This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

BRIC OPEN: BORDERS

BRIC House exhibit serves as inspiration for four-day free festival on borders (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

BRIC House exhibit serves as inspiration for four-day free festival about borders (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

BRIC House
647 Fulton St., Brooklyn
April 26-29, free (advance RSVP recommended)
718-683-5600
www.bricartsmedia.org

The theme of this year’s BRIC OPEN festival is “Borders,” four days of free programs focusing on borders both real and imagined, physical and ideological. The series is being held in conjunction with the exhibition “Bordering the Imaginary: Art from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Their Diasporas,” a collection of sculpture, painting, installation, and video that, in the words of BRIC contemporary art vice president Elizabeth Ferrer, “consider the complicated interrelated histories of two Caribbean countries that share a single island, their tradition of cultural and social exchange, and the social injustices that have long burdened the people of both nations.” The exhibit includes impressive work by Raquel Paiewonsky, Pascal Meccariello, Fabiola Jean-Louis, iliana emilia garcia, Patrick Eugène, and others. “Borders” begins April 26 at 7:00 with “Art Intersecting Politics,” a conversation between Paola Mendoza and Darnell L. Moore, preceded by a spoken-word performance by slam poet Venessa Marco. Friday night’s schedule consists of a concert by Blitz the Ambassador, Lido Pimienta, and the Chamanas (as well as a screening of Blitz’s fifteen-minute film, Diasporadical Trilogia), the ninety-minute walking tour “Borders We Carry” led by Kamau Ware through downtown Brooklyn, an Immigration Action Fair, and Alicia Grullón’s “Empanar!” mobile art project.

On Saturday, there will be a family art-making workshop in which participants can add to a Building Bridges mural; a Greenlight Bookstore pop-up shop; a “Drawn Together” workshop led by “Bordering the Imaginary” artists Vladimir Cybil Charlier, Antonio Cruz, and garcia; Juanli Carrión’s “Memelismos: Memories from the Other Side” participatory storytelling installation; more walking tours; screenings of short films and Jeremy Williams’s On a Knife Edge; the discussions “Reflections on the DACA and the DREAM Act: Erika Harrsch & Yatziri Tovar” and “Haiti-NYC-DR: Reflections from the Diaspora,” the latter with Suhaly Bautista-Carolina, Edward Paulino, Albert Saint Jean, Ibi Zoboi, and moderator Carolle Charles; and a RAGGA x BRIC dance party with DJs Oscar Nñ of Papi Juice, Serena Jara, LSXOXOD, and Neon Christina and a live performance by Viva Ruiz. Sunday features a gallery tour and the closing talk “Biscuits without Borders” by Jess Thorn, aka Touretteshero. In addition, the exhibitions “Under the Same Sky . . . We Dream” by Erika Harrsch and “What time is it there?” by Katie Shima will be on view throughout the festival.

JASPER JOHNS: A LIFE’S WORK

brooklyn public library jasper johns

Who: Caitlin Sweeney, John Yau, William Villalongo, Martha Wilson
What: Roundtable on Jasper Johns’s career and preserving the work of living artists
Where: Brooklyn Public Library, Central Branch, 10 Grand Army Plaza, 718-230-2100
When: Thursday, April 26, free but advance RSVP recommended, 7:30
Why: In conjunction with the publication of the five-volume Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonné of Painting and Sculpture (Wildenstein Plattner Institute), the Central Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library is hosting a free panel on April 26 with senior researcher and WPI director of digital publications Caitlin Sweeney, art critic and curator John Yau, painter and collagist William Villalongo, and performance artist and Franklin Furnace founder Martha Wilson. They will discuss the career of Georgia-born artist Jasper Johns, who will be turning eighty-eight on May 15, as well as the importance of preserving the work of a living artist. A catalog will enter the collection of the library as part of the event.

TRIBECA TWI-NY TALK: JEFF KAUFMAN / EVERY ACT OF LIFE

(photo courtesy Jeff Kaufman)

Producer and director Jeff Kaufman on the set of Every Act of Life (photo courtesy Jeff Kaufman)

EVERY ACT OF LIFE (Jeff Kaufman, 2018)
Tribeca Film Festival
Monday, April 23, SVA Theater 2 Beatrice, 8:00
Tuesday, April 24, Cinépolis Chelsea 6, 5:00
Wednesday, April 25, Cinépolis Chelsea 2, 6:15
Thursday, April 26, Cinépolis Chelsea 9, 4:00
everyactoflifedocumentary.com
www.tribecafilm.com

Four-time Tony winner Terrence McNally and his husband, producer Tom Kirdahy, appeared in the 2015 documentary, The State of Marriage, about marriage equality, but director-producer Jeff Kaufman and producer Marcia Ross were surprised to learn that no one had made a film about McNally himself. So they did. The result is Every Act of Life, an intimate portrait of the Texas-born activist and playwright, who has also won two Obies, four Drama Desk Awards, and an Emmy and has been a fixture in the theater community for six decades, writing such popular and influential works as Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune; The Lisbon Traviata; Lips Together, Teeth Apart; Master Class; Kiss of the Spider Woman; and Love! Valour! Compassion!

