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


Who: Joyce Carol Oates, Zibby Owens
What: Livestreamed conversation
Where: The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center
When: Tuesday, March 9, free with RSVP, $25 with book, 11:00 am
Why: On February 16, mother of four and creator and host of the podcast “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” Zibby Owens was introduced as the moderator for the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center’s new virtual conversation series, “Women on the Move.” Owens, whose Moms Don’t Have Time To: A Quarantine Anthology (Skyhorse, February 2021, $24.99) was published last month, spoke with Jeanine Cummins on February 23 and Nicole Krauss on March 3. On March 9 at 11:00 in the morning, Owens will Zoom in with eighty-two-year-old living legend Joyce Carol Oates, the New York State native who has written more than a hundred novels, novellas, short stories, essays, and plays. The latest collection from the winner of two O. Henry Awards, the National Book Award, the Jerusalem Prize, and the National Humanities Medal is The (Other) You: Stories (HarperCollins, February 2021, $26.99), which, among other things, is about the act of reading itself. “Bought a bookstore. Mostly secondhand books,” the title story begins. Admission to the live webinar is free with RSVP, although you can receive a copy of the book for a $25 fee.


Who: Bill Camp, JoAnne Akalaitis, Alisa Solomon
What: One-man show and live discussions
Where: TFANA Vimeo
When: Thursday, February 25, free with RSVP, 7:00 (available through March 1 at 7:00)
Why: “I associate, rightly or wrongly, my marriage with the death of my father, in time. That other links exist, on other levels, between these two affairs, is not impossible. I have enough trouble as it is in trying to say what I think I know.” So begins Samuel Beckett’s short story First Love, which was written in French in 1946 but was not translated into English by the author until 1973. Theatre for a New Audience will be presenting a theatrical adaptation of the work performed by Tony and Emmy nominee and Obie winner Bill Camp (The Crucible, Homebody/Kabul, The Queen’s Gambit), streaming February 25 at 7:00 through March 1 at 7:00; admission is free with advance RSVP. The show, a confessional that deals with death, desire, and solitude, is directed by six-time Obie winner JoAnne Akalaitis, with lighting by Jennifer Tipton, costumes and scenery by Kaye Voce, and video design by Eamonn Farrell. Camp has previously appeared in Measure for Measure, Macbeth, Sore Throats, and Notes from Underground at TFANA; in 2007-8, he collaborated with Akalaitis, Tipton, and Voce on Beckett Shorts at New York Theatre Workshop.

“If theaters opened up tomorrow, I wouldn’t do this on the stage: it’s made specifically for Zoom and our times, and very do-it-yourself,” Akalaitis said in a statement. “Part of my wanting to do it is to acknowledge that the world has changed. One of the big game players in cultural change was Samuel Beckett, to whom I owe so much. It just felt right to put this work by a young, war-damaged Beckett — this mean-spirited, mordant, misanthropic piece from the point of view of this fucked up, misogynist character — in the hermetic setting of Zoom.” Part of TFANA’s “Artists & Community” series, the performance, filmed over Zoom from Camp’s family home in Vermont, will be supplemented by two live talks with Akalaitis, Camp, and other members of the team, moderated by Alisa Solomon, on February 25 and 26 at 8:45.


Who: Gabriel Byrne, Sarah McNally
What: Livestreamed discussion
Where: McNally Jackson Books Zoom
When: Thursday, February 25, $5, 7:00
Why: “How many times have I returned in my dreams to this hill. It is always summer as I look out over the gold and green fields, ditches foaming with hawthorn and lilac, river glinting under the sun like a blade. When I was young, I found sanctuary here and the memory of it deep in my soul ever after has brought me comfort. Once I believed it would never change, but that was before I came to know that all things must. It’s a car park now, a sightseers panorama.” So begins award-winning actor Gabriel Byrne’s widely hailed, poetic, soul-searching memoir, Walking with Ghosts (Grove Press, January 2021, $26).

The seventy-year-old Dublin native has appeared in such films as The Usual Suspects and Miller’s Crossing, such television series as In Treatment and Vikings, and such Broadway productions as A Moon for the Misbegotten and Long Day’s Journey into Night. On the book, he recounts his childhood in a working-class family, his discovery of the theater, and his battle with addiction with grace, humor, and bracing honesty. On February 25 at 7:00, he will speak with McNally Jackson Books founder Sarah McNally about the memoir and his career, live over Zoom. Admission is $5, but you can get those five bucks back if you buy a copy of the book when registering for the event and using discount code BYRNE5OFF.


