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


Simone Leigh’s High Line plinth commission, Brick House, is up through March (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Who: Salamishah Tillet, Rebecca Belmore, Zena Howard, Bryan Lee Jr., Mayor Marvin Rees, Justin Garrett Moore, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Zsuzsa Szegedy-Maszák, Cecilia Alemani, Melanie Kress
What: Discussions on monumental public sculpture sponsored by the High Line and Next City
Where: Next City
When: Wednesday, January 27, pay-what-you-wish, 1:00; Friday, January 28, pay-what-you-wish, 1:00 (suggested admission $20 for both events)

Why: In June 2019, the High Line installed its inaugural plinth commission, Simone Leigh’s Brick House, a sixteen-foot-high bronze bust of a Black woman on the Spur at Thirtieth St. and Tenth Ave., overlooking traffic. The woman’s eyes are rubbed out and four cornrow braids with cowrie shells fall from her afro onto a skirt based on the Natchez, Mississippi, restaurant Mammy’s Cupboard as well as the Batammaliba (“those who are the real architects of the earth”) building style of Benin and Togo and the nearly extinct dome-shaped Mousgoum teleuk clay dwellings that can be found in Cameroon and Chad. The Chicago-born, Brooklyn-based Leigh will represent the United States at the 2022 Venice Biennale, and she recently unveiled the twenty-inch-tall limited-edition sculpture Sentinel IV, raising money for the nonprofit organization Color of Change. Brick House, which also evokes the Commodores hit (“Ow, she’s a brick house / She’s mighty-mighty, just lettin’ it all hang out / She’s a brick house / That lady’s stacked and that’s a fact / Ain’t holding nothing back”), will remain up through the spring, casting an imposing figure across the area, dominating the space around it with a powerful energy at a time when public statues and sculptures are being reevaluated and, sometimes, torn down because of their subjects’ historical connections to racism, misogyny, slavery, and other societal ills.

You can check out maquettes for the third and fourth plinth commissions online and on the High Line

The High Line and Next City, a nonprofit news organization whose mission is “to inspire greater economic, environmental, and social justice in cities,” have teamed up for the Future of Monumentality Speaker Series, which kicks off this week with two events moderated by Salamishah Tillet focusing on monumental public sculpture just as Brick House prepares to start giving way to the second plinth commission, chosen from shortlisted artists Jonathan Berger, Minerva Cuevas, Jeremy Deller, Sam Durant, Charles Gaines, Lena Henke, Matthew Day Jackson, Roman Ondak, Paola Pivi, Haim Steinbach, and Cosima von Bonin. On January 27 at 1:00, Paul Ramirez Jonas, Justin Garrett Moore, and Zena Howard will discuss “What Is Monumentality?,” exploring the connections between art and architecture, the narrative of the work in relation to the audience, and who can tell which story. On January 28 at 1:00, Rebecca Belmore, Bryan Lee Jr., Mayor Marvin Rees, and Zsuzsa Szegedy-Maszák will talk about “Alternatives to Monumentality,” examining form and function, displacing and recontextualizing, and storytelling traditions. "Monuments have hurt our communities, but they can also be used to heal,” Next City executive director Lucas Grindley said in a statement. “Now is the time to learn from the many practitioners already doing the work of reimagining monuments.”

The High Line has just announced the twelve finalists for the third and fourth plinth commissions, scheduled to be installed in 2022 and 2024; the list of eighty proposals has been whittled down to submissions by Iván Argote, Nina Beier, Margarita Cabrera, Nick Cave, Banu Cennetoğlu, Rafa Esparza, Teresita Fernández, Kapwani Kiwanga, Lu Pingyuan, Pamela Rosenkranz, Mary Sibande, and Andra Ursuţa. You can see their maquettes either on the High Line at the Coach Passage at Thirtieth St. through April or online here.


MoMA talk will focus on Garrett Bradley’s multichannel video installation America

Who: Garrett Bradley, Thelma Golden
What: Live Q&A about Projects: Garrett Bradley
Where: MoMA YouTube
When: Thursday, January 21, free, 8:00
Why: In November, MoMA posted “Re-Imaging America,” a conversation between artist Garrett Bradley, Studio Museum in Harlem associate curator Legacy Russell, and Studio Museum in Harlem director and chief curator Thelma Golden, discussing Bradley’s multichannel video installation America, continuing at MoMA through March 21 as part of the Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series. The work combines twelve new black-and-white short films (about Harry T. Burleigh, James Reese Europe, the Negro National League, and other historical subjects) and a score by Trevor Mathison and Udit Duseja with archival footage of the unreleased 1914 film Lime Kiln Club Field Day, which is thought to be the oldest-surviving feature-length work with an all-Black cast, a love story starring Bert Williams and Odessa Warren Grey. “I knew that Bert was required to wear blackface, and I did not, even in my initial introduction to the material, feel that it took away from his brilliance. But it became critical to prove that, and to prove it using what already existed within the original footage,” Bradley says in the talk.

“That is one of the exciting challenges in working with archives — the prospect of revealing a new dimension of something that appears fixed. How could I make it clear that Bert’s power and creative genius were not confined to his performance alone? His vision extended far beyond our immediate gaze as audience members, and could be seen in-between the scenes themselves. It could be seen in a simple portrait, unmasked and still. I wanted to open America with these moments that made clear who he was, separate from the character in the film and outside of the narrative. It was important we saw him giving direction and in negotiation with the surrounding power structures. It became all the more critical that we had a moment to sit with certain frames — certain truths — that are less discernible at seventeen frames per second.” On January 21 at 8:00, Golden, who curated the exhibition with Russell, will host a live “Virtual Views” Q&A with Bradley on MoMA’s YouTube channel; museum members can send in questions beforehand here. The discussion will also be archived for later on-demand viewing, and you can check out three audio clips of Bradley delving into her work here.