Kaufman and Ross combine archival footage of many of McNally’s works with personal photos and new interviews with an all-star lineup that includes Angela Lansbury, Nathan Lane, Audra McDonald, Larry Kramer, Edie Falco, F. Murray Abraham, Tyne Daly, Billy Porter, Chita Rivera, John Slattery, Rita Moreno, Joe Mantello, and Christine Baranski, among many others. The film follows McNally through every act of his life, from his childhood in Texas living with abusive, alcoholic parents to his homosexuality, from his relationships with Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, and others to his bout with lung cancer and marriage to Kirdahy. Every Act of Life is having its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 23, with Kaufman, Mantello, Abraham, Lane, and McNally participating in an “After the Screening” conversation moderated by Frank Rich. (The film is also being shown April 24, 25, and 26.) Just as the festival got under way, Kaufman, who has also directed Father Joseph, The Savoy King: Chick Webb and the Music That Changed America, and Brush with Life: The Art of Being Edward Biberman, discussed the project via email in this exclusive twi-ny talk.

twi-ny: You first interviewed Terrence McNally and his husband, Tom Kirdahy, for The State of Marriage. How familiar were you with him and his work at that time?

Jeff Kaufman: Marcia grew up in Mt. Vernon, just outside of NYC, and the great love of her youth was coming into the city to go to the theater. It shaped much of her life that followed. I grew up near Seattle with a love of classic movies and art, so my discovery of the theater came a bit later (in part by subscribing to the Fireside Theatre Book Club). We both loved Terrence’s work but also made some lasting discoveries through making this film.

Every Act of Life

Every Act of Life is an intimate look at the life and career of award-winning playwright and activist Terrence McNally

twi-ny: Do you have a favorite play of his?

JK: For Marcia, her favorite play by Terrence (of many) is Love! Valour! Compassion! She says it speaks so beautifully about relationships. There are many characters and moments and plays of Terrence’s that keep reverberating for me, but I would mention (so others can look them up) the spiritual moments in A Perfect Ganesh and Corpus Christi, the sense of family and scope of life in L! V! C!, and the deep connection to the power of the arts in Master Class.

twi-ny: What made you think he would be a good subject for a full-length documentary? Was it difficult to get him to agree to the film?

JK: When we interviewed Terrence and Tom for The State of Marriage, we were so impressed with how direct and open and full of feeling Terrence could be. His life and work have changed many lives, and launched many careers, so his story is about a community of remarkable people as well. Through Terrence’s life and work we connect to a history of the theater, the struggle for LGBTQ rights (as Nathan Lane says, “Terrence has always been ahead of his time”), overcoming addiction (thanks in large part to Angela Lansbury), and what it means to keep searching and growing (and loving) throughout your life. So, for us Terrence, like his plays, speaks to a lot of important concerns.

And since we worked well together in the previous film, it wasn’t hard to get him and Tom to agree. They’ve been great to work with throughout the project.

twi-ny: Terrence gives you remarkable access to his life. Did that happen early on in the process, or did you have to establish a rapport?

JK: Our first conversation about doing this film was with Tom Kirdahy, a theater producer and former AIDS attorney who is also Terrence’s husband. Tom understood completely that honesty and access are essential. None of us wanted a fawning tribute. Terrence wasn’t comfortable with every aspect of our interviews, but he was remarkably forthcoming and unvarnished. I’ve interviewed hundreds of people, but Terrence is unique.

twi-ny: Were there any times he asked for the camera to be turned off?

JK: When he decides to open the door, he opens it all the way. There may have been a few things he pushed back on a bit, but we always got what we needed.

twi-ny: Terrence is known for being a perfectionist and, at times, demanding, yet he is very relaxed throughout the film. Did the making of the film actually go that smoothly? Whose idea was it to have numerous scenes in which two characters speak very comfortably to each other?

