Who: Gabriela Adameșteanu, Ioana Nicolaie, T. O. Bobe, Simona Popescu, Robert Șerban, Andreea Răsuceanu, Carmen Firan, Ioana Ieronim, Ioana Es. Pop, Andrew K. Davidson, Carrie Hooper, Andreea Scridon
What: Weekly online literary performances
Where: Romanian Cultural Institute Facebook page
When: Tuesdays from June 2 to August 4, free with RSVP, 2:00
Why: The Romanian Cultural Institute in New York (ICR New York) is a small gem in Murray Hill, for decades offering unique arts events while serving the needs of Romanians and Romanian Americans here in New York City. The organization has been busy during the Covid-19 crisis, hosting daily online sociopolitical talks, concerts, film screenings, theater presentations, and more. Its latest initiative, held in conjunction with the National Museum of the Romanian Literature, is “Life Anew: Writers Imagine the World after the Pandemic,” taking place every Tuesday at 2:00 through August 4. Each week, authors, some with translators, will share their thoughts through poetry and prose about what the world might be like once we get back to normal, if normal is ever possible again. The lineup features authors Gabriela Adameșteanu, Ioana Nicolaie, T. O. Bobe, Simona Popescu, Robert Șerban, Andreea Răsuceanu, Carmen Firan, Ioana Ieronim, and Ioana Es. Pop and translators Andrew K. Davidson, Carrie Hooper, and Andreea Scridon. Admission is free with advance RSVP here.
Who: Todd Almond, Troy Anthony, Antonio Banderas, Laura Benanti, Kim Blanck, Ally Bonino, Danielle Brooks, Michael Cerveris, Glenn Close, Jenn Colella, Elvis Costello, Daniel Craig, Claire Danes, Danaya Esperanza, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jane Fonda, Nanya-Akuki Goodrich, Holly Gould, Danai Gurira, Anne Hathaway, Stephanie Hsu, David Henry Hwang, Oscar Isaac, Brian d’Arcy James, Nikki M. James, Alicia Keys, John Leguizamo, John Lithgow, Audra McDonald, Grace McLean, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Margaret Odette, Sandra Oh, Kelli O’Hara, Mia Pak, Suzan-Lori Parks, David Hyde Pierce, Jay O. Sanders, Liev Schreiber, Deandre Sevon, Martin Sheen, Philippa Soo, Meryl Streep, Trudie Styler, Sting, Will Swenson, Shaina Taub, Kuhoo Verma, Ada Westfall, Kate Wetherhead, more
What: Virtual gala celebrating the Public Theater and special honorees
Where: Public Theater website, Facebook, YouTube
When: Monday, June 1, free with RSVP (donations accepted), 8:00
Why: Among the cultural institutions I miss the most during the pandemic is the Public Theater. Founded by Joseph Papp in 1954 as the Shakespeare Workshop and located on Lafayette St. since 1967, the Public features six spaces for theatrical productions including Joe’s Pub, home to cabaret, comedy, and concerts as well. In addition, the Public has been offering us Shakespeare in the Park at the Delacorte for nearly sixty years; this summer’s scheduled shows were Richard II and As You Like It in addition to Cymbeline from the Mobile Unit.
The Public, which has been streaming previous performances from Joe’s Pub and presented the best new Zoom play about the pandemic, Richard Nelson’s What Do We Need to Talk About?, available on demand through June 28, will hold its annual fundraising gala online on June 1 at 8:00, a virtual ninety-minute, one-time-only cavalcade of stars honoring actor Sam Waterston and philanthropists Audrey Wilf and Zygi Wilf. Cochairs Kwame Anthony Appiah, Candia Fisher, Joanna Fisher, Laure Sudreau, and Lynne Wheat have amassed quite a lineup, with appearances by Glenn Close, Elvis Costello, Daniel Craig, Claire Danes, Jane Fonda, Anne Hathaway, Oscar Isaac, Alicia Keys, John Leguizamo, John Lithgow, Audra McDonald, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Sandra Oh, Kelli O’Hara, David Hyde Pierce, Liev Schreiber, Martin Sheen, Meryl Streep, Sting, and many more. (The full lineup is above.) The evening will be directed by Kenny Leon and hosted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, with music direction by Ted Sperling; the event is free, but donations are accepted to support the Public, one of New York City’s genuine treasures.