Still from Lynn Hershman Leeson’s The Electronic Diaries (1984–2019) (courtesy the artist and Bridget Donahue, New York)

Who: Lynn Hershman Leeson
What: Special screening and conversation
Where: The New Museum online
When: Tuesday, January 12, free with RSVP, 8:00
Why: In advance of her upcoming “Twisted” exhibition at the New Museum, which opens June 30, Cleveland-born, San Francisco–based artist Lynn Hershman Leeson will present a free screening of her video The Electronic Diaries, which she has been compiling since 1984, examining her life in such segments as “Confessions of a Chameleon,” “Binge,” “First Person Plural,” and “Shadow’s Song.” Part of Rhizome and C-Lab Taiwan’s “First Look: Forking PiraGene,” the screening will be followed by a conversation with the artist.


EdgeCut and New York Live Arts offer new way to experience live events with other people

When I posted the first edition of the Pandemic Awards on July 4, I never expected that on January 1, 2021, we would still be at least six months away from opening venues for live, in-person entertainment. As I wrote then, it would be “the first of hopefully only two This Week in New York Pandemic Awards.” Well, here is the second round, with a third likely to come in July. Once again, there’s only one rule for eligibility: There must be a live facet to a performance — either the performance is happening at the minute one is watching onscreen or has an interactive element such as a live Q&A or live chatting.

We’ve come a long way since March, as creators have displayed remarkable ingenuity and forward thinking in coming up with innovative and exciting ways of developing virtual works, from dance, music, and art to theater, literature, and discussion, from all around the globe. Below is the best of the best, productions both big and small, that took the ball and ran with it. I can’t wait to see what will evolve over the next six months to keep us entertained online while we continue to shelter in place.

Happy 2021 to all!

The Line, written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, directed by Blank, the Public Theater. Blank and Jensen’s Coal Country had to be postponed because of the lockdown, so they turned their attention to the health crisis, teaming again with the Public Theater to present a harrowing look at what New York healthcare workers were experiencing as Covid-19 raged through the city, with Santino Fontana, Alison Pill, John Ortiz, Arjun Gupta, Nicholas Pinnock, Lorraine Toussaint, and Jamey Sheridan speaking the real words of doctors, nurses, EMTs, and others on the front lines of this dread virus.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, This Is Who I Am, written by Amir Nizar Zuabi, directed by Evren Odcikin. Amir Nizar Zuabi’s poignant livestreamed tale of an estranged father (Ramsey Faragallah) and son (Yousof Sultani) preparing a family dish together over Zoom is a warm and heartfelt look at loss, loneliness, and reconnection.

pen/man/ship, written by Christina Anderson, directed by Lucie Tiberghien, Molière in the Park. Brooklyn-based Molière in the Park went contemporary with Christina Anderson’s pen/man/ship, a smart, moving play that takes place in 1896 aboard a ship heading for Liberia shortly after the US Supreme Court decided in Plessy v. Ferguson to uphold the constitutionality of racial segregation under the concept of “separate but equal”; the solid cast features Crystal Lucas-Perry as Ruby, the only woman on board, Kevin Mambo as an unyielding minister named Charles, Jared McNeill as his son, Jacob, and Postell Pringle as Cecil, who is working on the ship, with interstitial animation by Emily Rawson, sea-shanty music by Victoria Deiorio, and green-screen set design by Lina Younes that mimic being on a real ship.

Crave, Chichester Festival Theatre. Chichester presented a stirring, socially distanced revival of Sarah Kane’s brutal Crave, happening in real time as a masked audience watched Tinuke Craig’s fierce adaptation that was the closest thing yet to capturing the feeling of live theater online.

The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, written by Daniel Jamieson, directed by Emma Rice, recorded at the UK’s Bristol Old Vic Theatre. The virtual tour of the Bristol Old Vic, Kneehigh, and Wise Children’s beautifully staged adaptation of The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, about the romance between painter Marc Chagall (Marc Antolin) and Bella Samoylovna Rosenfeld (Audrey Brisson) amid some very difficult situations in the world, made its way to Skirball, where viewers were treated to its lush look, outstanding acting, and compelling, intimately told story.

Ali Ahn and William Jackson Harper, Outside Time without Extension, written by Ben Beckley, directed by Vivienne Benesch, Red Bull Theater. A few minutes into Ben Beckley’s Outside Time without Extension, part of Red Bull’s Tenth Annual Short New Play Festival, Ali Ahn and William Jackson Harper joined together in the same Zoom box, the first time I saw two actors in the same space. It turns out that they are partners living together; they would later appear in Matt Schatz’s two-character play The Burdens as a Jewish brother and sister.

Joshua D. Reid, A Christmas Carol, directed by Michael Arden. As good as Jefferson Mays’s mostly one-man version of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol looked, it sounded even better, immersing the audience in the more ghostly aspects of the story, including one moment that made my heart drop into my stomach.

