THIRST STREET (Nathan Silver, 2016)
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Opens Wednesday, September 20
After her lover, Paul (Damien Bonnard), hangs himself, Gina (Lindsay Burdge), a rather dim flight attendant, hooks up with Jérôme (Bonnard again), a bartender at a strip club. But what is a one-night stand for Jérôme turns into a dangerous obsession for Gina in Nathan Silver’s Thirst Street, a dark comedy that is neither dark nor funny. The problem is that until a rousing finale, Gina and Jérôme are not sympathetic characters that the audience will care about in the slightest. It doesn’t appear that it’s the suicide that drives Gina nuts; she’s already a dull, uninteresting person before that, and Jérôme is not exactly someone you can get behind either. Silver has said that Gina was inspired by Don Quixote, but she’s more of a disappointing combination of the protagonists from Aki Kaurismäki’s Match Factory Girl, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie, and Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction as seen through the lens of Brian De Palma and Wes Anderson (especially when it comes to Anjelica Huston’s narration). Burdge (The Midnight Swim, A Teacher) turns in a brave performance, and Esther Garrel is terrific as punk rocker Clémence, Jérôme’s former flame, but the rest of the cast fails to ignite, despite boasting such actors as Jacques Nolot as nightclub owner Franz and Françoise Lebrun as Gina’s landlady. (Silver also once again casts his mother, Cindy, this time as one of Gina’s fellow flight attendants; let’s just say she doesn’t do him any favors with her acting ability.) Silver (Uncertain Terms, Stinking Heaven) never quite grasps what the film should be, resulting in a confusing mess of multiple genres that merely brushes the surface of his tongue-in-cheek (or is it?) narrative. Thirst Street opens September 20 at the Quad, with Silver and Burdge participating in Q&As following the 6:55 screenings on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday night.
Who: Ethan Nichtern, Dani Shapiro
What: Book release party for The Dharma of the Princess Bride: What the Coolest Fairy Tale of Our Time Can Teach us about Buddhism and Relationships (North Point Press, September 12, $25), featuring a talk and book signing
Where: Deepak HomeBase, mezzanine, ABC Carpet & Home, 888 Broadway at Seventeenth St.
When: Tuesday, September 19, $30 (includes copy of book), 7:00
Why: “Hello. My name is Ethan Nichtern. The Six-Fingered Man was my father’s best friend. Prepare to read.” So begins author and Buddhist teacher Ethan Nichtern’s fourth book, a unique exploration of one of the most beloved films of the 1980s, Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride. Based on William Goldman’s novel, the cult classic begins with a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading his grandson (Fred Savage) the best bedtime story ever. The romance fantasy adventure stars Cary Elwes as Westley, Robin Wright as Buttercup, Chris Sarandon as Prince Humperdinck, Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, Christopher Guest (a close friend of Nichtern’s father since childhood) as Count Rugen, Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, and André the Giant as Fezzik, along with appearances by Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, and Peter Cook. Although the film is not a Buddhist parable, Nichtern, a husband and new father whose previous books, including The Road Home and One City, combine serious philosophy with humor and pop-culture references, examines the Buddhist nature of life, especially his own, through the lens of his favorite film. In the book’s introduction, “Fairy Tales, the Real World, and True Love,” Nichtern writes, “As for the movie’s relation to Buddhism — it may be correlation rather than causation, but here’s the truth: almost everything I know about relationships, I learned over the past thirty years of doing two things that seem to have very little to do with each other — loving The Princess Bride and practicing Buddhism.” Among the chapters in the hardcover are “Find Your Inner Fezzik: The Practice of Friendship,” “Fred Savage Is a Jerk, and I Am Fred Savage: Gratitude for Your Lineage,” and “Have Fun Storming the Castle.” Nichtern will be at ABC Carpet & Home on September 19 to launch the book, in conversation with writer Dani Shapiro (Family History, Devotion) and signing copies of The Dharma of The Princess Bride.
Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Through October 9
Washington-born multimedia artist Terry Adkins died in 2014 in Brooklyn at the age of sixty. MoMA is paying tribute to his legacy with the small but intimate exhibition “Projects 107: Lone Wolf Recital Corps,” consisting of film, sculpture, instrumentation, paraphernalia, and live performances. Adkins founded the Lone Wolf Recital Corps collective in Zurich in 1986, collaborating with a wide range of artists in numerous disciplines while honoring such figures as Matthew Henson, Bessie Smith, John Coltrane, George Washington Carver, Zora Neale Hurston, and John Brown. The exhibit, which continues through October 9, features such works as “Methane Sea,” constructed of rope, steel, wood, and tape and evoking something that could be found aboard a slave ship; “Omohundro,” an unusual brass and copper instrument; “Upperville,” concrete in which African porcupine quills emerge; a banner that reads “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday,” a replica of the flag the NAACP used to hang out their window on Fifth Ave. after such tragedies; “Amulet,” an almost noose/whip-like black wall hanging made of rubber, rope, electrical wire, tape, and steel; four eighteen-feet-long akrhaphones (the “rha” in the middle of the name is an homage to Adkins’s father); “Sus Scrofa (Linnaeus),” a contrabass covered by a boar hide and skull; and a trio of performance videos, The Last Trumpet from Performa 13 in November 2013; Facets: A Recital Compilation from Skidmore College the previous year; and, also from 2012, Atum (Honey from a Flower Named Blue), in which Clifford Owens puts on the wolf skin that is on view under the abovementioned banner. There is also background on Adkins alter ego and Lone Wolf mystery member Blanche Bruce, named after the first elected African American politician and only former slave to serve a full term in the Senate. “My quest has been to find a way to make music as physical as sculpture might be, and sculpture as ethereal as music is,” Adkins said in a 2006 interview with Dana Roc. In conjunction with the exhibition, there will be a series of live performances, held in the gallery space, the downstairs theater, and the education center next door; advance tickets are recommended.
Monday, September 18
An Evening with Kamau Amu Patton, featuring restaging of Patton’s Amun (The Unseen Legends) with live electroacoustic improvisation to Patton’s Theory of Colors, screening of Patton’s 2008 performance Proliferation of Concept / Accident Tolerant, and discussion with Patton and Akili Tommasino, Roy and Niuta Titus Theater, $12, 7:00
Wednesday, September 20
A Living Space, with Sanford Biggers, Juini Booth, Demetrius Oliver, Clifford Owens, Kamau Amu Patton, and Dread Scott restaging passages from 2013 recital Postlude (Corpus Specere), exhibition space, $12, 7:00
Sunday, September 24
Envy of the World (A Blues for Terry Adkins), with Blanche Bruce on chordophone, Cavassa Nickens and Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass, Kamau Amu Patton on banjo, and recitation by Arthur Flowers, Tyehimba Jess, and Rashid Johnson, exhibition space, $12, 7:00
Tuesday, September 26
A Visionary Recital (after Terry Adkins), with Charles Gaines on percussion, Jason Moran on piano, and Jamaaladeen Tacuma on bass, improvising new composition by Gaines based on scrolling projection of Lone Wolf text translated into music, Roy and Niuta Titus Theater, $12, 7:00
Wednesday, September 27
The Legacy of Terry Adkins and the Lone Wolf Recital Corps, panel discussion with Charles Gaines, Clifford Owens, and Kamau Amu Patton, moderated by Valerie Cassel Oliver and Akili Tomassino, Education and Research Building, Celeste Bartos Theater, $15, 6:00
Saturday, September 30
PopRally Presents: Twilight Brothers, with Sacred Order members Clifford Owens and Kamau Amu Patton and Da’Niro Elle Brown, Zachary Fabri, LaMont Hamilton, and Kambui Olujimi, followed by lobby reception and DJ set by Patton and Brown, exhibition viewing, and open bar, Roy and Niuta Titus Theater, $25, 9:00
