This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

JENNY HOLZER: VIGIL

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Rockefeller Center
30 Rockefeller Plaza
October 10-12, free, 8:00 - 10:00 pm
creativetime.org
projects.jennyholzer.com

For more than forty years, Jenny Holzer has been producing text-based art, carving words into marble, projecting them on walls and buildings, running them digitally across sculptural signs, compiling them in lists, and even stitching them onto a dress Lorde wore to the Grammys. Her work has been seen on Singapore’s city hall, Silo No 5. in Montreal, the Potomac River, NYU’s Bobst Library, the New York Public Library, the Guggenheim, and Rockefeller Center. Her latest project takes her back to Rock Center with “Vigil,” a commission from the public arts organization Creative Time, which will be holding its tenth annual summit next month, asking the question “Can speaking truth to power unravel the age of disillusion we find ourselves in?”

From 8:00 to 10:00 on the evenings of October 10-12, the Ohio-born, New York-based Holzer will zero in on the rise of gun violence in the US, projecting excerpts from the 2017 book Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, which combines poetry from established writers with responses from gun control activists, politicians, survivors of mass shootings, and family members of victims; stories from the award-winning activist website Moments that Survive, collected by Everytown for Gun Safety, which is dedicated to ending gun violence; and poems by teenagers who refuse to be silent. Holzer previously collaborated with Creative Time on “For New York City: Planes and Projections” and “For the City” in 2004-5, and her ongoing “It Is Guns” series, featuring such statements as “Scream Again,” “The President Backs Away,” and “Too Late Now” on trucks, has traveled to Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, Tallahassee, New York, and other American cities.

NYFF57 SPOTLIGHT ON DOCUMENTARY: THE BOOKSELLERS

The Booksellers

Rare-book dealers such as Adam Weinberger scour through private homes to find buried treasure in The Booksellers

THE BOOKSELLERS (D. W. Young, 2019)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Monday, October 7, Francesca Beale Theater, 6:00
Wednesday, October 9, Howard Gilman Theater, 8:30
Festival runs September 27 - October 13
www.filmlinc.org

“There’s so much more to a book than just the reading,” Maurice Sendak is quoted as saying in D. W. Young’s wonderfully literate documentary The Booksellers, screening at the New York Film Festival on October 7 and 9. I have to admit to being a little biased, as I work in the children’s book industry in another part of my life, and I serve as the managing editor on Sendak’s old and newly discovered works. The film follows the exploits of a group of dedicated bibliophiles who treasure books as unique works of art, buying, selling, and collecting them not merely for the money but for the thrill of it. “The relationship of the individual to the book is very much like a love affair,” Americana collector Michael Zinman explains.

Sisters Adina Cohen, Judith Lowry and Naomi Hample, owners of the Argosy Book Store, at the store on East 59th Street in Manhattan

Sisters Adina Cohen, Judith Lowry, and Naomi Hample of Argosy Book Store keep the family legacy alive

In the film, which features narration by executive producer Parker Posey, Young visits the Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory and speaks with a wide range of intellectual characters, including author and cultural commentator Fran Lebowitz, who relates her experiences in rare-book stores; bestselling writer Susan Orlean, who discusses her archives; leather-bound connoisseur Bibi Mohamed of Imperial Fine Books, who talks about going to her first estate sale; late-twentieth-century specialist Arthur Fournier; Nicholas D. Lowry and Stephen Massey of Antiques Roadshow, the latter of whom was the auctioneer for the most expensive book ever sold, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Hammer codex; sci-fi expert and author Henry Wessells; Justin Schiller, who worked with Sendak and other children’s book authors; Rebecca Romney of Pawn Stars; Jim Cummins, who owns some four hundred thousand books; Erik DuRon and Jess Kuronen of Left Bank Books; Nancy Bass Wyden of the Strand; and Adina Cohen, Naomi Hample, and Judith Lowry, the three sisters who own the Argosy Book Store, continuing the family legacy.

But times have changed, for both good and bad. Dealer Dave Bergman complains, “The internet has killed the hunt,” comparing the excitement of live auctions and the detective-like chase for a title to the boredom of automated online searches and bidding. However, diversity is on the rise, as explored with Kevin Young of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; Caroline Schimmel, a leading collector of books by women; and hip-hop archivist and curator Syreeta Gates. “I think the death of the book is highly overrated,” Heather O’Donnell of Honey and Wax Booksellers declares. From her mouth. . . . The Booksellers, which is worth seeing solely for Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Swann Auction Galleries president Nicholas D. Lowry’s fab mustache, is screening October 7 at 6:00 and October 9 at 8:30, followed by Q&As with D. W. Young and producers Judith Mizrachy and Dan Wechsler.

