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.
Who: Tiffany Mills Company; Hadar Ahuvia and Tatyana Tenenbaum; J. Bouey; Morgan Bullock, Gerald Casel, Daudi Fayar, BamBam Frost, and John Scott; Ricarrdo Valentine/Brother(hood) Dance!; Jasmine Hearn; Sugar Vendil; more
What: Digital and in-person dance festival
Where: La MaMa online and at Downtown Art/Alpha Omega
When: May 12–23, free - $25 (pay-what-you-can)
Why: The 2021 edition of La MaMa Moves! will be a hybrid dance festival, consisting of workshops, discussions, and performances streamed live from the Ellen Stewart Theatre and the Downstairs Theatre at its home at 66 East Fourth St. as well as held in front of a limited audience at Downtown Art/Alpha Omega at 19 East Third St. “Performing artists have always proven to be resilient and resourceful even during the most challenging times,” La MaMa Moves! curator Nicky Paraiso said in a statement. “Since the pandemic began last March, dance practitioners have been both taking time to reflect and going ahead in doing the creative work they are always doing. This past year has certainly been painful and frustrating, both mentally exhausting and physically debilitating. Dance artists have, however, continued to make work, and I believe that the artists participating in this season’s La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival are making work that is essential and true to this pivotal moment in time.”
The sixteenth annual festival kicks off May 12 with an intergenerational discussion in recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Yoshiko Chuma, Sophia Gutchinov, Potri Ranka Manis, Paz Tanjuaquio, and Sugar Vendil, moderated by choreographer and writer Maura Nguyen Donohue. Tiffany Mills Company will offer a Zoom workshop for kids on May 13, Hadar Ahuvia and Tatyana Tenenbaum will perform Prayer of the Morning on May 13 and 15, J. Bouey will present untitled: an exploration of grief on May 14 and 16, and Morgan Bullock, Gerald Casel, Daudi Fayar, BamBam Frost, and John Scott will participate in a Virtual International Showcase on May 18. Tiffany Mills Company will give a sneak peek at the excerpts-in-process Home Project on May 20 and 22 (with Mills, Jordan Morley, Nikolas Owens, Emily Pope, and Mei Yamanaka), Ricarrdo Valentine/Brother(hood) Dance! shares All About Love about Black healing on May 21 and 23, and, on May 22 and 23 at 4:00, La MaMa moves to the nearby Downtown Art/Alpha Omega for outdoor performances of Jasmine Hearn’s Songs from Pleasure Memory and Vendil’s Test Sites. All events require advance RSVP and are either free or pay-what-you-can ($5-$25).
Who: Jon Ronson, Valérie Rousseau, Mark Hogancamp
What: Livestreamed discussion
Where: American Folk Art Museum Zoom
When: Tuesday, May 11, free with RSVP, 1:00
Why: In 2010, Jeff Malmberg’s documentary Marwencol introduced us to Mark Hogancamp, a man who, after suffering a nearly fatal beating from five bigots that resulted in a coma and brain damage, re-created his personal journey in his backyard using toys and dolls, captured in photographs. In 2015, Welsh-American journalist and screenwriter Jon Ronson did a feature on Hogancamp for the Guardian in which Hogancamp told him, “Marwencol was solely made up so I could kill those five guys. I had no way to do it in real life. I played it over in my head. I’d get caught. I’d go to prison. I’d get the chair. The first time I killed all five of them, I felt a little bit better. That violent hatred and anger subsided a little.” In conjunction with the American Folk Art Museum exhibition “PHOTO | BRUT: Collection Bruno Decharme & Compagnie,” consisting of works by such self-taught artists as Henry Darger, Albert Moser, Norma Oliver, Elke Tangeten, and Hogancamp, the institution is hosting the live Zoom discussion “The Imagined Worlds of Marwencol with Jon Ronson and Mark Hogancamp” with Ronson (The Men Who Stare at Goats, Okja), curator Valérie Rousseau, and Hogancamp, taking place May 11 at 1:00. Admission is free with RSVP; the exhibit continues through June 6.
Who: Awol Erizku, Daniel S. Palmer
What: Public Art Fund talk
Where: The Cooper Union on Zoom
When: Monday, May 10, free with RSVP, 5:00
Why: For his first public solo exhibition, Bronx-raised Cooper Union alum Awol Erizku has created New Visions for Iris, consisting of thirteen photographs taken during the pandemic and installed at 350 JCDecaux bus shelters around New York City and Chicago. “Certain images just need to be made, for them to be out in the world,” Erizku says in a video about the Public Art Fund project. “It’s an offering, sort of a dismantling and reconstruction of certain visual language I have seen and want to see. I think of these as like intellectual snapshots, ideas that I’m processing at that particular moment, and these things manifest in the image.” The snapshots are meant to begin dialogues, initially between the artist and his daughter but now among everyone. The exhibit continues through June 10; on May 10 at 5:00, Erizku will take part in a live conversation with Public Art Fund curator Daniel S. Palmer, presented in partnership with the Cooper Union.
Who: Dr. Alejandro Chaoul, Marc Glimcher, David Leslie
What: Virtual guided meditation
Where: Pace Gallery Zoom webinar
When: Monday, May 10, free with RSVP, 2:00
Why: I’ve spent much time standing in front of paintings by Mark Rothko, drawn into their sheer beauty and psychological and emotional depth. Next week we can all do so virtually in a special presentation from Pace Gallery. In 1964, Dominique and John de Menil commissioned Rothko to create murals for what would become known as the Rothko Chapel in Houston; the Russian-born artist completed a suite of fourteen paintings in 1967 but died before the chapel opened to the public in 1971. “The Rothko Chapel is oriented towards the sacred, and yet it imposes no traditional environment. It offers a place where a common orientation could be found – an orientation towards God, named or unnamed, an orientation towards the highest aspirations of Man and the most intimate calls of the conscience,” Dominique de Menil said of the ecumenical space. Rothko previously wrote to his benefactors, “The magnitude, on every level of experience and meaning, of the task in which you have involved me, exceeds all of my preconceptions. And it is teaching me to extend myself beyond what I thought was possible for me.” In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the space, Pace Gallery is hosting a Monday meditation led by Tibetan meditation teacher Dr. Alejandro Chaoul, recorded in the chapel. The meditation will be followed by a conversation between Pace president and CEO Marc Glimcher, Rothko Chapel executive director David Leslie, and Dr. Chaoul. Admission is free with advance RSVP.