Times Square, HERE Arts Center, and online
January 8-16, free (except for Modulation, $25-$75)
During the pandemic lockdown, theater, dance, and music creators have had to reimagine what they do, transitioning to online works instead of in-person productions, at least temporarily but for longer than initially anticipated. That has given audiences access to plays, concerts, operas, movement pieces, and other live and prerecorded shows from around the world, allowing them to explore disciplines they might not have known much about before the coronavirus crisis. I’ve watched dozens of works by international and American companies that I’d never been able to see previously, and it has been a boon during this challenging time while venues are shuttered.
One January festival that might not have been on your radar is Prototype, an annual collection of experimental opera that usually takes place at such locations as Baruch Performing Arts Center, the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, the Joyce, BRIC House, FIAF, St. Ann’s Warehouse, and festival presenter HERE Arts Center. The ninth season, running January 8-16, has gone mostly virtual, and five of the six events are free, with two that require you to leave the confines of your apartment, one in Times Square, the other at HERE on Dominick St. Below is the full schedule, including live Q&As and discussions with the artists; be adventurous and check out one or more of these works to see what kind of innovation has been happening during quarantine.
January 8-16 (live event after January 8 show at 8:00, $75), $25
Modulation, featuring works by thirteen composers investigating isolation, identity, fear, and breath during the pandemic.
January 9-16 (live event January 12 at 5:00), free
Out of Bounds: Times3 (Times x Times x Times), by composer Pamela Z and theater artist Geoff Sobelle, site-specific sonic experience in and about Times Square.
January 9-16 (live event January 14 at 5:00), free
Ocean Body, multimedia presentation set in the waters of the Gulf Coast, composed and performed by Helga Davis and Shara Nova, directed and filmed by Mark DeChiazza, with embodied sculpture by Annica Cuppetelli, HERE Arts Center, advance RSVP required.
January 10-16 (live events January 10 at 8:00 & 9:00), free
The Planet — A Lament, staged song cycle and live dance about the creation of the world and impending environmental disaster, composed and performed by Septina Rosalina Layan, directed by Garin Nugroho, and choreographed by Joy Alpuerto Ritter, with Mazmur Chorale, Serraimere Boogie, Rianto, Heinbertho J. B. D. Koirewoa (Douglas), Pricillia EM Rumbiak (Elis), and Paul Amandus Dwaa (Becham).
January 10-16 (live events January 16 at 11:00 & noon), free
Wide Slumber for Lepidopterists, based on a rawlings’s book about sleep, dreams, moths, and butterflies, composed by Valgeir Sigurðsson, directed by Sara Martí, and choreographed by Valgerður Rúnarsdóttir, with text by a rawlings and animation and video art by Pierre-Alain Giraud.
January 10-16 (live events January 16 at 1:00 & 3:00), free
The Murder of Halit Yozgat, film about the assassination of Halit Yozgat in Germany in 2006, composed by Ben Frost and Petter Ekmann, directed by Frost, choreographed by Sasha Milavic Davies, with a libretto by Daniela Danz, and featuring Sabrina Ceesay, Mathias Max Herrmann, Nicolas Matthews, Tahnee Niboro, Gudrun Pelker, Yannick Spanier, and Hubert Zapiór.