Who: Frédéric Fekkai, Melissa Ceria
What: June edition of Rendez-Vous LIVE
Where: FIAF Facebook and Zoom
When: Tuesday, June 2, free with RSVP, 5:00
Why: One of the biggest issues of the pandemic has been beauty care; when will men, women, and children be allowed to go back to hair and nail salons? Being bald, it’s not one of my main concerns, but I have seen many people sharing on social media the state of their roots, the length of their hair, their thickening eyebrows, and their deep-seated need for a mani-pedi. FIAF’s Rendez-Vous LIVE series is here to help. On June 2 at 5:00, French celebrity hairstylist and beauty entrepreneur Frédéric Fekkai will speak with journalist and communications agency Studio Ceria founder Melissa Ceria, discussing how the Provence-born Fekkai revolutionized the salon experience here in New York City and offering self-care tips to use while sheltering in place so you can look your best for that Zoom meeting with your old high school friends. The talk will be followed by an audience Q&A. Up next for FIAF is Love, Sex & Confinement: Conversation with Maïa Mazaurette on June 4, where you can learn how to put those beauty secrets to good use.
Who: Ari Shapiro, Alex the Astronaut, Big Freedia, Bright Light Bright Light, Cameron Esposito, Courtney Barnett, Claud, Dorian Electra, Girl in Red, Jake Shears, Joy Oladokun, Kat Cunning, Madame Gandhi, mxmtoon, Nakhane, Pabllo Vittar, Pet Shop Boys, Roxane Gay, Indigo Girls, SOKO, Tig Notaro & Stephanie Allynne, Tunde Olaniran, Rufus Wainwright, VINCINT, more
What: Virtual Pride celebration
Where: Smithsonian Pride Alliance YouTube page
When: Sunday, May 31, free with advance RSVP, 8:00
Why: June is Pride Month, and the festivities honoring the LGBTQIA+ community, especially here in New York City, have grown exponentially, particularly over the last few years with the fiftieth anniversary of Stonewall and, in 2020, the fiftieth anniversary of the parade itself. Among the parties that will not be held during the pandemic are the Pride Luminaries Brunch, the Rooftop Party, the March, Teaze, Pride Island, and PrideFest, although NYC Pride is planning such virtual gatherings as the Criminal Queerness Festival June 9-29, Savor Pride, a Garden Party on June 22, the Human Rights Conference on June 25, the Rally on June 26, Pride 2020 Dragfest June 19-21, a Runstreet Virtual Pride 5K Art Run June 20-28, and more. Everything kicks off May 31 at 8:00 with the Smithsonian Pride Alliance’s “Project Pride,” a free, livestreamed concert and time capsule, a collaboration with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Museum of American History, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, and others. Hosted by NPR’s Ari Shapiro, the event will feature appearances by Courtney Barnett, Jake Shears, Pet Shop Boys, Roxane Gay, Indigo Girls, Rufus Wainwright, Tig Notaro & Stephanie Allynne, and many more, accompanied by art and historical artifacts from the Smithsonian collections.
I’ve long maintained that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who were born in Brooklyn, and those who wish they were. As a Brooklyn native who lives in Manhattan, I’m still a regular visitor to the world’s greatest borough. But it’s now been more than two and a half months that I’ve been hunkered down in Murray Hill, barely leaving my apartment to get supplies, forget about going to BAM. TFANA, the Brooklyn Museum, Coney Island, BRIC, Prospect Park, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, or other Brooklyn cultural institutions in addition to eating out and visiting friends there. But I can get more than a taste of my hometown by checking out the twenty-third annual Brooklyn Film Festival, which goes virtual this year with the apt theme: “Turning Point.” From May 29 through June 7, BFF will present nearly 150 feature-length and short fiction, nonfiction, animated, and experimental works from around the world. Although everything is free this year, you are encouraged to support the festival if you can by donating here.
For those seeking even more of a connection to the area that was settled by the Dutch in 1636, the following films were made by Brooklyn-based directors: Morgan Ingari’s Milkwater, John Klingman’s Snatchers, Andrew Leibman’s Rooftop Refuge, Drew English’s Everybody’s OK, David Shayne and Jacob Roberts’s Lewiston, Connie Huang’s Ai Baba: (Love Dad), Lindsey Phillips and Shirin Ghaffary’s Rhythm’s Gonna Get Ya, Lorenzo de Guia’s Leeper, Mojo Lorwin’s Summer in the City, Rachel Harrison Gordon’s Broken Bird, Daniel Ferrer’s Ex Disposer, Kevin P. Alexander’s Boys & Toys, Courtney Ulrich’s Peter Has to Go to the Doctor, and Kana Hatakeyama’s Fitness! Or a Story about Sweat.
I have spent many an hour experiencing the unique work of sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard, walking around her dazzling large-scale wood sculptures at Galerie Lelong and art fairs, outside the Barclays Center, and in Madison Square Park. But it wasn’t until watching Daniel Traub’s hourlong documentary, Ursula von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own — which opens virtually May 29 on Film Forum’s website — that I have come to understand and appreciate her work that much more.
“She is using her own experiences to think about how abstract forms can be evocative and representative of what the human condition is,” arts writer Patricia C. Phillips says in the film. “It’s indisputable that there’s something about Ursula’s process that makes the work incredibly distinctive. And just continuing to pursue that with more and more depth and persistence over the years, it reveals some answers but always this feeling that there is also something being withheld.”