Inside the Wild Heart, Group.BR. In Inside the Wild Heart, New York–Brazilian company Group.BR ingeniously used the digital platform to allow the audience to guide their avatar across various rooms and floors and interact with other viewers as they navigated through a recorded version of the multidisciplinary show about author Clarice Lispector and her writings.

Lilli Taylor tantalizes the audience during countdown to New Group reunion reading of Aunt Dan and Lemon

Lilli Taylor, Aunt Dan and Lemon, the New Group. The New Group’s reunion reading of Wallace Shawn’s Aunt Dan and Lemon begins with three minutes of narrator Lilli Taylor getting ready by calmly looking around and making all kinds of facial gestures during the countdown to the start of the play.

Edie Falco, The True, the New Group. Edie Falco gave a master class in Zoom acting as she re-created her role as the real-life Albany political mover and shaker Polly Noonan in Sharr White’s powerful play, alongside Michael McKean, Peter Scolari, John Pankow, and the rest of the original cast of this New Group production.

Mandy Patinkin, The Princess Bride. Mandy Patinkin was a hoot as the revenge-seeking swashbuckler Inigo Montoya in the reunion-reading benefit for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, having trouble remaining in his Zoom box while joined by original costars Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Carol Kane, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, and Billy Crystal, along with director Rob Reiner and Josh Gad as Fezziwig.

Read Subtitles Aloud, written by Onur Karaoglu and Kathryn Hamilton. Media Art Xploration and PlayCo teamed up for this thirteen-part series in which the viewer supplies half the dialogue, reading off the screen in response to the words spoken by the prerecorded actors onscreen.

LeeAnne Hutchison, Pigeon, written by Amy Berryman, directed by Amber Calderon, Eden Theater Company. LeeAnne Hutchison was mesmerizing as a conspiracy theorist dealing with the death of her husband from Covid-19 in Pigeon, one of Eden Theater Company’s “Bathroom Plays.”

Marsha Mason and Brian Cox, Dear Liar, Bucks County Playhouse. Marsha Mason and Brian Cox are deliciously wicked in Bucks County Playhouse’s Zoom reading of Jerome Kitty’s Dear Liar, about the longtime correspondence between George Bernard Shaw and actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell; Cox is so good as Shaw that even Mason has a ball watching him.

Brian Cox and family get involved in some playful high jinks in Melis Akers’s Fractio Panis for the Homebound Project

The Coxes, Fractio Panis, written by Melis Aker, directed by Tatiana Pandiani, Homebound Project 5: Homemade. Melis Aker’s Fractio Panis, part of the Homebound Project benefiting No Kid Hungry, took us inside the country home of Brian Cox, his wife, Nicole Ansari-Cox, and their children, Orson and Torin, as they have a ball baking bread and discussing rectal thermometers.

The Wolves, Philadelphia Theatre Company. Sarah DeLappe’s 2017 Pulitzer finalist The Wolves felt more empowering than ever in Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Zoom version, with a terrific cast of young women in uniform in front of a green-screened practice field as soccer became a metaphor for what ails us and what brings us together.

“The Great Work Begins,” amfAR. An amazing lineup performed moving scenes from Tony Kushner’s Angels in America AIDS epic, benefiting amfAR’s Fund to Fight Covid-19, with Andrew Rannells, Paul Dano, and Brian Tyree Smith as Prior Walter, Glenn Close as Roy Cohn, Jeremy O. Harris, Larry Ownes, and S. Epatha Merkerson as Belize, Laura Linney, Vella Lovell, and Lois Smith as Harper Pitt, and Daphne Rubin-Vega, Linda Emond, Nikki M. James, Patti LuPone, and Brandon Uranowitz in other parts, not in Zoom boxes but in well-designed backdrops.

Ralph Fiennes, Antony and Cleopatra, Act 4, Scene 14, Shakespeare Everywhere. Shakespeare has been just about everywhere during the pandemic, but no one got into the heart of the Bard as much as Ralph Fiennes did at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Shakespeare Everywhere gala, where he chewed up all of the desert scenery in his prerecorded soliloquy from Antony and Cleopatra, the camera getting up close and personal with his grizzled face; Fiennes portrayed Antony opposite Sophie Okonedo’s Cleopatra at the National Theatre in 2018.

Patrick Page, RemarkaBULL Podversations, Red Bull Theater. Patrick Page delivers the “I hate the Moor” speech from Othello, then delves into the nature of the character, the play, and Shakespeare himself in an unforgettable discussion that will leave you exhausted and exhilarated.

Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Tomorrow Tix. Discount ticket service Today Tix rebranded itself as Tomorrow Tix in streaming prerecorded Zoom versions of Broadway plays with all-star casts, including Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Zachary Quinto, Vanessa Williams, Stacy Keach, Rashad, Reed Birney, Robert Sella, and Katie Finneran for Gore Vidal’s play about a vicious election, but the wallpaper around the tall, vertical Zoom boxes garnered plenty of attention itself.

The Irish Rep, A Touch of the Poet, written by Eugene O’Neill, directed by Ciarán O’Reilly. The Irish Rep has been among the most innovative of theater companies during the lockdown, each successive filmed production getting closer and closer to the real thing, and in its revival of A Touch of the Poet, director Ciarán O’Reilly incorporates props, costumes, and photographs and video of Charlie Corcoran’s set to make it appear that the actors are in the same room, sometimes even seated at the same table, even though they are Zooming in from different locations.

