I’ve been writing about New York City arts and culture since May 2001, focusing on events that require people to leave their homes and venture out to museums, theaters, movie houses, restaurants, botanical gardens, clubs, and other venues to experience art, film, dance, plays, music, nature, and other forms of entertainment.
But as of March 12, all of that was shut down. I had anticipated that twi-ny would effectively be shut down as well, but to my surprise and delight many arts institutions, once they realized they would be closed for a long period of time, embraced the situation and began making works they presented over Zoom, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, YouTube, and their own sites. I was initially worried that I would not know what to do with the sudden free time I had — I’m used to going out five or six nights a week, covering whatever is happening in the city — but soon enough I was ridiculously busy watching and writing about the endless stream of productions being made for the internet and, often, about the pandemic itself, exploring ideas of loneliness and confinement and, once the George Floyd protests began, equality, racism, and freedom. It’s been exciting navigating through so much creativity and following how so many individuals and companies are experimenting with online technology in ways that are not only thrilling to watch but beckon toward the future, with the ability to reach a global audience all at the same moment, at the touch of a button.
And so, as we celebrate America’s 244th birthday — one in which we have come to understand that we have a lot of work to do to face a shameful past that continues into the present — and most of us will be partying from wherever we are sheltering in place, it’s also time to celebrate the ingenuity of actors, directors, artists, writers, musicians, composers, dancers, choreographers, journalists, comedians, thinkers, and others who are making this crisis so much more bearable than it could have been.
Below are the first of hopefully only two This Week in New York Pandemic Awards, honoring the best in live programming that took place between March 13 and June 30. The only rule is that there has to be a live facet to it — either occurring at that minute and/or with an interactive element such as a live Q&A or live chatting. Depending on how the reopening goes and with many arts venues unlikely to start having in-person audiences until 2021, we will be back in December for what we fervently hope will be the second and last Pandemic Awards.
BEST NEW PLAY
Arlekin Players Theatre, State vs. Natasha Benin, based on Natasha’s Dream by Yaroslava Pulinovich, translated by John Freedman, directed by Igor Golyak, performed by Darya Denisova. Filming live from their bedroom, married couple Igor Golyak and Darya Denisova collaborate with an inventive team to come up with an ingenious participatory experience that has been extended through July 12 (free).
The Public Theater, What Do We Need to Talk About? Conversations on Zoom, written by Richard Nelson, with Jay O. Sanders, Maryann Plunkett, Sally Murphy, Laila Robins, and Stephen Kunken. Richard Nelson adds an unexpected chapter to his Apple Family Plays as Richard, Barbara, Marian, Tim, and Jane gather together on Zoom to take stock of their lives once again in this poignant, moving work that closed June 28. But you can catch up on the clan again in Nelson’s follow-up, And So We Come Forth — The Apple Family: A Dinner on Zoom, which continues on YouTube through August 26.
BEST SHORT PLAY SERIES
The Homebound Project. Benefiting No Kid Hungry, each iteration of the Homebound Project consists of ten short pandemic-related solo tales by an all-star team of writers (Michael R. Jackson, Sarah Ruhl, C. A. Johnson, Sarah DeLappe, Qui Nguyen, Anne Washburn, Samuel D. Hunter, Bess Wohl, John Guare, Clare Barron), directors (Steven Pasquale, Leigh Silverman, Jerry Zaks, Trip Cullman, Danya Taymor), and performers (Amanda Seyfried, Daveed Diggs, Diane Lane, Blair Underwood, Phillipa Soo, Zachary Quinto, Mary-Louise Parker, William Jackson Harper, Jessica Hecht, Marin Ireland), streamed for a limited time; the fourth edition is scheduled for July 15-19 (minimum donation $10).