JK: I always try to put interview subjects in a positive frame of mind (even while asking a lot, on several levels). Marcia is a great ally in this as well. Often when I’m working with the film crew to set up the shot, Marcia engages in her singular way (and depth of theater knowledge) to help keep the subject engaged and relaxed. Then I conduct the interview. Since you asked, I came up with the idea for the various sequences (Edie and Murray talking about Frankie and Johnny, etc.).

(photo courtesy Jeff Kaufman)

Jeff Kaufman interviewed a vast array of theater people for documentary about Terrence McNally (photo courtesy Jeff Kaufman)

twi-ny: You have amassed a terrific cast of characters from both his personal and professional life for the film. What was that experience like, “casting” the documentary? Was there someone you really wanted to interview but was unavailable?

JK: Casting is key in documentaries, narrative films, and the theater. Also important for our work is to get people to tell stories that put the audience in a scene with the subjects of our films. We were pretty much able to talk to everyone on our list . . . but I would have loved to go back in time and film Terrence with some of the people who are no longer living. We got as close as possible to that by finding unseen footage of Edward Albee and Wendy Wasserstein, having Bryan Cranston read an amazing letter to Terrence about what a writer needs to keep going, and getting Meryl Streep to read a letter from Terrence’s beloved high school English teacher.

twi-ny: In the film, Terrence and the actors talk about the importance of collaboration, which even extended to many of the documentary participants helping the Kickstarter campaign by contributing special rewards for donors. How does collaboration in theater compare with collaboration in film?

JK: Both are essential, and as Terrence says, life is about collaboration as well. I have a strong vision for what I want the documentary to be and say. So does Marcia. However, that only comes together through the work and vision and talent of many people.

twi-ny: What was the single most surprising thing you learned about theater and Terrence McNally while making the film?

JK: I don’t know if this qualifies as a surprise, but Marcia and I were both impressed by finding in Terrence, and others in the film, great artists who could easily rest on their laurels but who instead are still inspired, still learning, and still striving to do new and better work.

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL RETROSPECTIVE SPECIAL SCREENING: TWENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF IN THE SOUP

In the Soup

Steve Buscemi stars as a New York City nebbish with big dreams in Alexandre Rockwell’s In the Soup

IN THE SOUP (Alexandre Rockwell, 1992)
SVA Theater 1 Silas
333 West Twenty-Third St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday, April 24, $25.94, 7:30
Tribeca Film Festival runs April 18-29
www.tribecafilm.com
www.factorytwentyfive.com

The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival might be hosting gala anniversary screenings of Scarface and Schindler’s List at the Beacon with impressive rosters of superstar guests and high price tags, but the one to see is Alexandre Rockwell’s 1992 black-and-white indie cult classic, In the Soup, which is being shown April 24 at the SVA Theater. The twenty-fifth anniversary screening is a case of life imitating art (imitating life): The black comedy is about the fabulously named Adolpho Rollo (Steve Buscemi), a ne’er-do-well New Yorker living in a run-down apartment building, working on his master opus, a five-hundred-page screenplay called Unconditional Surrender that he believes will change the face of cinema itself. A familiar New York story? Perhaps, but the film was largely unfamiliar to almost everyone but the most dedicated enthusiasts, since it has been out of circulation for most of its existence. A few years ago, In the Soup was down to one last, damaged archival print, but distribution company Factory 25 began a Kickstarter campaign to restore the film in time for its quarter-century anniversary, somewhat mimicking Adolpho’s efforts to get his movie made — which, in turn, is based on Rockwell’s attempts to make In the Soup in the first place, as many of the characters and situations in the film are based on real people and actual events. With wanna-be gangster brothers Louis Barfardi (Steven Randazzo) and Frank Barfardi (Francesco Messina) breathing down his neck for the rent, Adolpho decides to sell the last thing of value (at least in his mind) that he owns, his screenplay. (In real life, Rockwell sold his saxophone to help get In the Soup financed.) His first offer is not quite what he imagined, involving a pair of cable TV producers played by Jim Jarmusch and Carol Kane. But next he meets Joe (Seymour Cassel), an older, white-haired teddy bear of a man who may or may not be connected. Joe is so excited about making a movie that he can’t stop hugging and kissing — and even getting in bed with — a confused Adolpho, who really has nowhere else to turn. Adolpho wants his next-door neighbor, Angelica (Jennifer Beals, who was married to Rockwell at the time), to star in his film, but she wants nothing to do with him, although he does succeed in making Angelica’s estranged, and plenty strange, husband, Gregoire (Stanley Tucci), mighty jealous. Adolpho is also terrified of Joe’s mysterious, apparently rather dangerous, brother, Skippy (Will Patton). Little by little, the money starts coming in, but Adolpho and Joe start having creative differences about fundraising and moviemaking, leading to a series of even odder situations with more bizarre characters.

