Who: Sharon Lawrence, Yvette Cason, Devere Rogers, Galen J. Williams, Jason “Freckle” Green, Eugene Byrd, T. C. Carson, Larry Powell
What: Premiere of new digital series
Where: Facebook, YouTube, Twitch
When: Thursdays, July 30 - August 27, free with RSVP, 10:00
Why: Many theater festivals are going virtual these days because of the pandemic lockdown, and joining the parade is the Evergreen Festival, albeit this one is an all-new, fictional work of metatheater itself, created by actor and playwright Larry Powell. The five-week series follows the life and career of openly queer Black actor Jerome Price over the course of fifty years, beginning with “…NO HOMO.” On its GoFundMe page, Powell explains, “In between protests, self-care, virtual funerals, and starting a full-on performing arts academy all in the span of a couple of months . . . in partnership with Angelica Robinson’s Tell Me a Story Productions and with a small army of multicultural artists and activists, I made this piece of artivism. The Gaze is a cycle of plays that examines the process of building culturally specific and queer works of color in historically white spaces. It tackles hard topics like racism head-on. It wrestles with the question: Why strain to be free under a gaze fixed on your imprisonment when it’s you who is holding the key? Why stay? Go where?” The impressive cast features Yvette Cason, Devere Rogers, Galen J. Williams, Jason “Freckle” Green, Eugene Byrd, T. C. Carson, and Sharon Lawrence as Evergreen Theatre Festival interim artistic director Miranda Cryer; you can learn more about her and the festival in the below prologue as well as watch a tech rehearsal here.
Presented as the online gathering “Fire Circle: A Celebration of Black, LGBTQIA & BIPOC Lives” with DJs and postshow discussions with artists and activists, each episode can be seen for free on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch from Thursday nights at 10:00 until the next Sunday at 11:59 pm. “Building this work has brought me through the poison of the past to the medicine of the present moment. This work puts the pain into the fire so that it may alchemize into power,” Powell recently posted on social media. “Theater is sacred ritual and it extends into all forms of media. It cannot be left behind. It is the foundation and basis of all forms. Find the theater in anything you do and there you will find the boundless strength and resilience of the human spirit.”
Who: Willie Nelson & Family, Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real, Particle Kid, Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, Margo Price, Shakey Graves, Ziggy Marley, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Asleep at the Wheel, Steve Earle, Kurt Vile, the McCrary Sisters, John Doe, Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen, Devon Gilfillian, Nathaniel Rateliff, Charley Crockett, the Peterson Brothers, Johnny Bush, Matthew Houck, Vincent Neil Emerson, Kinky Friedman, Gina Chavez, Kalu James, Monte Warden, Parker McCollum, Trey Privott, the War and Treaty
What: Virtual Independence Day celebration
When: Saturday, July 4, $35 in advance, $45 day of show, 4:30
Why: Since 1973, Willie Nelson has been hosting July 4 week picnics with great music, food, and more. This year the festivities go virtual, with Willie hosting from his Luck ranch in Texas with an all-star lineup either performing live from the Luck saloon and chapel, at Nelson’s Pedernales Studios, or from wherever they’re sheltering in place. The roster features live sets by Charley Crockett at 4:40, the Peterson Brothers at 5:40, Particle Kid at 6:40, Shakey Graves at 7:00, Vincent Neil Emerson at 8:00, and Asleep at the Wheel at 9:00, followed at 9:30 by a prerecorded ninety-minute finale with music, interviews, and stories by such luminaries as Sheryl Crow, Lyle Lovett, Ziggy Marley, Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, Kurt Vile, John Doe, and Kinky Friedman as well as Willie and his sons, Lukas and Micah. Food and drink are also on the menu, with a “Prime Cuts” episode with chef Scott Roberts of Salt Lick BBQ, cocktail suggestions from mixologist Jessica Sanders, and delivery packages if you live within spitting distance of the ranch. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 day of show, with one dollar from each sale going to the Luck Reunion Fund, which “is dedicated to preserving and supporting the musical and cultural community inspired by the work of Willie Nelson and the Luck Reunion family.” Happy birthday, America!
