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


Kuro Tanino’s The Dark Master is a VR treat for the senses (photo © Japan Society)

Japan Society
333 East 47th St.
June 23-27, $45

As the lockdown ends and venues start reopening, theaters are dealing with limited admissions, socially distanced seating, and protocols for the health and safety of the cast and crew. Several companies have come up with unique presentations that feature no performers and a sparse audience. In Simon Stephens’s Blindness, people sit in pods of two inside the Daryl Roth Theatre and listen to the narrative unfold through binaural headphones. In Social! at the Park Avenue Armory, fewer than a hundred people were marched into the Wade Thompson Drill Hall and danced in their own colored circle for nearly an hour as a DJ in the center spun tunes and the disembodied voice of David Byrne offered movement suggestions. For the Byzantine Choral Project’s Icons/Idols: In the Purple Room, two people at a time follow the narrative over their phone as they wander through creepy downstairs rooms at the New Ohio Theatre. And for En Garde Arts’ A Dozen Dreams, pairs make their way across twelve separate installations at the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, each one containing a dream from a woman playwright.

Japan Society is entering the actorless arena with the latest iteration of writer-director Kuro Tanino’s The Dark Master, running for only sixteen performances from June 23 to 27, with a maximum of ten people at each show. A sculptor, painter, and former psychiatrist, Tanino (Frustrating Picture Book for Adults, Fortification of Smiles) created the immersive forty-five-minute piece for his experimental theater company, Niwa Gekidan Penino, but they will not be at the East Forty-Seventh St. institution; instead, the story, about the relationship between a Japanese diner and the owner-chef of a restaurant and inspired by an indie manga and first-person video games, takes place through Virtual Reality headsets and headphones, along with live onstage cooking to add smell and taste to hearing and seeing. The work was first presented in 2003 with a full cast and audience and has now been reimagined for the pandemic.

The Dark Master takes place for only ten people at a time at Japan Society (photo © Keizo Maeda)

“Niwa Gekidan Penino generated significant buzz in their 2014 U.S. debut at Japan Society with The Room Nobody Knows,” artistic director Yoko Shioya said in a statement. “With this new presentation, I hope to further their status and reputation in this country. We are extremely happy to welcome audiences back into our building for Kuro’s innovative and immersive in-person VR performance. From its intimate scale to the sensorial nature of the piece — along with its haunting and thrilling plot — this one-of-a-kind theater event seems tailor made for our return to live, onsite theater.” With only 160 total tickets available, you better act fast if you want to experience what should be a wild and special show.


Reggie Wilson, Eiko Otake, Joan Jonas, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and Okwui Okpokwasili have made new films for Danspace Project’s online Platform 2021

Who: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Eiko Otake, Joan Jonas, Okwui Okpokwasili, Reggie Wilson, Judy Hussie-Taylor, Lydia Bell, Kristin Juarez, more
What: Annual Platform presentation
Where: Danspace Project Zoom
When: May 15 - June 18, free (live events require advance RSVP)
Why: Danspace Project’s annual Platform series, in which specially chosen curators put together programs of dance, literature, conversation, and more, was cut short last year because of the pandemic lockdown. The 2021 edition, curated by Judy Hussie-Taylor and aptly titled “The Dream of the Audience,” is fully digital, with new short films made during residencies at Danspace Project, live discussions, looks back at previous Platforms, and archival footage. It takes as its inspiration Teresa Hak Kyung Cha’s 1977 poem “Audience Distant Relative”: “you are the audience / you are my distant audience / i address you / as i would a distant relative / as if a distant relative / seen only heard only through someone else’s / description.” Platform 2021 kicks off May 15 at 7:00 with a live Zoom launch featuring Ishmael Houston-Jones, Eiko Otake, Joan Jonas, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Reggie Wilson, moderated by Hussie-Taylor, all of whom have previously curated an edition of Platform. Below is the full schedule; live Zoom events require advance RSVP.

Saturday, May 15
Platform Launch with Ishmael Houston-Jones, Eiko Otake, Joan Jonas, Okwui Okpokwasili, and Reggie Wilson, moderated by Judy Hussie-Taylor, RSVP required, 7:00

Monday, May 17
On the Online Journal: Archival footage of Ishmael Houston-Jones and Miguel Gutierrez, Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd

Friday, May 21
Film Premiere: Ishmael Houston-Jones, Try, in collaboration with Keith Hennessy, josé e. abad, Kevin O’Connor, and Snowflake Calvert, RSVP required, 5:00

Monday, May 31
On the Online Journal: Archival footage of Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born, Sitting on a Man’s Head

Friday, June 4
Film Premiere: Okwui Okpokwasili, RSVP required, 5:00

Monday, June 7
On the Online Journal: Archival footage of Eiko Otake’s A Body in Places and Joan Jonas’s Moving off the Land, with new written works by writer-in-residence Maura Nguyen Donohue

