Who: Stephen Petronio Company
What: Virtual Bloodlines Festival
Where: Stephen Petronio Company online
When: October 23 - November 14, free with advance RSVP (donations accepted)
Why: New York-based choreographer Stephen Petronio isn’t about to let a little old pandemic lockdown stop him from his mission in life. He and his company have been busy since the spring, presenting the Zoom show #gimmeshelter as part of its #LoveSpreadsFaster gala, followed by Are You Lonesome Tonight, a duet between Nicholas Sciscione and Lloyd Knight filmed at the Petronio Residency Center in Round Top and at Hudson Hall for the Hudson Valley Dance Festival. Petronio is now revisiting his Bloodlines project, in which he restages classic works by dance masters, with the Virtual Bloodlines Festival, running online October 23 through November 14. Each week will feature recorded presentations made since Bloodlines began in 2015, with additional interviews and talks with special guests. “Having these masterpieces as part of the repertory of Stephen Petronio Company is an honor and responsibility that I hold dear,” Petronio said in a statement. “My hope is that the Virtual Bloodlines Festival brings new audiences to a group of choreographers that run through my DNA. Their artistry continues to speak boldly to the present moment.”
The first week, beginning October 23 at 7:00, includes Yvonne Rainer’s Diagonal (1963), Trio A with Flags (1966/1970), and Chair Pillow (1969) and Steve Paxton’s Jag Vill Gärna Telefonera (1964/1982), with a new conversation between Deborah Jowitt, Rainer, and Petronio. The second program kicks off October 30 at 7:00 with Trisha Brown’s Glacial Decoy (1979) and Merce Cunningham’s RainForest, with a talk between Wendy Perron, Davalois Fearon, and Petronio. And the third week gets going November 6 at 7:00 with Rudy Perez’s Coverage Revisited (1970) and Anna Halprin’s Courtesan and the Crone (1999), a solo performed by Petronio, followed by a chat betwen Perron and Petronio. Tickets are free (donations accepted), and each program will be available for one week. There will also be Zoom master classes taught by Tess Montoya and Petronio on November 7 and 14 at noon.
Alice goes down a very different kind of rabbit hole in Alice in the Pandemic, a virtual opera from Boston-based White Snake Projects. The production seeks to push the envelope of technological innovation during the Covid-19 lockdown as performers — and their 3D avatars — sing from wherever they are sheltering in place. The show features a libretto by creator Cerise Lim Jacobs, with music by Jorge Sosa, direction by Elena Araoz, and art by Anna Campbell; the cast includes Carami Hilaire as Alice, an ER nurse at Fair Hospital; Eve Gigliotti as Mrs. Lee (Alice’s mother, who falls ill) and other characters; and Daniel Moody as the White Rabbit, who Alice meets in the subway. Tickets are free with advance RSVP; there will be live shows October 23, 25, and 27 at 7:30. The sixty-minute digital opera will be told in ten scenes in one act, leading the audience on a wild ride through an alternative wonderland and a health crisis that is all too real.
Who: Mingyur Rinpoche, Ponlop Rinpoche, Laurie Anderson, Sivamani, Preeti Vasudevan, Deepak Chopra, Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, Stuart Firestein, Daniel Goleman, Ana Lucia Valencia, Erin Reid
What: Rubin Museum virtual gala
Where: Rubin Museum online
When: Wednesday, October 21, free with RSVP (donations accepted, $25-$5,000), 6:00
Why: The Rubin Museum couldn’t have had any idea how prescient its 2020 theme would be when it first came up with it: “Impermanence: A Yearlong Exploration.” It’s been quite a year, from protests over police brutality to a global pandemic, from a bitter presidential race that has torn apart the country to a fierce economic crisis. The Rubin will offer a look back as well as a way forward at its annual gala, taking place online on October 21 at 6:00. “Inside the Mandala” promises to guide audience members into the symbolic circular spiritual object, with appearances by meditation teachers Mingyur Rinpoche and Ponlop Rinpoche, visual artist and musician Laurie Anderson, musician Drums Sivamani, choreographer Preeti Vasudevan, Rubin teaching artist Erin Reid, neuroscience researcher Ana Lucia Valencia, author and alternative medicine practitioner Deepak Chopra, emotion scientist Dr. Tracy Dennis-Tiwary and her family, biological scientist Stuart Firestein, and psychologist and science journalist Dr. Daniel Goleman.