Who: Yungblud, Michael C. Hall, Ian Hunter, Anna Calvi, Atticus Ross, Etty Lau Farrell, Boy George, Taylor Momsen, Ricky Gervais, Mariqueen Maandig Reznor, Trent Reznor, Perry Farrell, Lizzy Hale, Macy Gray, Adam Lambert, Andra Day, Duran Duran, Mike Garson, Peter Frampton, David Sanborn, Rick Wakeman, Ian Astbury, William Corgan, Carlos Alomar, Gary Oldman, Gavin Rossdale, Joe Elliott, Gail Ann Dorsey, Bernard Fowler, Corey Glover, Lena Hall, Judith Hill, Catherine Russell, Clare Hirst, Tony Levin, Charlie Sexton, Earl Slick, Tony Visconti, Robin Clark, Erdal Kızılçay, Tim Lefebvre, Martha Mooke, Holly Palmer, Mark Plati, Carmine Rojas, Sterling Campbell, Gerry Leonard, Zack Alford, Kevin Armstrong, Alan Childs, Emm Gryner, Omar Hakim, more
What: Livestreamed birthday celebration
Where: Rolling Live Studios
When: Rescheduled for Saturday, January 9, $25, 9:00 (available for twenty-four hours)
Why: On January 8, David Bowie would have turned seventy-four. An all-star lineup of musicians is gathering to honor the Thin White Duke, who passed away on January 10, 2016, at the age of sixty-nine, at the online party “A Bowie Celebration: Just for One Day!,” taking place January 8 at 9:00. [ed note: Due to technical difficulties and COVID-19 restrictions, the event has been rescheduled for January 9 at 9:00.] Among the participants are Michael C. Hall, Ian Hunter, Anna Calvi, Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Boy George, Ricky Gervais Gary Oldman, Gavin Rossdale, Perry Farrell, Corey Glover, Rick Wakeman, Ian Astbury, Macy Gray, Joe Elliott, Adam Lambert, Andra Day, Duran Duran, and Peter Frampton, performing songs from throughout Bowie’s extraordinary career. “I reached out to friends who had played with David, people who grew up listening to him, those he inspired and influenced,” event organizer and longtime Bowie pianist Mike Garson said in a statement. “Artist after artist I spoke with, each immediately understood my vision and enthusiastically said yes to taking part in this special show. That’s the magic of David’s legacy.” Tickets ate $25, with various bundles including merch and a virtual hang ranging from $50 to $5,000; $2 from each purchase will benefit Save the Children, which Bowie raised money for at this fiftieth-birthday concert at Madison Square Garden on January 9, 1997.
“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.
“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.
Who: Stevie Van Zandt, Eddie Vedder, Margo Price, Bruce Springsteen, Sammy Hagar, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Lowell Levinger, Matisyahu, Whoopi Goldberg, Melle Mel, Tom Morello, Edward Norton, Vincent Pastore, Maureen Van Zandt, Trønd Fausa Aurvåg, Steinar Sagen
What: Holiday fundraiser for TeachRock
When: Monday, December 21, $25-$150, 8:00
Why: “Little Steven’s TeachRock program brings an essential curriculum of music and culture into school and makes it available at no cost to educators. In a time of cutbacks in arts funding, Steve's programs are keeping kids engaged in the arts, and in school — this is his greatest legacy,” Bruce Springsteen said about his longtime E Street Band cohort Stevie Van Zandt’s TeachRock, an organization dedicated to teaching arts, and specifically popular music, in schools. Part of the nonprofit Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, TeachRock has adapted to remote learning by making available special lesson packages for children of all ages.
On December 21 at 8:00, Van Zandt and TeachRock will host a benefit fundraiser highlighted by performances by board members Springsteen and Jackson Browne, Eddie Vedder, Margo Price, and Matisyahu in addition to appearances by Sammy Hagar, Steve Buscemi, Bobby Cannavale, Whoopi Goldberg, Melle Mel, Tom Morello, Edward Norton, Vincent Pastore, Maureen Van Zandt, and, from Lillyhammer, Trønd Fausa Aurvåg and Steinar Sagen. Tickets are $25 or $150 to get your name added to the TeachRock Solidarity Wall. “Music connects us, even when we must be apart,” Van Zandt said in a statement. “Our amazing teachers stood by us and provided structure, emotional support, and a reassuring sense of normalcy to our children during Covid. Now we’re going to stand with teachers and provide them the resources they need to keep kids engaged, emotionally healthy, and learning.” The hourlong event will be followed by a Holiday Video Jukebox featuring songs by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul, Darlene Love, Dean Frasier, and others.