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

RESTART STAGES: LOOK WHO’S COMING TO DINNER / BECOMING OTHELLO / DARK DISABLED STORIES

RESTART STAGES
Lincoln Center, the Isabel and Peter Malkin Stage at Hearst Plaza
Company SBB//Stefanie Batten Bland, Look Who’s Coming to Dinner
Tuesday, August 3, free with RSVP, 7:00
Debra Ann Byrd, Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey
Wednesday, August 4, free with RSVP, 7:00
Ryan J. Haddad, Dark Disabled Stories
Thursday, August 5, free with RSVP, 7:00
www.lincolncenter.org

Lincoln Center’s ambitious Restart Stages program, welcoming back audiences with free outdoor multidisciplinary performances, continues this week with one-time-only shows by three distinct creators, available through the TodayTix lottery. On Tuesday, August 3, at 7:00, Company SBB//Stefanie Batten Bland serves up Look Who’s Coming to Dinner, a new take on Stanley Kramer’s 1967 film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. The movie, which was nominated for ten Oscars and won for Best Actress and Best Original Story and Screenplay, is about an interracial couple portrayed by Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton who are celebrating their engagement by visiting her parents, a liberal couple played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn who are not exactly thrilled at first to see who their daughter will be marrying. SBB has been busy during the pandemic, presenting such works as Kolonial for BAC, This Moment for Works and Process at the Guggenheim, Unnatural Contradictions for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Mondays at Two, exploring safe spaces, isolation, racial injustice, and the coronavirus crisis, in addition to a three-week residency at the Yard on Martha’s Vineyard that culminated in the dance-theater installation Embarqued: Stories of Soil.

Debra Ann Byrd brings her one-woman show, Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey, to Restart Stages this week (photo by Christina Lane / Shakespeare and Company)

If you missed Debra Ann Byrd’s Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey at Shakespeare & Company’s Roman Garden Theatre earlier this month, you can catch it on Wednesday, August 4, at 7:00 on the Isabel and Peter Malkin Stage at Hearst Plaza at Lincoln Center. Directed by Tina Packard, the one-woman show of song and text details Byrd’s experiences as a Black woman attempting to be a classical actress, detailing a life that has included foster care, teen pregnancy, trauma, abuse, and single parenting on a path to play Othello (while also becoming the founding artistic director of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival).

In February 2021, Ryan J. Haddad’s one-man show, Hi, Are You Single?, streamed from Woolly Mammoth, where it was filmed live onstage in front of a limited, socially distanced, masked audience made up of members of the staff and crew, one of the first to do that; the bittersweet autobiographical piece follows Haddad, who has cerebral palsy and requires a walker, as he searches for love in all the wrong places. Haddad can currently be seen in “Wings and Rings,” a short film he made with set designers Emmie Finckel and Riccardo Hernández for Lynn Nottage and Miranda Haymon’s installation The Watering Hole at the Signature. In the ten-minute work, Haddad relives a terrifying moment from his childhood involving swimming in a pool. On Thursday, August 5, at 7:00, at Restart Stages, Haddad will premiere his latest solo show, Dark Disabled Stories, in which he discusses a crosstown bus, a bathroom stall, and Gramercy Park as he encounters strangers and confronts ableism wherever he goes.

TICKET ALERT: BAM FALL 2021 SEASON

The sandy Sun & Sea brings the beach to Fort Greene (photo by Andrej Vasilenko)

BAM Fisher, Fishman Space
321 Ashland Pl.
September 15 - November 6, $25-$35
www.bam.org

One of the places I’ve missed the most since the pandemic lockdown began in March 2020 is BAM, my performance-venue home-away-from-home. Over the decades, the Fort Greene institution’s exciting cutting-edge programming of innovative works from around the world has been a kind of lifeline for me. I remember in October 2012, after Hurricane Sandy paralyzed the state, I took an extremely slow bus through a dark, bleak city, on my way to BAM to see a show as if that would signal we would all get past this disaster. I made it just in time, breathing heavily, soon immersed in the wonders of how dance, music, art, and theater can lift you up. And so I relished the news when BAM announced its reopening for the fall 2021 season, featuring four works at the intimate BAM Fisher. “The hunger for artistic adventures has never been greater as our world continues to change around us,” BAM artistic director David Binder said in a statement. “Our 2021-22 season kicks off with works from a cohort of remarkable international artists, all of whom are making their BAM debuts. New forms and new ideas will abound in the Fisher, as they create singular experiences that can only happen at BAM.”