Who: Dr. Joshua Walker, Timothy Sullivan
What: Annual Sake Lecture & Tasting
Where: Japan Society YouTube
When: Thursday, June 11, free with advance RSVP, 6:30
Why: Japan Society’s twenty-third annual Sake Lecture & Tasting will be a little different this year, taking place online instead of at the cultural institution’s lovely home on East Forty-Seventh St. The hour-long event will be introduced by Japan Society CEO and president Dr. Joshua Walker; the guest of honor is UrbanSake.com founder and Sake Revolution podcast host Timothy Sullivan, who will be discussing “Sake Etiquette,” from how to pour properly to how to prepare warm sake to how to deal with overflow. You’ll have to supply your own sake; the list of Sullivan’s recommendations can be found here, consisting of thirty sakes from sixteen companies, including Junmai Ginjo “Taisetsu,” Nanbu Bijin Tokubetsu Junmaishu, Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai-shu, Dewatsuru Sakura Emaki Sparkling, Hoyo “Kura no Hana” Junmai Daiginjo “Fair Maiden,” Okunomatsu Daiginjo Shizukusake 18th Ihei, and Okunomatsu Tokubestu Junmai. Drinking at home has been a popular way to pass the time during the pandemic, so enjoy!
Who: Mikki Shepard, DJ YB, Mamma Normadien, Baba N’goma Woolbright, Charmaine Warren, Abdel R. Salaam, Karen Thornton Daniels, Sabine LaFortune, Coco Killingsworth, Farai Malianga, more
What: BAM’s DanceAfrica
Where: BAM online
When: Through May 29 (and beyond), free (some film screenings require small payment)
Why: One of our favorite ways of ushering in the summer season is by going to BAM’s annual DanceAfrica festival, a weekend of dance, films, a street bazaar, and more celebrating African culture. The forty-second annual event is taking place online, with livestreamed performances, film screenings, archival videos, interviews, classes, and a virtual bazaar. “The spirit of DanceAfrica has no boundaries, and will always find its way to the people,” Baba Abdel R. Salaam said in a statement. Below is the full schedule. And be prepared to shout “Ago!” “Amée!!” from the comfort of wherever you are sheltering in place.
Through May 27
FilmAfrica: Aya of Yop City (Marguerite Abouet & Clément Oubrerie, 2012), Mother of George (Andrew Dosunmu, 2012), Rafiki (Wanuri Kahiu, 2018), Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (Chai Vasarhelyi, 2008), pay-what-you-wish to $4.99
Through May 29
“DanceAfrica Visual Art: Omar Victor Diop”
Through June 14
DanceAfrica Virtual Bazaar, with clothing, jewelry, home goods, food, and accessories
Monday, May 25
“DanceAfrica: The Early Years,” with Mikki Shepard, 11:00 am
DanceAfrica Dance Party, with DJ YB, 7:00
Tuesday, May 26
“DanceAfrica: Behind the Scenes,” with Abdel R. Salaam, Charmaine Warren, and Council of Elder members Mamma Normadien and Baba N’goma Woolbright, 6:00
Wednesday, May 27
“DanceAfrica: The Council of Elders,” with Stefanie Hughley and Council of Elder leaders Mamma Lynette White-Mathews and Baba Bill (William) Mathews, 6:00
Thursday, May 28
“Education and DanceAfrica,” with Karen Thornton Daniels, Sabine LaFortune, Coco Killingsworth, and Abdel R. Salaam, 6:00
Opens Thursday, May 28
FilmAfrica: A Screaming Man (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, 2010), Chez Jolie Coiffure (Rosine Mbakam, 2018), I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, 2017), National Diploma (Dieudo Hamadi, 2014), prices TBD
“DanceAfrica: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” with Coco Killingsworth, Charmaine Warren, and Abdel R. Salaam, 6:00
Among the things that many of us are missing the most during the Covid-19 crisis are art and travel. They might not be essential businesses, but they’re key parts of a full and rewarding life. Both serve as respites from the everyday; they entertain and educate us, offering escape from our daily toil. “How Can We Think of Art at a Time Like This?” is the titular question of Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen’s ongoing online exhibition, which features new and recent work from major living artists addressing the pandemic and politics. The answer, of course, is how can we not?
Xavier F. Salomon has found his own unique method of thinking about art in the time of coronavirus, adding related travel as well. Salomon, who was born in Rome to an English mother and a Danish father, was raised in Italy and England, and received his BA, MA, and PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, is the Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator at the Frick Collection. Every Wednesday and Friday, he takes over the Frick’s YouTube channel with deep dives into art history. On Wednesday’s “Travels with a Curator,” Salomon, who previously worked at the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London, and the Met here in New York — quite a resume for a man only just in his forties — gives an illustrated lecture about art and architecture in specific cities; so far he has guided us through Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, and Ca’ d’Oro, Venice.
He is fast becoming an internet superstar for his Friday talks, “Cocktails with a Curator,” my preferred manner of ending the workweek. At 5:00, Salomon pairs a masterpiece from the Frick with a cocktail and spends between fifteen and twenty minutes discussing the Frick gem and the drink, placing them in context of the current pandemic. Seen in the lower-right-hand corner of the screen, the bald, bearded, handsome, and ever-charming Salomon has helped us look deeply into Rembrandt’s Polish Rider with a Szarlotka, Bellini's St. Francis in the Desert with a Manhattan, and Van Dyck’s Sir John Suckling with a Pink Gin. (On May 1, curator Aimee Ng explored Constable’s White Horse with a gin and Dubonnet.)