The 24 Hour Plays. These Viral Monologues are divided into thematic groupings called rounds that comprise intimate solo plays between four and fifteen minutes in length, with Tony Shalhoub, Marin Ireland, Daveed Diggs, Ashley Park, Santino Fontana, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Jake Gyllenhaal, Cynthia Nixon, David Hyde-Pierce, Maddie Corman, Michael Cerveris, Elizabeth Marvel, Brandon J. Dirden, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Ethan Hawke, and others in works by Lynn Nottage, Kristoffer Diaz, Donald Margulies, Lydia Diamond, David Lindsay-Abaire, Preston Max Allen, Jonathan Marc Sherman, and more, each iteration benefiting a different charity based on that round’s topic (free).
BEST PERFORMANCE IN A SHORT PLAY
Diane Lane, Let’s Save the World, written by Michael R. Jackson, The Homebound Project. Academy Award nominee Diane Lane is luminescent in Pulitzer Prize winner Michael R. Jackson’s bright, shiny tale about angels and hope.
André De Shields, “A Father’s Sorrow,” written by Shaka Senghor, The 24 Hour Plays. Tony winner De Shields is a force in Shaka Senghor’s “A Father’s Sorrow,” playing Elder Qualls, a priest whose son has been incarcerated.
BEST PERFORMANCE BY A HUSBAND-AND-WIFE TEAM
Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody, Twitter, directed by Gideon Grody-Patinkin. Nearly every day, Gideon Grody-Patinkin takes out his smartphone and records his parents, actors Mandy Patinkin and Kathryn Grody, as they have breakfast, experience computer problems, discuss TikTok, and just live life during a pandemic; this is about as real as it gets, and it’s funny as hell.
Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams, Happy Days, written by Samuel Beckett, Plays in the House, part of Stars in the House, hosted by indefatigable pandemic MVPs Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley. After beating their coronavirus infections, Tony Shalhoub and Brooke Adams, who have been married since 1992, revisited Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days, which they toured with in 2015, performing it live from their bedroom for Stars in the House, with proceeds benefiting the Actors Fund.
BEST PERSONAL STORY TOLD BY A PLAYWRIGHT
Lynn Nottage, “Pilgrims,” TrickleUP NYC Artists Network. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage shared a remarkable true story about a tree in her backyard for TrickleUP, a grassroots subscription video platform (minimum donation $10/month) with short performances by a wide range of talent including Suzan-Lori Parks, Taylor Mac, Kathleen Chalfant, Lucas Hnath, Jane Houdyshell, Tonya Pinkins, Jefferson Mays, Rachel Chavkin, Miguel Gutierrez, Paula Vogel, Faye Driscoll, Thomas Jay Ryan, Dominique Morisseau, Basil Twist, Latanya Richardson Jackson, Alan Cumming, and many more, benefiting artists affected by the Covid-19 cancellations.
BEST REUNION READING
LAByrinth Theater Company, Our Lady of 121st Street, A LAByrinth Virtual Reading and Benefit, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis, with Elizabeth Canavan, Liza Colón-Zayas, Scott Hudson, Russell G. Jones, Portia, Al Roffe, Felix Solis, David Zayas, Bobby Cannavale, John Doman, Laurence Fishburne, Dierdre Friel, David Deblinger, and Elizabeth Rodriguez. The LAByrinth Theater Company gave a blistering Zoom reading of Stephen Adly Guirgis’s 2002 play about a group of people gathering for the funeral of a murdered nun whose corpse has gone missing; the acting, led by David Zayas and Bobby Cannavale, was the best I’ve seen online during this crisis.
BEST ZOOM SHAKESPEARE NOT IN THE PARK
Theater of War, The Oedipus Project, with Frances McDormand, John Turturro, Oscar Isaac, Jeffrey Wright, Frankie Faison, David Strathairn, Glenn Davis, Marjolaine Goldsmith, and Jumaane Williams, translated and directed by Bryan Doerries. Theater of War, which specializes in presenting ancient Greek and modern plays and examining them through a razor-sharp sociocultural lens, put on a stunning Zoom reading of several scenes from Sophocles’s Oedipus the King, followed by a community discussion about elder care, relating the play to what is happening in nursing homes during the pandemic; Oscar Isaac as the doomed ruler tore the house down with an unforgettable finale.
