Who: Ronny Chieng, Nancy Yao Maasbach
What: “Mission Possible” conversation with comedian Ronny Chieng and MOCA president Nancy Yao Maasbach
Where: Museum of Chinese in America, 215 Centre St., 855-955-MOCA
When: Wednesday, January 17, $30 (includes museum admission and one drink), 6:00
Why: The Daily Show correspondent Ronny Chieng was born in Malaysia, raised in New Hampshire and Singapore, graduated from the University of Melbourne in Australia, and now is based in New York City. On Trevor Noah’s show, in his stand-up routines, and on his own series, Ronny Chieng: International Student, Chieng takes on stereotypes with straight-ahead humor and a touch of silliness, but always with a serious point. On January 17, the Chinese comedian will be at the Museum of Chinese in America to sit down with MOCA president Nancy Yao Maasbach to talk about comedy, his childhood, and Asian Americans in the arts. There will be an open mic with special guests at 6:00, followed by the discussion at 8:00. Tickets are $30 and include museum admission (and one drink), so get there early to check out the exhibitions “With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America” and “FOLD: Golden Venture Paper Sculptures.” The program is part of MOCAFest 2018, a wide-ranging series of events welcoming in the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Dog. “Mission Possible” continues January 24 with Gish Jen and January 31 with Betty Wong Ortiz.
January 14 - March 24
America came of age in the 1960s, from the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X to Vietnam and the Summer of Love. Carnegie Hall is paying tribute to the turbulent decade with the two-month series “The ’60s: The Years that Changed America,” inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Robert A. Caro. The native New Yorker, who turned eighty-two this past October, is the author of such books as The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York and the four-part The Years of Lyndon Johnson, with a fifth tome on the way. “Luther King gave people ‘the feeling that they could be bigger and stronger and more courageous than they thought they could be,’ Bayard Rustin said — in part because of the powerful new weapon, non-violent resistance, that had been forged on the Montgomery battlefield,’” Caro wrote in Master of the Senate, a quote obviously apt for MLK Day. Running January 14 through March 24 all across the city, the festival features concerts, panel discussions, film screenings, dance, art exhibitions, and more. Below are only some of the many highlights; keep watching this space for more additions.
Sunday, January 14
Saturday, March 24
“Max’s Kansas City,” photos and writings, Mark Borghi Gallery, free
Friday, January 19
“You Say You Want a Revolution: Remembering the Sixties,” Library After Hours opening night program with experimental films, album-cover workshop, games and puzzles, curator tour led by Isaac Gewirtz, dance party with Felix Hernandez, and more, exhibit continues through September 1, the New York Public Library, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, free, 7:00
Kronos Quartet, works by Stacy Garrop (world premiere inspired by “I Have a Dream” speech), Zachary J. Watkins (world premiere inspired by Studs Terkel), Terry Riley, John Cage, and Janis Joplin, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, $62-$72, 9:00
Tuesday, January 23
Friday, May 18
“The Global Interconnections of 1968,” Kempner Exhibition Gallery, Butler Library (sixth floor), Columbia University, free
Thursday, January 25
Snarky Puppy with David Crosby and Friends, including Chris Thile and Laura Mvula, Stern/Perelman at Carnegie Hall, $26-$100, 8:00
Friday, January 26
Bernard and Irene Schwartz Classic Film Series: Coming Home (Hal Ashby, 1978), Justice in Film presentation introduced by Susan Lacy, New-York Historical Society, free with pay-what-you-wish museum admission, 7:00
Tuesday, February 6
Sunday, February 11
March, duet from Lessons inspired by civil rights movement, part of winter season program by Ronald K. Brown / Evidence, a Dance Company, the Joyce Theater, $26-$46
Friday, February 16
“Philip Glass Ensemble: Music with Changing Parts,” Stern/Perelman at Carnegie Hall, $14.50 - $95, 8:00
Wednesday, February 21
“The Summer of Law and Disorder: Harlem Riot of 1964,” panel discussion, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, free with advance registration beginning February 7, 6:30
Tuesday, March 13
Bernard and Irene Schwartz Distinguished Speakers Series: “The ’60s from Both Sides Now: An Evening with Judy Collins,” in conversation with historian Harold Holzer, New-York Historical Society, $38, 6:30