Why Would I Dare: The Trial of Crystal Mason, directed by Tyler Thomas, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. In Rattlestick’s Zoom staging of the transcript of the trial of Crystal Mason, an ex-con who was facing jail time for trying to vote in the 2016 election, Crystal Dickinson is electrifying as she and her lawyer (Shane McRae) battle with the judge (Peter Gerety) and the prosecutor (Peter Mark Kendall), but as gripping as the production is, it’s hard not to notice Dickinson’s six-year-old son playing in the background of the large living room where she is broadcasting from, a sign of better times to come.

Celine Song transports The Seagull to the Sims 4 for New York Theatre Workshop

The Seagull on the Sims 4, written and performed by Celine Song, New York Theatre Workshop. Playwright Celine Song busted down barriers with her spectacularly inventive adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull, re-creating the classic work live on the simulation game “Play with Life: The Sims 4,” chatting with the audience and several other theater creators as she molded Irina, Konstantin, Nina, Trigorin, Medvendenko, and others from scratch using the digital platform and then placed them in a virtual world where they had free will.

“Here We Are,” Theatre for One. Theatre for One reinvented the solo show with “Here We Are,” a collection of eight microplays written by, starring, and directed by BIPOC women (except for one male actor), performed live for one person at a time, with their camera and audio on so each could see the other and, in some of the works, interact; a virtual lobby allowed attendees to communicate anonymously, as if in a real theater, waiting for the lights to go down and the show to begin.

The cast of The Amen Corner, “I’m Not Tired Yet,” and “Sonnet 69,” Biko’s Manna and Family, Shakespeare Everywhere. DC’s Shakespeare Theatre Company hosted one of the best gala fundraisers, including a pair of exciting musical performances, with the cast of The Amen Corner delivering a rousing Zoom version of “I’m Not Tired Yet” and Biko’s Manna and Family performing a lovely rendition of the Bard’s “Sonnet 69.”

The Flaming Lips, “Listen to Her Heart,” Tom Petty’s 70th Birthday Bash. Dozens of musicians sent in musical contributions to celebrate what would have been Tom Petty’s seventieth birthday, but it was the Flaming Lips’s herky-jerky take on “Listen to Her Heart” that warranted repeat viewing, in addition to Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell’s touching finale.

“Live Streaming at the Vanguard,” Village Vanguard. The legendary Village Vanguard began streaming live jazz concerts from its intimate stage, without an audience, with concerts by Ron Carter’s Golden Striker Trio, the Eric Reed Quartet, Joe Lovano’s Trio Fascination, and others.

The Threepenny Opera, City Lyric Opera. Audience members were sent advance instructions so they could take part in City Lyric Opera’s extremely fun virtual production of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s opera for the people, with Justin Austin as Macheath, Philip Kalmanovitch as Mr. Peachum, Rachelle Pike as Mrs. Peachum, Sara LaFlamme as Polly Peachum, Michael Parham as Tiger Brown, Sara LeMesh as Lucy Brown, Shanelle Valerie Woods as Jenny, and Kameron Ghanavati as Filch, with live and prerecorded scenes ingeniously staged at HERE Arts Center in individual rooms and boxes terrifically lit by Karina Hyland and designed by Anna Driftmier.

Is This the End? Part One: Dead Little Girl, libretto by Éric Brucher, music and lyrics by Jean-Luc Fafchamps, directed by Ingrid Von Wantoch Rekowski, La Monnaie. FIAF streamed Jean-Luc Fafchamps’s frantic “New Pop Requiem,” Is This the End? from the Brussels company La Monnaie, in which Sarah Defrise plays a teenager on the run through La Monnaie’s labyrinthine buildings, with Amaury Massion as the man and Albane Carrère as the woman in a futuristic nightmare scenario.

The virtual opera Alice in the Pandemic takes place down an alternate New York City rabbit hole

Alice in the Pandemic, libretto by Cerise Lim Jacobs, music by Jorge Sosa, art by Anna Campbell, White Snake Projects. Boston’s White Snake Projects incorporated cutting-edge digital animation in its livestreamed production of the one-act opera Alice in the Pandemic, as the title character (Carami Hilaire) traverses a lonely city in search of her ill mother (Eve Gigliotti) with the help of the White Rabbit (Daniel Moody).

Only You Will Recognize the Signal, libretto by Rob Handel, music by Kamala Sankaram, directed by Kristin Marting, video design by David Bengali, virtual stage design by Liminal, HERE Arts Center. HERE’s seven-part, seventy-minute space opera, Only You Will Recognize the Signal, will shake you out of your therapeutic hypothermia and blast you off into another dimension, where a cast of pseudo-astronauts and a humanlike AI system (Paul An, Christopher Burchett, Hai-Ting Chinn, Adrienne Danrich, Joy Jan Jones, Joan La Barbara, Jorell Williams) share their fears amid kaleidoscopic imagery, melting wallpaper, video of Cambodia and NYC, high- and low-tech computer graphics, and a fab score.

Speaking Truth to Power / Egmont, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Orpheus Chamber Orchestra went to the Beechwood Park bandshell in New Jersey to perform a socially distanced version of Beethoven’s Egmont, Op. 84, with a new English translation by Philip Boehm, featuring soprano and activist Karen Slack and narration by Liev Schreiber.

Marina Abramović, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas, Bayerische Staatsoper. Performance artist Marina Abramović died seven times as she reenacted death scenes from seven operas in which Maria Callas had played the lead, accompanied by dancers onstage in masks and Willem Dafoe onscreen.