In the Soup

Adolpho Rollo (Steve Buscemi) meets a strange bedfellow (Seymour Cassel) in indie cult classic

A kind of cousin to Jarmusch’s 1984 gem, Stranger than Paradise, Rockwell’s third feature (following Hero and Sons) was made on a shoestring budget, shot in color by cinematographer Phil Parmet but then transferred to black-and-white to obtain a stark, drenched look. Veteran character actor and Cassavetes regular Cassel and up-and-coming actor/fireman Buscemi form a great comic duo, Cassel filling Joe with an unquenchable thirst for all life has to offer, Buscemi imbuing Adolpho with a rigid, sheltered view of existence, a young man lost in his own warped reality. “My father died the day I was born. I was raised by Fyodor Dostoevsky and Friedrich Nietzsche,” Adolpho says, as if that’s a good thing. Patton is a riot as the menacing Skippy, while Beals and Tucci have fun with their accents. The fab cast also includes Debi Mazar as Suzie, Elizabeth Bracco as Jackie, Sully Boyar as the old man, Pat Moya as Joe’s companion, Dang, Ruth Maleczech as Adolpho’s mother, Michael J. Anderson as a drug dealer, and Sam Rockwell (no relation to Alexandre) as Angelica’s brother, Pauli. In the Soup is also a great New York City film, with several awesome locations. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, beating out Allison Anders’s Gas Food Lodging and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (Cassel also won for acting), but the distribution company handling the picture went bankrupt shortly after releasing it, resulting in its scarce availability, which was a shame, because it’s an absolute treasure. But now it’s back and looking better than ever. (Coincidentally, Rockwell, Anders, and Tarantino were three of the quartet of directors who made the 1995 omnibus Four Rooms, along with Robert Rodriguez.) Alexandre Rockwell, who went on to make such other films as Somebody to Love, 13 Moons, and Pete Smalls Is Dead (with many of the actors from In the Soup), will take part in a conversation following the Tribeca Film Festival screening, joined by Buscemi, Beals, Sam Rockwell, and Parmet.

REWRITING PAINTING

New monograph on Philip Taaffe kicks off discussion on contemporary painting at the Cooper Union

New monograph on Philip Taaffe kicks off Cooper Union panel discussion on contemporary painting

Who: Lois Dodd, Thomas Nozkowski, Philip Taaffe, Barry Schwabsky, Faye Hirsch, John Yau
What: Panel discussion
Where: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, the Great Hall in the Foundation Building, 7 East Seventh St. between Third & Fourth Aves.
When: Thursday, April 19, free with advance RSVP, 6:30
Why: In conjunction with the publication of the first monograph on Philip Taaffe as part of the Lund Humphries Contemporary Painters series, the Cooper Union is hosting the panel discussion “Rewriting Painting” on April 19 at 6:30, featuring Cooper graduates, artists, and Lund Humphries subjects Lois Dodd, Thomas Nozkowski, and Philip Taaffe along with critics Barry Schwabsky (the editor of the Lund Humphries series), Faye Hirsch (who wrote the book on Dodd), and John Yau (who wrote the book on Taaffe). The free event explores the state and shape of contemporary painting, asking the questions “How far have artists extended the boundaries of the medium in the twenty-first century, and what does it mean to be identified as a painter today?,” “Is the word ‘painting’ still adequate to describe a practice which no longer necessarily involves paint or flat surfaces?,” and “And to what extent do the ways in which we write about painting influence both the public’s reception of the work and contemporary practice itself?” The discussion will be followed by a book signing with all of the participants.

THE ORCHID SHOW: EARTH DAY CELEBRATION

(photo courtesy NYBG)

Earth Ball is part of Earth Day festivities at last weekend of the Orchid Show at New York Botanical Garden (photo courtesy NYBG)

The New York Botanical Garden
Enid A. Haupt Conservatory
2900 Southern Blvd., Bronx
April 20-22, $12 children two to twelve, $28 adults ($38 for Orchid Evenings, adults only, 6:30 - 9:30)
718-817-8700
www.nybg.org

The New York Botanical Garden’s 2018 orchid show, featuring installations by Belgian floral artist Daniel Ost, closes this weekend, but not before a flurry of special events in conjunction with Earth Day. On Friday at 11:00 am, Charles Peters will discuss his new book, Managing the Wild: Stories of People and Plants and Tropical Forests, in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library, and the Discovery Center at the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden will host activities for children from 1:30 to 5:30. Orchid Evenings take place Friday and Saturday night, with specialty cocktails, music by DJ X-RAY, Alice Farley’s Orchid Dancers, and a nighttime viewing of the show. On Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 4:00, there will be a Herbarium Open House in the Steere Herbarium and “The Scientist Is In” booth on Conservatory Plaza. In addition, the fifteen-minute animated film Tree of Life will screen continuously in Ross Hall from 11:00 to 5:00, there will be tours of the conservatory and laboratory and demonstrations of the Hitachi TM4000 PLUS Tabletop Scanning Electron Microscope, and the Earth Ball will be on display on the Conservatory Lawn.