STAIRWAY TO STARDOM
145 Sixth Ave. at Dominick St.
September 12-23, $18-$45, 8:30
Before there was Star Search, American Idol, The Voice, and America’s Got Talent there was Stairway to Stardom, a no-budget New York City public access television show in which men, women, and children performed with big dreams in their heads, hoping to make it big. Writer, director, choreographer, performer, and “global paradigm architect” Amanda Szeglowski explores the American dream of reaching for fame and fortune in the vastly entertaining and ridiculously clever multimedia production Stairway to Stardom, which opened at HERE on September 12. The sixty-minute show features Szeglowski and her cakeface company, Ali Castro, Jade Daugherty, Ayesha Jordan, and Nola Sporn Smith, in glittery silver-sequined gowns and high heels singing, dancing, and sharing their successes and failures, their hopes and desires with a dry, wry mechanical delivery deliciously at odds with the spectacular longing for stardom that lies beneath.
The narrative follows the arc of a contemporary U.S. life in the arts, from what creative kids want to be when they grow up and what their parents expect of them to discovering their unique talent and then working odd jobs as they strive for artistic (and maybe even financial) success while also experiencing regrets. The performers are joined by Prism House — Brian Wenner and Matt O’Hare — who provide live video and music mixing, featuring excerpts from the original public access program. Szeglowski, who is also HERE’s marketing director, formed the all-female cakeface in 2008; their previous “linguistic performance art” projects include Don’t Call Me McNeill., Alpha Pups, and Harold, I Hate You. The new show continues through September 23; there will be a talkback following the September 20 performance, and September 15 and 19 are ’80s nights, in which the audience is encouraged to dress with their best retro flair. The show begins at 8:30, but HERE will be projecting clips from the original Stairway to Stardom in the lounge beginning at 7:00 every evening. Shortly after opening night, which kicked off HERE’s twenty-fifth anniversary season, Szeglowski found time to answer some questions about her own career trajectory.
twi-ny: As you were preparing for the opening of Stairway to Stardom, your native Florida — you went to high school in Tampa and college at USF — was being battered by Hurricane Irma. What was that experience like, balancing the two? Are your friends and family safe?
amanda szeglowski: Yes, thank you for asking. My family lives in West Tampa, so we were all watching the storm very closely. It was an incredibly stressful time to be in tech rehearsals all day and night approaching the culmination of a show I’ve been building for three years while this monster of a storm was creeping towards my family. I was checking in on them every chance I got and FaceTiming to see all the prep they were doing to their houses, going over the evacuation plans. . . . Being a part of that process helped me feel like I was with them. But growing up in Florida and having been through many hurricanes actually gave me some comfort as well. We know how to prepare and we take it seriously. That’s not to say that wine isn’t the first thing in the hurricane supply shopping cart — it is. But I felt better knowing this wasn’t my family’s first rodeo; they knew exactly what to do.
twi-ny: Were you ever a fan of such programs as Star Search, American Idol, The Voice, or America’s Got Talent?
as: I loved watching Star Search as a kid. As I got older and the shows got more scripted I lost interest. I think Idol changed the game by making the auditions part of the show, and then it became a gimmick of who could be the most outrageous. But I will occasionally watch clips from these shows when my parents call me and insist that they just saw the greatest thing.
twi-ny: What is it about the public access show that spurred your creative juices? You treat it with respect without getting overly kitschy or mean-spirited.
as: The TV show was so raw — so vulnerable. These weren’t people trying to become a character on a reality show; these were people really trying to make it. I respect that. There wasn’t any competitive aspect to the TV show; they were just performing and hoping to be seen. Sure, when you see clips from the TV show there are moments that you want to laugh, but I spent hours and hours interviewing people about their lives for my script, and a lot of it was pretty damn sad. At least these people were out there trying. I wanted to honor that drive and explore what happens to all of us along the way, because I think that fire is there for almost everyone in the beginning.
twi-ny: What kind of talent does someone have to display to become a member of cakeface? When someone is auditioning for you, are you more like Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Jennifer Lopez, Usher, or Miley Cyrus?
