Who: Nona Hendryx, Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X., Monique Wilson, Hope Masike, Sara Curruchich English, Lebo Mashile, iskwē | ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ, Rosa Chávez, Liza Jessie Peterson, Be Steadwell, Angela Davis, Divinity Roxx, Sophia Ramos, Cyndi Lauper, Phylicia Rashad, Billie Jean King, Joy Harjo
What: Global virtual music and activism event
Where: StreamYard and Zoom
When: Friday, August 14, $8 - $250, 4:00
Why: On August 14 at 4:00, musician, writer, actress, activist, and legendary powerhouse Nona Hendryx will host an epic virtual concert in support of women’s collective power for social justice. Held in conjunction with feminist organization JASS, “Radical Healing” will feature an international lineup of singer-songwriters, activists, and spoken-word artists celebrating multiracial and multicultural transformation. “By radical healing, we’re acknowledging the power of music to lift our spirits and connect us across all our differences,” Hendryx said in a statement. “We recognize that we can’t build and sustain strong movements for the long haul with broken people who bear the brunt of crises and violence. We need moments of shared joy and connections as much as information and strategy. Some of the most amazing music ever created has been birthed from struggle.” Hendryx will be joined by Monique Wilson, Hope Masike, Sara Curruchich English, Lebo Mashile, iskwē | ᐃᐢᑫᐧᐤ, Rosa Chávez, Liza Jessie Peterson, Be Steadwell, Angela Davis, Divinity Roxx, Sophia Ramos, Nubian Q.U.E.E.N.X., Cyndi Lauper, Phylicia Rashad, Billie Jean King, Joy Harjo, and others, participating from five continents. General tickets are $25 ($8 for students) and $250 to gain access to a Zoom Q&A with the artists.
Who: Jon Langford, Sally Timms
What: Livestream concert
Where: Hideout online
When: Friday, August 14, suggested tip $15, 8:00
Why: The Mekons are one of the greatest bands of the last fifty years. Formed in 1976, the British punks have continued to make fab records and tour relentlessly, but they’ve been sidelined because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve gone silent. On April 6, founding frontman Jon Langford, who’s been very busy during the Covid-19 crisis, performed a livestreamed concert on the back of a pickup truck for Chicago club FitzGerald’s, driven through the streets of Berwyn, Illinois, playing to people on sidewalks and porches. And on June 19, the group released its latest album, Exquisite, based on the concept of the exquisite corpse; the liner notes explain it “was recorded in lockdown on mobile phones, broken cassette recorders, clay tablets & other ancient technologies in Aptos, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York & Devon,” featuring the nom de plumes Baron Von Munchio, Comteboy de Langreamont, Honeyman Ray, Luanora Carrington (ex-Lubu Roi), the Marquis Tomato de Ironingboard, Ricmedios Bellvaro, Sallyvador Dolly, and St. Yves Pantalon-Mécanique adding music and lyrics one at a time. (Did I mention they have a wicked sense of humor?)
On August 6, Langford and vocalist Sally Timms, who teamed up for a show at the Hideout Inn in Chicago on January 19, played outdoors at the Virtue Cider Taproom in Fenville, Michigan; on August 14, the duo will return to the Hideout, but this time they will perform without an audience, as the concert will be livestreamed from an empty club; admission is free, but a $15 tip-jar donation is suggested. (Langford will be back at the Virtue lawn on August 20 with John Szymanski and play solo on the patio of FitzGerald’s on August 26.) Describing the show, the Hideout points out, “Jon Langford and Sally Timms are punk rock refugees from across the pond. Mostly they play music with fundamentalist Punk Rock icons the Mekons but have other hobbies which usually involve cross-dressing, pirate songs, and sitting round at the Hideout Tavern in Chicago defying the forces of time, entropy, and Corporate Capitalism.” Don’t miss it.
Who: Patti Smith, Tony Shanahan
What: Patti Smith’s only live, staged appearance in 2020
Where: Murmrr Theatre
When: Friday, September 4, $30, 9:00
Why: In her follow-up to the hugely successful Just Kids and M Train, poet, punk goddess, and visual artist Patti Smith writes in her latest memoir, Year of the Monkey (Penguin Random House, September 1, $16):
“I decided on the Waterfront for dinner but went the opposite way and passed a wall covered in murals, Chagall-like scenes from Fiddler on the Roof, floating violinists amidst tongues of flame that produced a disconcerting sense of nostalgia. When I finally circled back and entered the Waterfront, I thought I had made a mistake. The layout looked totally different than in the afternoon. There was a pool table and nothing but fellas of all ages with baseball caps and huge glasses of beer with slices of lemon. Several looked at me as I entered, an unthreatening alien, then went about the business of drinking and talking. There was a hockey game on a big screen with no sound. The din, the drone, was all male, amiable male, laughing and talking, broken only by the tapping of a ball with a cue stick, the ball dropping into the pocket. I ordered coffee, a fish sandwich and salad, the most expensive plate on the menu. The fish was small and deep-fried, but the lettuce and onions were fresh. The same starfish mug, the same brew. I laid my money on the table and went out. It was raining. I put on my watch cap. Passing the mural, I nodded to the Yiddish fiddler, commiserating an unspoken fear of friends slipping away.”