BEST ZOOM NOT-SHAKESPEARE NOT IN THE PARK
Molière in the Park, Tartuffe, directed by Lucie Tiberghien, with Raúl E. Esparza, Samira Wiley, Kaliswa Brewster, Toccarra Cash, Chris Henry Coffey, Naomi Lorrain, Jared McNeill, Jennifer Mudge, Rosemary Prinz, and Carter Redwood. Molière in the Park founding artistic director Lucie Tiberghien and cofounding producer Garth Belcon usually stage works by Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, aka Molière, in Prospect Park, but this summer season they have gone virtual, staging an exciting adaptation of Tartuffe on Zoom; the fab production design by Kris Stone makes it look as if the performance is taking place on the gorgeous estate of Orgon, one of the main characters. The cast features Raúl E. Esparza as the villainous scoundrel Tartuffe and Samira Wiley as Orgon (free; extended through July 12 on YouTube).
BONUS: BEST ZOOM BUM
Raúl E. Esparza, Tartuffe, Molière in the Park. Four-time Tony nominee Raúl E. Esparza shocked and excited the audience when he dropped trou during the first performance, setting the chat board on fire with squeals of delight from fans all over the world at the sight of his bare bottom.
BEST THEATER INTERVIEW SERIES
Red Bull Theater Company, RemarkaBULL Podversations. Red Bull has been busy during the coronavirus crisis, presenting reunion readings of such previous productions as Coriolanus and The Government Inspector as well as talks with actors about specific speeches from the theatrical canon, what they call “RemarkaBULL Podversations,” including Elizabeth Marvel discussing and delivering the “Cry Havoc” speech from Julius Caesar, Michael Urie exploring the “Queen Mab” monologue from Romeo & Juliet, and Chukwudi Iwuji digging deep into the “Homely Swain” soliloquy from Henry VI.
BEST AWARDS SHOW
Broadway Black, The Antonyo Awards, directed by Zhailon Levingston. The inaugural Antonyo Awards was an eye-opening experience as the best in Black theater was celebrated in ways that the Tonys and others would never be able to; it was all the more powerful given that it took place on Juneteenth as the country was reaching critical mass over the George Floyd protests and the Covid-19 pandemic.
BEST LIVE OUTDOOR CONCERT
Dropkick Murphys: Streaming Outta Fenway, with special appearance by Bruce Springsteen. Boston’s Dropkick Murphys took over an empty Fenway Park with a ferocious two-hour live set that had me dancing like a madman in my home office. It reached a nearly impossible crescendo when Bruce Springsteen joined in from his New Jersey farm. The benefit for Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston, and the Boston Resiliency Fund can still be seen here; be sure to crank it up to eleven.
Hello from FitzGerald’s: @StayAtHomeConcert caravan with Jon Langford. British troubadour Jon Langford, of the Mekons, the Waco Brothers, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, the Skull Orchard, and Wee Hairy Beasties, traveled through the streets of suburban Chicago regaling the neighborhood with jaunty songs delivered on the back of music club FitzGerald’s white truck, his saucy humor and lovely acoustic songs as intoxicating as ever.
BEST SOLO A CAPELLA PERFORMANCE
Brian Stokes Mitchell, “The Impossible Dream.” One of the most inspiring moments of the pandemic occurred nightly after the 7:00 clap as Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell, trying to regain his voice following a difficult battle with Covid-19, stuck his head out his West Side apartment window and crooned “The Impossible Dream,” changing a few words to honor the essential health-care workers who helped him and who continue to lead the fight against the virus despite the inherent risks. Mitchell had to stop doing it when the crowds reached unsustainable levels, making social distancing itself impossible.
BEST FACEBOOK LIVE CONCERT SERIES
Richard Thompson, couch concerts with Zara Phillips. Every few weeks, British musician Richard Thompson, one of the world’s great guitarists and songwriters, takes a seat in his Montclair, New Jersey, living room and performs tunes from throughout his fifty-plus-year career, joined by his partner, singer-songwriter and adoption activist Zara Phillips. Being able to see Thompson’s guitar playing thisclose is worth the price of admission — it’s free, but donations are accepted for the Community FoodBank of NJ — and his wry quips, delivered with a devilish smile, are a joy in these hard times. Thompson will be performing his brand-new pandemic EP, Bloody Noses, in its entirety on July 5 at 4:00; he is also thrilled to finally have a live gig, backing Phillips at a free July 15 outdoor show in Woodbridge.