ASUNA’s 100 Keyboards will be performed in the round at the BAM Fisher (photo by Ritsuko Sakata)

The season kicks off September 15-26 with Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė’s Sun & Sea, which turns the Fisher into a beach. Winner of the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale, the work, commissioned for the Lithuanian Pavilion at the fifty-eighth International Art Exhibition, takes place on twenty-five tons of sand on which thirteen vocalists sing a wide array of stories, with a libretto by Vaiva Grainytė and music and musical direction by Lina Lapelytė. Sun & Sea is followed September 30 to October 2 by 100 Keyboards, in which Japanese sound artist ASUNA performs a unique concert in the round on one hundred battery-operated mini keyboards of multiple colors, creating a mysterious sound moire as the audience walks around him, picking up different reverberations.

Cia Suave makes its US debut at BAM with Cria (photo © Renato Mangolin)

In By Heart, running October 5-17, ten audience members join Portuguese artist and Avignon Festival director Tiago Rodrigues onstage, memorizing lines from such writers as William Shakespeare, Ray Bradbury, George Steiner, and Joseph Brodsky to create a new narrative consisting of forbidden texts while the rest of the audience watches (and sometimes participates as well); the set and costume design is by Magda Bizarro, with English translations by Rodrigues, revised by Joana Frazão. And in Cria (November 2-6), Brazilian troupe Cia Suave celebrates the passion of adolescence in a piece choreographed by Alice Ripoll and performed by ten members of the all-Black company of cis and trans dancers who proclaim, “We are CRIA, not created. Little breeds. Loneliness. To smear yourself. The act, the creation and its moment. Sprout. The heart saying, ‘hit me’ with every punch of suffering. In scene birth and death. Each time. Even in childbirth there is a force that wants to give up. A life that begins touches the sublime.” Tickets go on sale today at noon; the way New Yorkers have been snatching up tickets for live, in-person events, you better hurry if you want to catch any of these promising shows in the small, intimate BAM Fisher.

ENDURE: RUN WOMAN SHOW

Casey Howes performs in immersive Endure in Central Park (photo by Richard Termine)

ENDURE
Southern end of Central Park
Through August 8, $59.99
runwomanshow.com

In his 2008 memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, award-winning Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami writes, “This is a book in which I’ve gathered my thoughts about what running has meant to me as a person. Just a book in which I ponder various things and think out loud. . . . One thing I noticed was that writing honestly about running and writing honestly about myself are nearly the same thing.”

Canadian marathoner, Ironman finisher, and mother Melanie Jones takes a similar approach in Endure: Run Woman Show, an outdoor, on-the-move immersive event continuing in Central Park through August 8. A limited audience of no more than fifteen follows Mary Cavett or Casey Howes through the park while listening on earbuds to Jones talk about running her first marathon, sharing thoughts about the race and life. “You keep going, keep living, keep searching, keep risking, keep pressing out at the edges of yourself because, sure, you could stop or walk or stand on the sidelines, but there’s something beautiful in passing the end of who you think you are. See, there’s so much more beyond,” she narrates. She discusses what it feels like at the starting line, dealing with skeptics at a cocktail party, how math and endorphins can be overwhelming, and striving for her top-secret goal time.

Created and written by Jones (Joyride, In You. [And You?]) and directed by Suchan Vodoor, Endure: Run Woman Show is based on real-life stories from Jones and other runners, delving into what they think about and what they personally experience as they make their way through parks, streets, and tracks, running for both their mental and physical health. Covering approximately three miles in about seventy-five minutes — the audience is not expected to run alongside the performer, who will always remain in view, making stops on bridges and lawns, trees and lampposts — the piece, featuring a musical soundtrack by Swedish composer Christine Owman, is particularly relevant during the “2020” Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where participants are facing Covid-19 in addition to the regular tests of their abilities against the finest athletes in the world, and doing so without crowds cheering them on this time.

“When I discovered running, I realized that the stronger I got on the outside, the stronger I felt on the inside,” Jones said in a statement. “Long-distance running, at its best, is a spiritual experience: uplifting, clarifying, transformative. A runner feels connected to their environment, their best self, even humanity. My hope is that Endure gives audiences a sense of that tranquillity and peace.” And that’s something we all could use a whole lot of right about now.