Saturday, March 24
“The Vietnam War: At Home and Abroad,” multimedia presentation with Friction Quartet performing George Crumb’s “Black Angels” and more groups to be announced, narrated by John Monsky, Zankel at Carnegie Hall, $35-$45, 2:00
Japan Society concludes its “NOH NOW” series with Satoshi Miyagi’s unique, hypnotic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Othello, which is also part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival and Japan Society’s 110th anniversary. In Mugen Noh Othello, Miyagi and his Shizuoka Performing Arts Center apply traditional mugen noh narrative structure and Miyagi’s own innovative techniques to the Bard’s story of jealousy and betrayal, condensing and refocusing the tale so it feels both fresh and contemporary as well as age-old and sadly familiar. Mugen noh stories are often told by a departed spirit in flashback, confessing to a secondary character who is a stand-in for the audience, in the hopes of gaining release to the afterlife. Miyagi’s surprise is to have a single character performed by two actors: One moves on the stage, the other sits along the right side, delivering the dialogue. Miyagi and writer Sukehiro Hirakawa also twist genre conventions by having Desdemona (mover Micari, speaker Haruyo Suzuki) as the storytelling spirit, not Shakespeare’s protagonist, Othello (Kazyniru Abe). The set is a square, slightly raised wooden platform, with an angled walkway where characters enter and exit. In the back are musicians Sachiko Kataoka, Yukio Kato, Yoneji Ouchi, Yu Sakurauchi, Junko Sekine, and Ayako Terauchi, playing traditional noh percussive instruments. (The tense score is by Hiroko Tanakawa.) On the right of the stage are a row of women and a row of men serving as a kind of Greek chorus, chanting and performing many of the lines of the play, which are translated in English surtitles on two screens. When a traveling pilgrim (Maki Honda) from Venice arrives in Cyprus, he meets a trio of Italian women (Ayako Terauchi, Sachiko Kataoka, and Yu Sakurauchi, voiced by Asuka Fuse, Kotoko Kiuchi, and Fuyuko Moriyama, respectively) who tell him how Cyprus fell to the Ottoman Turks.
“But alas, how fickle is the hearts of men,” one says. “Cyprus has turned into an island of pagans.” The pilgrim wants to know the details and is soon joined by Desdemona, who declares, “Upon meeting you, a fellow Venetian, I yearn for the world of the living.” And so she relates what happened between her husband, Othello; his trusted right-hand ensign, Iago (Yuya Daidomumon); his loyal captain, Cassio (Yoneji Ouchi); Desdemona’s father, Brabantio (Soichiro Yoshiue); the Duke of Venice (Keita Mishima); and Iago’s unknowing henchman, Roderigo (Yukio Kato), a story that leads to murder most foul. (The Tokyo-born Miyagi has also directed versions of Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for SPAC.) “I return to tell the tale of a man trapped in a delusion,” she explains. Mugen Noh Othello features very slow, deliberate movement, with relatively sparse dialogue. Facial expressions are often exaggerated, and some characters wear masks and fab hats. Kayo Takahashi’s costumes, which come in a wide range of colors and include long, elegant, and spare lines of Japanese writing, are extraordinary, particularly Desdemona’s elaborate ghostly white and golden kimono. The play has been condensed to eighty minutes, cutting out various characters, instead concentrating on the critical, emotional high points surrounding the commission or omission of sin. It’s a lovely production rich with tender, scary, and funny moments, emphasizing the art of storytelling itself. Shakespeare purists will not find all of their favorite lines here, but there is still much poetry to revel in.
Monday, January 15
It’s hard to believe that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and that half a century later racism is still such a central issue in America and around the world. In 1983, the third Monday in January was officially recognized as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, honoring the birthday of the civil rights leader who was shot and killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Dr. King would have turned eighty-nine on Monday, and you can celebrate his legacy on Monday by participating in a Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service project or attending one of numerous special events taking place around the city. Below are some of the highlights.
