Who: David Zayas, David Denman, Andrea Patterson, Frankie Faison, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Dorina Castillo, Bryan Doerries, more
What: Dramatic reading of Aeschylus’s The Suppliants and community discussion on human trafficking, immigration, and the current refugee crisis
Where: Theater of War Zoom
When: Wednesday, April 14, free with RSVP, 7:30
Why: Theater of War Productions continues its exploration of contemporary times as seen through the lens of Greek tragedy and other classic(al) works with The Suppliants Project, a livestreamed all-star reading and community discussion taking place over Zoom on April 14 at 7:30. Previous virtual events have related Sophocles’s Antigone to the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014, Shakespeare’s King Lear to caregiving and death during the coronavirus crisis, MLK’s “The Drum Major Instinct” to racism and social justice, the Book of Job to natural disasters, and Sophocles’s Oedipus Rex to the pandemic itself. Translated, directed, and facilitated by artistic director Bryan Doerries, the Suppliants Project features David Zayas, David Denman, Andrea Patterson, Frankie Faison, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Dorina Castillo reading Aeschylus’s The Suppliants, about fifty female refugees, the daughters of Danaus known as the Danaids, who are seeking asylum from forced marriage and domestic violence. They are joined by a chorus of Garifuna singers and musicians from Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala. The reading will be followed by a live, interactive discussion about the current battle over immigration and the refugee situation, copresented by Illuminations: The Chancellor’s Arts and Culture Initiative at the University of California, Irvine, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago. Admission is free with advance RSVP.
Who: George Saunders, Keith Gessen
What: Livestreamed conversation
Where: National Arts Club Zoom
When: Wednesday, April 13, free with RSVP, 7:00
Why: In his latest publication, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life (Penguin Random House, January 2021, $28), Man Booker Prize winner and Syracuse professor George Saunders writes, “Why do we keep reading a story? Because we want to. Why do we want to? That’s the million-dollar question: What makes a reader keep reading? Are there laws of fiction, as there are laws of physics? Do some things just work better than others? What forges the bond between reader and writer and what breaks it? Well, how would we know? One way would be to track our mind as it moves from line to line. A story (any story, every story) makes its meaning at speed, a small structural pulse at a time. We read a bit of text and a set of expectations arises.”
Expectations always arise when new material is published by Saunders, a former geophysical prospector, roofer, doorman, and technical writer born in Amarillo, Texas, and raised in Oak Forest, Illinois. Books such as Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December are among the best of the century. On April 13 at 7:00, Saunders will speak with editor, translator, author, and n+1 founding editor Keith Gessen (All the Sad Young Literary Men, A Terrible Country) in a live conversation hosted by the National Arts Club, focusing on A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, which was inspired by the MFA class Saunders has been teaching at Syracuse for twenty years on the Russian short story; the book is structured around works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol as Saunders ponders reading and writing. “Now your mind is not so blank. How has the state of your mind changed?” he asks. “If we were sitting together in a classroom, which I wish we were, you could tell me. Instead, I’ll ask you to sit quietly a bit and compare those two states of mind: the blank, receptive state your mind was in before you started to read and the one it’s in now.” Admission to the talk is free with advance RSVP.
Who: Martha Graham Dance Company
What: Special “Martha Matinee”
Where: Graham Patreon
When: Saturday, April 10, $10, 2:30
Why: The Martha Graham Dance Company is getting ready for GrahamFest 95, a virtual celebration of the troupe’s ninety-fifth anniversary, scheduled for April 30 to May 2, with a special edition of its popular “Martha Matinee” program. On April 10 at 2:30, MGDC will present rare footage of Graham coaching young members of the company in her classic 1930 solo piece, Lamentation, set to Zoltán Kodály’s Piano Piece Op. 3, No. 2; archival photographs from Graham’s childhood and early years in dance; and a recent performance of Prelude to Action, from the 1936 antiwar work Chronicle. The event will also include a live Q&A moderated by Martha Graham Resources director Oliver Tobin. In addition to “Martha Matinee,” the company has kept busy during the pandemic creating the thrilling virtual production Immediate Tragedy, the beachside Opus One, and an online reimagining of the 1944 favorite Appalachian Spring in addition to streaming interviews, workshops, classes, and more, most of which is available for free here.