NYFF57 SPOTLIGHT ON DOCUMENTARY: THE BOOKSELLERS CAPSULE REVIEW

The Booksellers

Rare-book dealers such as Adam Weinberger scour through private homes to find buried treasure in The Booksellers

THE BOOKSELLERS (D. W. Young, 2019)
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Monday, October 7, Francesca Beale Theater, 6:00
Wednesday, October 9, Howard Gilman Theater, 8:30
Festival runs September 27 - October 13
www.filmlinc.org

D. W. Young’s wonderfully literate documentary The Booksellers is making its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, screening on October 7 at 6:00 and October 9 at 8:30, followed by Q&As with D. W. Young and producers Judith Mizrachy and Dan Wechsler. The film follows the exploits of a wide-ranging group of dedicated bibliophiles who treasure books as unique works of art, buying, selling, and collecting them not merely for the money but for the thrill of it. “The relationship of the individual to the book is very much like a love affair,” Americana collector Michael Zinman explains. Among those who share their thoughts on books are Fran Lebowitz, Susan Orlean, and the owners of such New York City bookstores as Imperial Fine Books, Left Bank Books, the Argosy Book Store, and the Strand. Look for my full review to be posted when the film debuts Monday night.

FIRST SATURDAYS: LATINX PRIDE

JR (French, born 1983). The Chronicles of New York City, 2018–19 (detail). Dimensions variable. © JR-ART.NET

JR, detail, The Chronicles of New York City, 2018–19 (© JR-ART.NET)

Brooklyn Museum
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Saturday, October 5, free (some events require advance tickets), 5:00 - 11:00
212-864-5400
www.brooklynmuseum.org

The Brooklyn Museum parties with Latinx pride in the October edition of its free First Saturday program. There will be live performances by Edna Vazquez and DJ Bobbito García with Los Nativos de Brooklyn and others; a paper-based collage workshop inspired by works with text in “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall”; a screening of Bobbito García’s 2018 documentary Rock Rubber 45s, followed by a talkback with García; a letter-writing campaign with the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, facilitated by Ian Zdanowicz; an Inside Out photo booth inspired by “JR: Chronicles,” with images wheatpasted in the museum; a salsa party with Balmir Latin Dance Studio; the launch of the third volume of Camilo Godoy’s zine Amigxs, with readings and performances by Joshua Allen, Karlo Bueno Bello, Brian Carlos Contratto, ELSZ, and Cristóbal Guerra; and a demonstration, performance, and discussion with Bombazo Dance Co called “Uniting Diaspora, Making That Drum Talk!” In addition, the galleries will be open late so you can check out “Garry Winogrand: Color,” “Nobody Promised You Tomorrow: Art 50 Years After Stonewall,” “Jen Catron and Paul Outlaw: ‘Sin(k)’ and ‘B.S.O. (Bright Shiny Object),’” “One: Titus Kaphar,” “Pierre Cardin: Future Fashion,” “Infinite Blue,” “Rembrandt to Picasso: Five Centuries of European Works on Paper,” and more.

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN ARTS FESTIVAL

Peter Brook (photo ©-Marian Adreani)

Peter Brook will be celebrated at several events during the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival this weekend (photo ©-Marian Adreani)

Brooklyn Cultural District
The Plaza at 300 Ashland and other locations
October 4-6, free - $115
www.dbartsfestival.org

Downtown Brooklyn is the place to be this weekend for the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Festival, taking place around the Plaza at 300 Ashland from Friday to Saturday. There will be an African drum circle, live music and dance, talks and discussions, theater, glass-making demonstrations, film screenings, classes, treasure hunts, art exhibitions, and more; while many events are free, others require ticketing at BAM, Theatre for a New Audience, the Mark Morris Dance Center, and the New York Transit Museum, among others. Below are some of the highlights.