Michael Wall, Brown Eyes, BalletX, Works & Process at the Guggenheim. Penny Saunders’s haunting black-and-white Brown Eyes, danced by Andrea Yorita and Zachary Kapeluck, among the first pandemic pieces to feature dancers touching each other, is set to Michael Wall’s propulsive percussive score that features ventilator-like breathing and a constant knocking that evokes a clock running out of time.

Rooms, Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble. The New York–based Sokolow Theatre/Dance Ensemble was preparing to present Anna Sokolow’s 1955 Rooms when the pandemic hit, so it adapted the forty-five-minute work, with such aptly titled sections as “Alone,” “Escape,” “Going,” “Desire,” and “Panic,” for online viewing, with dancers filming themselves from wherever they were sheltering in place, both indoors and outdoors, set to Kenyon Hopkins’s groovy jazz score.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Revelations Reimagined. For its winter virtual season, Alvin Ailey presented an exuberant sixtieth anniversary outdoor version of its signature masterpiece, retitled Revelations Reimagined, weaving together old footage with new scenes shot at Wave Hill, directed by Preston Miller.

Sara Mearns appears in triplicate in L.A. Dance Project work

Sara Mearns, Sonata for Saras, choreographed by Janie Taylor. New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns has been a star during the pandemic, appearing in Joshua Bergasse’s Storm for Works & Process at the Guggenheim, Molissa Fenley’s State of Darkness for the Joyce, and Justin Peck’s Thank You, New York for NYCB’s Festival of New Choreography, but in Janie Taylor’s Sonata for Saras, we get three versions of Mearns, in a cute, short red dress, dancing together against a white background, flipping her long hair for six delightful minutes.

Molissa Fenley, State of Darkness, JoyceStream. Molissa Fenley revisited her 1994 epic solo, State of Darkness, for the Joyce, where it was performed by Jared Brown, Lloyd Knight, Sara Mearns, Shamel Pitts, Annique Roberts, Cassandra Trenary, Michael Trusnovec, and Peter Boal, displaying how the same choreographic movements are interpreted by difference dancers.

Continuous Replay / Come Together, Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, New York Live Arts. Bill T. Jones reimagines his partner Arnie Zane’s Continuous Replay in a glorious reinvention featuring a large, wide-ranging cast spanning four decades and four continents performing in Zoom boxes that video editor Janet Wong turns into a futuristic digital architectural landscape in constant motion.

Untitled (perfect human), Danspace Project. Dean Moss’s Untitled (perfect human) offered a kaleidoscopic, nearly scientific exploration of the human body, inspired by Jørgen Leth’s 1967 The Perfect Human, while commenting on our epic loneliness.

“’s okay too. Feel,” Hope Boykin, BalletX, Works & Process at the Guggenheim. Savannah Green and Ashley Simpson dance separately in Hope Boykin’s “’s okay too. Feel,” which includes poetic narration wondering what comes next for all of us.

Yoann Bourgeois, I wonder where the dreams I don’t remember go, Nederlands Dans Theater. Streamed live from NDT’s Zuiderstrandtheater in front of a limited audience, Yoann Bourgeois’s I wonder where the dreams I don’t remember go is a mesmerizing, meditative, awe-inspiring, gravity-defying piece about identity and personal relationships that uniquely captures the emotional and physical ups and downs of life during this age of Covid-19 and quarantine.

iyouuswe II, White Wave Dance. Young Soon Kim took her company’s name literally for iyouuswe II, a short dance film with Mark Willis, Katie Garcia, and Joan Rodriguez in the water and on the sand at Jones Beach, with music by Greg Haines and cinematography by Alexander Sargent.

The Love Space, the New Harmony Project. Gabrielle Hamilton, Janae Snyder-Stewart, Zaire Michel, and Jamal Josef join hands in Jace’s The Love Space, with text by Mfoniso Udofia and choreography by Josef, part of the New Harmony Project’s digital Sunrise Gallery series.

“Event2 for Jasper Johns,” Whitney Museum of American Art. Seventy former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company celebrated the ninetieth birthday of artist and Cunningham friend and collaborator Jasper Johns with excerpts from more than three dozen Cunningham works, filmed by the dancers at lovely outdoor locations, hitting the bull’s-eye.

Lee Mingwei and Bill T. Jones, Our Labyrinth, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Taiwanese-American contemporary artist Lee Mingwei and American choreographer, director, dancer, and activist Bill T. Jones collaborated on Our Labyrinth, a trio of four-plus-hour meditative, hypnotic performances recorded at the Met’s Great Hall consisting of a dancer sweeping a sand labyrinth and a vocalist, including one iteration with the indefatigable Sara Mearns and Alicia Hall Moran.

A Jam Session for Troubling Times, choreographed by Jamar Roberts, music by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, narration by Max Roach, directed by Emily Kikta and Peter Walker, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Jamar Roberts’s Cooped was the most explosive, fierce five minutes of dance of the first part of the pandemic; his twelve-minute Jam Session for Troubling Times, which premiered at AAADT’s virtual winter season and features seven dancers reveling in newfound freedom — even though they never touch one another — is a celebration of the nightclub scene of the 1940s and ’50s and the glorious sounds of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, at a time when New Yorkers are still wondering when they’ll be allowed back in jazz and other music venues.