Conversations without Walls: Revisiting Eiko Otake’s A Body in Places and Ishmael Houston-Jones and Will Rawls’s Lost & Found Platforms, with Lydia Bell and Kristin Juarez, RSVP required, 5:00

Friday, June 11
Film Premiere: Eiko Otake & Joan Jonas, filmed at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, RSVP required, 5:00

Monday, June 14
On the Online Journal: Archival footage of Reggie Wilson’s . . . they stood shaking while others began to shout, with new written works by writer-in-residence Maura Nguyen Donohue

Conversations without Walls: Revisiting Reggie Wilson’s “Dancing Platform, Praying Ground: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance” and Owkui Okpokwasili’s “Utterances from the Chorus,” with Lydia Bell and Kristin Juarez, RSVP required, 5:00

Friday, June 18
Film Premiere: Reggie Wilson, collaboration with members of Fist & Heel Performance Group, RSVP required, 5:00


Performance Space New York and other locations
150 First Ave.
May 15 – June 27, free with RSVP

A multidisciplinary collaboration by some of today’s preeminent Black women creators, “Afrofemononomy / Work the Roots” features live theater, music, discussion, and installation, inspired by the career of activist, author, poet, playwright, editor, director, filmmaker, educator, and mother Kathleen Collins (Losing Ground, Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?), who died of breast cancer in 1988 at the age of forty-six.

According to the collective, “‘Afrofemononomy / Work the Roots’ is an affirmation of how we, as Black women, expected to maintain the world’s health, can restore and not imperil our own. Black women absorb disproportionate stress and often develop a variety of risk factors, including higher early mortality rates with cancer and other diseases. Working inside the unsustainable economy and time structures of theater-making are often depleting for us. ‘Afrofemononomy / Work the Roots’ is a Black femme reclaiming of time and space, a model for restoration, a continuation of the lineage of our foremothers’ formative presence in the downtown avant-garde. We claim our health and sovereignty, prioritizing our human needs, and translate the ease, free expression, and non-compulsory ethos of our informal gatherings to our working conditions and aesthetic.”

The six-week celebration, produced by Performance Space New York with New Georges, kicks off this weekend with Collins’s 1984 Begin the Beguine: A Quartet of One-Acts, which is having its theatrical world premiere at Oakland Theater Project later this month. Part of the Downtown Live festival, Remembrance, a kind of personal séance starring Eisa Davis and Kaneza Schaal and with directorial consultation by Jackie Sibblies Drury, takes place at 85 Broad St. on May 16 at 6:30, May 22 at 1:30 and 4:00, and May 23 at 4:00, in an arcade next to the Stone Street Historic District. Those same days at 2:30 and 3:45, Lileana Blain-Cruz, Amelia Workman, Kara Young, Gabby Beans, and Jennifer Harrison Newman will present The Reading in the Courtyard at 122CC, Performance Space New York’s home, a tale set in a psychic’s waiting room with a white novelist and a Black fashion designer.

Begin the Beguine unfolds May 15 and 16 on a lawn in East Harlem, performed by April Matthis and Stacey Karen Robinson about an actress mother and her adult son and created with Charlotte Brathwaite, and The Healing is set in a Bed-Stuy park May 15-16 with Joie Lee, Schaal and Drury, as a white healer tries to help a Black woman with an unnamed illness.

In addition, Blain-Cruz’s installation “Last night, I dreamt I danced in the image of God” provides “a space for dance, rest and sustenance made for and in appreciation of Black women,” running May 15-16 and 22-23 from noon to 2:30 and 4:00 to 7:00 in the Courtyard at 122CC, and Davis’s audio-visual installation “The Essentialisn’t: Gold Taste” is open Thursdays to Sundays from May 29 to June 27 from noon to 6:00 at Performance Space New York’s Keith Haring Theatre and in the Courtyard, with occasional live sound interaction that asks the question “Can you be Black and not perform?” And finally, on May 15, “Afrofemononomy” will launch an online, international, interactive radio project. All events are free but require advance RSVP for timed tickets and because of limited space.


Who: Jordan Donica, Rosemary Harris, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Ruthie Ann Miles, Seth Numrich, Steven Pasquale, Paulo Szot, Ayad Akhtar, Lileana Blain-Cruz, Bartlett Sher
What: Benefit fundraiser for Lincoln Center Theater
Where: Lincoln Center Theater YouTube
When: Thursday, May 13, free with RSVP, 7:00 (available through May 17)
Why: With arts venues opening up across the city this summer and fall, Lincoln Center Theater takes a look back and ahead in its virtual fundraiser “Tales from the Wings.” Premiering on YouTube on May 13 at 7:00, the show will feature appearances by Jordan Donica, Rosemary Harris, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald, Ruthie Ann Miles, Seth Numrich, Steven Pasquale, Paulo Szot, Ayad Akhtar, Lileana Blain-Cruz, and Bartlett Sher sharing stories about working at the Vivian Beaumont, the Mitzi E. Newhouse, and the Claire Tow. The evening will also include excerpts from previous productions and a sneak peek at the upcoming 2021-22 season. The benefit will be available on demand through May 17; admission is free, although donations are welcome.


