Lincoln Center Theater at the Mitzi E. Newhouse
150 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Tuesday - Sunday through August 27, $87
Pipeline is an up-to-the-minute, honest, and hard-hitting look at race, class, and the education system in the United States from Detroit native Dominique Morisseau. Continuing at the Mitzi E. Newhouse through August 27, the intensely intelligent, powerful play was created by Morrisseau shortly after completing her award-winning Detroit Projects trilogy (Detroit ’67, Paradise Blue, Skeleton Crew) and before she begins her Residency Five at the Signature Theatre in April 2018 with a revival of Paradise Blue. In this new work, Morisseau brilliantly introduces Nya (Karen Pittman), a divorced public-school teacher in an unidentified city facing a family crisis, as she leaves a complicated, heart-rending phone message for her ex-husband, Xavier (Morocco Omari), explaining in fractured sentences that their son, Omari (Namir Smallwood), is facing explusion from school. However, she decides to delete the message, replacing it with a blunt “Calling to talk to you about our son. Give me a call back when you get this. Thanks. Bye.” In the span of just a few minutes, Morisseau has set the stage beautifully, establishing character, plot, and mood. Omari is a dour teenager who has attacked one of his teachers during a discussion about Richard Wright’s Native Son, an incident that was captured on video and is about to go viral. Omari’s girlfriend, Jasmine (Heather Velazquez), is a whirling dervish of opinions who’s never afraid to say what she is thinking. Meanwhile, Nya’s fellow teacher, the bitter, old-fashioned Laurie (Tasha Lawrence), has returned to school after getting involved in a serious fight between two students. “A good old ass whipping can teach a lot,” she says. The teachers are sometimes joined by Dun (Jaime Lincoln Smith), a flirtatious school security guard who promises Nya and Laurie that he’ll do whatever he can to prevent further clashes with students. But when Omari runs off, Nya becomes desperate to find him before his future comes crashing down. It’s all summed up by Jasmine, who tells Nya, “Sometimes somebody mess with you on the wrong day. . . . It’s like THEY don’t know it’s your last straw. But they ain’t seen how many times you been sucked of everything you got. They go pickin’ at you like lint, and be lookin’ surprised when you knock ’em flat the hell out.”
Nya occasionally addresses the audience directly, as if they are in class themselves, but Morisseau, a former teacher whose mother was a public school teacher, and Obie-winning director Lileana Blain-Cruz (War, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World) never allow the play to become overly preachy or pedantic. (There’s even a program insert, “Playwright’s Rules of Engagement,” which notes, “This can be church for some of us, and testifying is allowed.”) The set, by Matt Saunders, swiftly changes from office to lunchroom to dorm room to classroom to hospital waiting room, with occasional scenes taking place in what Morisseau calls “undefined space.” Omari’s fight with his teacher is representative in many ways of the confrontations between police and black and brown men and the need for personal space, and it’s all sensitively portrayed by an exceptionally strong cast and exceptional writing. “It’s a gamble, Jasmine,” Nya says. “All the time. You send your young man out into the world everyday, or away for a weekend. A semester. A school year. But you don’t know . . . You have no idea if they’re safe. You have no idea if one day someone will try to expire them because they are too young. Or too Black. Or too threatening. Or too loud. Or too uninformed. Or too angry. Or too quiet. Or too everyday. Or too cool. Or too uncomposed. Or too mysterious. Or just too TOO. You don’t know, Jasmine.” The relationships between the characters are fully believable as Morisseau steers clear of genre clichés in making the many issues Pipeline raises a microcosm of what is happening in twenty-first-century America. And at the center of it all is Gwendolyn Brooks’s 1960 poem “We Real Cool,” which is projected onto a blackboard and adorns the cover of Lincoln Center Theater Review: “We real cool. We / Left school. We / Lurk late. We / Strike straight. We / Sing sin. We / Thin gin. We / Jazz June. We / Die soon.” Pipeline is a poetic indictment of institutionalized societal constraints, a lesson we all need to learn.