AILEY

The life and career of Alvin Ailey is explored in new documentary opening in theaters July 23

AILEY (Jamila Wignot, 2021)
Angelika Film Center
18 West Houston St.
Film Society of Lincoln Center, Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Howard Gilman Theater
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Opens July 23
neonrated.com/films/ailey

“We’re gonna do something, we’re gonna create . . . whatever it is, it gotta be good,” choreographer Rennie Harris says at the beginning of Ailey. The American Masters documentary, which opens July 23 at the Angelika and Lincoln Center, is good but sometimes overshadowed by how it could have been better.

Directed by Jamila Wignot’s (Town Hall, Walt Whitman) and edited by Annukka Lilja, the film cuts back and forth between rare archival footage of Alvin Ailey, who was born in Texas in 1931 and died from AIDS in 1989 at the age of fifty-eight; new interviews with former members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and Harris and the company rehearsing Lazarus, the Philadelphia-born choreographer’s specially commissioned 2018 ballet celebrating the life and legacy of Ailey. “Mr. Ailey talked about blood memories — what his parents went through, what his parents’ parents went through, what his folk went through. And that was a major key for me — memory. That was the anchor,” Harris, the troupe’s inaugural artist-in-residence, explains about his motivation in creating the company’s first two-act ballet.

The film focuses on how Kennedy Center Honoree Ailey’s personal experiences directly impacted his work, from being raised by a single mother in difficult circumstances, to his homosexuality, to fighting racial injustice and being an important influence on the Black community, incorporating traditional African movement and American jazz to construct pieces unlike any ever seen before. “Alvin entertained my thoughts and dreams that a Black boy could actually dance,” former AAADT company member George Faison remembers. “It was a universe that I could go into, I could escape to, that would allow me to do anything that I wanted to.”

In a 1988 interview, Ailey says, “You have to be possessed to do dance,” and he was from an early age. The documentary includes clips from such works as 1958’s Blues Suite, a party set to traditional songs performed by Brother John Sellers; 1969’s Masekela Langage, which takes on racial violence and the prison system; 1971’s Cry, a solo for Judith Jamison that was a birthday present for Ailey’s mother; 1971’s Flowers, inspired by the life of Janis Joplin; 1979’s Memoria, a tribute to his late friend and colleague Joyce Trisler; and 1983’s Fever Swamp, Bill T. Jones’s athletic piece for six male dancers. The film also digs deep into Ailey’s most famous ballet, Revelations, the 1960 masterpiece that explores the richness of Black cultural heritage. “We didn’t have to go out on the street and protest; our protest was on the stage,” Faison says. “This was our march to freedom.”

In addition to Jones, Jamison, and Faison, also sharing stories about Ailey are current AAADT artistic director Robert Battle, original company member Carmen de Lavallade, former rehearsal directors and associate artistic directors Mary Barnett and Masazumi Chaya, stage manager and executive director Bill Hammond, and former company dancers Don Martin, Linda Kent, Sylvia Waters, Hope Clark, and Sarita Allen. Barnett calls Ailey’s dances “a reenactment of life,” while de Lavallade, who is shown dancing with Ailey back in the 1950s, notes, “Sometimes your name becomes bigger than yourself. Alvin Ailey — do you really know who that is, or what it is?”

The film would have benefited by Wignot (Town Hall, Walt Whitman) spending more time with Harris and the current Ailey dancers preparing Lazarus, which premiered in 2018 as part of the “Ailey Ascending” sixtieth anniversary season. The scenes were shot at the company’s home studio on West Fifty-Fifth St., a sharply white, brightly lit space with windows on two sides, in contrast to the grainy black-and-white videos and personal photographs tracing Ailey’s life and career that are spread throughout the film.

Last week, Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz’s Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters opened at Film Forum, a thrilling look at the 1989 dance by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company that dealt with the AIDS crisis; the documentary details the original conception of D-Man in the Waters while also following Loyola Marymount dancers as they get ready to perform the piece in 2016, as the directors zero in on humanity’s evolving relationship with tragedy and art across generations. In Ailey, that connection is much less clear, and the contemporary rehearsal scenes feel out of place, especially without the grand finale of a fully staged production of Harris’s homage. (You can watch a brief excerpt of Lazarus made during the pandemic here. AAADT will also be performing August 17-21 at the BAAND Together Dance Festival on Lincoln Center’s Restart Stage at Damrosch Park, featuring Lazarus and Revelations, and the company just announced that its annual New York City season will take place December 1-19 at City Center.)

