Who: Black theater creators
What: Short plays with talkbacks
Where: BOLD 2020 (link sent after registration and prior to event)
When: August 14, 21, 28, free with RSVP, 6:00
Why: With Kamala Harris being selected as Joe Biden’s running mate, the prominence of Black women in America takes another giant leap forward. Expect that to be part of the discussion when BOLD, an organization that “seeks to create a culture in which Black womxn are one another’s allies,” presents “BOLD 2020,” a virtual edition of its ten-minute play festival, consisting of six new works written and directed by Black women and streamed for free over three successive Friday nights. “Black womxn will change the world! The restoration of our culture is dependent on the amplification of the Black womxn’s voices,” BOLD cofounder Destinee Rea said in a statement. “In this year alone we have seen the ways Black womxn are using their voices to inspire, empower, and shift culture. We are in desperate need of their stories being contributed creatively, grafted into the American canon.”
August 14 will feature Brittani Samuels’s In My Arms, or Under My Foot (with Anastacia McCleskey, Tiffany Denise Hobbs, J. Alphonse Nicholson, and Trevor Hayes) and Agyeiwaa Asante’s Dainty (with Amber Iman, Zurin Villanueva, Capathia Jenkins, and Candice Marie Woods), directed by Kristolyn Lloyd; on August 21, Chanel Carroll’s Choices and Lakhiyia Hicks’s Sermon I Wish I’d Heard will be directed by Bianca LaVerne Jones; and the festival concludes August 28 with Kristen Adele Calhoun’s The Oldest Town in Texas and Jazmine Stewart’s Queen Nanny, directed by Jones and Tavia Riveé Jefferson. Each night, the two plays will be followed by a live discussion with the creators and others.
Who: Blythe Danner, Susie Essman, Tamara Tunie, Catherine Curtin, Joy Behar, Laura Gomez, Ellen Dolan, Florencia Lozano, Welker White, Portia, Kathryn Grody, Nehassaiu DeGannes, Dahlia Lithwick, Amy Spitalnick, Roberta Kaplan, Kerry Kennedy, more
What: An Arts and Advocacy Forum in Two Parts
Where: Zoom link sent with ticket purchase
When: Friday, August 14, 7:00, and Thursday, September 3, 5:00, $25-$120
Why: In June 2019, the nonprofit organization the Neo-Political Cowgirls presented “Andromeda’s Sisters,” what they called a “Two Day Gala of Powerful Arts and Advocacy” at Guild Hall. The event featured workshops and one-act readings by an all-star lineup of actresses performing monologues by female-identifying playwrights. The cast is now reuniting for a virtual restaging and expansion, beginning August 14 at 7:30, with Blythe Danner as accused Salem witch Goody Garlick in a work written for her by Lucy Boyle; Catherine Curtin as a wife who discovers her husband is cheating on her in a monologue written for her by Joy Behar; Florencia Lozano as the other woman in Dipti Bramhandkar’s The Funeral; Laura Gomez as a woman who visits a sex shop in Bramhandkar’s Brown Girl’s Guide to Self-Pleasure; Welker White as the title character in Lynn Grossman’s BITCH; Ellen Dolan as a mother and a grandmother in Sarah Bierstock’s MAD (Mothers and Daughters); Tanya Everett’s One Thousand Miles, about a relationship webinar; Portia reading the late poet June Jordan’s “A Poem About My Rights”; a movement piece by Mia Funk; and two extracts from choreographer Vanessa Walters’s ongoing “Ripening” project.
Founded in 2007 by Kate Mueth, the Neo-Political Cowgirls “are committed to making work for women and about women — to creating a space where women and girls from all walks of life can share their experiences, joys, concerns, and spirits through professional dance.” The gala gets its name from the legend in which Princess Andromeda, captured by Poseidon, is saved by the daughters of the God of the Sea, leading to the idea that sisters should seek to help one another in these difficult times. As the NPC website asserts, “When we ‘swim’ to help our sisters, even if it may go against our own best interests in the moment, it's astounding what can happen for all of those involved.” The second part takes place on September 3 and focuses on advocacy, with journalist Dahlia Lithwick interviewing Amy Spitalnick of Integrity First for America and litigator Roberta Kaplan about their upcoming court case against neo-Nazis; a cocktail hour; Kerry Kennedy giving the keynote address about fighting femicide; and Gomez, Curtin, and Lozano reading from Kennedy’s 2000 book, Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World. Tickets are $25 ($50 with donation) for the monologues and readings at both parts and $120 for those in addition to the cocktail hour and access to breakaway rooms with some of the invited guests.