On May 8, Salomon will visit with Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Harbor of Dieppe: Changement de Domicile while enjoying a Widow’s Kiss. (The recipes, which include alcohol-free versions, are posted on the YouTube page in advance.) The Frick is my personal favorite museum, a place I go to often to see familiar works that both relax and energize me — including Harbor of Dieppe, which I’ve marveled at on many occasions — so I’m finding these talks, which are prerecorded but stream live (and can be also watched later), absolutely essential in every way. Salomon recently took a break from his art history forays to discuss art and travel in the age of coronavirus.
twi-ny: Last year, before the pandemic, you started examining specific works from current Frick special exhibitions in a Facebook series called “Live from the Frick!” How did that evolve into “Cocktails with a Curator”?
xavier f. salomon: The Frick Collection has had a long tradition of online offerings (exhibition virtual tours, online live streaming of scholarly lectures, and Facebook “Lives,” among many examples). As soon as the lockdown began, we started to think, as a team, as to what we could offer to as varied an audience as possible. The idea of weekly appointments – with “Cocktails” on Fridays and “Travels” on Wednesdays – is designed to take our minds away from our current problems and to “meet” virtually. The idea was to match art with something we may miss from our previous life: things such as going out with friends for a drink, or traveling.
twi-ny: Do you consider yourself a cocktail aficionado? Are you trying new drinks, or are you choosing some of your favorites?
xaf: I do like cocktails very much. I am starting with a number of favorites, but as the series will continue, I am definitely planning to explore new options.
twi-ny: As a Frick regular, I feel that many of the paintings and sculptures in the museum are like old friends and members of the family that I thought I knew so well. I’ve stared at “St. Francis in the Desert” dozens of times, but as I watched your description on “Cocktails,” I felt as if I’d never really seen it. Because you are presenting this with a slightly adjusted context, referencing the pandemic, do you find yourself learning surprising things about works that you thought you knew so well?
xaf: The Frick is a museum of masterpieces. And I always believed that great works of art, first of all, can improve our lives but can also mean a number of different things at different times. One of the most common questions I have been asked in the last few years is: “Are works of art by Old Masters relevant?” The answer is: “YES!!!” And I hope to demonstrate this with this series. One thing that this virus is making apparent to everyone is how fragile human beings are. Artworks are the best that human beings have produced in the last few thousand years, and they can help us understand why and how we live. People a thousand years ago, five hundred years ago, a hundred years ago, were dealing with life as we do, with love, with friendship, with knowledge, with financial issues . . . and with epidemics and death. So I have been working on matching works at the Frick with broad issues we are thinking about today. And – not surprisingly – it is actually quite easy. And I am enjoying thinking about our works in this way.
twi-ny: I’m also appreciative of how fresh your analysis is. In the most recent Frick Collection magazine, you wrote about van Dyck’s “Sir John Suckling,” but your “Cocktails” talk about it explored the painting differently. I gather you would agree that “perspective is everything”?
xaf: Yes, I fully agree. And that is the importance of great works of art. They can be understood in a number of ways and can touch different chords in us. The same work of art meant different things to me when I was a teenager, or ten years ago. . . . We change as we go through life, and a truly great masterpiece can be for us a travel companion or a great friend. We change and they alongside us.
twi-ny: The camerawork is extraordinary, taking us deep inside the paintings. Is that footage already available, or might someone be taking new shots inside the museum?
xaf: The Frick has always had an in-house photographer, and our works have been very well photographed over the years by very talented people. All of the photographs of our works are from our archives. No new photography has been commissioned for these online programs. And many of the photos of locations I have taken myself over the years on my travels.
twi-ny: For the third “Cocktails” presentation, you cleverly changed where you were sitting when giving the talks. What part of the city are you sequestered in, and are you sheltering in place with any humans or animals?
xaf: I have been playing with different corners of my apartment to find an ideal location for the filming. It is a first for me, to film myself in my own apartment. I live in Washington Heights, in Manhattan, an area I like very much. I am, unfortunately, sheltering in place alone, as my partner (in the same situation) is across the Atlantic, in Europe. I would love to have a pet, especially during these times. But I cannot complain, because in my “hermitage” at least I have books.
twi-ny: Most curators exist in the background; the public might read essays by them in catalogs and wall text, or maybe see them if they go to an illustrated lecture at a museum. But you’re becoming a virtual sensation, with fans tuning in not just to hear about a masterpiece but to specifically see you and have a drink together. How does that feel?