Von Rydingsvard was born in Germany in 1942 to a Polish mother and a severely abusive Ukrainian father; the large family lived in a displaced persons camp after the war, mired in poverty, struggling to survive in makeshift homes where everything was made from wood. “It was just the board between me and the outside world, and I recall my body being right next to the wall, and I could smell, I could feel,” von Rydingsvard remembers about the camp. “And there was a huge difference between what happened within this wooden structure and what happened outside of it, so that there was a kind of safety the wood gave me.”
The family immigrated to a blue-collar town in Connecticut in 1951, where she learned little about art and suffered severe emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her father. She married, moved to California, and had a daughter, Ursie, but left her abusive husband with help from her brother Staś Karoliszyn and moved to SoHo in 1975, determined to become an artist. “Going to New York City woke me up in a way that was jarring and marvelous,” she says. She eventually adopted a labor-intensive process of marking, cutting, and stacking cedar two-by-fours into masterful sculptures with a dedicated team of holders, runners, cutters, and fabricators, forming their own family; they even eat lunch together every day. Traub, who directed, produced, and photographed the film, speaks with such studio personnel as Ted Springer, Vivian Chiu, Morgan Daly, and Sean Weeks-Earp while showing the detailed, grueling yet clearly satisfying work they perform.
“Her process is almost medieval,” says Mary Sabbatino, owner of Galerie Lelong, von Rydingsvard’s longtime New York gallery. Traub traces von Rydingsvard’s career from St. Martin’s Dream in Battery Park and Song of a Saint (St. Eulalia) in Buffalo, both from 1980, through a recent Princeton University outdoor commission for which she would be using copper for the first time. She had seen Traub’s short film Xu Bing: Phoenix and so invited Traub to document her 2015 Venice Bienale installation, Giardino Della Marinaressa. That became a short film, and they then decided to collaborate again, documenting the making of the Princeton commission, which led to Into Her Own.
Such friends and colleagues as artists Elka Krajewska, Sarah Sze, and Judy Pfaff, patrons Agnes Gund and Lore Harp McGovern, and Whitney Museum director Adam Weinberg dig deep into von Rydingsvard’s almost proprietary use of materials, her distinction as a rare woman artist creating monumental sculpture, and the concept of time in her oeuvre. Touch is also key, from the many assistants who handle the wood, bronze, and copper in the construction of the work to the people who approach and feel the final product, something she encourages. There’s a wonderful scene in which von Rydingsvard speaks with her beloved second husband, Nobel Prize winner Paul Greengard, discussing nature, beauty, and her Polish heritage. Her daughter tells stories of growing up surrounded by her mother’s process and art, and Von Rydingsvard and Karoliszyn share intimate, frightening details of their father’s abuse as she explains how she was able to turn that pain around to figure out who she was and what she wanted out of life. “I knew I needed to do my work to live,” she says.
I can’t wait until I get outside and see von Rydingsvard’s work again, in person, with this newfound knowledge and understanding of an extraordinary artist. In the meantime, I’ve already watched the documentary twice, inspired by her continuing story.
Traub, a New York-based photographer who codirected the 2014 film The Barefoot Artist (about his mother, artist, activist, and teacher Lily Yeh), and von Rydingsvard will take part in a free, live Q&A with moderator Molly Donovan of the National Gallery of Art on May 31 at 5:00, hosted by Film Forum.
Who: Dropkick Murphys, Bruce Springsteen
What: Live benefit concert streamed from Fenway Park benefiting Boston Resiliency Fund, Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston, and Feeding America
Where: Dropkick Murphys Facebook
When: Friday, May 22, free, 6:00
Why: Baseball might not have started yet, but one of its classic locations will be the setting for what should be a blistering evening of furious music. The Boston-based Dropkick Murphys will become the first band to play a livestreamed show from an empty stadium when they take the field at Fenway Park, hitting the grass and dirt of the infield diamond for a benefit concert on May 29 at 6:00. The band will be performing a full electric set, joined for two songs by Bruce Springsteen, one tune by the Boss, the other by the Murphs, with Springsteen chiming in from his Jersey home. Bruce and the E Street Band previously took the stage in the shadow of the Green Monster on September 6, 2003, and Springsteen teamed up with the Dropkick Murphys on the 2013 charity song “Rose Tattoo” and “Peg O’ My Heart” from the 2011 Going Out in Style album as well as for a riotous live triple play at the Boston House of Blues on March 18, 2011; in addition, Murphys frontman Ken Casey joined the E Street Band for a rendition of Bruce’s Celtic rocker “American Land” in 2009 in Massachusetts. The show is raising money for the Boston Resiliency Fund, Habitat for Humanity Greater Boston, and Feeding America.