NEIL YOUNG TRUNK SHOW (Jonathan Demme, 2009)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Sunday, August 20, 7:00
Series runs through August 24
BAMcinématek’s three-week tribute to Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, who passed away in April at the age of seventy-three, continues with a pair of outstanding concert films. In April 2005, Neil Young underwent brain surgery for an aneurysm. Four months later, he gathered together friends for two special nights at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, captured on film by Demme, who had previously helmed such fab music docs as Stop Making Sense and Storefront Hitchcock. Neil Young: Heart of Gold was an intimate portrait of man who looked death in the face and survived; the film featured acoustic songs primarily from Young’s beautiful Prairie Wind album. But the Godfather of Grunge wasn’t about to let a little thing like a brain aneurysm stop him from rocking in the free world. As he continued his long-term project of reaching deep into his past for his archival box sets, he released Chrome Dreams II in October 2007, a sequel to an unreleased 1977 album that was rumored to include such future Young classics as “Pocahontas,” “Like a Hurricane,” “Homegrown,” and “Powderfinger.” For Chrome Dreams II, Young strapped on the electric guitar and held nothing back, joined by longtime partners in crime Ralph Molina on drums, Rick Rosas on bass, and Ben Keith on guitars and keyboards.
Young took the show on the road, playing small clubs across the country, where each song was announced by a live painting by Eric Johnson. Demme captured two searing performances at the Tower Theater in Pennsylvania, filming them guerrilla-style with eight cameras, mostly handheld, that get right up in Young’s face. While the actual concerts were divided into two separate sets, first solo acoustic, then electric with the band, which also featured backup vocals by then-wife Pegi Young and Anthony “Sweetpea” Crawford, Demme mixes them up in Neil Young Trunk Show, an exhilarating music documentary that limits behind-the-scenes patter and instead concentrates on the powerful music. At the time, Young had been at the game for nearly fifty years, but he plays with a young man’s abandon in the film, his eyes deep in thought on such gorgeous acoustic gems as “Harvest,” “Ambulance Blues,” “Sad Movies,” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” while really letting loose with extended jams on the new “Spirit Road” and “No Hidden Path” before tearing everything apart on “Like a Hurricane.” The sixty-two-year-old Canadian legend even includes an instrumental from his high school days with the Squires, “The Sultan,” complete with Cary Kemp banging a gong. As with most Young concerts, Trunk Show is not about the greatest hits; to truly enjoy it, just let the music take you away – and make sure the theater has the volume turned up loud. The movie is screening August 20 at 7:00 as part of the “Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold” retrospective and will be followed by a Q&A with cinematographer Declan Quinn and camera operators Charlie Libin, Kathleen Corgan, Gerard Sava, Patrick Capone, Hollis Meminger, and Anthony Jannelli.
NEIL YOUNG: HEART OF GOLD (Jonathan Demme, 2006)
BAMcinématek, BAM Rose Cinemas
30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Pl. & St. Felix St.
Sunday, August 20, 4:30
Series runs through August 24
The BAMcinématek screening of Neil Young Trunk Show will be preceded by another stellar collaboration between Jonathan Demme and Neil Young, Neil Young: Heart of Gold. In March 2005, less than a week before a scheduled operation for a brain aneurysm, Canadian country-folk-rock legend Neil Young headed to Nashville, assembled friends and family, and in four days recorded one of the best — and most personal — albums of his storied four-decade career, Prairie Wind. On August 18, he had recovered enough to put on a poignant show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, captured on film by Demme, whose previous music-related works included Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense, Robyn Hitchcock in Storefront Hitchcock, and videos by the Pretenders and Bruce Springsteen. The concert film begins with brief interviews with band members as they prepare for the show; Demme does not harp on Young’s health but instead focuses on the music itself and the warming sense of a family coming together. And what music it is.
Using an ever-changing roster of participants, including Emmylou Harris, then-wife Pegi Young, steel guitarist Ben Keith, keyboardist Spooner Oldham, bass player Rick Rosas, the Nashville String Machine, the Fisk University Jubilee Singers, the Memphis Horns, and others, Young goes song by song through Prairie Wind (skipping only the Elvis tribute “He Was the King,” which can be found as an extra on the DVD), a moving album written by a man looking death squarely in the face. (Pegi Young points out that it was like Neil’s life flashing before his eyes.) Young introduces several songs with stories about his recently deceased father, growing up on a chicken farm, his daughter’s departure for college, and Hank Williams, whose guitar Young plays. (He also does a few songs on a Steinway.) Cinematographer Ellen Kuras (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, No Direction Home: Bob Dylan) gets up close and personal with Young, zooming in for extended shots of his face, his eyes peeking out from under his cowboy hat. Eleven years later, Young is still at the top of his game, releasing great new music and playing incendiary live shows. “Jonathan Demme: Heart of Gold” continues through August 24 with The Master Builder, Ricki and the Flash, a program of music videos, and a double feature of What’s Motivating Hayes and Haiti Dreams of Democracy.
