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



Who: Anne Serling, Marc Scott Zicree, Richard Christian Matheson, Christopher Beaumont, Mark Dawidziak, more
What: Virtual festival honoring Rod Serling
Where: Facebook Live
When: Saturday, August 15, free (donations encouraged), 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Why: Just in case you didn’t already feel like you were living in the Twilight Zone, you can take part in the annual SerlingFest, which this year moves online. The virtual all-day 2020 edition features special guests and video presentations celebrating the creator of The Twilight Zone, the greatest television anthology series ever made, a prescient, ahead-of-its-time, socially conscious program hosted by the inimitable Rod Serling, who wrote many of the episodes as well. Born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Syracuse, Serling served in the military (earning the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star) before writing for radio and television, including Patterns in 1955, Requiem for a Heavyweight in 1956, The Twilight Zone from 1959 to 1964, Seven Days in May in 1964, Planet of the Apes (with Michael Wilson) in 1968, Night Gallery from 1970 to 1973, and other projects before passing away in Rochester on June 28, 1975, at the way-too-young age of fifty.

It’s free to watch on Facebook Live, but donations are encouraged to benefit the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit founded in 1986 “to educate the public about Rod Serling’s genius and his passion, hoping that they will understand and appreciate his mastery of the creative arts, his unique understanding of human relationships, his esteem as a writer, his generosity as a speaker in and around Binghamton, and his uncompromising commitment to quality.” Among the participants are Anne Serling, author of As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling; Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion; Richard Christian Matheson and Christopher Beaumont, children of two of the best TZ writers, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, respectively; and Mark Dawidziak, author of Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone. It’s a different kind of marathon, but it could be one for the ages. (Be sure to watch the end of the above video for some very fun TZ references.)


Who: Nona Hendryx, Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X., Monique Wilson, Hope Masike, Sara Curruchich English, Lebo Mashile, iskwē | ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ, Rosa Chávez, Liza Jessie Peterson, Be Steadwell, Angela Davis, Divinity Roxx, Sophia Ramos, Cyndi Lauper, Phylicia Rashad, Billie Jean King, Joy Harjo
What: Global virtual music and activism event
Where: StreamYard and Zoom
When: Friday, August 14, $8 - $250, 4:00
Why: On August 14 at 4:00, musician, writer, actress, activist, and legendary powerhouse Nona Hendryx will host an epic virtual concert in support of women’s collective power for social justice. Held in conjunction with feminist organization JASS, “Radical Healing” will feature an international lineup of singer-songwriters, activists, and spoken-word artists celebrating multiracial and multicultural transformation. “By radical healing, we’re acknowledging the power of music to lift our spirits and connect us across all our differences,” Hendryx said in a statement. “We recognize that we can’t build and sustain strong movements for the long haul with broken people who bear the brunt of crises and violence. We need moments of shared joy and connections as much as information and strategy. Some of the most amazing music ever created has been birthed from struggle.” Hendryx will be joined by Monique Wilson, Hope Masike, Sara Curruchich English, Lebo Mashile, iskwē | ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ, Rosa Chávez, Liza Jessie Peterson, Be Steadwell, Angela Davis, Divinity Roxx, Sophia Ramos, Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X., Cyndi Lauper, Phylicia Rashad, Billie Jean King, Joy Harjo, and others, participating from five continents. General tickets are $25 ($8 for students) and $250 to gain access to a Zoom Q&A with the artists.


Who: Blythe Danner, Susie Essman, Tamara Tunie, Catherine Curtin, Joy Behar, Laura Gomez, Ellen Dolan, Florencia Lozano, Welker White, Portia, Kathryn Grody, Nehassaiu DeGannes, Dahlia Lithwick, Amy Spitalnick, Roberta Kaplan, Kerry Kennedy, more
What: An Arts and Advocacy Forum in Two Parts
Where: Zoom link sent with ticket purchase
When: Friday, August 14, 7:00, and Thursday, September 3, 5:00, $25-$120
Why: In June 2019, the nonprofit organization the Neo-Political Cowgirls presented “Andromeda’s Sisters,” what they called a “Two Day Gala of Powerful Arts and Advocacy” at Guild Hall. The event featured workshops and one-act readings by an all-star lineup of actresses performing monologues by female-identifying playwrights. The cast is now reuniting for a virtual restaging and expansion, beginning August 14 at 7:30, with Blythe Danner as accused Salem witch Goody Garlick in a work written for her by Lucy Boyle; Catherine Curtin as a wife who discovers her husband is cheating on her in a monologue written for her by Joy Behar; Florencia Lozano as the other woman in Dipti Bramhandkar’s The Funeral; Laura Gomez as a woman who visits a sex shop in Bramhandkar’s Brown Girl’s Guide to Self-Pleasure; Welker White as the title character in Lynn Grossman’s BITCH; Ellen Dolan as a mother and a grandmother in Sarah Bierstock’s MAD (Mothers and Daughters); Tanya Everett’s One Thousand Miles, about a relationship webinar; Portia reading the late poet June Jordan’s “A Poem About My Rights”; a movement piece by Mia Funk; and two extracts from choreographer Vanessa Walters’s ongoing “Ripening” project.