Chick Corea, Piano Improvisation. Legendary jazz pianist Chick Corea, who turned seventy-nine last month, has been performing gorgeous piano improvisations on Facebook Live, a necessary respite on that platform from arguing politics with high school classmates you haven’t seen in years.
BEST INSTAGRAM MUSIC BATTLES
Swizz Beatz, Verzuz. Hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz is on a mission to support and celebrate living artists during this pandemic, and he is doing so by hosting a series of online battles between Alicia Keys and John Legend, Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond, Bounty Killer and Beanie Man, Nelly and Ludacris, Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, and Babyface and Teddy Riley.
BEST INSTAGRAM DANCE SHOW
D-Nice, Club Quarantine. Harlem-born D-Nice was the first deejay to get the internet cooking once everything shut down, getting people up and grooving to his live Club Quarantine parties on Instagram.
BEST ZOOM MUSIC VIDEO OF AN OLD SONG
“Raise You Up,” Kinky Boots International Pride Cast Reunion, with Billy Porter, Stark Sands, Annaleigh Ashford, Wayne Brady, Harvey Fierstein, Cyndi Lauper, and more. Reunion videos are hot, but none captured the heat like this Pride anthem from Kinky Boots, performed by an all-star cast.
Modern English, “I Melt with You.” British band Modern English resuscitated its 1982 smash hit with a quarantine edition that is melting the internet, with leader Robbie Grey impressing not only with his vocals but his lockdown look.
BEST SOLO DANCE PERFORMANCE
Jamar Roberts, Cooped, WPA Virtual Commission, choreographed by Jamar Roberts. Longtime Ailey dancer Jamar Roberts’s Cooped is the most explosive five minutes to come out of the arts world during the pandemic; with fierce determination, Roberts investigates solitude, confinement, and the black body, set to a searing score by David Watson on bagpipes and Tony Buck on drums.
Sara Mearns, Storm, WPA Virtual Commission, choreographed by Joshua Bergasse. NYCB principal dancer Sara Mearns glides across her New York City apartment, stopping by the window to assess the world outside, in this sensitive, reaffirming work choreographed by her husband, Joshua Bergasse, and set to Margo Seibert’s rendition of pianist Zoe Sarnak’s “The Storm Will Pass Soon Now.”
Jaqlin Medlock, #GIMMESHELTER, Stephen Petronio Company. Native New Yorker Jaqlin Medlock dazzled in Stephen Petronio’s work choreographed over Zoom for the company’s gala fundraiser, performing breathtaking movement in her apartment.
BEST ZOOM DANCE
Martha Graham Dance Company, Immediate Tragedy, Martha Matinees, choreographed by Janet Eilber. Martha Graham Dance Company has been presenting classic archival footage in its Martha Matinees series, but for Immediate Tragedy, artistic director Janet Eilber reimagined Graham’s lost 1937 solo for a company of dancers over Zoom, moving around the individual Zoom boxes like a thrilling game of Tetris; just magnificent.
STREB, Body Grammar, choreographed by Elizabeth Streb. Elizabeth Streb’s Action Heroes, who combine acrobatics, athletics, and dance on unique apparatuses in jaw-dropping ways, focuses in on the performers’ heads, hands, feet, arms, legs, and torsos in an experimental work that would make Bruce Nauman proud.