The Gaze: No_Homo. Larry Powell’s twelve-part series follows the fictional Evergreen Theatre Festival as young actor Jerome Price (Galen J. Williams) fights for his personal beliefs and battles institutional racism with director Miranda Cryer (Sharon Lawrence); TC Carson stands out as the wise and experienced Buddy DuBois.

Jordan E. Cooper, Mama Got a Cough. Jordan E. Cooper’s laugh-out-loud hysterical Zoom call was actually posted in the first half of the year, but I only saw it recently and so am including it here, the funniest sketch I saw in 2020, with Amber Chardae Robinson, Brittany Inge, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Dewayne Perkins, Juanita Jennings, Marcel Spears, and Danielle Brooks meeting up online to discuss the health of the family matriarch.

Woolly Mammoth, Telephonic Literary Union’s Human Resources. Woolly Mammoth takes listeners down an audio rabbit hole in Human Resources, a choose-your-own-adventure play on the telephone, offering the chance to acquire the super-secret happiness access code.

Marilu Henner, Taxi, Stars in the House. While it was great to watch Juddy Hirsch, Danny DeVito, Carol Kane, and Christopher Lloyd reminisce about their Taxi days, it was Marilu Henner, who played Elaine Nardo in the 1977-83 hit sitcom, who stole the show, not only for looking a generation younger than the other actors but for displaying an unbelievable level of recall for names, dates, places, and dialogue because of her highly superior autobiographical memory, a rare condition that only about a hundred people in the world have.

Reunited Apart, The Karate Kid and Cobra Kai. Josh Gad keeps serving up fun cast reunions for his Reunited Apart series, including a dual reunion of the stars of the 1984-94 Karate Kid movie franchise and the actors of the current YouTube/Netflix sequel, Cobra Kai, which brings back Ralph Macchio, William Zabka, and others.

Eugene Levy, Newport Beach Film Festival. When Eugene Levy was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the virtual 2020 Newport Beach Film Festival, he was surprised with Zoom tributes from Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Steve Martin, Jason Biggs, and his entire Schitt’s Creek family, resulting in lots of tears and laughter.

The cast of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, CORE. The all-star cast assembled for a live table read of Amy Heckerling’s 1982 fave Fast Times at Ridgemont High — including Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Aniston, Ray Liotta, Jimmy Kimmel, Julia Roberts, John Legend, Dance Cook, Matthew McConaughey, and Sean Penn not as Spicoli — was having an absolute blast watching their fellow actors as they made their way through the script, especially Shia Lebeouf as Spicoli in this fundraiser for CORE’s COVID-19 relief efforts.

Raja Feather Kelly, Any Given Wednesday, New York Live Arts. Half the fun of watching director and choreographer Raja Feather Kelly’s sneak peak at his upcoming documentary, Any Given Wednesday, about the making of his show Wednesday, a unique take on Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, was following the live chat, in which Kelly excitedly interacted with friends, collaborators, and just plain audience members, sharing insight into his thought process while having a grand old time.

Baldwin vs. Buckley, BRIC. BRIC restaged the famous February 1965 debate between James Baldwin (Teagle F. Bougere) and William F. Buckley (Eric T. Miller) at Cambridge, which asked the question “Is the American Dream at the expense of the American Negro?,” an inquiry that feels just as relevant today as it did then.

The Commissary, “Lessons in Survival,” Vineyard Theatre. A group named the Commissary, with such actors and directors as Marin Ireland, Peter Mark Kendall, Tyler Thomas, and Reggie D. White, re-created important speeches and interviews involving such Black creators and leaders as James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Bobby Seale, Muhammad Ali, and others, but as striking as those reenactments were, it was their open live rehearsals that were revelatory, regarding not only the works to be performed but the genuine, infectious pleasure they were experiencing in being able to collaborate with others during the pandemic.

Paul Giamatti, “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” by Herman Melville. Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated actor Paul Giamatti gives a wonderfully spry reading of Herman Melville’s classic story, “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” along with an in-depth analysis of the tale and the author with scholar Andrew Delbanco.

Theater in Quarantine, Footnote for the End of Time. Joshua William Gelb’s endlessly creative use of his closet continued with this retelling of Jorge Luis Borges’s short story “The Secret Miracle,” in which Gelb narrated the tale of Jewish writer Jaromir Hladik as the Nazis take over Prague, with live black on white and red drawing by Jesse Gelaznik, music by Alex Weston (performed by Rob Walker on clarinet, Alex Weill on violin, Susan Mandel on cello, and Weston on piano) inspired by Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, and movement by Katie Rose McLaughlin, directed by Jonathan Levin

Theater of War, “Poetry for the Pandemic.” Theater of War moved away from its virtual readings of classic works to bring together established poets and National Student Poets for an evening of readings in which each young poet read a piece by an older poet and vice versa, with both onscreen to watch and listen, along with contributions from Bill Murray and Tracie Thoms, followed by a discussion.

The Baptism, written and performed by Carl Hancock Rux, directed by Carrie Mae Weems. Commissioned by Lincoln Center, Carl Hancock Rux’s tribute to John Lewis and C. T. Vivian, a sharecropper’s son and the boy from Boonville, features lush videography of scenes from nature by Herman Jean-Noel, James Wang, and Ermanno de Biagi, music by Brian Eno, and such text as “The lifeblood of transition, one city to the next city, story upon story, house upon house, our wanting always cleaning the air, nourishing the soil of insistence. Every being is a building with music — grace upon grace upon grace.”