Tickets are now on sale to watch Smith’s live, virtual, one-time-only show on September 4, in which she will read excerpts from Year of the Monkey, which comes out in paperback on September 1, and other writings and perform songs with longtime bassist Tony Shanahan. The live performance, held in conjunction with the Community Bookstore in Park Slope, will take place at an empty Murmrr, the Brooklyn club at the historic Union Temple by Grand Army Plaza. The livestream will be filmed by cinematographer Matthew Schroeder with multiple cameras; it will be Smith’s only stage appearance of 2020. Tickets are $30 and include a copy of the paperback.
Who: Robert Wilson
What: “Innovation”: Volume 14 of National Sawdust's Digital Discovery Festival
Where: Live@NationalSawdust, Facebook Live
When: Wednesday, August 12, free, 6:00
Why: Bold and daring theater and opera impresario Robert Wilson has been creating cutting-edge works since the late 1960s, from The Black Rider, Faust, Woyceck, and The Life and Death of Marina Abramović to Alice, Einstein on the Beach, Hamletmachine, and Letter to a Man. He’s a master of combining stunning visuals with ingenious audio in mind-blowing productions that push the boundaries of what theater can be. So he’s a natural choice to take part in National Sawdust’s fourteenth volume of its Digital Discovery Festival, the theme of which is “Innovation.”
On August 12 at 6:00, the Williamsburg-based club will present Texas native Wilson’s Lecture on Nothing, his adaptation of John Cage’s 1950 text, in honor of the twenty-eighth anniversary of Cage’s passing on August 12, 1992, at the age of seventy-nine. The hourlong piece debuted in August 2012 at the Ruhrtriennale Festival in Germany, with Wilson dressed in all-white clothing and makeup, surrounded by textual excerpts from the work and a cluttered floor. “I am here and there is nothing to say,” Cage’s speech begins. “If among you are those who wish to get somewhere, let them leave at any moment. What we re-quire is silence; but what silence requires is that I go on talking.”
The Digital Discovery Festival has previously featured such themes as “Spirituality,” “Social Change,” “Rebellion,” “Activism,” and “Virtuosity,” with new and archival concerts and master classes with Vijay Gupta, Vijay Iyer, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sxip Shirey, Tania León, and others. “Innovation” runs August 10-14 and also includes concerts and/or conversations with Jenny Hval, Trimpin, and Matthew Whitaker. All shows are free and are archived if you miss the livestream.
Who: Rufus Wainwright, Stephen Salters, Krishna Das, Amy Burton, John Musto, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Sharon Salzberg, Dan Harris, Shirley Hunt, Krysty Swann, Joseph Goldstein, R. Carlos Nakai
What: Live virtual benefit concert
Where: Community Meditation Center online
When: Sunday, August 9, $25 - $1,000, 7:00
Why: Since 2007, the Community Meditation Center has been “supporting each individual’s efforts to alleviate suffering, stress, and discord in themselves and in the world. CMC objectives oppose the destructive forces of greed, hatred, and delusion by cultivating generosity, compassion, and wisdom.” On August 9 at 7:00, the Upper West Side institution will be holding its annual gala online, benefiting CMC in addition to the Black Lives Matter Global Network and First Nations Development Institute. The all-star lineup features singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, kirtan chanter Krishna Das, Met Opera stars Anthony Roth Costanzo and Krysty Swann, soprano Amy Burton and pianist John Musto, cellist Shirley Hunt, baritone Stephen Salters, and Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai, with Insight Meditation Society cofounders Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg, hosted by Dan Harris. Donations begin at $25 to attend the benefit and go up to $1,000 with copies of several of the participants ’ books and CDs.
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: Crystal Field, Matthew Angel, JC Augustin, Alexander Bartenieff, Celeste Bradsher, Celestina Bradsher, Cheryl Gadsen, Michael-David Gordon, Sam Gutierrez, Ben Harburg, Dan Kelley, Terry Lee King, T. Scott Lily, Mark Marcante, Jessy Ortiz, Allison Patrick, Emily Pezzella, Justin Rodriguez, Michael Sanders, Ebonaya Smallwood, Natasha Velez, Juan Villegas, Lei Zhou
What: New oratorio by Crystal Field and Joseph Vernon Banks
Where: Theater for the New City online and individual park websites
When: Saturdays and Sundays, August 1 - September 13, free, 2:00
Why: The original plan was for Theater for the New City to stage its latest Summer Street Theater work, Liberty or Just Us: A City Park Story, at outdoor sites across the five boroughs, from Tenth St. and First Ave. in front of the troupe’s home to St. Mary’s Park, Abe Lebewohl Park, the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, Fort Greene Park, Travers Park, Tappen Park, and other locations, but Covid-19 had something to say about that. In the show, a large cast of eighteen actors and a keyboardist (trimmed down from a six-piece band) follows a park manager as he navigates through the coronavirus pandemic while dealing with privatization, police brutality, land grabbing, and prejudice; the details were developed through workshops with park managers, a teacher, a protest organizer, a Black policeman, and even a clown. TNC cofounder and artistic director and Obie winner Crystal Field wrote the book and lyrics and directs; the music is by Joseph Vernon Banks. Liberty or Just Us: A City Park Story has been adapted both for online viewing and for socially distanced outdoor presentations, should New York City’s rules about performances and gatherings change. There will also be an opportunity to occasionally sing along, with words projected onscreen.