“Down by the boathouse at Shaker Lake / When there wasn’t nothing but love to make / They were two young lovers wishing on the stars above / Well, they carved their initials in an old birch tree / With a heart and an arrow and a ’sixty-three / You had to be blind not to see / It was a perfect love,” Ohio-born singer-songwriter Marc Cohn sings on “Perfect Love,” a track from his 1991 self-titled debut album. Cohn is likely to perform that song, and many other favorites about love, hope, faith, and heartbreak, when he comes to New York City for his annual Valentine’s Day show, February 14 at the Concert Hall at New York Society for Ethical Culture. An honorary member of the Blind Boys of Alabama, with whom he recorded the 2019 album Work to Do, Cohn survived a shooting in 2005, after which he released several live and studio albums and has toured relentlessly. He can be seen often at City Winery, which is presenting the Valentine’s Day shindig with Metropolitan Entertainment. Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter Mark Erelli, whose new album, Blindsided, comes out next month, will open the show. Continuing the romantic theme, Cohn will also be at the Beacon Theatre on March 12 as part of the Love Rocks NYC benefit for God’s Love We Deliver! with Dave Matthews, Chris & Rich Robinson, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Warren Haynes, Joss Stone, Macy Gray, and others, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Shaffer, Jeff Garlin, and Ellie Kemper.
If you haven’t seen Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and Rosas perform in New York City, you haven’t been paying attention. She and her company have presented A Love Supreme at New York Live Arts in 2017, Six Brandenburg Concertos at Park Avenue Armory in 2018, and Transfigured Night at Baryshnikov Arts Center in 2019. This week de Keersmaeker and Rosas are performing the North America premiere of Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind / Bach6Cellosuiten (In the Midst of Life / Bach’s Cello Suites) at NYU’s Skirball Center, a series of solos accompanied by master French cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras, who plays a 1696 cello by Gioffredo Cappa, with de Keersmaeker joining each dancer for a duet.
The two-hour piece, which debuted at the 2017 Ruhrtriennale in Germany in 2017, consists of six Bach sections written between 1717 and 1723 (BWV 1007-1012) — the allemande, courante, sarabande, two minuets, and gigue — created with and danced by Boštjan Antončič, Marie Goudot, Julien Monty, Michaël Pomero, and De Keersmaeker. The stark staging, in which the dancers move across a black space around a seated Queyras, with swirling white chalk marks and green and red tape placed on the light-colored floor, features costumes by An D’Huys, sound by Alban Moraud, and lighting by Luc Schaltin. The title comes from Martin Luther’s version of the Latin antiphon “Media vita in morte sumus”; the Lutheran hymn reads, in part: “In the midst of life / We are in death / Who shall help us in the strife / Lest the Foe confound us? / Thou only, Lord, Thou only!” In addition, Bach wrote a freestanding chorale (BWV 383) based on Luther’s three-stanza liturgy; de Keersmaeker has also discussed how she saw the Luther quote on the tombstone of legendary choreographer Pina Bausch. The February 14 show will be followed by a talk with de Keersmaeker and Queyras, moderated by Center for Ballet and the Arts founder and director Jennifer Homans.
WITHIN OUR GATES (Oscar Micheaux, 1920) / ST. LOUIS BLUES (Dudley Murphy, 1929)
209 West Houston St.
Tuesday, January 28, 6:35
Series continues through February 13
#OscarsSoWhite and #OscarsSoMale have you disappointed and mad? Film Forum is offering just the medicine with its four-week, sixty-film festival “Black Women: Trailblazing African American Actresses & Images, 1920 – 2001.” Running through February 13, the wide-ranging series consists of movies starring Hattie McDaniel, Dorothy Dandridge, Cicely Tyson, Ethel Waters, Josephine Baker, Diana Ross, Angela Bassett, Diahann Carroll, Oprah Winfrey, Juanita Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt, Abbey Lincoln, Gloria Foster, Ella Fitzgerald, Vonetta McGee, Alfre Woodard, Lonette McKee, Lynn Whitfield, Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Pam Grier, Tamara Dobson, Whitney Houston, Halle Berry, and many others, made by black, white, male, and female directors. The oldest film being presented is the oldest surviving film made by an African American director, Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates, on January 28 at 6:35. A response to D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation, Micheaux’s film, released in 1920 after trouble with the censor board, packs a whole lot into its seventy-nine minutes, giving the film an epic feel as it deals with violent crime, rape, slavery, poverty, education, love quadrangles, Jim Crow, subservient blacks, mixed-race romance, the Great Migration, and other incendiary topics.
“I have always tried to make my photoplays present the truth, to lay before the Race a cross-section of its own life, to view the Colored heart from close range,” Micheaux explained on January 24, 1925. “It is only by presenting those portions of the Race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights. . . . The recognition of our true situation will react in itself as a stimulus for self-advancement.” He does just that with Within Our Gates, in which Evelyn Preer plays Sylvia Landry, a young woman in love with Conrad Drebert (James D. Ruffin). However, Sylvia’s supposed friend, the manipulative Alma Prichard (Floy Clements), is also in love with Conrad and determined to steal him from her. Meanwhile, Alma’s stepbrother, gangster Larry Prichard (Jack Chenault), wants Sylvia, who is not interested in him. Larry is being closely watched by a detective, Philip Gentry (William Smith), who was tipped off by the FBI as to his whereabouts.