xaf: I am not sure I would describe myself as a “virtual sensation.” But I also don’t believe that curators or art historians should live in the “background.” Art is for everyone, and if people want to know more about museums or works of art, curators need to be accessible. It is not about spending our lives in ivory towers and being buried in our libraries or our museums. As much as many of us (myself included) don’t necessarily dislike that idea, there is the fundamental fact that we need to put our knowledge and studies somewhere out there and have it available for the general public. I am not looking for fans, but I have to confess that it feels very rewarding to know that, with a very small contribution, I have somewhat enhanced people’s lives at a particularly difficult time.
twi-ny: You appear to love what you do, and you can be very funny, but on camera you never break character as a serious art historian. What does it take to make you burst out laughing?
xaf: I love, adore, what I do. I live for it. I could not imagine doing anything else with my life. I don’t know why, but I always feel awkward when laughing in public. But many things make me laugh out loud, and, it is usually female comedians. Women have such a wonderful sense of humor! But, maybe, you are right, I should be less serious on my online programs. . . .
twi-ny: What artworks might be coming up, or would you prefer to keep them a secret until closer to showtime? If you take requests, I have a few.
xaf: The answer is that I know a few works (Turner, Velázquez, Holbein, Bronzino) and places (the Monastery of the Temptation in Jericho, Santa Maria delle Carceri in Prato, the towns of Osuna in Spain and Valenciennes in France) that will come up, but I am still not sure about the exact timing and I do not have a full list. I keep thinking and choosing as I go along. And, yes, suggestions are well received!!! I was surprised to see that people have written to me with suggestions for specific cocktails (and I apologize for all those people who really expected me to offer a Bellini with a Bellini painting — come on, guys!!! — I need to be a bit more original than that . . .), but no one so far has suggested a work of art or a place. Please send me your ideas! [ed. note: How about Goya’s The Forge, Vermeer’s Officer and Laughing Girl, El Greco’s Purification of the Temple, or Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop's Grounds?]
Who: Cynthia Nixon, Bobby Cannavale, Derek McLane, Edie Falco, Erica Schmidt, Donja R. Love, Scott Elliott
What: Weekly discussions about the draw and power of theater
Where: The New Group Facebook page
When: Wednesdays at 4:00, May 6 - June 10, free with advance RSVP, followed by limited Zoom Q&A for $100 donation
Why: Theater companies have been coming up with unique ways to stay in touch with their audiences now that all live, in-person staged productions have been postponed or canceled for the near future. The New Group is joining the online gatherings with “Why We Do It,” a weekly conversation series hosted by company founding artistic director Scott Elliott. Every Wednesday at 4:00, Elliott will speak live online with a member of the New Group family, beginning May 6 with Cynthia Nixon, who has directed Steve and Rasheeda Speaking for the troupe. The impressive lineup continues May 13 with Bobby Cannavale (Hurlybury), May 20 with set designer extraordinaire and board chairman Derek McLane, May 27 with Edie Falco (The True), June 3 with playwright and director Erica Schmidt (Cyrano, All the Fine Boys), and June 10 with playwright Donja R. Love (one in two). All conversations are free, but advance registration is necessary. Each talk will be followed by a smaller “Drinks with” Zoom Q&A with the main guest, limited to twenty participants who make a $100 tax-deductible donation and will get a recipe for an original drink from mixologist Sammi Katz.
Who: Xavier F. Salomon
What: Happy-hour discussion of great works of art in the Frick Collection
Where: Frick YouTube channel
When: Fridays at 5:00, free
Why: One of my very favorite places in New York City is the Frick Collection, a kind of home away from home for me, where I go when I need to take a break from the rest of the world and relax among spectacular works of art — many of which I consider close friends — and sit peacefully in the enchanting garden with its lush fountain. But I’m now able to get a much-needed taste of the Frick — which opened in 1935, sixteen years after the death of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick — with the fab program “Cocktails with a Curator.” Every Friday at 5:00, Frick chief curator Xavier F. Salomon enjoys a specifically chosen drink (recipe included for cocktail and mocktail) with viewers as he describes one of the museum’s treasures. On April 10, Salomon discussed Giovanni Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert while sipping a Manhattan, followed on April 17 with a look at Rembrandt’s Polish Rider while enjoying a Szarlotka. On April 24, Salomon will delve into Anthony van Dyck’s Sir John Suckling with Pink Gin in hand. Speaking live from his New York City apartment, Salomon is seen in the lower right hand corner of the screen as the camera roams around the artwork, offering stunning detail; Salomon is wonderfully calm and straightforward as he explores the piece and relates its story to what is happening today during the pandemic.