Even so, Ailey offers a compelling portrait of one of the most important choreographers of the twentieth century, an extraordinary man who changed the way we look at dance and Black culture. Wignot will be at the Angelika for Q&As at the 7:30 screening on July 23 and the 12:45 show on July 24; she will also be at the Howard Gilman Theater at Lincoln Center for a Q&A with Battle, moderated by National Black Justice Coalition executive director David Johns, on July 23 at 6:15 and with Waters, moderated by author, professor, and Shubert board member Pamela Newkirk, on July 24 at 6:15.

CAN YOU BRING IT: BILL T. JONES AND D-MAN IN THE WATERS

Documentary explores the creation and legacy of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s D-Man in the Waters (photo courtesy Rosalynde LeBlanc)

CAN YOU BRING IT: BILL T. JONES AND D-MAN IN THE WATERS (Rosalynde LeBlanc & Tom Hurwitz, 2020)
Film Forum
209 West Houston St.
Opens Friday, July 16
212-727-8110
www.d-mandocumentary.com
filmforum.org

In 1989, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company presented the world premiere of D-Man in the Waters at the prestigious Joyce Theater in New York City, a physically demanding, emotional work born out of the AIDS crisis, dealing with tragedy and loss in the wake of the death of Zane, Jones’s personal and professional partner, at the age of thirty-nine in 1988. Directors Rosalynde LeBlanc and Tom Hurwitz take a deep dive into the history of the dance and its lasting impact more than thirty years later in the captivating documentary Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters, opening July 16 at Film Forum.

“What is D-Man? Is it alive now? Is it a cautionary tale? Is it one of inspiration?” Jones tells fifteen Loyola Marymount dancers who are staging the piece under the direction of LeBlanc, a former company member who runs the Jones/Zane Educational Partnership at the school, where she is an associate professor in the Department of Dance. Jones continues, “Makes you want to get all your shit together, your community together, take responsibility, be beautiful, be fierce — is that what it is? I don’t know what it is. . . . What do they share that is so big, so tragic that you need a piece like this to move it and give it body?”

LeBlanc, who also produced the film, and two-time Emmy-winning cinematographer Hurwitz, the son of longtime Martha Graham dancer, choreographer, and teacher Jane Dudley, talk to most of the original cast of D-Man, many of whom have gone on to form their own companies: Arthur Avilés, Seán Curran, Lawrence Goldhuber, Gregg Hubbard, Heidi Latsky, Janet Lilly, and Betsy McCracken, who, along with Jones and his sister Johari Briggs, share intimate stories of working with Jones and Zane and the importance of the piece as the arts community was being ravaged by AIDS. Sometimes holding back tears, they speak lovingly of Zane and Demian Acquavella, nicknamed “D-Man,” who died at the age of thirty-two in 1990. “He was always a boy, but always a bit of a devilish boy, and the dancing was also that way,” Jones remembers.

Through new and old interviews, home video and archival photographs, and exciting footage from the dance’s original rehearsals and Joyce premiere, LeBlanc, Hurwitz, and editor Ann Collins choreograph a gracefully flowing, compelling narrative as the documentary participants discuss specific movements — Latsky’s attempts at a jump and Curran’s memories of a duet with Acquavella in which their foreheads have to keep touching are wonderful — and LeBlanc tries to reach inside the Loyola Marymount performers to motivate them. They might have the movement down, but D-Man requires more than that to be successful. “Do you dare to let the stakes really be high?” she asks as they search for contemporary issues that impact them similarly to how AIDS affected the creation of the work, which is set to Felix Mendelssohn’s 1825 Octet for Strings, which the German composer wrote at the age of sixteen. “There was some healing, cathartic ritual in the making and the doing of this dance that sustained us,” Curran says, a feeling LeBlanc wants to instill in the college students.

“This work is not about anybody’s epidemic,” Jones, a Kennedy Center Honoree, MacArthur Grant awardee, and Tony winner who is the artistic director of New York Live Arts, said in a statement about the film. “It is about the dark spirit of what is happening in the world and how you push back against it.” Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters gets to the heart of that spirit by revealing the legacy, and the future, of a seminal dance piece that continues to find its place on an ever-evolving planet.