as: HAHAHA. I think I’m a Simon and Paula hybrid. I’m Simon because I have a crystal-clear vision of what I want, and if you don’t fit, I am not going to beat around the bush. I never want to waste anyone’s time. But Paula has a way of finding a spark in people and being respectful of their contributions, and I try to always do that. I’ve received many post-audition emails over the years from people that I didn’t hire saying the experience was really special. I’m proud of that.
twi-ny: Is anyone associated with the public access show still around? Did you have to go through any kind of permissions process to use some of the original footage?
as: The show was public access. But I did get the tapes directly from someone who was given them by the host of the show, Frank Masi, before he died. [Ed. note: Masi passed away in 2013 at the age of eighty-seven; you can watch a YouTube tribute to him and the show here.]
twi-ny: How amazing was it to perform in such great costumes, as well as high heels?
as: The costumes, which are by Oana Botez, are absolutely fantastic. It’s such a blast being able to sparkle head to toe on a downtown stage — very atypical for the scene. The heels are challenging, but anything else with those costumes would be absurd, right? And the performers are all pros, so they make it work. I wanted an over-the-top glamorous look that I could juxtapose with the stark reality of our words. Oana definitely achieved that.
twi-ny: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
as: The opening text, which I call a monologue (even though it’s delivered by five voices), is basically a run-on sentence ticking off all of my childhood dreams. It includes a mermaid, grocery store checkout clerk, princess, trapeze artist, restaurateur, and movie star. Of course, I always wanted to be a dancer, but that’s obvious, and our unfulfilled dreams are so much more interesting.
twi-ny: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
as: I’ve had a slew of them. The story in the show about working in the housewares department at Burdines was my life at age fifteen. I had no idea how to sell kitchen appliances and would literally walk away from customers and kick back in the stock room. That was pretty awful. There’s another story about a boss with revolting coffee breath; that was my first job in NYC. But another horrific experience was telemarketing. In high school I worked at a call center selling satellite broadcasting to elderly people in rural areas. I had to convince them they needed HBO. It was super sleazy, plus I got sexually harassed by my boss. I’d say fifteen was not a banner year for my career trajectory.
twi-ny: What would you like audiences to take away from the show?
as: I’d like them to be reminded of our often-naive notions of success and talent, reflect on the choices they’ve made, and leave with a glimmer of hope.
EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY PEOPLE (Alan Govenar, 2017)
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
Opens Friday, September 15
With the future of such government agencies as the National Endowment for the Arts in jeopardy, documentarian and folklorist Alan Govenar celebrates the NEA’s National Heritage Fellowships in Extraordinary Ordinary People. Since 1982, the fellowships have honored “our nation’s master folk and traditional artists . . . recognizing the ways these individuals demonstrate and reflect our nation’s living cultural heritage and the efforts of these artists to share their knowledge with the next generation.” Govenar speaks with the program’s founder and first director, Bess Lomax Hawes, and former director Dan Sheehy, who explain the importance of nurturing a diverse group of artists who often live and work on the margins. New and archival footage feature more than two dozen figures, from such musicians and singers as Koko Taylor, Clifton Chenier, Wanda Jackson, Narciso Martinez, Sheila Kay Adams, “Flaco” Jiménez, John Lee Hooker, Chum Ngek, “Queen” Ida Guillory, Earl Scruggs, and B. B. King to such artisans as quilter Laverne Brackens, lace maker Sonia Domsch, and ceremonial regalia maker Clarissa Rizal. Govenar (The Beat Hotel, Stoney Knows How) previously documented the story of another of the film’s subjects, dancer and drummer Sidiki Conde, in You Don’t Need Feet to Dance. The film opens September 15 at Cinema Village; the 8:00 shows on Friday and Saturday night will be followed by a Q&A and mini-concert with Govenar, Adams, and Conde.