Founded in 2007 by Kate Mueth, the Neo-Political Cowgirls “are committed to making work for women and about women — to creating a space where women and girls from all walks of life can share their experiences, joys, concerns, and spirits through professional dance.” The gala gets its name from the legend in which Princess Andromeda, captured by Poseidon, is saved by the daughters of the God of the Sea, leading to the idea that sisters should seek to help one another in these difficult times. As the NPC website asserts, “When we ‘swim’ to help our sisters, even if it may go against our own best interests in the moment, it's astounding what can happen for all of those involved.” The second part takes place on September 3 and focuses on advocacy, with journalist Dahlia Lithwick interviewing Amy Spitalnick of Integrity First for America and litigator Roberta Kaplan about their upcoming court case against neo-Nazis; a cocktail hour; Kerry Kennedy giving the keynote address about fighting femicide; and Gomez, Curtin, and Lozano reading from Kennedy’s 2000 book, Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World. Tickets are $25 ($50 with donation) for the monologues and readings at both parts and $120 for those in addition to the cocktail hour and access to breakaway rooms with some of the invited guests.


Who: Patti Smith, Tony Shanahan
What: Patti Smith’s only live, staged appearance in 2020
Where: Murmrr Theatre
When: Friday, September 4, $30, 9:00
Why: In her follow-up to the hugely successful Just Kids and M Train, poet, punk goddess, and visual artist Patti Smith writes in her latest memoir, Year of the Monkey (Penguin Random House, September 1, $16):

“I decided on the Waterfront for dinner but went the opposite way and passed a wall covered in murals, Chagall-like scenes from Fiddler on the Roof, floating violinists amidst tongues of flame that produced a disconcerting sense of nostalgia. When I finally circled back and entered the Waterfront, I thought I had made a mistake. The layout looked totally different than in the afternoon. There was a pool table and nothing but fellas of all ages with baseball caps and huge glasses of beer with slices of lemon. Several looked at me as I entered, an unthreatening alien, then went about the business of drinking and talking. There was a hockey game on a big screen with no sound. The din, the drone, was all male, amiable male, laughing and talking, broken only by the tapping of a ball with a cue stick, the ball dropping into the pocket. I ordered coffee, a fish sandwich and salad, the most expensive plate on the menu. The fish was small and deep-fried, but the lettuce and onions were fresh. The same starfish mug, the same brew. I laid my money on the table and went out. It was raining. I put on my watch cap. Passing the mural, I nodded to the Yiddish fiddler, commiserating an unspoken fear of friends slipping away.”

Tickets are now on sale to watch Smith’s live, virtual, one-time-only show on September 4, in which she will read excerpts from Year of the Monkey, which comes out in paperback on September 1, and other writings and perform songs with longtime bassist Tony Shanahan. The live performance, held in conjunction with the Community Bookstore in Park Slope, will take place at an empty Murmrr, the Brooklyn club at the historic Union Temple by Grand Army Plaza. The livestream will be filmed by cinematographer Matthew Schroeder with multiple cameras; it will be Smith’s only stage appearance of 2020. Tickets are $30 and include a copy of the paperback.


Who: Armistead Maupin, Ian McKellen
What: Livestream conversation
Where: Fane Online
When: Wednesday, August 12, $25, 1:30 (available for forty-eight hours)
Why: On August 12 at 1:30, author Armistead Maupin (Significant Others, Mary Ann in Autumn) will sit down with his good friend Sir Ian McKellen (The X-Men, Lord of the Rings) at the Crazy Coqs nightclub in London to discuss Maupin’s life and career, focusing on his 2017 nonfiction book, Logical Family: A Memoir. McKellen appeared as Archibald Anson Gidde in three episodes of Tales of the City, the original 1993 miniseries based on Maupin’s bestselling novels. In October 2015, Maupin presented the Mill Valley Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award to McKellen; the actor has referred to the author as his ”godfather.” Tickets are $25 in the US and £25 in the UK (accompanied by a signed copy of the book).