JCC Harlem: Community Carnival at All Souls Church, MLK Day-themed art projects for community children, 88 St. Nicholas Ave., free, 10:00, 12:30, 3:00
Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March: “A New Revolution: Youth and Social Change,” Eleanor Roosevelt Monument in Riverside Park at 72nd St. at 10:00 am to Manhattan Country School at 150 West 85th St. at 2:00, free
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration: Martin’s Mosaic, 10:00 am and 1:00 pm; Museum of Impact visits CMOM, Upstanders Fest, 12 noon - 4:00, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 West 83rd St., $11-$14
Thirty-second Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with keynote speaker Jelani Cobb, Martha Redbone, and the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir, BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, free, 10:30 am; Unbound: Patrisse Cullors and asha bandele, launch of When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, moderated by Rashad Robinson and followed by a book signing, BAM Fisher, Fishman Space, free, 1:00; screening of 4 Little Girls (Spike Lee, 1997), BAM Rose Cinemas, free, 1:00
Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., including visits to “King in New York” and “Activist New York” exhibits and poster workshop, Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St., free with museum admission of $12-$18, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Family Matinees: Selma, Lord, Selma (Charles Burnett, 1999), $7-$15, 11:00 am; The Wiz (Sidney Lumet, 1978), $7-$15, 1:00, Museum of the Moving Image, 35th Ave. at 36th St., price includes admission to galleries
I Have a Dream Celebration: Make Art Not War: Interactive Handprint Mural, 11:30; I Have a Dream Cloud, 1:00; Kids Take Action! Letter Writing for Change, 1:30; Sylvia’s Story Corner on the Bus, 3:30, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, 145 Brooklyn Ave., $11
Harlem Gospel Choir Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Matinee, B. B. King Blues Club & Grill, 237 West 42nd St., $25-$30 (plus $10 minimum per person at tables), 12:30
Soul to Soul, with Lisa Fishman, Cantor Magda Fishman, Elmore James, Tony Perry, and musical director Zalmen Mlotek, followed by a discussion with the artists and creators, presented by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Pl., $25 (use discount code “Mishpokhe” for 20% off online tickets), 2:00
Hands On | Harlem Dreams, Legends, and Legacy, teen photo studio, time capsules, mixed-media art, scavenger hunt, and in-gallery collage, Studio Museum in Harlem, 144 West 125th St., $3-$7, 2:00 - 6:00
Cinematters: Muhammad Ali: Me Whee (Arny Stone, 1975), followed by a Q&A with executive producer Drew Stone, Lou DiBella, and Craig Setari, JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave., $5, 5:00
MY ART (Laurie Simmons, 2016)
34 West 13th St. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
Opens Friday, January 12
Visual artist Laurie Simmons makes her feature-film debut as writer, director, and star of the self-indulgent, pretentious romance My Art, which opens at the Quad on January 12. Part of the Pictures Generation, Simmons, who was born in Queens in 1949, has been creating intriguing photographic series since the mid-1970s, often focusing on such inanimate objects as mannequins and dolls, offering a feminist viewpoint of domesticity. In My Art, she plays Ellie Shine, a sixty-five-year-old teacher and artist who decides to house-sit for an upstate friend in order to take advantage of her large studio and to work on a new project, bringing along her ailing dog, Bing, who is suffering from degenerative myelopathy (and is sometimes played by her real dog, Dean, who had the same illness). Although she is seeking privacy and seclusion, she is soon interacting with three men, local gardeners Frank (Robert Clohessy), a widower, and Tom (Josh Safdie), who is married to Angie (Parker Posey), and an oft-divorced lawyer, John (John Rothman). Instead of using dolls and mannequins, she and the three men dress up to re-create scenes from some of Ellie’s favorite films, including John Huston’s The Misfits, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot, and François Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, which involve issues of sex, femininity, age, and gender. Inspired by the work of Cindy Sherman and Gulley Jimson, the painter portrayed by Alec Guinness in Ronald Neame’s The Horse’s Mouth, Ellie reimagines herself as Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Malcolm McDowell, Marlene Dietrich, and other characters as the scenes help drive the narrative of her evolving relationships with the three men as well as the upstate community as a whole. She did not come to the house looking for romance, instead wanting to concentrate on her art, but she can’t help but be beguiled by the three men, particularly Frank, while rediscovering her sexuality.
My Art is too cutesy for its own good, more of a Lifetime movie or gallery installation than a theatrical release for the general public. It’s often cloying, and clumsily edited, with a score that might rot your teeth. Simmons is a terrific visual artist — you can see some of her real work in the opening scene, when Ellie is walking through the 2015 Whitney exhibition “As Far as the Eye Can See” (the colorful painting she stops at is “Large Bather [quicksand],” by her husband, Carroll Dunham) — but perhaps feature films are just not her forte. Dunham and Simmons’s daughter, Lena Dunham, makes an early cameo as a student of Ellie’s; it’s not difficult to understand where Lena gets some of her artistic and political views from. There are also cameos by Simmons’s other daughter, writer and activist Grace Dunham, in addition to Marilyn Minter, Blair Brown, and Barbara Sukowa. Simmons, who appeared in Lena’s Tiny Furniture with Grace and in Girls and made the 2006 short The Music of Regrets, is a much better photographer than actress; while it’s refreshing to see a sixtysomething woman protagonist rediscovering life’s many pleasures, Simmons can’t carry the lead. In fact, the only actor who excels in the film is the amiable Clohessy, who is impeccable as Frank, riffing on his real life as a former boxer, son of a police officer, and actor who has primarily played cops in his career, including recurring roles on NYPD Blue, Oz, and Blue Bloods. Simmons will participate in several special events at the Quad: There will be Q&As with Simmons, Rothman, Clohessy, producer Andrew Fierberg, and Lena Dunham (via Skype) on January 12 and 13 at the 7:00 shows; the 4:50 screening on January 14 is dedicated to women artists, while the 7:00 screening the same day is a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood and will be followed by a Q&A with Simmons, moderated by Lynn Tillman.