Admission is free, but donations will be accepted at any amount. As deputy executive director and chief programmatic officer Tim McHenry noted in an email blast, “Wednesday night we take you on a journey. Inside the mandala. We are revealing for the first time our plans to convert a whole floor of the museum into an experiential (and experimental) zone for social and emotional learning using the tantric precepts of the Vairocana mandala as our model. Yes, we are...” See you there, in mind and spirit if not body.
Who: Dread Scott, Sylvia Yount
What: Artist talk
Where: Met Museum Facebook or YouTube
When: Friday, October 23, free, 6:30 (exhibition continues through November 1)
Why: In his artist statement, Dread Scott explains, “I make revolutionary art to propel history forward. I look towards an era without exploitation or oppression. I don’t accept the political structures, economic foundation, social relations, and governing ideas of America. . . . I work in a range of media: performance, installation, video, photography, printmaking, and painting. Two threads that connect them are: an engagement with significant social questions and a desire to push formal and conceptual boundaries as part of contributing to artistic development.” On October 23 at 6:30, the Met will be livestreaming the prerecorded program “Artists on Artwork — Dread Scott on Jacob Lawrence,” in which Dread looks at his own work and puts it in context with that of Lawrence, focusing on the intensely beautiful “American Struggle,” on view at the Met through November 1. The show features Lawrence’s extraordinary “Struggle: From the History of the American People,” a mid-1950s series consisting of thirty historical twelve-by-sixteen-inch tempera paintings that trace US history from 1775 to 1817, depicting, in Lawrence’s words, “the struggles of a people to create a nation and their attempt to build a democracy.”
The Met has twenty-five of the thirty original canvases on display (the other five are represented by black-and-white facsimiles), organized in chronological order, reminiscent of Lawrence’s more famous 1940-41 “The Great Migration.” Like that series, “Struggle” engages with social questions — many of which are still relevant today — while pushing formal and conceptual boundaries. [Ed. note: On October 22, it was announced that one of the missing paintings, There are combustibles in every State, which a spark might set fire to. — Washington, 26 December 1786, depicting Shays’ Rebellion, has been found and will be reunited with the rest of the series at the Met.] Colors explode off the panels, which favor sharp angles and striking imagery melding representation and abstraction that often requires rapt concentration to decipher, coming to life slowly before your eyes. Lawrence used descriptive titles often taken from published quotations to name the pieces. In We crossed the River at McKonkey’s Ferry 9 miles above Trenton . . . the night was excessively severe . . . which the men bore without the least murmur (Tench Tilghman, December 27, 1776), bayonets point up to the sky as Gen. George Washington leads three rowboats over the ocean, being carried by treacherous blue waves. In . . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour, words taken from the conclusion of the Declaration of Independence, a man is barely visible through the wagon of hay he is pulling while blood drips down the right side of the painting. And Lawrence celebrates military veteran Margaret Cochran Corbin at the Battle of Fort Washington in And a Woman Mans a Cannon, with sharp horizontals offset by a tall, vertical figure at left.
In a 1968 interview with Carroll Greene for the Archives of American Art, Lawrence said about the work, “Several years ago I started an American history series, which did not pertain strictly to the Negro theme but I think my reason for doing it had something with the Negro consciousness. I wanted to show how the Negro had participated — and to what degree the Negro had participated — in American history. In fact I call it the ‘Struggle.’ As late as a few years ago in the 1950s, the Negro had not been included in the general stream of American history. We don’t know the story, how historians have glossed over the Negro’s part as one of the builders of America, how he tilled the fields and picked cotton and helped to build the cities. But I wanted to do a series showing the American Revolution. Again, this had to do with struggle — the struggle of man. This was not a Negro series; it isn’t just Negroes. It dealt with Negroes who were with Washington when he crossed the Delaware. Not as slaves. These were people who had signed up to take part in the American Revolution.” For more on Lawrence, check out a short 1993 video portrait here; born in Atlantic City and raised in Harlem, he passed away in 2000 at the age of eighty-two.