Who: Rebecca Haley Clark, Cody Holliday Haefner, Cree Noble, Gilda Mercado, Helen Hy-Yuen Swanson, Katherine Tanner Silverman, Rylan Gleave, Sanjay Lago, Simone Seales, Stephanie Mareen, Vic Rodriguez
What: Virtual time capsule of 2020
Where: Those Women Productions Zoom
When: April 9-11, 16-17, suggested donation $15 ($1 minimum)
Why: The year “2020 saw a global pandemic, over sixty countries protesting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, widespread economic crises of historical magnitude, wildfires sweeping much of the world, and social and political unrest everywhere,” theater artist Rebecca Haley Clark says about her latest project, Hindsight 2020, which she conceived and directs. “There were births, deaths, Zoom weddings, virtual graduations, glorious concerts held from tiny balconies, and sporting events played out to stadiums full of cardboard cutouts. As artists we wanted to provide a space for contemplation and healing found through the stories that we tell one another about this past year.”
Clark has teamed up with Berkeley-based Those Women Productions and a diverse group of international artists from different disciplines to look back at the year that was in unique and unexpected ways. Clark and assistant director Cree Noble, Cody Holliday Haefner, Gilda Mercado, Helen Swanson, Katherine Tanner Silverman, Sanjay Lago, Simone Seales, Stephanie Mareen, Rylan Gleave, and Vic Rodriguez will go live April 9 (7:30), 10 (noon & 6:00), 11 (11:00 am & 5:00 pm), 16 (7:30), and 17 (7:30), exploring the question “What parts of 2020 will you leave behind or bring with you?” Tickets for each presentation are a suggested donation of $15, with a $1 minimum; twenty-five percent of the proceeds go to the nonprofit organizations Equal Justice Initiative, Acting for Others, the Solutions Project, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and Stand with Farmers. You can also donate at Hindsight 2020’s Go Fund Me page.
The Javaad Alipoor Company’s Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran is a virtual production of, by, and for its time like no other. Previously presented at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival in January, the immersive online experience, now livestreaming from DC’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company through April 18, takes on capitalism, consumerism, climate change, government corruption, income inequality, colonialism, the collapse of civilization, geopolitics, and just about everything else under the sun as it relates to the past and future of the Anthropocene Epoch, all stemming from a fatal car accident in Iran in 2015.
On May 1 of that year, the New York Times reported that twenty-year-old Parivash Akbarzadeh and twenty-one-year-old Mohammad Hossein Rabbani-Shirazi were killed when his brand-new yellow Porsche, which she was driving, crashed after reaching speeds of more than 120 miles per hour. The focus of the story, however, went beyond the tragedy and instead zeroed in on the public reaction in the aftermath, particularly how people took to social media to lambast Parivash and Hossein, the latter described by the Times as “the nouveau riche grandson of an ayatollah,” for their carefree, luxurious lifestyle, which they and those like them show off on Instagram, flaunting the country’s rigid Islamic laws.
The follow-up to 2017’s multimedia The Believers Are But Brothers, about the birth of Islamic radicalization over the internet and WhatsApp, Rich Kids was previously staged at the Edinburgh Festival and various venues in England but has been reimagined for online viewing. Written by Alipoor, created by Alipoor and Kirsty Housley, and performed by Alipoor and Peyvand Sadeghian, the seventy-minute show goes backward in time from the crash itself to the specific events leading up to it as well as to the decades and centuries before that impacted the development of current Iranian culture, including the role of American politics and capitalism. The narrative toggles between Instagram Live, where text and photos tell the story of Parivash and Hossein with hashtags to such other pages as #richkidsoftehran and #mallwave and the internet, where Alipoor and Sadeghian go on a deep dive into the anthropological annals of the world using animation, archival footage, European and traditional Safavid painting, and video of a burning planet bathed in dripping red. “History isn’t linear,” they point out. “No past. No future. There’s no reason why time as we feel it should be a physical thing.”
In its nine-part manifesto, the Javaad Alipoor Company declares, “Every work we make should say something directly about politics,” “Every project needs to speak to history, and find something new about how we got here,” and “Things have to be fun,” among other statements of purpose. Rich Kids accomplishes that and more, although it can at times be bumpy as you switch screens and technological elements overlap. Along the way it makes hard-hitting observations about who and where we are in the twenty-first century, not just Iranians or the wealthy children of the elite filled with contempt but every one of us. “We’re not the first people to feel like our world is ending,” they explain. “We spend a lot of time thinking about how the world will end, but we almost never think to ask those whose worlds have already ended.” They also make note of how “we now upload more pictures to Instagram every day than existed in total a hundred years ago.”
The play is perhaps best summed up by an image of a huge fireball exploding as Alipoor and Sadeghian wonder “why we find it easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of humanity.” To keep the investigation going, performances on Friday will be followed by community conversations with such facilitators as Héctor Flores Komatsu, Adam A. Elsayigh, and Trà Nguyễn, while Sunday shows will conclude with talkbacks featuring Alipoor and journalists and cartoonists, moderated by Cynthia Schneider.