THE PRINCE AND THE DYBBUK (Piotr Rosolowski & Elwira Niewiera, 2017)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65th St. at Amsterdam Ave.
Wednesday, January 10, 2:45, and Thursday, January 11, 9:00
Festival runs January 10-23
The New York Jewish Film Festival gets under way January 10 with an intriguing look at enigmatic filmmaker Michał Waszyński, the director of one of the most important Yiddish movies of all time, the 1937 supernatural tale The Dybbuk. In The Prince and the Dybbuk, directors Piotr Rosolowski and Elwira Niewiera find that discovering who Waszyński was is like chasing a ghost, as he continually reinvented himself while being haunted by a past he tried to erase. Like the characters in many of the films he produced and directed, he was constantly searching for his true identity as he journeyed from Poland and Germany to Italy and Spain. “He was in his world, so mysterious and exciting. Nobody really knows what he’s really like,” one of his assistant directors, Enrico Bergier, says. Throughout the eighty-minute documentary, friends, relatives, colleagues, and others describe Waszyński, who produced and/or directed nearly 150 films, as a gentleman, Jewish, Catholic, noble-minded, lonely, elegant and refined, an exceptional boss, generous, isolated, very smart, a larger-than-life character, an aristocrat, a bit strange, and a mythomaniac. He married a countess, dubbing himself the Polish Prince, and took one of his actors, Albin Ossowski, to gay restaurants. “He was longing for his youth,” Ossowski says. He hobnobbed with Orson Welles, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, and Claudia Cardinale. He appeared in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1954 film, The Barefoot Contessa. He was singled out by Josef Goebbels as an enemy. He was involved with such 1960s blockbusters as El Cid and The Fall of the Roman Empire as well as smaller Eastern European films, most famously The Dybbuk, about a young bride possessed by a spirit. Rosolowski and Niewiera, who previously collaborated on the award-winning Domino Effect, include newsreel footage, family photos, home movies, a behind-the-scenes promotional piece narrated by James Mason about the making of Anthony Mann’s budget-busting The Fall of the Roman Empire, spoken excerpts from Waszyński’s diaries, and clips from such Waszyński films as His Excellency the Shop Assistant, Unknown Man of San Marino, Dvanáct kresel, Gehenna, Wielka Droga, Zabawka, and Znachor, many of which feature lost characters.
Waszyński was born Moshe Waks in the village of Kovel in Poland (what is now Ukraine) in 1904 and later changed his name to Michał Waszyński and converted to Catholicism. Even when facts are revealed about him, there is no evidence about why he did the things he did in his personal life. “To me he was a great magician. He lived in a dream world, because cinema is a dream,” explains Maurizio Dickmann, a member of the Italian family that took him in. Later, in an Under the Flag of Love radio broadcast, Waszyński explains, “I do what I love. Cinema is my passion and it stimulates my intellect. . . . To me, film is like a second reality, subject to completely different rules. In a split second, a king can become a shepherd or a beggar a rich man.” His diaries divulge a dark side about his search for who he is and who he was as he transformed himself from shepherd to king. “My city vanishes from my mind, as if the place of my youth had never existed,” he writes. “But I can never rid myself of you. You were the one who abandoned us. Although, even now, in my dreams and when awake, you return to me every night, like a stab to the heart. You drive deep inside me. Like an evil spirit, you circle around me.” Waszyński was chased by spirits his entire life — he passed away suddenly in 1965 — and turned to the movies for answers, which only led to more questions. Named Best Documentary on Cinema at the Venice Film Festival, The Prince and the Dybbuk is making its U.S. premiere at the New York Jewish Film Festival, screening at the Walter Reade Theater on January 10 at 2:45 and January 11 at 9:00, preceded by Daria Martin’s short film A Hunger Artist, based on the Franz Kafka story. The January 11 screening will be followed by a Q&A with Rosolowski, Niewiera, and Martin. A copresentation of the Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the festival, which runs January 10-23, is also showing the world premiere of a brand-new restoration of The Dybbuk on January 14 and 17.