BEST TELEPHONE OPERA
On Site Opera, To My Distant Beloved, Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, music by Ludwig van Beethoven, song text by Alois Isidor Jeitteles, additional English dialogue by Monet Hurst-Mendoza, directed by Eric Einhorn, with soprano Jennifer Zetlan and pianist David Shimoni or baritone Mario Diaz-Moresco and pianist Spencer Myer. On Site Opera was in a bind during the pandemic, as the New York City–based company specializes in site-specific productions in unique locations. But it has come up with a splendid alternative, a twenty-minute performance adapted from Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, delivered over the phone for one listener at a time. To enhance the romantic tale of longing, each listener receives emailed love letters prior to either a soprano or baritone calling you up and singing just for you, with interactive dialogue as well. You don’t have to know anything about opera to fall in love with this experience, one of the best — and most unusual — of the pandemic, and even better now that it’s been extended through August 9 ($40).
BEST INTERVIEW SERIES
92nd Street Y, 92Y Online. The 92nd Street Y has always featured a great lineup of guests from across the artistic, sociocultural, culinary, and geopolitical spectrum, and it’s been no different during the coronavirus crisis, with its doors on the Upper East Side closed for the near future. But that hasn’t stopped the Y from presenting live, online talks about just about any topic imaginable, with celebrities galore and hot-button issues. Many of the events are free, but you have to pay for some of the archived discussions. Our favorite is a free one Pamela Adlon chatting with her friend Mario Cantone, a wild and woolly conversation that never lets up.
Ken Davenport, The Producer’s Perspective. Theater producer Ken Davenport has been one of the busiest guys during the lockdown, speaking with dozens of theater stalwarts about the state of the industry and what they’re doing during the crisis. Among his sixty guests have been Alan Cumming, Kate Rockwell, David Henry-Hwang, Jason Alexander, Marilu Henner, Kenny Leon, Jenn Colella, Santino Fontana, Ashley Park, Dominque Morisseau, and Kerry Butler, with Steven Pasquale, Danny Burstein, and Raúl E. Esparza coming up.
BEST FILM & TELEVISION REUNION SERIES
Josh Gad, “Reunited Apart.” Cuddly, lovable Josh Gad lets his fan-geek show by bringing back the casts of classic films from the 1980s and ’90s, and you might be shocked to see that just about everyone participates from wherever they are sheltering in place. So far he has brought together the cast and crew of Ghostbusters, The Goonies, The Lord of the Rings, Splash, Back to the Future, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, all of which can be watched for free on YouTube, with donations accepted for specific charities.
BEST ART TALKS
The Frick Collection, “Cocktails with a Curator,” with Xavier F. Salomon. Frick chief curator Xavier F. Salomon has become an internet sensation, hosting “Cocktails with a Curator” every Friday at 5:00, exploring in depth a work from the Frick Collection, relating it to the current crisis, and selecting a cocktail to accompany the fifteen-minute talk. His warm, genteel, engaging demeanor, vast historical knowledge, and love of highballs are just the recipe for an art-starved public. You can also catch him on Wednesdays going around the world in “Travels with a Curator.”
“Art at a Time Like This,” curated by Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen. Curators Barbara Pollack and Anne Verhallen have been asking the question, “How can we think of art at a time like this?” since March 17, when they began exploring existing and/or new work by one specific artist a day, Monday through Friday, putting it in context of the Covid-19 crisis and, later, the George Floyd protests. Among the impressive list of participants are Ai Weiwei, Chitra Ganesh, William Kentridge, Petah Coyne, Dread Scott, Laurie Simmons, Mel Chin, Alfredo Jaar, and Mary Lucier. Pollack and Verhallen have also hosted weekly live, interactive Zoom discussions with many of the artists, examining fascinating aspects of the intersection of art and politics. Of course, their basic question focuses on painting, sculpture, video, and installation art, but it also relates to dance, music, theater, literature, film, television, and more. How can we think of any of this at a time like this? All of the above awardees, and everyone else who is creating art during a time like this, should be justly celebrated, not only for entertaining and educating us, but for shining a light on what the world may be like on the other side of this.