Friday, October 4
Kickoff with live performance by Soul Tigers Marching Band and dance party with Soul Summit, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 5:00 - 8:00

Free Demonstration Night: The Two-Part Mold, with Kellie Krouse and Jeffrey Close, UrbanGlass, free, 6:00 - 9:00

Peter Brook\NY, with Paul Auster, Marie-Hélène Estienne, and Jeffrey Horowitz, Center for Fiction, $10 (includes $10 off at bookstore), 7:00

Pop-Up: An Artistic Treasure Hunt, by Strike Anywhere and the Tours Soundpainting Orchestra, Fort Greene, free, 7:00

Saturday, October 5
African Drum Circle with Mr. Fitz, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 11:00

NYTM Train Operators Workshop, New York Transit Museum, free with museum admission, 11:30 & 3:30

Dance: Pas de Deux, with Brooklyn Ballet, set to Jean-Phillippe Rameau’s “Gavotte et Six Doubles,” the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 2:00

Rhys Chatham: The Sun Too Close to the Earth / Jonathan Kane and Zeena Parkins: Oh, Suzanne, ISSUE Project Room, $20-$25, 8:00

Sunday, October 6
Dance: Tribal Truth, in collaboration with Jamel Gaines Creative Outlet, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 12:00

MC Oddissee, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 1:00

Brooklyn Navy Yard: Past, Present & Future Tour, $15-$30, 2:00

Pop-Up: Nkiru Books, with DJ set by Talib Kweli, the Plaza at 300 Ashland, free, 2:00 - 5:00

BAD NEWS! I was there…

(photo by Ian Douglas)

Eight messengers descend to deliver tragic tales in JoAnne Akalaitis’s BAD NEWS! I was there . . . (photo by Ian Douglas)

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 La Guardia Pl. at at Washington Square South
September 6-8, $40
212-992-8484
nyuskirball.org

The good news is that five-time Obie winner JoAnne Akalaitis’s BAD NEWS! I was there . . . is a salient, pertinent, and entertaining work. The bad news is that it’s all too true. Initially workshopped five years ago at Poet’s House and debuting at the Guthrie last year, BAD NEWS! is a clarion call that relates Greek tragedy to what is happening around the world today. The ninety-minute show takes audiences, divided into four groups, through numerous spaces in NYU’s Skirball Center, where it continues through September 8; in each location, two messengers in yellow safety vests with flashlights in the pocket over their heart deliver tales of disaster, murder, catastrophe, suicide, violence, butchery, incest, and war as a young child (Jah-Sire Burnside, Devin Coleman, Donovan Coleman, and Riley Velazquez) sits nearby, reading superhero comic books. The audience is separated from the performers by yellow caution tape, a constant reminder of impending doom. “In death there is nothing but death,” the cast says in unison.

(photo by Ian Douglas)

JoAnne Akalaitis’s BAD NEWS! I was there . . . takes audiences all around the NYU Skirball Center (photo by Ian Douglas)

The dialogue and songs (the music is by Bruce Odland), presented in English, Greek, Latin, French, and German, have been adapted from classical literature by Sophocles, Euripedes, Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Jean Racine, and Aeschylus, translated by Anne Carson, Bertolt Brecht, Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, Ted Hughes, Caryl Churchill, and others. Eight seminal tragic figures are represented: Medea (Katie Lee Hill), Thyestes (Jenny Ikeda), the Bacchae (Rocco Sisto), Phèdre (Kelley Curran), Oedipus (Howard Overshown), Antigone (Henry Jenkinson), Orestes (Jasai Chase Owens), and Hecuba (Rachel Christopher). Guides (Ahsan Ali, Maya Carte, ESJAE, Josh Fulton, ALEXA GRÆ, Chloé Worthington, Isabella Peterson, Milo Longenecker, and Aigner Mizzelle) carry lights as they lead the groups through narrow hallways, up and down stairs, and into various rooms; they also serve as a Greek chorus, singing in unison in the background. Along the way, white sheets with the title of the show written in what looks like blood hover. Curiously, there are not enough chairs to seat everyone at each stop, so if you can stand, let the elderly, infirm, or pregnant sit down.