In 2011, Franco-British documentarian Max Pugh was asked by an elder monk to make a film about Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching tour of the United States and Canada. Pugh, whose younger brother had become a Buddhist monk studying with Thich Nhat Hanh, teamed up with codirector Marc J. Francis to follow the popular Vietnamese master as he and his monastics visited various towns and cities in North America before returning to their home base, Plum Village, in the southwest of France. The result is the gentle, meditative, and poetic Walk with Me, which is having its New York premiere at the Rubin Museum. In agreeing to the film, Thich Nhat Hanh, who was born in Vietnam in 1926, conveyed that he did not want to be the focus of the narrative; instead, Pugh and Francis, who also served as producers, editors, and cinematographers, concentrate on a group of monastics who, as the tour continues, perform rituals, chant, get their hair cut off, and go about their daily duties. There are no labels identifying anyone by name, no text telling viewers the date or location, no talking heads discussing Buddhism, Thich Nhat Hanh, or his teachings. Every once in a while they break away from the fly-on-the-wall narrative to present voice-over recitations by Benedict Cumberbatch, reading from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Fragrant Palm Leaves journals from the 1960s as the camera sets its sights on scenes from nature, from snow rushing past trees to shimmering reflections on a lake. “At first, it seemed like a passing cloud, but after several hours I began to feel my body turning to smoke and floating away,” Cumberbatch says as clouds slowly make their way across the moon. “I became a faint wisp of a cloud. I had always thought of myself as a solid entity, and suddenly I saw that I am not solid at all. I saw that the entity I had taken to be me was really a fabrication. My true nature, I realized, was much more real, both uglier and more beautiful than I could ever have imagined.”
The film works best when Thich Nhat Hanh, who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1967, is present and when his words are read by Cumberbatch, offering an enveloping warmth and solace. As the master, who was exiled from his home country by both sides because of his opposition to the Vietnam War, ventures through natural settings, often wearing his brown knit cap, his eyes take in everything around him, zeroing in on the present moment, experiencing a constant state of mindfulness. It’s not nearly as interesting when it shows the monastics — Sister An Nghiem, Sister Dang Nghiem, Brother Phap Huu, Brother Phap Linh, Brother Phap Dung, Brother Phap De, Brother Phap Sieu, and Sister Dinh Nghiem — interacting with prisoners, discussing why they became monks, tracing their personal history, and meeting up with long-lost friends or visiting with relatives. The film concludes with a glorious sunset, as one day ends and another one is ready to begin. Shortly after filming was completed, Thich Nhat Hanh suffered a debilitating stroke, in November 2014, but his mindfulness programs and humanitarian foundation continue. Walk with Me is screening at the Rubin August 18-26, with all three shows on August 19 featuring some combination of group meditation (in conjunction with the sound installation “Le Corps Sonore”), a monastic encounter, and/or a Q&A with Francis, Pugh, and some of the monks from the film. In addition, on August 19 at 10:00 am, there will be a free pop-up, monastic-led group meditation in Union Square Park that will also be livestreamed here.