LIVE IDEAS: RADICAL VISION

Public Reading on Democracy

“Public Reading on Democracy” at Live Ideas festival features Tamar-kali, Aisha Tandiwe-Bell, Greg Tate, Liz Abzug, and others reading works by Medgar Evers, Ida B. Wells, Muhammad Ali, Shirley Chisholm, Harvey Milk, Bella Abzug, and more

New York Live Arts
219 West 19th St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
April 18-22, free - $30
212-924-0077
newyorklivearts.org

The annual Live Ideas festival at New York Live Arts has previously explored the legacies of Dr. Oliver Sacks and James Baldwin, examined social, political, artistic, and environmental issues (curated by Laurie Anderson), and looked into a nonbinary future (curated by Mx Justin Vivian Bond). The five-day 2018 festival, “Radical Vision,” asks such questions as “How do we not simply protect democracy but make it stronger?,” “What are new (radical) ways forward — ways that go to the roots of our current democratic crisis?,” “What is your radical vision of Democracy?,” and “What would you give up to make it real?” New York Live Arts will host live performances, panel discussions, special presentations, and participatory events addressing these issues, kicking things off on April 18 with a gala at Irving Plaza honoring Elizabeth A. Sackler and Bryan Stevenson, with performances by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, Samora Abayomi Pinderhughes, Abby Z and the New Utility, and Esperanza Spalding. The festivities then move to New York Live Arts, with three days of free public readings on democracy, the forum “Bending Towards Justice?,” “The Press + the Resistance,” “By the People?,” and “How Do We Prepare for Trump’s Second Term?,” with such creators and thinkers as Xenobia Bailey, Lawrence Lessig, Alicia Hall Moran, Roger Berkowitz, Emily Johnson, Max Kenner, and Erin Markey. Live Ideas 2018 concludes April 22 at 7:30 ($10) with the Democrazy Ball, with DJ JLMR and performances by Daphne Always and the Dauphine of Bushwick. Below are some of the other highlights of “Radical Vision.”

Wednesday, April 18
Contents Under Pressure: Democracy in Crisis, keynote conversation with Sherrilyn Ifill and Professor Lawrence Lessig, moderated by Bill T. Jones and with an opening performance by mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran with artist and puppeteer Matt Acheson, $15-$30, 6:30

Thursday, April 19
Dahlak Brathwaite: Spiritrials, one-man multidimensional play written by and starring Dahlak Brathwaite, with a score by Brathwaite and Dion Decibels, directed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Sean San Jose, $15-$30, 8:00

Friday, April 20
Mike Daisey: The End of Journalism, monologue, $15-$30, 8:00

Saturday, April 21
Zephyr Teachout: Hands-on Politics, workshop with Zephyr Teachout, free with advance RSVP (suggested donation $5-$10), 1:00

Spiritrials

Dahlak Brathwaite will perform Spiritrials at New York Live Arts’ Live Ideas festival

Resistance & Friends, with live performances by vocalist and composer Like a Villain (Holland Andrews), singer Joseph Keckler, choreographer and dancer Marguerite Hemmings, drag queen and performance artist Ragamuffin, poet and performer Saul Williams, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, and choreographer and dancer Keely Garfield (Mandala), hosted by drag king Elizabeth (Macha) Marrero, $15-$25, 8:00

Sunday, April 22
Cynthia Hopkins: Learn a Song of Resistance, free with advance RSVP (suggested donation $10), 11:00 am

The Secret Court, staged reading by Abingdon Theatre Company, written by members of the Plastic Theatre and conceived by Tony Speciale, $12-$15, 12:30

Kenyon Adams: Prayers of the People, a secular liturgical performance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” participatory ritual/performance conceived by Kenyon Adams (little ray), directed by Bill T. Jones, featuring Cynthia Hopkins, Padraic Costello, Vinson Fraley, Rebecca L. Hargrove, Walker Jackson, and Adams, $15-$25, 6:00