LeBlanc and Hurwitz will be at Film Forum to discuss the film at the 7:00 shows on July 16 and 17 and will participate in a live, virtual Q&A with Jones at 8:00 on July 21. Jones, whose riveting Afterwardsness at Park Avenue Armory in May explored the Covid-19 pandemic, isolation, and racial injustice, will return to the space this fall with Deep Blue Sea, a monumental work for more than one hundred community members and dancers that begins with a solo by Jones and incorporates texts by Martin Luther King Jr. and Herman Melville, with water again playing a critical role.

OPEN AIR: LONI LANDON AND MARY LATTIMORE AT GREEN-WOOD CEMETERY

Mary Lattimore and Loni Landon team up for site-specific performance in Green-Wood Cemetery

OPEN AIR
Green-Wood Cemetery
Fifth Ave. and 25th St., Brooklyn
Wednesday, July 14, and Thursday, July 15, $25, 7:00
www.green-wood.com
www.fourfourpresents.com

Developed during the pandemic, the curatorial platform four/four presents continues its monthly site-specific “Open Air” performance series with a new piece about mourning, healing, rebirth, and renewal, taking place July 14-15 in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Founded by dancer and choreographer Loni Landon and producer Rachael Pazdan, four/four has brought us “Tethered,” a ten-part multidisciplinary video project featuring collaborations with Kassa Overall, slowdanger, Gus Solomons, Zoey Anderson, Rafiq Bhatia, Ian Chang, Jacqueline Green, Jon Batiste, Lloyd Knight, and many others, which can be watched here.

For Green-Wood, Landon has choreographed a work for seven dancers, with live music by experimental harpist Mary Lattimore, performed in Cedar Dell, the one-acre bowl-shaped natural amphitheater with graves dating back to the eighteenth century. The evening will conclude with a participatory meditative sound bath. “Open Air” began June 9 with Madison McFerrin, Samantha Figgins, and Jessica Pinkett teaming up at the Jackie Robinson Park Bandshell; up next are Melanie Charles and Kayla Farrish at the Bushwick Playground Basketball Court on August 8, followed by Moor Mother and Rena Butler at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 on September 21.

LUCKY STAR (0.3)

Pioneers Go East Collective’s Lucky Star (0.3) takes place at Judson Memorial Church July 13-30

LUCKY STAR (0.3)
Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South between Thompson & Sullivan Sts.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, July 13-30, free with RSVP, 8:00
www.judson.org
pioneersgoeast.org

Pioneers Go East Collective honors the history of DIY queer artmaking at such famed New York City venues as La MaMa, Judson Memorial Church, and the Pyramid Club in Lucky Star (0.3), a free multidisciplinary performance installation taking place Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 8:00 at Judson from July 13 to 30. Inspired by Club 57, which was recently highlighted in the documentary Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide, the in-person work consists of five episodes featuring dance/performance artists Shaina and Bryan Baira, Bree Breeden, Daniel Diaz, Beth Graczyk, and Joey Kipp and nightlife icon Agosto Machado. Lucky Star (0.3) was written by creative director Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte and production designer Philip Treviño, with choreography by Ori Flomin, film by Jon Burklund and video designer Kathleen Kelley, set design and fabrication by Mark Tambella, and sound by Marielle Iljazoski and Ryan William Downey.

Lucky Star was born by a desire to make art in a new time,” the collective said in a statement. “We pay homage to creators and legends whose trailblazing work has solidified ways for us to survive as artists reimagining our approach to sharing our work in the age of social media and instant gratification. We term the project a meta-creative journey inviting viewers to engage in an emergent process of collective liberation.” Inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem “Pioneers, O Pioneers!” (“O you youths, Western youths, / So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship, / Plain I see you Western youths, see you tramping with the foremost, / Pioneers! O pioneers!”), Pioneers Go East Collective was founded in 2010 to “empower a collective of thought-provoking, adventurous, and proud LGBTQ artists . . . dedicated to Latinx, BIPOC, and immigrant artists and teaching artists and their communities in all five boroughs, [exploring] stories of vulnerability and courage for social change.” Admission to Lucky Star (0.3) is free with advance RSVP.