Chuck Palahniuk, The Invention of Sound, Garden District Book Shop. New Orleans’s Garden District Book Shop had difficulty getting Chuck Palahniuk to join the Zoom launch for his latest novel, The Invention of Sound, so the first try turned into a gossipfest with fans talking amongst themselves, displaying singed copies, treats won at the author’s famed in-person events, and Chuck tattoos; the rescheduled evening was a fascinating journey inside the mind of Palahniuk, who has also written such books as Fight Club and Invisible Monsters.

“Frick on the Move,” the Frick. In addition to appearances by Rosanne Cash, Maira Kalman, Nico Muhly, Aimee Ng, Simon Schama, and others, the Frick’s virtual gala was highlighted by a new edition of “Cocktails with a Curator” with Xavier F. Salomon and a sneak peek behind the scenes of the Frick Madison with director Ian Wardropper.

Yoshiko Chuma, Love Story, the School of Hard Knocks, La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club. Yoshiko Chuma celebrated the fortieth anniversary of her collective with an extraordinary live, twenty-four-hour virtual presentation incorporating dance, film, discussion, music, art, and just about anything else you could think of.

Unfinished Live. Host Baratunde Thurston led audiences through unique explorations of “Economy & Justice,” “Democracy & Voice,” “Technology & Humanity,” and “Questions, Culture & Change,” with contributions from Abigail Disney, Julián Castro, Yo-Yo Ma, Carrie Mae Weems, Hank Willis Thomas, Alfredo Jaar, Andrew Yang, Nadya Tolokonnikova, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Alicia Garza, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Anna Deavere Smith, Bruce Springsteen, and others, along with a live, interactive chat.

“EdgeCut,” New York Live Arts. In “Captivity” and “Sanity,” EdgeCut used the Nowhere platform, placing each attendee in an oval pod they steer through fantastical landscapes to watch short presentations (dance, art installations, experimental technology demos, music videos) and talk to other viewers and the creators themselves; I’ve tried just about every form of online entertainment while we’re all sheltering in place and arts venues are closed, and nothing else comes close to this one, even given various hiccups that require patience.


KAWS’s CHUM stands lonely and dejected in Midtown (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Seagram Building, 375 Park Ave. between 52nd & 53rd Sts.
280 Park Ave. at 49th St.
chum/bff slideshow

Jersey City–born, Brooklyn-based artist KAWS, aka Brian Donnelly, says goodbye to 2020 with the installation of CHUM, a large-scale sculpture on the plaza in front of the Seagram Building on Park Ave. in Midtown. Kicking off the “What Party” iteration of his “Larger than Life: Companion” series, featuring emotional, empathetic giant figures inspired by Mickey Mouse, Bib the Michelin Man, and astronauts, with KAWS’s trademark double x’s on their eyes or face and other parts of their bodies, the all-black CHUM looks down dejectedly, slouching, arms at his side, with x’s on his hands and boots as well as his face.

KAWS’s BFF is on permanent display on Park Ave. (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

KAWS, who was previously an animator, a graffiti artist, and an interventionist, has occasionally brought together two characters at a time to comfort each other. CHUM could use a hug and a smile from a pal, but unfortunately his nearest companion is a few blocks southwest, where the lonely bubblegum pink giant known as BFF stands by himself, trapped permanently inside a glassed-in space, his white eyes staring straight ahead with emptiness. It’s a shame these two sad, lonely creatures can’t meet up as we all look forward to a 2021 in which real, physical contact might return again.


Minerva Cuevas’s “Apocalypse” and “Climate Change” are two of her three contributions to Titan phone booth project (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Sixth Ave. between 50th & 56th Sts.
Through January 3, free
titan online slideshow

I’ve never owned a cell phone. For twenty-plus years, I’ve traveled around the city with quarters in my pockets in case I needed to suddenly call someone, ready to slide the change into the slot of one of the thousands of telephone booths on street corners everywhere, booths once more numerous than drugstores and coffee chains are now. However, slowly but surely, phone booths have been going the way of the dinosaur, their population shrinking not only because of the preponderance of the smart phone but also with the installation of free digital phone kiosks that also connect users to the internet. And now total extinction awaits, as the city announced in February that the more than three thousand booths that are still on the streets are being taken down, including the last four in working operation.

As a memorial to the end of another era that even Superman will lament, curators Damián Ortega and Bree Zucker, in collaboration with the Kurimanzutto gallery located on East Sixty-Fifth St. and Mexico City, have put together “Titan,” a public project spanning West Fifty-First to West Fifty-Sixth St. on Sixth Ave. in which a dozen artists have added text and/or images to the outsides of the Titan-run phone booths, where advertisements usually appear. In fact, several of the works could easily be mistaken for ads.

You have until January 3 to see the outdoor exhibition, which has a lot to say about the state of the country. Anne Collier’s 2011 “Questions” consists of photos of three open file folders that she found on the street that ask questions related to “Evidence,” “Supposition,” and “Viewpoint,” including “How do we know what we know?” Glenn Ligon’s “Aftermath” and “Synecdoche (For Byron Kim)” involve neon that are lit at specific times revolving around the November 3 election. “At the beginning of the Trump regime I began to think about whether our democracy would survive and what it means to be a citizen,” he explains in his artist statement. Meanwhile, his “Red Hands #2” is a photo of hands being raised at the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, DC. Yvonne Rainer presents “Excerpts from Apollo’s Diary, Written During His Last Visit to Earth From Mount Olympus,” in which she excoriates the current president, referring to him as “Shameless Schmuck Number One.”