Who: Stephen Petronio Company
What: Digital Joyce season
Where: Joyce Theater online
When: May 13, 8:00 – May 26, 11:59 pm, $25
Why: When Manhattan-based Stephen Petronio Company had to cancel its May 2020 season at the Joyce because of the pandemic lockdown and went virtual instead, few anticipated that the May 2021 season would have to be online as well. But SPC is back with a new JoyceStream program, available on demand May 13-26, highlighting how busy Petronio has been in the last year, creating works at the Petronio Residency Center and Hudson Hall in upstate New York during the coronavirus crisis. Petronio, who hosted his intimate sixty-fifth birthday party over Zoom in March, will be presenting five works conceived or reimagined over the last year in bubble residencies. Two versions of the new duet Are You Lonesome Tonight, with Ryan Pliss and Mac Twining, will be shown, part of a new suite of dances set to the music of Elvis Presley; one was filmed onstage by Petronio and John Fitzgerald, the other outdoors by Petronio and Blake Martin. Petronio’s 1993 solo to another Presley tune, Love Me Tender, has been updated for online viewing, performed by Nicholas Sciscione and filmed by Fitzgerald.

Petronio’s seven-year Bloodlines series, in which he reinterprets classic works by major choreographers, continues with an adaptation of Trisha Brown’s 1973 autobiographical Group Primary Accumulation; for the first time, one of the four dancers is male. And the troupe will debut the full-company piece New Prayer for Now Part 1, with music by Monstah Black that was inspired by Harry Thacker Burleigh’s spiritual “Balm in Gilead” and Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

Two versions of Are You Lonesome Tonight are part of Stephen Petronio Company online Joyce season

The evening will also include Dancing Camera’s short film Pandemic Portraits, which delves into company members’ individual responses to the health crisis and lockdown, and a look at Petronio’s In Absentia, a limited-edition illustrated book, made in collaboration with Sarah Silver and Rafael Weil, that explores Petronio’s thoughts since March 2020. You can watch a Joyce talkback with Petronio, Carolyn Lucas of Trisha Brown Dance Company, and Dante Puleio of Limón Dance Company here as the three artistic directors discuss their online Joyce seasons with moderator Aaron Mattocks; Trisha Brown continues through May 12 and Limón through May 19.


Who: Works by and/or featuring Moko Fukuyama, Joshua William Gelb, Gabrielle Hamilton, Jace, Elmore James, Jamal Josef, Katie Rose McLaughlin, Sara Mearns, Zaire Michel, Zalman Mlotek, Alicia Hall Moran, Patrick Page, Barbara Pollack, Seth David Radwell, Jamar Roberts, Tracy Sallows, Xavier F. Salomon, Janae Snyder-Stewart, Mfoniso Udofia, Anne Verhallen
What: This Week in New York twentieth anniversary celebration
Where: This Week in New York YouTube
When: Saturday, May 22, free with RSVP, 7:00 (available on demand through June 12)
Why: In April 2001, I found myself suddenly jobless when a relatively new Silicon Alley company that had made big promises took an unexpected hit. I took my meager two weeks’ severance pay and spent fourteen days wandering through New York City, going to museums, film festivals, parks, and tourist attractions. I compiled my experiences into an email I sent to about fifty friends, rating each of the things I had done. My sister’s husband enthusiastically demanded that I keep doing this, and This Week in New York was born.

Affectionately known as twi-ny (twhy-nee), it became a website in 2005 and soon was being read by tens of thousands of people around the globe. I covered a vast array of events – some fifteen thousand over the years – that required people to leave their homes and apartments and take advantage of everything the greatest city in the world had to offer. From the very start, I ventured into nooks and crannies to find the real New York, not just frequenting well-known venues but seeking out the weird and wild, the unusual and the strange.

For my tenth anniversary, we packed Fontana’s, a now-defunct club on the Lower East Side, and had live music, book readings, and a comics presentation. I had been considering something bigger for twenty when the pandemic lockdown hit and lasted longer than we all thought possible.

At first, I didn’t know what twi-ny’s future would be, with nowhere for anyone to go. But the arts community reacted quickly, as incredible dance, music, art, theater, opera, film, and hybrid offerings began appearing on numerous platforms; the innovation and ingenuity blew me away. The winners of twi-ny’s Pandemic Awards give you a good idea of the wide range of things I covered; you can check out part one here and part two here.