Who: Andy Grammar, Barry Manilow, Burt Bacharach, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana, CeCe Winans, Don McLean, Harlem Gospel Choir, Jesse Colin Young and Little Kids Rock, Jewel, Kenny Loggins, Martina McBride, the O’Jays, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, United States Army Field Band, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, United States Navy Band, Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras, Colorado Symphony, Houston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, New York Youth Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, the original Broadway casts of Girl from the North Country and Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations, Don Lemon, Dana Bash, more
What: Livestreamed Independence Day celebration
Where: CNN.com, CNNgo,
When: Saturday, July 4, free, 8:00
Why: On July 4 at 8:00, CNN will pay tribute to the diversity of the United States and honor the frontline essential workers leading the fight against the global pandemic with “The Fourth in America,” a live show featuring pop, rock, country, and R&B singers as well as orchestras, symphonies, and Broadway casts, hosted by Don Lemon in New York City and Dana Bash in DC. The all-star roster is listed above, with such highlights as Barry Manilow, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana, CeCe Winans, Don McLean, Harlem Gospel Choir, the O’Jays, Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo, the New York Philharmonic, and the San Francisco Symphony. There will also be live firework displays from Jacksonville, Houston, and Nashville.
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: Rita Moreno, Norman Lear, Pacquito D’Rivera, Arturo O’Farrill, Eduardo Vilaro, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Estefan, more
What: Ballet Hispánico fiftieth anniversary celebration
Where: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram
When: Tuesday, June 30, free with RSVP (donations accepted), 7:30
Why: Founded by Tina Ramirez in 1970, Ballet Hispánico has been “bringing communities together to celebrate and explore Latino cultures through innovative dance productions, transformative dance training, and community engagement” for fifty years, as its mission statement explains. As part of its golden anniversary, the Upper West Side institution is going virtual with “Noche Unidos: A Night of Dance and Unity,” an evening of world premieres by Latinx choreographers along with special celebrity appearances. Debuting new works will be Kiri Avelar, Rodney Hamilton (Punto De Vista with Paulo Hernandez-Farella), Michelle Manzanales (Cautivadx), Andrea Miller (Orilla), Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (Pajarillo Escondido with Dandara Veiga), Pedro Ruiz (Sobre el Siglo de la Luces with Lyvan Verdecia and Melissa Verdecia), Carlos Pons-Guerra (Gazpacho with Omar Rivera and Antonio Cangiano), Gustavo Ramirez Sansano (Lady of Spain with Shelby Colona), Nancy Turano (Mambo for 50 with Lenai Wilkerson), and company artistic director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro (Serenata with Laura Lopez). "Noche Unidos is beyond anything we could have imagined several months ago. This will be a spectacular virtual celebration of Ballet Hispánico with a group of amazing Latinx artists from across the nation coming together to honor the legacy of Tina Ramirez and Ballet Hispánico’s roots while looking forward, beyond our fiftieth anniversary. There is still work to be done, and Ballet Hispánico intends to pave the way and create these opportunities for Latinx voices to be amplified through dance, education, and our communities,” noted Eduardo, who will be hosting the event.
Among others joining in the festivities are EGOT winner Rita Moreno, legendary television producer Norman Lear, Hamilton creator extraordinaire Lin-Manuel Miranda, three-time Grammy winner Gloria Estefan, Cuban sax and clarinet great Paquito D’Rivera, and Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra artistic director and pianist-composer Arturo O’Farrill. There will also be performances by Ballet Hispánico School of Dance students and Nuestro Futuro scholarship recipients Julienne Rane Buenaventura and Ruby Castillo, choreographed by Hamilton (Ayer y Hoy) and Avelar (Mi Baile en Casa, A Film by Kiri Avelar), respectively. “Now more than ever it is important that we, as artists, learn about the rich history and meaning behind Black/Latinx dance forms, that we no longer whitewash the field and instead celebrate all cultures,” Buenaventura wrote in a letter to the Ballet Hispánico community. For a limited time you can also see the troupe’s previous watch party, Somebrerísimo by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, while the next event will be Edwaard Liang’s El Viaje on July 8, both from last year’s Joyce season and each followed by a “Choreographers & Cocktails” talk led by former company dancer Vilaro.