THE TOWERING INFERNO (John Guillermin, 1974)
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Saturday, August 19, 8:15, and Wednesday, August 23, 3.30
Series runs August 18-24
Disaster flicks were a big thing in the 1970s, and none was bigger than The Towering Inferno. The $14.3 million epic, the first coproduction between two major studios, Warner Bros. and 20th Century-Fox, was based on two novels, Richard Martin Stern’s The Tower and Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson’s The Glass Inferno and stars a host of Hollywood greats, led by the dynamic duo of Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. Newman is recently retired architect Doug Roberts, who has come back to San Francisco for the opening-night party celebrating the final building he designed, the 138-story Glass Tower, owned by wealthy businessman James Duncan (William Holden). When a small electrical fire starts in a storage room on the eighty-first floor, Roberts becomes suspicious that Duncan’s son-in-law, smarmy electrical engineer Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain), did not follow the specs exactly and cut critical corners. As the fire grows, security chief Harry Jernigan (O. J. Simpson) calls in the fire department, anchored by battalion chief Mike O’Hallorhan (McQueen) and his right-hand man, Kappy (Don Gordon). O’Hallorhan insists that Duncan move the elegant party in the Promenade Room on the 135th floor to the lobby, but by the time Duncan agrees, the flames have spread and escape options become more and more limited — and dangerous. Among the others struggling to survive are con man Harlee Claiborne (Fred Astaire, earning his sole Oscar nomination), his potential target, Lisolette Mueller (Jennifer Jones, in her last performance), U.S. senator Gary Parker (Robert Vaughn), slick public relations man Dan Bigelow (Robert Wagner), his secretary and mistress, Lorrie (Susan Flannery), Duncan’s daughter, Patty Duncan Simmons (Susan Blakely), the deaf Mrs. Allbright (Carol McEvoy) and her two children, Angela (Carlena Gower) and Phillip (The Brady Bunch’s Mike Lookinland), and Roberts’s fiancée, Susan Franklin (Faye Dunaway). Meanwhile, throughout it all, bartender Carlos (Gregory Sierra) remains cool and calm.
In spectacular scene after spectacular scene, director John Guillermin (Waltz of the Toreadors, King Kong), screenwriter Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night, Village of the Damned), and action director, producer, and disaster-movie king Irwin Allen (The Lost World, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) ups the ante as Roberts and O’Hallorhan play the heroes against corporate greed. “Jim, I think you suffer from an edifice complex,” Roberts tells Duncan. A huge hit when it was released in 1974, The Towering Inferno received eight Oscar nominations, winning for best song (“We May Never Love Like This Again,” sung by Maureen McGovern), Best Production Design, and Best Cinematography, by Fred J. Koenekamp and Joseph Biroc, who capture daring aerial shots and dazzling stunts. If the film resembles The Poseidon Adventure, that’s no, er, accident; the 1972 disaster film was also produced by Allen, with a score by John Williams and an Oscar-nominated theme song sung by McGovern (“The Morning After”). The Towering Inferno has taken on new meaning since 9/11, but it’s not as upsetting as you might think, although it is particularly difficult watching a few people jump or fall out of the building. It’s also impossible not to smirk when you see O.J. in a uniform, playing a heroic character. Newman and McQueen — the latter, as was his wont, insisted on equal billing and the same number of lines of dialogue as Newman — make a terrific duo, their stunning blue eyes fighting for equal screen time as well. And somehow the film avoids getting overly soapy and maudlin like so many of its brethren were. A true disasterpiece, The Towering Inferno is screening August 19 and 23 in the fab Quad series “Disasterpieces,” which runs August 18-24 and includes such other genre hits and duds as Airport and Airport ’75, Earthquake (but not in Sensurround), Black Sunday, The Poseidon Adventure, A Night to Remember, Two-Minute Warning, Airplane!, and the flop that ended the glut, 1980’s When Time Ran Out.
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.
MEMORIES OF MURDER (SALINUI CHUEOK) (Bong Joon-ho, 2003)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Opens Friday, August 18
In 2006, South Korean writer-director Bong Joon-ho burst onto the international cinematic landscape with the sleeper hit The Host, a modern-day monster movie with a lot of heart. He followed that up with the touching segment “Shaking Tokyo” in the compilation film Tokyo!, and Mother, the futuristic thriller Snowpiercer, and Okja, about an extraordinary pig. IFC Center is now going back to Bong’s second film, 2003’s Memories of Murder, screening a new digital restoration beginning August 18. Inspired by actual events, Memories of Murder is a psychological thriller set in a rural South Korean town. With a serial killer on the loose, Seoul sends experienced inspector Suh (Kim Sang-kyung) to help with the case, which is being bungled by local detectives Park (Song Kang-ho) and Cho (Kim Roe-ha), who consistently tamper with evidence, bring in the wrong suspects, and torture them in both brutal and ridiculously funny ways. But as the frustration level builds and more victims are found, even Suh starts considering throwing away the book and doing whatever is necessary to catch the killer. Bong’s first major success, earning multiple awards at film festivals around the world, Memories of Murder is a well-paced police procedural that contains just enough surprises to overcome a few too many genre clichés. The film is beautifully shot by Kim Hyung-gu, from wide-open landscapes to a busy, crowded factory. But the film is dominated by Song’s (The Host, Thirst) big, round face, a physical and emotional wonder whether he’s goofing around with a prisoner or dead-set on catching a criminal.