I devoured everything I could, from experimental dance-theater in a closet and interactive shows over the phone and through the mail to all-star Zoom reunion readings and an immersive, multisensory play that arrived at my door in a box. Many of them dealt with the fear, isolation, and loneliness that have been so pervasive during the Covid-19 crisis while also celebrating hope, beauty, and resilience. I’ve watched, reviewed, and previewed more than a thousand events created since March 2020, viewing them from the same computer where I work at my full-time job in children’s publishing.

Just as companies are deciding the future hybrid nature of employment, the arts community is wrestling with in-person and online presentations. As the lockdown ends and performance venues open their doors, some online productions will go away, but others are likely to continue, benefiting from a reach that now goes beyond their local area and stretches across the continents.

On May 22 at 7:00, “twi-ny at twenty,” produced and edited by Michael D. Drucker of Delusions International and coproduced by Ellen Scordato, twi-ny’s business manager and muse, honors some of the best events of the past fourteen months, including dance, theater, opera, art, music, and literature, all of which can be enjoyed for free from the friendly confines of your couch. There is no registration fee, and the party will be available online for several weeks. You can find more information here.

Please let me know what you think in the live chat, which I will be hosting throughout the premiere, and be sure to say hello to other twi-ny fans and share your own favorite virtual shows.

Thanks for coming along on this unpredictable twenty-year adventure; I can’t wait to see you all online and, soon, in real life. Here’s to the next twenty!


Who: Kate Baldwin, Roz Chast, Britney Coleman, Jane Curtin, Nikki Renée Daniels, Santino Fontana, Jason Gotay, Melora Hardin, Jane Kaczmarek, Jeff Kready, Colum McCann, Patricia Marx, Laura Osnes, George Saunders, Rashidra Scott, Nathaniel Stampley, Sally Wilfert, Meg Wolitzer, Tony Yazbeck, more
What: Virtual gala fundraiser
Where: Symphony Space Zoom
When: Thursday, May 13, $35, 7:00
Why: On January 7, 1978, conductor Allan Miller and playwright and director Isaiah Sheffer staged the free twelve-hour concert “Wall to Wall Bach” at an Upper West Side building on Broadway that was formerly the Astor Market, the Crystal Palace Skating Rink, and the Symphony Theatre. The event was such a success that they decided to start Symphony Space, an arts venue that for more than forty years has hosted music, storytelling, film, theater, readings, lectures, dance, and much more. The pandemic lockdown had closed the institution’s doors, but they will reopen for the 2021 annual gala fundraiser on May 13 in a hybrid livestream featuring an all-star lineup performing onstage at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater and sharing memories from home over Zoom. “When I got a text that the first rehearsal for the dance piece in the space had happened and gone well, it was thrilling — we had arrived at that long-awaited moment when artists were once again gracing our stages,” executive director Kathy Landau said in a statement. “Before the pandemic, every corner of our building pulsated with art and ideas, with people meeting in the hallways and the wings. The theater itself is almost its own character in the life of Symphony Space — and what makes it come alive is the community we have built in and around it. And while we had so much engaging virtual programming, the theater had been sitting almost entirely empty. For the gala, there was a lightbulb moment where we realized, ‘Wait, there’s a way to safely and responsibly and comfortably bring this energy back,’ for this event to be our first step before bringing audiences in. It had to be quintessential Symphony Space: to be multidisciplinary, to have that unique-to-this-one-evening, in-the-moment immediacy, to have that magical alchemy that occurs when artists come together at Symphony Space to create, collaborate, and celebrate.”

The evening of cocktails, concert, and conversation, produced and directed by Annette Jolles and Joel Fram, will feature performances by Kate Baldwin, Britney Coleman, Nikki Renée Daniels, Jason Gotay, Jeff Kready, Laura Osnes, Rashidra Scott, Nathaniel Stampley, Sally Wilfert, and Tony Yazbeck in addition to a new dance piece by Sara Brians (performed by Saki Masuda, Michelle Mercedes, and Devin L. Roberts) as well as appearances by Roz Chast, Jane Curtin, Nikki Renée Daniels, Santino Fontana, Melora Hardin, Jane Kaczmarek, Patricia Marx, Colum McCann, George Saunders, Meg Wolitzer, and others. The house band consists of conductor Fred Lassen on piano, John Romeri on flute, Keve Wilson on oboe, Nuno Antunes on clarinet, Eric Reed on horns, Nanci Belmont on bassoon, Laura Bontrager on cello, George Farmer on bass, and Clayton Craddock on drums. Tickets for the concert are $35 and go up to $1,000 to $40,000 for special breakout rooms and tables with guest artists and a Party in a Box.