Who: Tim Burgess, Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard
What: Listening/watch party of 20,000 Days on Earth (Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, 2014) with live tweeting
Where: Tim’s Twitter Listening Party
When: Sunday, June 28, Twitter free, film rental here, 11:00 pm EST
Why: During the pandemic, Tim Burgess of the Charlatans has been hosting listening and watch parties with live tweeting, highlighting such records as Camper Van Beethoven’s Telephone Free Landslide Victory, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s Dazzle Ships, Dexys Midnight Runners’ Searching for the Young Soul Rebels, and Duran Duran’s Rio, with band members chiming in as the album plays. On June 28 at 11:00 pm EST, Burgess goes audiovisual with live tweeting during a watch party of Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s 2014 documentary, 20,000 Days on Earth. (You can rent the film here.)
The film might sound like a 1950s low-budget sci-fi cult classic you’ve never seen, but actually it’s an unusual and vastly inventive document of the life and times of Australian rocker, poet, novelist, film composer, screenwriter, and all-around bon vivant Nick Cave. In their debut feature, installation artists and curators Forsyth and Pollard collaborated closely with Cave, mixing reality and fantasy as they follow Cave during a rather busy day. “Who knows their own story? Certainly it makes no sense when we are living in the midst of it,” Cave, who is now sixty-two, says in the deeply poetic voiceover narration he wrote specifically for the film. “It’s all just clamor and confusion. It only becomes a story when we tell it, and retell it, our small, precious recollections that we speak again and again to ourselves or to others, first creating the narrative of our lives, and then keeping the story from dissolving into darkness.” Forsyth and Pollard journey with Cave as he delves into religion and his relationship with his father with psychoanalyst Darian Leader, visits with longtime collaborator Warren Ellis (who shares an amazing story about Nina Simone and a piece of gum), drives around as people from his past suddenly appear in his car (friend Ray Winstone, duet partner Kylie Minogue, former bandmate Blixa Bargeld), lays down tracks in the studio (“Give Us a Kiss,” “Higgs Boson Blues,” “Push the Sky Away” with a children’s orchestra), watches television with his twin sons, and goes through his archives of photographs and other ephemera from childhood to the present day.
The film reveals Cave, the leader of cutting-edge groups the Birthday Party, Grinderman, and the Bad Seeds and author of the novels And the Ass Saw the Angel and The Death of Bunny Munro, to be an intelligent, introspective, engaging fellow with a wry, often self-deprecating sense of humor and a hunger to create. “Mostly I write. Tapping and scratching away day and night sometimes,” he says while typing away with two fingers on an old typewriter in his home office. “But if I ever stopped for long enough to question what I’m actually doing? The why of it? Well, I couldn’t really tell you. I don’t know.” The film begins with a barrage of images of Cave and his influences throughout the years, whipping by machine-gun style on multiple monitors, and ends with Cave onstage with the Bad Seeds, becoming the fearless musician that has defined his career. In between, he’s a contemplative husband, father, son, and friend, an artist with a rather unique view of the world and his place in it. (Sadly, in 2015, Cave’s son Arthur died in a tragic accident, something Cave dealt with creatively in the 2016 documentary One More Time with Feeling, about the recording of the album Skeleton Tree.)
On September 20, 2014, I attended a special event at Town Hall in which Cave participated in a postscreening Q&A with Forsyth and Pollard, performed solo songs at the piano (playing what one fan described as a “dream setlist”), and spoke often about “transformation.” In its own way, 20,000 Days on Earth is a transformative documentary, a groundbreaking, unconventional, and thoroughly imaginative portrait of a groundbreaking, unconventional, and thoroughly imaginative artist.
[Note: Tim’s Twitter Listening Party continues with such other albums as the Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues, the Soft Boys’ Underwater Moonlight, Superchunk’s Majesty Shredding, Madness’s One Step Beyond, and Joy Division’s Closer.]
