Jack Ferver’s Everything Is Imaginable returns this week to New York Live Arts as part of the multidisciplinary American Realness festival. Below is our review of the work’s world premiere in April 2018; don’t miss this second chance to catch this extraordinary piece.
A few weeks before the world premiere of Everything Is Imaginable, New York City treasure Jack Ferver tore his calf while preparing a piece for Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung at the Guggenheim. But leave it to the Wisconsin-born actor, writer, dancer, choreographer, teacher, and director to incorporate the injury into the narrative of the two-act, seventy-minute show. As the audience enters the theater at New York Live Arts, the curtain is down, a rarity at the venue, upping the growing sense of anticipation that accompanies every Ferver work. The curtain soon opens on Jeremy Jacob’s playful set, consisting of four white cardboard columns with drawings of leaves on them, along with a central cardboard chandelier hovering at the top of a screen in the back. It immediately immerses the crowd into the wonders of Ferver’s imagination while exposing the artifice behind staged productions in general. The first act features four queer men in sheer, butt-revealing outfits dancing solos inspired by their childhood memories and one major role model: American Ballet Theater principal James Whiteside, in a short, glittering dress of silver sequins, pays tribute to Judy Garland, dancing to Garland’s version of Cole Porter’s “I Happen to Like New York”; Martha Graham principal dancer Lloyd Knight honors Graham, moving to a recording of the legendary choreographer speaking about dance; dancer and actor Garen Scribner slides across the stage in socks and does spins like his hero, champion skater Brian Boitano, to the sound of ice skates being sharpened and gliding across the ice; and longtime Ferver collaborator Bartelme, a former ballet dancer and current costume designer (as part of Reid and Harriet Design, who made the costumes for the show), wears a long orange mane and dances with horse movements, since his idol is My Little Pony. Each solo combines humor with beautiful movement, taking advantage of each dancer’s strengths while adding the charm and whimsy that are mainstays of Ferver’s choreography. The four star turns are followed by a solo about sunglasses and then an ensemble piece danced to “club music,” including a Martha Graham–esque sexualized orgy that is uproariously funny.
After a ten-minute intermission (with the curtains closed), the second act begins with Ferver (Chambre, Night Light Bright Light) by himself onstage, standing over a miniature version of the set from the first act, evoking Stonehenge from This Is Spinal Tap. In a sheer bodysuit recalling Michelle Pfeiffer’s garb as Catwoman in Batman Returns, the compact Ferver towers over the tiny columns and chandelier, emphasizing his power as a creator while also poking fun at it. Ferver talks about his calf injury, explaining how that limited his ability to dance — his doctor advised him not to move forward, which is not part of his vocabulary, literally or figuratively — and forced him to reimagine the work, and discusses his difficult childhood, friendless and bullied for his overt homosexuality; growing up gay is a regular theme in his oeuvre. As always, his stage persona is that of a devilish cherub, wild and wacky one moment, making the audience roll around their seats with laughter, and then deadly serious the next, raising disturbing elements from his life that may or may not be true, causing everyone to reconsider their reactions. He’s joined by Bartelme, who looks lovely in a fringe dress, and the two dance together to heartbreaking effect while Ferver, soldiering on despite his injury, goes on to describe his process of writing a memoir, which took place alone, terrified, in a strange house, in the dark. Ferver is no longer friendless or alone, as evidenced not only by the crowd response to the supremely personal show but by the long line of well-wishers who waited to hug and congratulate him for giving them yet another unique, meaningful, and vastly entertaining experience, shining a light on his life, and ours, as only he can.
ORIGIN’S 1st IRISH THEATRE FESTIVAL
The Origins 1st Irish Theatre Festival, now in its eleventh year, is dedicated to presenting works by Irish playwrights from around the world, both in and out of competition. This year’s schedule boasts seventeen events from Belfast, Derry, Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Queens, and Manhattan, at such venues as Scandinavia House, the Playroom, the Irish Consulate, the cell, and NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House.
Alone It Stands, written and directed by John Breen, with Chase Guthrie Knueven, Ed Malone, Rob McDermott, David O’Hara, Henry Raber, and Sarah Street, 59E59, January 10-27, $35
On Blueberry Hill, by Sebastian Barry, directed by Jim Culleton, with Niall Buggy and David Ganly, 59E59, January 8 – February 3, $35
The Smuggler, by Ronan Noone, directed by David Sullivan, with Mick Mellamphy, the cell, January 14-21, $30
The Morning After the Night Before, by Ann Blake, directed by Paul Mead, with Ann Blake and Lucia Smyth, the cell, January 20-27, $30
Irish Women Lighting Up Broadway, with Geraldine Hughes, Fionnula Flanagan, and Dearbhla Molloy, moderated by Patrich Pacheco, American Irish Historical Society, $10 with RSVP, 1:00
333 East 47th St. at First Ave.
Friday, January 4, and Saturday, January 5, $30, 7:30
The annual Contemporary Dance Festival: Japan + East Asia, previously known as the Contemporary Dance Showcase, takes place at Japan Society January 4-5 with works from three countries. From Japan, butoh legend Akira Kasai’s Pollen Revolution, which marked Kasai’s New York debut at Japan Society in 2002, has been reimagined for his son, Mitsutake Kasai, who will perform the solo, which incorporates several costume changes involving gender shifts. Taiwan also honors family with the North American premiere of Kuan-Hsiang Liu’s award-winning Kids, a tribute to his mother that includes recorded excerpts of her voice as she battled cancer (and will be performed by Liu, Yu-Yuan Huang, and Wan-Lun Yu). And from Korea, Goblin Party presents the North American premiere of Silver Knife, a work, inspired by the traditional eunjangdo, for four women that explores female identity and expectations, directed and choreographed by Jinho Lim and Kyungmin Ji and featuring Lim, Lee, Hyun Min Ahn, and Yeonju Lee. Opening night will be followed by a meet-the-artists reception.