Dread’s work includes the 2019 performance piece Slave Rebellion Reenactment, a timely exploration of suppression, resistance, and revolution; the controversial What Is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag?; and Money to Burn, in which he burned cash on Wall Street. Right now he has a billboard on Morgan Ave. and Harrison St. in Brooklyn in the group show “Ministry of Truth 1984/2020,” declaring, “9-1-1. There’s a white male running down the street.” For more on Dread Scott, watch this interview from April. The MetSpeaks talk is moderated by Sylvia Yount, the Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in Charge of the American Wing. And don’t forget to see the Lawrence show, which is utterly stunning and closes soon.
Town Hall: What Does It Mean to Be a Citizen?, Monday, October 19, free with RSVP, 7:30
October 20-25, Working Theater, suggested $30
October 27 - November 1, Hartford Consortium, suggested $25
November 10-15, Marin Theatre Company, price TBD
“It’s a game. It’s a show. It’s AmERica!!!” an announcer declares at the beginning of American Dreams, an interactive online play that skewers US immigration policy and ethnocentricity in funny, clever, and, ultimately, harsh ways. With the country in the process of deciding whether to give President Donald Trump, a former reality TV star, another four years in the White House, the show is on a virtual nationwide tour, stopping October 20-25 at New York City’s Working Theater. First staged at the Cleveland Public Theatre two years ago, Leila Buck’s play has been reimagined for the internet, set up as a game show that gives one of three immigrants the chance to win American citizenship.
Cohosted by the deceptively smarmy Christian White (Jens Rasmussen) and bright and perky Sherry Brown (Buck), who are over-the-top gleeful until they turn the tide, the game show is divided into four sections: “How America Works,” “America’s Favorites,” “Aliens with Extraordinary Skills,” and “American Dreams.” Battling it out to live in the United States legally are Adil Akram Mansour (Andre Ali Andre), a chef and philanthropist from Bethlehem (“not the one in Pennsylvania”); Alejandro Rodriguez (Andrew Valdez), a former National Guard medic from Mexico; and Usman Bhutt (Imran Sheikh), a Pakistani illustrator who loves Star Trek. “For the past two seasons,” Sherry says, “we have been offering once-in-a-lifetime chances to people searching for a brighter future in the land of freedom and opportunity. And while this season we can’t be in your town halls, theaters, and auditoriums, we are so glad to be welcomed into your homes.” Chris adds, “On each show, three contestants compete for the equivalent of Columbus’s gold.” Sherry: “One lucky winner will receive, right here, tonight, immediate citizenship to the greatest nation on earth. Our online studio audience has been approved by the highest levels of our government to be the people —” Chris and Sherry: “— who choose the people.” Sherry: “So your votes will determine our contestants’ destinies, as you decide who has the chance to live the American Dream.” It's more than their destinies that are at stake.
Bree Coffman (India Nicole Burton), deputy director of culture for the US, keeps in touch with the audience throughout. “We all have the power to help shape and control the future of this country — one citizen at a time,” Coffman explains early on. As the game continues, you’re likely to find out that these immigrants know more about America than you do, but that is not necessarily going to mean they’re on the path to citizenship as various roadblocks, arbitrary and not, interfere with their quest, mimicking real life.
Co-commissioned by ASU Gammage and Texas Performing Arts and presented by Working Theater as well as Round House Theatre, Salt Lake Acting Company, Marin Theatre Company, HartBeat Ensemble, the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, and University of Connecticut’s Thomas J. Dodd Center, American Dreams achieves its goal of making the show a communal experience; the audience, visible in Zoom boxes, gets to fill out surveys, ask questions, cheer, and vote. Director Tamilla Woodard (Men on Boats, La Ruta) uses split screens to make it look like the contestants are in the same studio, even though they’re beaming in from wherever they’re sheltering in place; Woodard mixed Zoom, Skype, and other platforms to create what she refers to as a “beautiful monster.” The cast has a lot of fun, especially during one segment that is heavily improvised, making each performance unique. Even at ninety minutes, American Dreams feels too long, but you might want to stick around for the talkback anyway, which offers further insight into the development of the play. At one point, a prerecorded announcement tells us, “Your participation is key to protecting our democracy. If you see something, say something. The security of the greatest nation on earth depends on you.” As Buck points out, if only it were that easy.