Robert Wilson’s adaptation of John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing will stream August 12 as part of National Sawdust’s Digital Discovery Festival (photo © Lucie Jansch)

Who: Robert Wilson
What: “Innovation”: Volume 14 of National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival
Where: Live@NationalSawdust, Facebook Live
When: Wednesday, August 12, free, 6:00
Why: Bold and daring theater and opera impresario Robert Wilson has been creating cutting-edge works since the late 1960s, from The Black Rider, Faust, Woyceck, and The Life and Death of Marina Abramović to Alice, Einstein on the Beach, Hamletmachine, and Letter to a Man. He’s a master of combining stunning visuals with ingenious audio in mind-blowing productions that push the boundaries of what theater can be. So he’s a natural choice to take part in National Sawdust’s fourteenth volume of its Digital Discovery Festival, the theme of which is “Innovation.”

On August 12 at 6:00, the Williamsburg-based club will present Texas native Wilson’s Lecture on Nothing, his adaptation of John Cage’s 1950 text, in honor of the twenty-eighth anniversary of Cage’s passing on August 12, 1992, at the age of seventy-nine. The hourlong piece debuted in August 2012 at the Ruhrtriennale Festival in Germany, with Wilson dressed in all-white clothing and makeup, surrounded by textual excerpts from the work and a cluttered floor. “I am here and there is nothing to say,” Cage’s speech begins. “If among you are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment. What we re-quire is silence; but what silence requires is that I go on talking.”

The Digital Discovery Festival has previously featured such themes as “Spirituality,” “Social Change,” “Rebellion,” “Activism,” and “Virtuosity,” with new and archival concerts and master classes with Vijay Gupta, Vijay Iyer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sxip Shirey, Tania León, and others. “Innovation” runs August 10-14 and also includes concerts and/or conversations with Jenny Hval, Trimpin, and Matthew Whitaker. All shows are free and are archived if you miss the livestream.


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Who: Bryan Batt, Samantha Beaulieu, Troi Bechet, Curtis Billings, Betty Buckley, Leslie Castay, Michael Cerveris, Patricia Clarkson, Patrick Cragin, Brenda Currin, Lisa D’Amour, Arsène DeLay, Gwendolyne Foxworth, Alison Fraser, Lawrence Henry Gobble, John Goodman, Rodney Hicks, Kenneth Holditch, Corey Johnson, Idella Johnson, Peggy Scott Laborde, Donald Lewis, Ti Martin, Elizabeth McCoy, Jessica Mixon, Whitney Mixon, Wendell Pierce, Francine Segal, Janet Shea, Harry Shearer, Carol Sutton, Beverly Trask, Kathleen Turner, Cassie Worley, Jake Wynne-Wilson
What: Virtual literary celebration of Tennessee Williams and New Orleans
Where: Festival home page
When: Friday, July 31, free (donations accepted), 8:00
Why: The thirty-fourth annual Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival was scheduled to take place March 25-29, with nearly 150 guests honoring the playwright and his adopted hometown, featuring a circus, a writing marathon, craft sessions, live performances, panel discussions, readings, and more. But with the pandemic lockdown, the event has gone virtual; it has been transformed into a one-night online party, “The Kindness of Strangers,” with a prestigious lineup sharing stories about Williams and the festival and performing excerpts from his writings. Though born in Columbus, Missouri, on March 26, 1911, as Thomas Lanier Williams III, and passing away in New York City on February 25, 1983, Williams became closely associated with his adopted hometown of New Orleans during his half-century career, setting many of his plays there, including A Streetcar Named Desire, Suddenly Last Summer, and Vieux Carré. In a statement, TWFest executive director Paul J. Willis called the tribute a “love letter to the festival, to Tennessee Williams, and to all that he loved about New Orleans. It is a testament to the artistic and enduring spirit of this city and our namesake playwright.” Among the participants are Betty Buckley, Michael Cerveris, Patricia Clarkson, Brenda Currin, Alison Fraser, John Goodman, Corey Johnson, Wendell Pierce, Francine Segal, Harry Shearer, and Kathleen Turner. The show goes live July 31 at 8:00 and will be available for viewing through August 14.