Jimmie Durham’s “You Are Here” tells us where we are literally and figuratively (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Minerva Cuevas’s “Capitalism,” “Climate Change,” and “Apocalypse” pair photos of animals with mottos in front of angled, colorful shapes, like social media memes; for example, a picture of a grumpy cat is joined by the declaration “Another end of the world is possible.” Renee Green’s “TITAN Billboards,” from her 2015 “Space Poem #5 (Years & Afters),” is a trio of statements that, put together, read, “After You Finish Your Work,” “After the Crisis,” “Begin Again, Begin Again.” Rirkrit Tiravanija’s “Ohhh... untitled 2020 (remember in november)” comprises three text-only messages in bold fonts, advising us to “Remember in November” and to “Febreze for Fascism” as well as pointing out there are “Impostors of Patriotism.” Patti Smith tells us to “Let your peace flag fly” and that “It’s in our hands,” while Hans Haacke reminds us that “We (all) are the people” in a dozen languages, a phrase that was adopted by East Germans against the oppressive GDR but was later coopted by “right-wing, xenophobic groups in Germany with a very different meaning.”

Cildo Meireles’s “Sermon on the Mount: Fiat Lux (1974–1979)” is part of a bigger performance piece created during Brazil’s military dictatorship; here, a mirrored space features beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount (“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). Hal Fischer’s “Handkerchiefs,” “Signifiers for a Male Response,” and “Street Fashion: Jock,” from his 1977 Gay Semiotics series, look like clothing ads but actually describe specific gay signifiers that helped identify who was gay and what kind of sex act they were interested in. “As the gay community is polarized on some issues and cohesive around others, the semiotic process which helps locate it in the larger culture will flourish with the interesting and undoubtedly provocative results,” Fischer notes. No text or artist statement accompanies Zoe Leonard’s “Crossing the Gateway International Bridge from Matamoros to Brownsville,” three photos of the border crossing between Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Anne Collier’s supplies “Evidence” as part of her “Questions” series (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Perhaps no other work gets right to the point as does Jimmie Durham’s “You Are Here,” a spare drawing, inspired by Saul Steinberg’s classic 1976 New Yorker cover map, “How New Yorkers See the World: View of the World from 9th Avenue.” In Durham’s version, a large red circle tells visitors where they are, at the crossroads of “wilderness” and “incognito,” with an asterisk proclaiming, “Lucky you! . . . Most people had to be some place else today.” Amid a surging health crisis, during which so many of us are sheltering at home, not seeing friends, family, colleagues, or even strangers, it’s important to know where we are, both literally and figuratively, as well as who we are, as individuals and part of a whole that can make change happen, even when there are no phone booths left for Superman to save the day in our grand city.


Working Theater’s Sanctuary takes visitors on an audio journey through the welcoming community of St. John the Divine (photo by P. Kevin O’Leary)

Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St.
Through December 31, free

“What is sanctuary? Is it a place? Is it a feeling? A state of being?” a narrator asks near the start of Sanctuary, an immersive audio soundwalk about the historic Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. Working Theater’s Five Boroughs/One City Initiative began with Adam Kraar’s Alternating Currents in Queens and includes Liba Vaynberg and Dina Vovsi’s The Only Ones and Ed Cardona Jr.’s Bamboo in Bushwick in Brooklyn, Dan Hoyle’s The Block in the Bronx, and Chisa Hutchinson’s Breaking Bread in Staten Island. It returns to Manhattan with Sanctuary, a forty-eight-minute
piece that has been in progress since 2015 and is now available for free download through December 31. It is not a guided tour of the cathedral but instead is a spiritual (and secular) journey that you can experience at home. (In 2013, Working Theater staged La Ruta, an immersive play about illegal immigration, set in a truck outside the cathedral.)

Sanctuary was created by Michael Premo and Rachel Falcone of Storyline and developed with and directed by Working Theater associate artistic director Rebecca Martinez, with original devotional music by Broken Chord, recorded in the cathedral’s nave on the Duke Ellington grand piano. The soundwalk welcomes listeners into the diverse cathedral community, consisting of people who work there, visit regularly, have celebrated special occasions there, or turned to the cathedral at times of hardship or joy. Participants discuss immigration, a blue heron, 9/11, gay marriage, gardening, depression, letting go, healing, and rebuilding, accompanied by the sounds of footsteps, nature, a helicopter, sirens, and a door opening.

St. John the Divine has offered sanctuary to all since 1899 (photo courtesy St. John the Divine)

“We are unfinished,” one person says. A man adds, “The amount of grief that we have seems to be insurmountable. We mourn partly because so much of what we called normal is gone, and yet, we persevere.” The narrator asks, “Do we ever get where we’re going? If we arrive, are we here?”

The cathedral has been providing sanctuary since the late nineteenth century; construction by architects George Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge began in 1892, and the first services were held there in a chapel of the crypt in 1899. The cathedral is an Episcopal church that doesn’t discriminate on any basis; in fact, it falls right in line with New York’s decision to become a sanctuary city in 2020, as delineated by Manhattan Community Board 10 here.

Sanctuary expounds on the cathedral being a revered safe space, both physically and psychologically, not only during the pandemic, but at all times. It is currently open for free to visitors; timed tickets are strongly encouraged. “What is the path you’re on?” the narrator asks. Any path leading to the historic Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is one that is worth taking.