New York City Center
131 West 55th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Tickets go on sale Sunday, September 10, 11:00 am (get place in line starting at 10:00 am)
Festival runs October 2-14, $15
One of the hottest tickets of the season is always the annual Fall for Dance Festival at City Center, ten days of performances by twenty companies from around the world, each show a mere fifteen bucks. This year’s lineup is stellar once again, with such troupes as Trisha Brown Dance Company, American Ballet Theatre, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Abraham.In.Motion, the San Francisco Ballet, Stephen Petronio Company, and the Pennsylvania Ballet performing works by such choreographers as Christopher Wheeldon, Kyle Abraham, Alexei Ratmansky, Ronald K. Brown, Crystal Pite, Mark Morris, and Michelle Dorrance. Most evenings will be preceded by free dance lessons by members of one of that night’s performing companies, open to all ticket holders (Tango Fire, October 4; Cie Art Move Concept, October 5; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with Ronald K. Brown, October 6; Ballet BC, October 11; Company Wang Ramirez, October 12; Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, October 13). More advanced dancers can sign up for master classes ($15) with Dorrance Dance (tap) on October 3 at 6:00 and with Wendy Whelan (ballet) on October 14 at noon. Tickets go on sale Sunday, September 10, at 11:00 am, but you need to get your place in line at 10:00, so don’t waste any time if you want to see any of the below programs, because these events sell out ridiculously fast.
Monday, October 2, and Tuesday, October 3, 8:00
Miami City Ballet
Vincent Mantsoe, GULA, choreographed by Vincent Sekwati KoKo Mantsoe
Trisha Brown Dance Company, You can see us, choreographed by Trisha Brown
Dorrance Dance, Myelination, world premiere Fall for Dance commission, choreographed by Michelle Dorrance
Wednesday, October 4, and Thursday, October 5, 8:00
Pennsylvania Ballet, Rush©, choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon
Cie Art Move Concept, Nibiru, choreographed by Soria Rem and Mehdi Ouachek
Stephen Petronio Company, Bloodlines: Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton
German Cornejo’s Tango Fire, Tango Fire, choreographed by German Cornejo
Friday, October 6, and Saturday, October 7, 8:00
Sanjukta Sinha, IceCraft Dance Company, Kin-Incede, choreographed by Padma Bhusan Kumudini Lakhia
American Ballet Theatre, Souvenir d’un lieu cher, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Open Door, choreographed by Ronald K. Brown
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Paquita, after Marius Petipa
Wednesday, October 11, and Thursday, October 12, 8:00
Gauthier Dance//Dance Company Theaterhaus Stuttgart, Streams, choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis
Abraham.In.Motion, Drive, world premiere Fall for Dance commission, choreographed by Kyle Abraham
Sara Mearns and Honji Wang, No. 1, world premiere co-commission, choreographed by Honji Wang and Sébastien Ramirez
Ballet BC, Bill, choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar
Friday, October 13, and Saturday, October 14, 8:00
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Solo Echo, choreographed by Crystal Pite
San Francisco Ballet, Concerto Grosso, choreographed by Helgi Tomasson
David Hallberg, Twelve of ’em, world premiere Fall for Dance commission, choreographed by Mark Morris
Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, Matria Etnocentra, choreographed by George Céspedes
In 2015, Minnesota dentist Dr. Walter Palmer shot and killed the beloved Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, setting off international outrage about trophy hunting. Director Shaul Schwarz and codirector Christina Clusiau explore the much-reviled sport, with surprising results, in Trophy. The film, beautifully photographed in South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Namibia by Schwarz and Clusiau, can be extremely difficult to watch, but it is a must-see even though it includes several scenes of brutal animal shootings, including the harrowing killing of an elephant that cries out after it falls to the ground, its family nearby. But what starts out as a horrific look at hunters who pay seemingly ridiculous amounts of money to hunt the Big Five — it can cost upwards of half a million dollars to shoot a buffalo, leopard, elephant, lion, and rhino — quickly turns into a compelling study of conservation, poaching, and sustainability. “I know that a lot of people are confused how hunting and