A car accident leads Sylvia to meet Dr. V. Vivian (Charles D. Lucas) and philanthropist Elena Warwick (Mrs. Evelyn), who wants to help Sylvia, but Elena’s friend, the racist Geraldine Stratton (Bernice Ladd), would rather see no women gain the right to vote if a new amendment would include black women as well. The story shifts gears when Alma tells Dr. Vivian about Sylvia’s past, involving Sylvia’s adopted family, a robbery and shooting, a white landlord (Ralph Johnson) and his brother (Grant Gorman), and a tattletale Uncle Tom (E. G. Tatum) seeking to gain favors, all shown in flashback. It’s a complex tale filled with surprising twists, and it’s a critically important film in the history of black cinema.
Micheaux’s first work was The Homesteader, which is lost; he would go on to make such pictures as Body and Soul, Veiled Aristocrats, and Underworld. The Library of Congress Motion Picture Conservation Center restored Within Our Gates in 1993 from a lone Spanish print, so most intertitles were rewritten in English, and a section in the middle was lost. In 2016, DJ Spooky (aka Paul D. Miller) added a guitar-and-piano-based soundtrack, but the Film Forum screening of a 35mm print will be accompanied by a live score played by Steve Sterner. In addition, it will be preceded by Dudley Murphy’s sixteen-minute 1929 short St. Louis Blues, highlighted by Bessie Smith in her only film appearance. The series continues with such films as both Foxy Brown and Jackie Brown, The Color Purple, Set It Off, Lady Sings the Blues, Monster’s Ball, and Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A.
Brooklyn-based Object Collection returns to La MaMa this week after taking its Fugazi opera-in-suspension It’s All True to Norway, England, and Texas, with the utopian space opera You Are Under Our Space Control, making its world premiere January 23 – February 2. The company, whose “works upset habitual notions of time, pace, progression, and virtuosity. . . . [valuing] accumulation above cohesion,” goes on an adventure into the great unknown, exploring “space travel, transhumanism, astronautics, and the resurrection of the dead” in a world devoid of natural resources.
The show is written and directed by Object Collection cofounder Kara Feely, the text inspired by Sun Ra, the Russian Cosmists, and astronaut interviews; the music is by cofounder Travis Just, inspired by John Cage’s 1951 “Music of Changes.” The laboratory-like set design is by Peiyi Wong, with lighting by Jeanette Yew, video by Eric Magnus, sound by Robin Margolis, and streaming and programming by Scott Cazan. The multimedia piece will be performed by Steven Ali, Avi Glickstein, Yuki Kawahisa, Annie Kunjappy, Alessandro Magania, Daniel Allen Nelson, Nicolás Noreña, and Fulya Peker along with percussionist Shayna Dunkelman, guitarist Taylor Levine, and singer-songwriter Ava Mendoza. You can get a taste of what’s in store by checking out the music here, including such songs as “Full Contrast,” “Humans, Humans,” “Total Trance,” and “More Hospitable than Antarctica Might Be.” Once the run ends, video feeds will be posted online so you can create your own version of YAUOSC.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned ninety-one years old on January 15; he was only thirty-nine when he was assassinated. In 1983, the third Monday in January was officially recognized as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the birthday of the civil rights leader who was shot and killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968. You can celebrate his legacy on Monday by participating in the twenty-fifth annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service or attending one of numerous special events taking place around the city all weekend long. Below are some of the highlights.
Friday, January 17
BAMcafé Live 2020: BAMcafé Live Featuring Blak Emoji and Starchild & the New Romantic, curated by Black Rock Coalition, BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave., free, 9:00
Saturday, January 18
BAMcafé Live 2020: The 1865 w/ Major Taylor, curated by Black Rock Coalition, BAM Peter Jay Sharp Building, 30 Lafayette Ave., free, 9:00
Saturday, January 18
Monday, January 20
BCM Celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with Volunteer Projects with Repair the World, Create a Peace Box workshop in ColorLab, Storytelling in the Sensory Room, and the Heart of a King Shadow Puppetry Workshop, $13, 11:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday, January 19
Martin Luther King Day Choral Eucharist, with the Cathedral Choir, volunteer Chorale and Boy and Girl Choristers, and poet in residence emerita Marilyn Nelson, 11:00 am followed by a Spirituals SING led by Alice Parker, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 2:00, free
Soul to Soul, with IMPACT Repertory Theatre, Lisa Fishman, Cantor Magda Fishman, Elmore James, and Tony Perry, conceived and directed by Zalmen Mlotek, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl., $35-$65, 2:00
Monday, January 20
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March: “Equity Now: Today’s Youth Speak Out for Social Change,” Harriet Tubman Memorial Triangle on 122nd St. at 10:00 am to Manhattan Country School at 150 West 85th St. at 2:00, free
Thirty-Fourth Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with keynote speaker Nikole Hannah-Jones, performances by Son Little and the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir, the art exhibition “Picture the Dream,” and a screening of Aretha Franklin documentary Amazing Grace (Alan Elliott & Sydney Pollack, 2018), BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, 30 Lafayette Ave., free, 10:30 am
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including a scavenger hunt in the “Activist New York” exhibit, storytelling, and art workshops, Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St., free with museum admission of $14-$20 (under twenty free), 11:00 am - 2:00 pm