A SHOWCASE OF UNTAMED VOICES
80 North Sixth St.
National Sawdust’s annual Ferus Fest: A Showcase of Untamed Voices takes place January 4-8 at the Williamsburg venue, presenting unique voices transcending traditional genres. The 2019 edition consists of Jojo Abot’s Power to the God Within, an immersive experience about the divinity of blackness; multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón’s opera Chimera, starring Alexis Michelle, Miz Jade, Desmond Is Amazing, and members of the Knights, preceded by a performance by Kayla Cashetta and maenu; Huang Ruo’s multimedia opera Resonant Theatre: The Sonic Great Wall, which investigates the barrier between performer and audience; Folds, a collaboration between violinist Miranda Cuckson, intermedia artist Katharina Rosenberger, and projection designer John Burnett; and Brooklyn Youth Chorus’s Amplify, performing compositions by National Sawdust cofounder and artistic director Paola Prestini, National Sawdust artist-in-residence Angélica Negrón, National Sawdust curator Daniel Bernard Roumain, David Lang, Olga Bell, and others.
Now in its seventh year, the Prototype festival pushes the bounds of experimental music and opera, presenting world premieres and works-in-progress at multiple venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Below are some of the highlights.
Pancho Villa from a Safe Distance, by composer Graham Reynolds, librettists Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol (Luisa Pardo and Gabino Rodríguez), and directed by Shawn Sides of Rude Mechs, BRIC House, January 5-8, $30-$75
Train with No Midnight, written, composed, and performed by Joseph Keckler, HERE, January 5-8, 10-13, $30-$75
4.48 Psychosis, US premiere, adapted by Philip Venable from the play by Sarah Kane, directed by Ted Huffman, Baruch Performing Arts Center, January 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, $30-$75
Out of Bounds: Partita for 8 Voices, by Caroline Shaw, new vocal work inspired by Sol LeWitt, square dance calls, Inuit hocketing, and American folk hymn “Shining Shore,” Times Square, January 7, free, 4:00 & 7:00
Stinney: An American Execution, by composer-librettist Frances Pollock and co-librettist Tia Price, directed by Emma Weinstein and Jeremy O. Harris, conducted by Alexander Lloyd Blake, Florence Gould Hall, FIAF, January 12-13, $30
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Ave. at 19th St.
January 3-7, $10-$40
The Joyce welcomes in 2019 with American Dance Platform, a five-day program consisting of works by six exciting companies. On January 3 and 7, the bold and always entertaining Stephen Petronio Company will present 2018’s Hardness 10, with music by Nico Muhly and costumes by Patricia Field, and Steve Paxton’s 1986 Excerpt from Goldberg Variations. Also on the double bill is Martha Graham Dance Company, performing Steps in the Street and Prelude to Action from 1936’s antiwar Chronicle and Pontus Lidberg’s 2016 Woodland. On January 4 and 6, Philly’s Ballet X takes the stage with Trey McIntyre’s 2018 The Boogeyman, featuring music by Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and Earth, Wind & Fire, Matthew Neenan’s 2014 Increasing, set to the first movement of Franz Schubert’s Quintet in C Major, and a surprise premiere; the company is sharing the bill with another Philadelphian, Rafael Xavier, making his Joyce debut with Point of Interest. And on January 5 and 6, Ephrat Asherie Dance presents the new Nazareth Suite #1 and 2016’s Riff This, Riff That, the latter a collaboration between Bessie winner Ephrat and her brother, jazz pianist Ehud Asherie, with an all-star lineup, while the inimitable Ronald K. Brown/Evidence teams up with Arturo O’Farrill and Resist for this year’s New Conversations: Iron Meets Water, inspired by the huntress spirit Oxossi; Evidence will also perform Upside Down, an excerpt from 1998’s Destiny.
Abrons Arts Center and other venues
466 Grand St. at Pitt St.
Since 2010, Abrons Arts Center has presented American Realness, a multidisciplinary festival of dance, music, theater, discourse, literature, and more. The 2019 lineup features a stellar lineup of creators, including Marjani Forté-Saunders, Jack Ferver, nora chipaumire, Reggie Wilson, Julian F. May, Miguel Gutierrez, Gillian Walsh, and the Royal Osiris Karaoke Ensemble staging works across four boroughs, at such venues as Performance Space New York, the Chocolate Factory, Danspace Project, La MaMa, and Gibney. Below are only some of the highlights.
Moon Fate Sin, by Gillian Walsh, location and ticketing TBD, January 4-6
100% Pop / Shebeen Remix, by nora chipaumire, Jack, January 4-6 and 10-12, $25
Everything Is Imaginable, by Jack Ferver, New York Live Arts, January 7-12, $15-$25
The Bridge Called My Ass, by Miguel Gutierrez, Chocolate Factory Theater, January 8-19, $20
Folk Incest, by Juliana F. May, Abrons Arts Center, January 9-12, $21