2econd Stage Theatre
Tony Kiser Theatre
305 West 43rd St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
Through August 20, $37-$109
2econd Stage follows up its poignant New York premiere of Pulitzer Prize winner Tracey Letts’s 2003 Man from Nebraska with the superb New York premiere of Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Norris’s 2010 A Parallelogram, continuing at the Tony Kiser Theatre through August 20. “If you knew in advance exactly what was going to happen in your life, and how everything was going to turn out, and if you knew you couldn’t do anything to change it, would you still want to go on with your life?” thirty-five-year-old Bee (Celia Keenan-Bolger) asks her boyfriend, the married fortysomething Jay (Stephen Kunken), adding, “What if it turned out to be for the best if we’d never even existed?” It’s a classic science-fiction trope, handled with unique flair by Norris, director Michael Greif, and a strong cast of four. Celia Keenan-Bolger stars as the conflicted Bee, a Rite Aid regional manager who is apparently being visited by her future self, an older woman (Anita Gillette), identified in the program as Bee 2, who sits on a chair in the front corner of her bedroom, smoking and sardonically dropping hints about what is in store for Bee’s life. Invisible to the rather self-involved Jay, who moved in with Bee after leaving his wife and two children, Bee 2 nevertheless manages to set off quite a battle between the two lovebirds. The virile young JJ (Juan Castano) mows the lawn outside, but he’ll be inside soon, while Bee 2 plays with some kind of high-tech remote that can shift time backward and forward, the stage going dark and lights flashing to signify the movement of time. (The lighting designer is Kenneth Posner.) But the more Bee gets involved with Bee 2, the more Jay grows concerned about her mental health, and the more the audience is drawn into a parallelogram of ideas and questions about chronology, sanity, narrative, and theater itself.
Norris (Clybourne Park, Domesticated) and Greif (Dear Evan Hansen, Rent) include lots of little clues as to whether Bee is actually in contact with Bee 2 or is imagining it all and is in the midst of a breakdown, from Bee’s proclivity for playing Solitaire on the bed to the placement of a clock and a TV and Jay’s insistence that he can not only smell the smoke but see it, pointing out the drifting trails that evoke the lines that Bee 2 explains circle the planet and meet themselves, resulting in slightly different realities converging. Bee even tells Bee 2 that people can’t smell light or time, as if they just have to have faith, just like the audience must have faith in the magic of theater. The idea of doubling also relates to the two men, who are not accidentally named Jay and JJ and who play key roles in various aspects of Bee’s life. Three-time Tony nominee Keenan-Bolger (The Glass Menagerie, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) is delightful as Bee (previously portrayed by Kate Arrington in Chicago and Marin Ireland in L.A.), a kind of surrogate for the audience as we contemplate whether she is delusional or not; of course, it helps that Tony nominee Gillette (Chapter Two, Moonstruck), who clearly relishes her role, often addresses us directly, but she is a highly unreliable narrator. Tony nominee Kunken (Enron, Frost/Nixon) is terrific as the easy-to-despise Jay, while Castano (Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, Transfer) holds his own as the bilingual JJ. Obie winner Rachel Hauck’s set quickly rotates from ground-floor apartment to hospital room (where Bee 3 makes a subtle Three Stooges reference), with both spaces resembling each other, another instance of doubling, as is the existence of theater in general, something that presumes to re-create real life onstage. A Parallelogram asks some key questions while not offering any concrete answers. There’s a minor slip-up here and there and not every detail holds up to concerted investigation, but we could always grab hold of that remote and try to fix a few holes — but would it really change anything?