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: Eden Theater Company
What: Short Zoom plays about isolation
Where: Zoom room and Facebook Live
When: Thursday, August 6, free with RSVP, 8:00
Why: With so many of us still sheltering in place, sometimes the only trips we make each day are from the bedroom to the living room to the bathroom (unless you’re in a studio apartment). New City-based Eden Theater Company is capturing that journey in its three-part The Room Plays. In June, The Bedroom Plays explored our psyche while in the bedroom; in July, The Living Room Plays looked at life in a more public part of the house. The trilogy, each of which consists of three short works, concludes August 6 in that most private of spaces with The Bathroom Plays. A lot has changed since The Bedroom Plays, and, unfortunately, too much has stayed the same; in The Bathroom Plays, Eden will delve into such issues as social justice, racial equality, facing death, and our continuing isolation with Amy Berryman’s PIDGEONs, directed by Amber Calderon and starring LeeAnn Hutchison and Robert Gemaehlich; E. E. Adams’s Mary, directed by Jordan Gemaehlich, with Amberlin McCormick; and Brennan Vickery’s Monogamous Animals, directed by Alex Pepperman, with Eden creative artistic director Cassandra Paras and Niccolo Walsh. It’s been a hit-or-miss affair so far, with the first iteration more successful than the second, but we’re ready to digest what Eden has for us on Thursday night’s in-stall-ment.
Who: Theater Breaking Through Barriers
What: Second Virtual Playmakers Intensive
Where: TBTB YouTube, Facebook
When: August 3-10, free, 7:30 on YouTube, 8:15 on Facebook
Why: Now in its forty-first season, New York City-based Theater Breaking Through Barriers “is dedicated to advancing artists and developing audiences of people with disabilities and altering the misperceptions surrounding disability by proving, once and for all, that disability does not affect the quality or integrity of our art or artists.” Because of the pandemic lockdown, it is going online with its Second Virtual Playmakers Intensive, titled “Voices from the Great Experiment,” consisting of new plays created on and for Zoom. From August 3 to 10, the troupe will present eight works exploring the American condition, one each night, streaming for free at 7:30 on YouTube and 8:15 on Facebook, consisting of Fareeda Ahmed’s The Olympians, directed by Kristin Heckler and starring Shravan Amin, Samantha Debicki, and Paul Pryce; Khalil LeSaldo’s Sing, directed by Ward Nixon, with Martin Lewis and AhDream Smith; Enrique Huili’s 3 Stops from Loop Tape Station, directed by Ashley Scott, with Juan Carlos Diaz and Melissa Jennifer Gonzalez; Christopher Chan Roberson’s M-O-U-S-E, directed by Kimille Howard, with Scott Barton, Nayab Hussein, Ayako Ibaraki, and Sean Phillips; Chris Phillips’s Cloudbusting, directed by Stuart Green, with Jen Bradley, Richard Lear, and Dan Teachout; Jeff Tabnick’s What If You Read My Plays, directed by Richard M. Rose, with Alyssa M. Chase and David Harrell; Tatiana G. Rivera’s (UNTITLED), directed by Everett Quinton, with Veronica Cruz, Christopher Imbrosiano, Patrick O’Hare, and Estrella Tamez-Penney; and Monet Marshall’s 3 Gods on a Zoom, directed by Keyanna Alexander, with Kalilah Black, Robin Carmon Marshall, and AhDream Smith. “Disability intersects with all populations in our world: every age, race, gender, and sexual orientation. TBTB strives to create a common ground for all voices and serves as an ambassador in the quest for full, systemic equality in our world,” artistic director Nicholas Viselli said in a statement.
Who: Bryan Batt, Samantha Beaulieu, Troi Bechet, Curtis Billings, Betty Buckley, Leslie Castay, Michael Cerveris, Patricia Clarkson, Patrick Cragin, Brenda Currin, Lisa D’Amour, Arsène DeLay, Gwendolyne Foxworth, Alison Fraser, Lawrence Henry Gobble, John Goodman, Rodney Hicks, Kenneth Holditch, Corey Johnson, Idella Johnson, Peggy Scott Laborde, Donald Lewis, Ti Martin, Elizabeth McCoy, Jessica Mixon, Whitney Mixon, Wendell Pierce, Francine Segal, Janet Shea, Harry Shearer, Carol Sutton, Beverly Trask, Kathleen Turner, Cassie Worley, Jake Wynne-Wilson
What: Virtual literary celebration of Tennessee Williams and New Orleans
Where: Festival home page
When: Friday, July 31, free (donations accepted), 8:00
Why: The thirty-fourth annual Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival was scheduled to take place March 25-29, with nearly 150 guests honoring the playwright and his adopted hometown, featuring a circus, a writing marathon, craft sessions, live performances, panel discussions, readings, and more. But with the pandemic lockdown, the event has gone virtual; it has been transformed into a one-night online party, “The Kindness of Strangers,” with a prestigious lineup sharing stories about Williams and the festival and performing excerpts from his writings. Though born in Columbus, Missouri, on March 26, 1911, as Thomas Lanier Williams III, and passing away in New York City on February 25, 1983, Williams became closely associated with his adopted hometown of New Orleans during his half-century career, setting many of his plays there, including A Streetcar Named Desire, Suddenly Last Summer, and Vieux Carré. In a statement, TWFest executive director Paul J. Willis called the tribute a “love letter to the festival, to Tennessee Williams, and to all that he loved about New Orleans. It is a testament to the artistic and enduring spirit of this city and our namesake playwright.” Among the participants are Betty Buckley, Michael Cerveris, Patricia Clarkson, Brenda Currin, Alison Fraser, John Goodman, Corey Johnson, Wendell Pierce, Francine Segal, Harry Shearer, and Kathleen Turner. The show goes live July 31 at 8:00 and will be available for viewing through August 14.