An all-star lineup will pay tribute to Octavia E. Butler on February 24 via Symphony Space

Who: Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, N. K. Jemisin, Walter Mosley, Imani Perry, Yetide Badaki, Adepero Oduye
What: Readings and conversations
Where: Symphony Space Virtual Space
When: Wednesday, February 24, $15, 7:00
Why: In honor of the fifteenth anniversary of the passing of award-winning American science-fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, who died on February 24, 2006, at the age of fifty-eight, a stellar group of writers and actors are gathering virtually at Symphony Space for an evening of readings and live discussion. A feminist and, arguably, an Afro-futurist, Butler wrote such works as Kindred, Bloodchild and Other Stories, and the Patternist, Xenogenesis, and Earthseed series. In her 1998 MIT speech “Devil Girl from Mars: Why I Write Science Fiction,” she said, “It’s impossible to begin to talk about myself and the media without going back to how I wound up writing science fiction and that is by watching a terrible movie.The movie was called Devil Girl from Mars, and I saw it when I was about twelve years old, and it changed my life.” There’s no telling how many people’s lives were changed by reading Butler; the evening will feature playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, authors N. K. Jemisin, Walter Mosley, and Imani Perry, and actors Yetide Badaki and Adepero Oduye.


Purim is one of the most joyous of holidays of the year, when Jews around the world gather together to celebrate the defeat of the evil Haman and the saving of the Jewish people in the Persian city of Shushan in the fifth century BCE. Temples host “spiels,” humorous sketches telling the story of Queen Vashti, King Ahasuerus, Mordecai, Esther, and Haman; congregants arrive in costume and use noisemakers known as groggers every time Haman’s name is mentioned; the traditional fruit-filled three-cornered pastry known as hamantaschen is served; plenty of alcohol is mandated; and the whole Megillah, the Book of Esther, is read. With synagogues shuttered because of the pandemic lockdown, the party has gone virtual, with festivities zooming in from all over for you to enjoy from the confines of your home. All of the below events are free; some require advance registration.

On February 21 at 2:30, the Congress for Jewish Culture is presenting Itzik Manger’s Megillah Cycle, an adaptation of the 1968 Broadway musical The Megilla of Itzik Manger, conceived and directed by Mike Burstyn, who will reprise his original roles of the Interlocuter and the master tailor Fanfosso in addition to playing King Ahasuerus, previously portrayed by his father, Pesach Burstein. The international cast also includes Shane Baker, Eli Batalion, Jamie Elman, Daniel Kahn, Lia Koenig, Noah Mitchel, Eleanor Reissa, Joshua Reuben, Suzanne Toren, Allen Lewis Rickman, Yelena Shmulenson, and Avi Hoffman (as Haman), many of whom should be familiar to fans of Yiddish theater here in New York City. The free show, which will be performed in Yiddish with English subtitles, with commentary written by the late Joe Darion, artwork by Adam Whiteman, and music by Uri Schreter, will be broadcast on YouTube, where it will be available for an unlimited amount of time.

On February 22 at 7:00, the Jewish People’s Philharmonic Chorus is holding the grand finale of its Yiddish Purim Song Workshop & Sing-Along, led by Binyumen Schaechter (free with advance RSVP).

As you can tell, Purim is supposed to be a party, and the funniest party of them all is likely to be Met Council’s appropriately titled “Funny Story,” a free virtual table read of the Megillah with an all-star cast of comedians: Elon Gold, Howie Mandel, Bob Saget, Jeff Garlin, Judy Gold, Jeff Ross, Russell Peters, Susie Essman, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Bari Weiss, Claudia Oshry, Violet Benson, Montana Tucker, and Eli Leonard, benefiting the organization’s Covid-19 Emergency Fund.

The National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene will be livestreaming its Purim blowout February 22 to 25, with a fifteen-minute Yiddish lesson with Motl Didner on Monday at 1:00; Zalmen Mlotek’s Purim-themed “Living Room Concert” on Tuesday at 1:00; the Hava Tequila Cabaret with Adam B. Shapiro, Dani Apple, Stephanie Lynne Mason, Daniella Rabbani, Lauren Jeanne Thomas, Bobby Underwood, Mikhl Yashinksy, and Michael Winograd on Wednesday at 7:00; and “The Megillah in Yiddish” reading, followed by a performance by the Brooklyn klezmer band Litvakus, on Thursday at 7:00.

On February 25 at 7:00, the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center is putting on “The Masked Megillah,” a spiel inspired by the popular television program The Masked Singer. While the shul is not divulging the secret identities of who will be sharing the story of Purim in song and dance, the teaser features the one and only Tovah Feldshuh, from Golda’s Balcony and The Walking Dead.

And from February 25 to 28, the Yiddishkayt Initiative is offering a Purim edition of the International Virtual Yiddish Fest, consisting of “Bright Lights . . . Big Shushan: A Musical Megillah” with Cantor Shira Ginsburg on Thursday at 8:00; “Shmoozing with Avi,” featuring Phillip Namanworth the Boogie Woogie Mystic, on Thursday at 10:00; Aelita’s “Songs from the Heart” concert on Friday at 4:00; Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Gimpel Tam (Gimpel the Fool) starring Dori Engel on Friday at 8:00; a “PurimShpiel” concert with the Chorny-Ghergus Duo on Saturday at 2:00; the multimedia “KhapLop,” beloved children’s stories translated into Yiddish by Miriam Hoffman and read by her son, actor Avi Hoffman, on Sunday at noon; and a watch party of Itzik Manger’s Megillah Cycle on February 28 at 2:00.