In conjunction with the show’s run at Working Theater, there will be a free, virtual town hall on October 19, at 7:30, held in partnership with Portland’s Boom Arts, addressing the question “What does it mean to be a citizen?” featuring a keynote by actor Carlo Alban, followed by a panel with Nura Elgmagbari of the Portland Refugee Support Group, Richard Lujan-Valerio of the Latino Network, Juanita Sarmiento of Rural and Migrant Ministry, and actor, playwright, and native communities advocate DeLanna Studi (Cherokee), moderated by North Star Fund deputy director Elz Cuya Jones. Tune in and make a difference. Oh, and vote.
Who: Nobutaka Aozaki, Hanako Murakami, Aki Sasamoto, Daisy Nam, Felipe Arturo, Kyle Dancewicz, more
What: Livestream performances and artist Q&As
Where: Japan Society online
When: October 22 - December 17, $10 per program ($40 for all exhibition-related programs), 6:00
Why: On September 24, Japan Society unveiled its first virtual exhibition, in response to the pandemic lockdown resulting from the coronavirus crisis. On view through January 21, “From Here to There” consists of three visual artists taking on isolation and community, the physical versus the digital, and issues of control and agency. The works will evolve over time and take the audience behind the scenes of their progress. New York-based Nobutaka Aozaki is maintaining a conceptual map of found items and ground-floor businesses along Broadway. In Imaginary Landscapes, Paris-based Hanako Murakami repurposes vintage film and photographic plates and paper to explore the nature of memory (followed by “Palpebra” on October 22, “Film Reels” on November 19, and “Magic Lantern” on December 17).
And New York-based Aki Sasamoto is staging, with collaborators from the Yale School of Art, three livestreamed performances and Q&As from Japan Society, on October 22 with Armando Cortes, Sae Jun Kim, Erik Nilson, Hyeree Ro, Amina Ross, Audrey Ryan, Jeenho Seo, Pap Souleye, Lucas Yasunaga, Stella Zhong, and moderator Daisy Nam, November 19 with moderator Felipe Arturo, and December 3 with moderator Kyle Dancewicz, all at 6:00. The improvised pieces will reconsider live performance in the age of Covid-19, announcing, “Let’s sing together. Physically transport objects. Think about speech patterns. Throw a workout session.” In addition, Murakami will give a photo processing demonstration from her personal darkroom on November 5 and will speak with Maison Européenne de la Photographie director Simon Baker on January 7, and Aozaki will give an artist talk and gallery walkthrough of his intervention at Japan Society on December 17. You can watch the virtual opening of the exhibit with the artists, gallery director Yukie Kamiya, and assistant curator Tiffany Lambert here.
Who: Michael Menchaca, Claudia Zapata
What: Online launch of The Wall (link goes live October 22)
Where: El Museo del Barrio Zoom
When: Thursday, October 22, free with advance RSVP, 6:00
Why: On October 22, Texas-born artist Michael Menchaca will launch the online version of his three-channel video project The Wall, as part of El Museo del Barrio’s “Estamos Bien — La Trienal 20/21.” Previously presented live at the American University Museum in DC last year, The Wall, which features music from Jorge Ramos Avalos’s January 2019 video op-ed “Trump Is the Wall,” addresses issues of borders and immigration using gaming and video art as seen through Chicanx aesthetics. The event will include a discussion between Menchaca, Smithsonian American Art Museum curatorial assistant Claudia Zapata, and curators from El Museo del Barrio. "With the virtual presentation of The Wall, my intention is to offer a space for contemplation on one of the central campaign promises of the forty-fifth U.S. president as he seeks reelection,” Menchaca said in a statement. The on-site exhibition “Estamos Bien — La Trienal 20/21” is scheduled to open at El Museo on March 13.