conservation go together,” Safari Club International Foundation president Joe Hosmer says. Despite a serious decline in the number of lions, elephants, and rhinos in the world since 1900 — the film points out that sixty percent of all wild animals have been lost since 1970 — some argue that hunting is necessary and that breeders are helping keep these animals from disappearing from the planet, while others claim just the opposite. “There’s a big industry in our country, not just the crocodiles — the lions, the sable, the buffalo. Everything has been bred for a purpose,” says Christo Gomes, hunting outfitter for Mabula Pro Safaris. “So, yeah, sure, some of them will be hunted. We as humans are going to eat it, we are going to use the skins; that’s the cycle of life.” Born Free USA CEO Adam Roberts explains, “You can just pick whatever animal you want from the menu that they offer you, see the price, and book the kill.” Ecologist and author Craig Packer sees both sides of the issue but can’t escape the basic idea that “canned hunting [is] not sport; it’s just killing.” South African Predator Association president Pieter Potgieter complains, “If we can’t get hunters to hunt our lions, we slaughter the lions and sell their bones.” Somewhere in the middle is South African wildlife officer Chris Moore, whose job is to find a balance between canned hunting, poaching, and animals that can destroy local families’ livelihoods. “Every single morning I look in the mirror because we’ve got to make sure that we don’t cross the bounds . . . that we can’t lose our humanity for humanity,” he says, acknowledging that some hunting is absolutely necessary to help both the animal population and the people, who are desperately poor, but adding, “We have to keep this fight going.”
One of the central figures in the film is Buffalo Dream Ranch owner John Hume, the world’s largest rhino breeder, who has been selling off his vast assets to maintain the species. Every two years, Hume shaves off his rhinos’ horns so poachers won’t kill the animals in order to get the valuable objects; he firmly believes that the legalization of the rhino horn trade is essential to the survival of the animals. “The odds are stacked against them, and I’m always for the underdog. But more to the point, I got to know them, and they are the last animal in the world that deserves the persecution,” he says. “They don’t deserve it. They are the nicest, most user friendly animal that wants to stay this side of extinction.” Schwarz and Clusiau also follow Texas sheep breeder Philip Glass, a Bible thumper who comes from a hunting family and is seeking to score the Big Five. In describing a kill, Glass says, “And then you pull the trigger, and boom! You got him. And then all of that anticipation changes into a different emotion, of joy, and relief, and excitement, and anticipation, because you want to go over to him and see, what does he look like. What does he feel like. Where did he fall.” But it’s hard to feel much sympathy for the hunters as they clean up their kill, cover up the blood, and then pose for photographs over their trophy. As professional hunter Gysbert van der Westhuyzen, who leads trips in Namibia, says, “You have to work for your trophy. We believe here that if you want to hunt, it’s all in the foot, it’s walk and stalk. It’s also giving the animal a chance.” But he then tears up and heads off camera when asked if he ever gets attached to any of the animals he ultimately releases to be hunted. “There [are] animals you can’t let go of. You know, you will be playing with them and they become like a friend.” The film also includes a breeding auction, a look inside the Safari Club Convention in Las Vegas, a heated court case, and an intense debate over conservation between Hume and Born Free Foundation CEO Will Travers. But then you watch a hunter shoot a crocodile and yell, “It’s party time!” and it’s hard to think of anything other than what’s right in front of you. Schwarz (Narco Cultura) and Clusiau, who previously collaborated on A Year in Space and Aida’s Secrets, have done an outstanding job examining all sides of a surprisingly complex issue, which is about a lot more than just a dentist shooting a gorgeous beast and proudly posing with his victory. Trophy opens September 8 at the Quad with a series of Q&As with Schwarz and Clusiau on September 8 at 6:50 joined by producer Chris Moore and editor Jay Sternberg, September 9 at 6:50 with Time magazine photo editor Kira Pollack, and September 10 at 4:20 and then 6:50 with New York Times international photo editor David Furst.