Who: Malika Tirolien, Rafael Zaldivar, Djely Tapa, Clerel, Bïa, Jordan Officer, Mateo, the Marianne Trudel Trio, Morgan Moore, Robbie Kuster, Jeremy Dutcher, Charlotte Cardin, Fredy V. & the Foundation, Carl Mayotte, Jack Broadbent, Elisapie, Jean-Michel Blais, Jacques Kuba Séguin, Naya Ali, Alain Caron, Paul Brochu, John Roney, Dominique Fils-Aimé, the Barr Brothers, Oscar Peterson, Oliver Jones, Jaco Pastorius, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Pierre Kwenders
What: The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal digital edition
Where: The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal Facebook
When: June 27-30, free with RSVP, 6:00
Why: Several years ago we had an amazing time at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, wandering among numerous stages seeing bands from a wide range of genres. We’ve been meaning to go back but have not had a chance yet, but with the pandemic lockdown, anyone and everyone can attend this year’s digital edition. From June 27 to 30, the fest will go virtual at 6:00 each night, presenting five live acts, followed by archival festival performances by Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones, Jaco Pastorius, Miles Davis, and Sarah Vaughan. Among the live standouts from all around the world are Bïa, Charlotte Cardin, Fredy V. & the Foundation, and the Barr Brothers. Below is the complete schedule.
Saturday, June 27
Canadian Multiculturalism Day: Live from L’Astral with Malika Tirolien (6:00), Rafael Zaldivar (7:00), Djely Tapa (7:20), Clerel (7:40), Bïa (8:00), and a 2004 performance by Oscar Peterson and Oliver Jones (8:23), and an after-party with Pierre Kwenders (10:00)
Sunday, June 28
Live from L’Astral with Jordan Officer (6:00), Mateo (7:00), the Marianne Trudel Trio featuring Morgan Moore and Robbie Kuster (7:20), Jeremy Dutcher (7:40), Charlotte Cardin (8:00), and a 1982 performance by Jaco Pastorius (8:23)
Monday, June 29
Live from L’Astral with Fredy V. & the Foundation (6:00), Carl Mayotte (7:00), Jack Broadbent (7:20), Elisapie (7:40), Jean-Michel Blais (8:00), and a 1985 performance by Miles Davis (8:23)
Tuesday, June 30
Live from L’Astral with Jacques Kuba Séguin (6:00), Naya Ali (7:00), Alain Caron with his trio featuring Paul Brochu and John Roney (7:20), Dominique Fils-Aimé (7:40), the Barr Brothers (8:00), a 1983 performance by Sarah Vaughan (8:23)
Who: The Roots, H.E.R., Roddy Ricch, Lil Baby, SZA, Kirk Franklin, Snoh Aalegra, Earthgang, G Herbo, Polo G, D Nice, Musiq Soulchild, Michelle Obama, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chris Paul, Tom Hanks, Liza Koshy, Kerry Washington, Tracee Ellis Ross, Janelle Monáe, Elaine Welteroth, Deon Cole, Coach K, Wallo267, Ghetto Gastro
What: Thirteenth annual Roots Picnic
Where: The Roots YouTube
When: Saturday, June 27, free with RSVP, 8:00
Why: If you’ve never attended one of the Roots’ annual picnic extravaganzas, now’s your chance. The thirteenth annual party hosted by the Philly hip-hop band founded in 1987 by Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson goes virtual on June 27 with a stellar lineup chiming in from wherever they are sheltering in place. There will be performances by H.E.R., Roddy Ricch, Lil Baby, SZA, Kirk Franklin, Snoh Aalegra, Earthgang, G Herbo, Polo G, D Nice, and Musiq Soulchild along with appearances by Michelle Obama, Common, Lin Manuel Miranda, Chris Paul, Tom Hanks, Liza Koshy, Kerry Washington, Tracee Ellis Ross, Janelle Monáe, Deon Cole, Coach K, Wallo267, Ghetto Gastro, and Elaine Welteroth. The event is being held in conjunction with When We All Vote, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is on a mission to increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American.” When We All Vote was founded in 2018 by cochairs Obama, Hanks, Miranda, Monae, Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw. We all might not be gathering at the Mann at Fairmount Park this year, but we still can have quite a virtual party with some amazing guests, all for a cause that should be close to the heart of all Americans but unfortunately doesn’t appear to be. If you haven’t registered to vote yet, what are you waiting for?