Who: Tẹmídayọ Amay, Keith David, Antwayn Hopper, Chiké Johnson, Patrice Johnson, Zonya Love, Anastacia McCleskey
What: Seven short vignettes focusing on the eight different types of love
Where: MCC Theater
When: Thursday, February 11, $7, 6:30 (available on demand through February 13 at midnight); open mic night February 12, free with RSVP, 5:30
Why: MCC’s LiveLabs series of one-act virtual plays has included Talene Monohan’s Monty Python-esque farce Frankie & Will, directed by Jaki Bradley and starring real-life partners Ryan Spahn and Michael Urie, the latter a playwright attempting to write his own plague version of “King Leir”; Aziza Barnes’s Pues Nada, directed by Whitney White and starring Ito Aghayere, Alfie Fuller, Karen Pittman, and Kara Young, a very funny satire dealing with some strange goings-on at a bar in East LA (complete with puking and a brutal murder), inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill movies; Matthew Lopez’s poignant and honest The Sentinels, directed by Rebecca Taichman and starring Jane Alexander, Denee Benton, and Katrina Lenk as three 9/11 widows whose significant others all worked in the Twin Towers and who meet in a diner on the anniversary of the tragedy every year, the action moving backward in time, with Priscilla Lopez as the waitress and reading stage directions; and C. A. Johnson’s When, directed by Taylor Reynolds and starring Antoinette Crowe-Legacy and Kecia Lewis as a daughter going through a breakup and her Downton Abbey-obsessed mother on a long Zoom call that gets pretty personal. The plays run between twenty-five and forty-five minutes each, followed by a discussion facilitated by Ianne Fields Stewart.

The series continues February 11-13 with Mfoniso Udofia’s On Love, exploring eight types of love through seven short vignettes, poems, and songs, consisting of Philautia: Self Love, Ludus: Playful Love, Storge: Family Love, Eros: Erotic Love, Agape: Love within Community, Pragma: Enduring Love, Philia: Friendship Love, and Mania: Obsessive Love. The terrific cast features Tẹmídayọ Amay, Keith David, Antwayn Hopper, Chiké Johnson, Patrice Johnson, Zonya Love, and Anastacia McCleskey; Awoye Timpo (The Homecoming Queen, The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d) directs the play, Udofia’s online follow-up to such previous works as Sojourners, runboyrun, and Her Portmanteau. Tickets are only seven dollars. In addition, MCC is hosting a free On Love open mic Zoom night on February 12 at 5:30, where you can sit back and watch or share your own spoken word, poem, or song.


Who: André De Shields, Nathan Winkelstein
What: Live discussion of the “Blow, winds” speech from King Lear
Where: Red Bull Theater’s website, Vimeo, Facebook Live
When: Monday, February 1, free with RSVP, 7:30
Why: Baltimore-born actor, singer, dancer, director, and choreographer André De Shields has been a superstar during the pandemic lockdown, popping up all over the place. The Emmy, Tony, and Grammy winner portrayed Elder Qualls in Shaka Senghor’s A Father’s Sorrow for the 24-Hour Plays series, revisited Haarlem Nocturne for Crossroads Theatre Company, took part in a terrific Classic Conversation with Classic Stage artistic director John Doyle, played Anton Ego in Ratatouille: The TikTok Musical, sang “Shine” for the #SaveWestBankCafe Telethon, crooned “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in the Home for the Holidays BCEFA benefit concert, delivered the keynote speech for Victory Gardens Theater’s Voices of Tomorrow, read Congressman John Lewis’s “Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of the Nation,” participated in an all-star outdoor rendition of “Broadway Baby” for Our America: A Concert for the Soul of the Nation, and will next serve as host, as Hermes, of the Onassis Foundation’s Live from Mount Olympus, a free weekly podcast debuting February 2 on PRX’s TRAX podcast network for tweens, directed by Rachel Chavkin and Zhailon Levingston.

Andre De Shields stars as King Lear at the Folger Theatre in 2007 (photo by Scott Suchman)

He now turns to Shakespeare for Red Bull Theater’s RemarkaBULL Podversation presentation “Exploring King Lear,” streaming live February 1 at 7:30. De Shields will deliver the “Blow, winds” speech from Act 3: Scene 2 of the Bard’s tragedy, followed by a discussion with Red Bull associate producer Nathan Winkelstein. “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! / You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout / Till you have drench’d our steeples, drown’d the cocks! / You sulphurous and thought-executing fires, / Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts, / Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder, / Smite flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!” Lear declares. De Shields (Hadestown, Ain’t Misbehavin’) portrayed the king at Classical Theater of Harlem and the Folger in DC in 2007, so he has his own unique history with the character. Previous Podversations have featured Patrick Page on Othello, Kate Burton on The Tempest, Stephen Spinella on As You Like It, Elizabeth Marvel on Julius Caesar, and Chukwudi Iwuji on Henry VI.