, and choreographed by Joy Alpuerto Ritter, with Mazmur Chorale, Serraimere Boogie, Rianto, Heinbertho J. B. D. Koirewoa (Douglas), Pricillia EM Rumbiak (Elis), and Paul Amandus Dwaa (Becham).
January 10-16 (live events January 16 at 11:00 & noon), free
Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists, based on a rawlings’s book about sleep, dreams, moths, and butterflies, composed by Valgeir Sigurðsson, directed by Sara Martí, and choreographed by Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir, with text by a rawlings and animation and video art by Pierre-Alain Giraud.
January 10-16 (live events January 16 at 1:00 & 3:00), free
The Murder of Halit Yozgat, film about the assassination of Halit Yozgat in Germany in 2006, composed by Ben Frost and Petter Ekmann, directed by Frost, choreographed by Sasha Milavic Davies, with a libretto by Daniela Danz, and featuring Sabrina Ceesay, Mathias Max Herrmann, Nicolas Matthews, Tahnee Niboro, Gudrun Pelker, Yannick Spanier, and Hubert Zapiór.
Who: Kimberly Drew, Jenna Wortham, Raquel Willis, Naima Green
What: Livestream Unbound discussion
Where: BAM / Greenlight Bookstore
When: Monday, December 7, $15 ($45-$50 with book), 7:00
Why: BAM’s ongoing literary program, “Unbound,” copresented with Greenlight Bookstore, goes virtual with the launch of Black Futures (Penguin Random House, $40). Edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, the book features contributions from Alicia Garza, Alexandra Bell, Hank Willis Thomas, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Zadie Smith, Dawoud Bey, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Kara Walker, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Amy Sherald with Kehinde Wiley, and dozens of other creators, divided into such chapters as “Power,” “Joy,” “Justice,” “Ownership,” and “Legacy.” In their introduction, Drew and Wortham explain, “‘The Black Futures Project’ started a few years ago as a Direct Message exchange on Twitter and has evolved into a shared desire to archive a moment. In developing Black Futures, we sought to answer the question: What does it mean to be Black and alive right now?” The book explores that idea through photography, essays, recipes, screenshots, poetry, memes, social media posts, paintings, song lyrics, and other prismatic text and imagery. You can hear an excerpt from the book here.
On December 7 at 7:00, writer, curator, influencer, and activist Drew and culture writer and Still Processing podcast host Wortham will be joined by transgender artist and activist Raquel Willis (whose “Welcome to the Trans Visibility Era” is included in Black Futures) and artist Naima Green (who contributed “Documenting the Nameplate” with Azikiwe Mohammed) to talk about the book, which is nonlinear and is meant to “provoke you, entice you, enrage you, spark joy, and call you to action.” Tickets are $15, or $45-$50 with a copy of the book, depending on whether you can pick it up in person or need it shipped; a portion of the ticket revenue will be split between BAM and the Campaign Against Hunger, a Brooklyn-based emergency food and community support organization that advances equity for the underserved, helping “build self-determination, engaging in grassroots activism, and investing in civic life,” which is needed now more than ever during the Covid-19 crisis.