(photo by Ian Douglas)

Immersive production at Skirball Center warns of impending doom (photo by Ian Douglas)

As you watch one section, you can clearly hear snippets from at least one other part (the first four scenes run concurrently and can be seen in any order), creating a cacophony of bad news, as if you’re being overwhelmed by social media and television reports. (Julie Archer designed the sets and costumes, with lighting by Jennifer Tipton and sound by Odland.) It all culminates in a grand finale that brings all four groups together, making one last stand. Created and directed by Akalaitis, the cofounder of Mabou Mines and former head of the New York Shakespeare Festival, BAD NEWS! is about bearing witness, in the past and the present; it asks us to pay attention to what is going on across the globe and to speak up when we see danger. “I was there and I will tell you everything” is the play’s constant refrain. (For example, when no Holocaust survivors are left on earth, what happens to their stories, especially with so many conspiracy theorists claiming it’s a hoax, and so many people on the internet believing them?) The show is accompanied by a multimedia lobby installation on Greek tragedy, supplemented with articles on the refugee crisis, Donald Trump, neo-Nazis, and other current events, and the audience is asked to write down their own personal bad news on a sheet of paper. After the performance, you’re encouraged to have a free drink, talk about what you just experienced, and read aloud one of the anonymous pieces of bad news. “I speak the truth. All evils are revealed,” one character says early on. The actors are not just delivering tragic news from ancient tales; they’re warning us about today, and tomorrow. And that’s a good thing, if only more people would listen.

NYU SKIRBALL FALL 2019 SEASON

Skirball

Joanne Akalaitis’s site-specific Bad News! I Was There . . . leads small audiences through the Skirball Center

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 La Guardia Pl.
September 6 - December 9
212-992-8484
nyuskirball.org

NYU Skirball’s mission is to “present work that inspires yet frustrates, confirms yet confounds, entertains yet upends.” They are staying true to their goals with an extremely impressive and daring fall season of music, theater, dance, literature, and talks. The season gets under way September 6-8 ($40) with the New York City premiere of former New York Shakespeare Festival head and five-time Obie winner Joanne Akalaitis’s Bad News! I Was There . . . , a site-specific performance in English, Greek, French, and German that takes four groups through the lobby, dressing room, and backstage area of the theater, mixing in sung and spoken excerpts from classic Greek tragedy. “‘I was there’ is a refrain heard every day on the news, often followed by ‘How can this happen? What’s wrong here? What should we do?’” Akailitis says about the show.

Philippe Quesne’s The Moles, set in a world without humans and words, consists of four presentation September 12-14: “Parade of the Moles,” a free tour of Greenwich Village on Thursday at 2:00; “Night of the Moles” on Friday and Saturday night ($30, 7:30), taking place in a burrow; and the family-friendly “Afternoon of the Moles” on Saturday afternoon ($20, 7:30), as the Moles form a punk band. If you missed Sam Mendes’s brilliant production of The Lehman Trilogy at the Park Avenue Armory, you can catch one of two “National Theatre Live” screenings at the Skirball on September 15 ($25, 2:00 & 7:00) On September 16, “NYU Writes: A Celebration of Writers and Writing at NYU” brings together Jeffrey Eugenides, Jonathan Safran Foer, Terrance Hayes, Yusef Komunyakaa, Nick Laird, Sharon Olds, and Zadie Smith, hosted by Deborah Landau (free with advance RSVP, 7:00).

(photo by Andrew Lieberman)

Daniel Fish reimagines Don DeLillo’s White Noise in multimedia production (photo by Andrew Lieberman)

Tony nominee Daniel Fish follows up his controversial reimagining of Oklahoma! with White Noise, a seventy-minute multimedia show “freely inspired” by Don DeLillo’s 1985 National Book Award-winning novel. Zoe Coombs Marr, Ursula Martinez, and Adrienne Truscott take on critics in Wild Bore September 27-28 ($35-$45, 7:30). And that just takes us through September; below are some of the highlights from October to December:

Sunday, October 6
National Theatre Live: Fleabag, $25, 7:00

Friday, October 11
and
Saturday, October 12

John Kelly: Underneath the Skin, $35-$45, 7:30

John Kelly channels Samuel Steward in show at Skirball

John Kelly channels Samuel Steward in show at Skirball

Friday, October 18
and
Saturday, October 19

ICE: George Lewis’s Soundlines — A Dreaming Track, $35-$45, 7:30

Friday, October 25
and
Saturday, October 26

Mette Ingvartsen: to come (extended), US premiere, $35-$45, 7:30

Friday, November 8
and
Saturday, November 9

Big Dance Theater: The Road Awaits Us, Ballet, Cage Shuffle: Redux, $35-$45, 7:30

Friday, December 7
and
Saturday, December 8

The Builders Association: Elements of Oz, $20-$25, 7:30