Who: Brandon J. Dirden, Andrew Hovelson, Merritt Janson, Roslyn Ruff, Glynn Turman, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Blair Brown, Michael Cumpsty, Oakes Fegley, Bill Irwin, Bebe Neuwirth, Phillipa Soo, Steven Skybell, Sam Waterston
What: Two River Rising Series
Where: Two River Theater online
When: Sunday, July 26, $25, 7:00 (available for free July 27-30 on YouTube); August 5-6, $25, 7:00
Why: Red Bank’s Two River Theater has amassed all-star lineups for its first two live benefit readings. On July 26 at 7:00, most of the original cast will reunite for an updated version of Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine, which ran at the New Jersey theater in the spring of 2015 and hosted many postshow discussions. The racially charged tale of a polemical dinner party features returning actors Brandon J. Dirden as Zeke, Andrew Hovelson as Randall, Merritt Janson as Judith, and Roslyn Ruff as Janeece, with Glynn Turman taking on the role of Zebedee. “I think this is a conversation we all have long waited for, and now the time is here,” Tony-winning actor, writer, and director Santiago-Hudson (Paradise Blue, August Wilson’s American Century Cycle) says in a promotional video. The reading will be performed live Sunday night and followed by a Q&A, after which it will be available for viewing July 27-30; the presentation is a benefit for the theater and the Ruben Santiago-Hudson Fine Arts Learning Center in his hometown of Lackawanna.
The series continues August 5 and 6 at 7:00 with a two-night reading of Paul Osborn’s On Borrowed Time, directed by Oscar and Tony winner Joel Grey and starring Blair Brown, Michael Cumpsty, Oakes Fegley, Bill Irwin, Bebe Neuwirth, Phillipa Soo, Steven Skybell, and Sam Waterston. Act one will be read August 5, act two on August 6; proceeds benefit the Actors Fund. The 1938 play about death as an older couple raise their orphaned grandson has been revived on Broadway several times and was made into a film with Lionel Barrymore, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Beulah Bondi, and Una Merkel; it ran at Two River in the fall of 2013. Grey made his acting debut in the role of nine-year-old Pud at the Cleveland Play House in 1941. “Though I’m not nine anymore, I’ve revisited this play many times throughout my life, and I’m not sure I ever needed to hear what it has to say as much as I do right now,” he said in a statement.
Who: Dancers from all around the world
What: Third annual 92Y Harkness Dance Center festival of works recorded on mobile devices
Where: 92Y online
When: July 25 - August 31, $5
Why: It would be easy to jump to conclusions and assume that the 92nd St. Y’s Mobile Dance Film Festival is the result of the pandemic lockdown, where all of us, artists included, do not have access to studios and stages and professional equipment. But in fact this is third annual event, although there is a new category this year consisting of films made during quarantine: Alexander Dampbell and Anthoula Syndica-Drummond’s Where We Are, Charly Wenzel’s PAUSE, DanielRose Project’s Small Jumps, Davide Arneodo’s Intermission, Diego Funes’s Absence, Kit McDaniel’s BAD DREAM, Laura Ardner’s Working Hard or Hardly Working?, Liz Curtis’s Quarantined Corps, Marta Renzi’s Dancing Is an Old Friend, Maxfield Haynes’s Don’t Rush (feat. A Few of the Black Men of the Concert Dance World), Milie Nelson’s THE RED ZONE, Valentina Cayota’s COVIDEO, and Vashti Goracke’s To Connect.
The four programs total thirty works from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Russia, Sweden, Uruguay, and the US, in addition to the new documentary “Bent But Not Broken,” which will be followed by a discussion with director Paige Fraser, choreographer Rena Butler, and MDFF curator Andrew Chapman, who explained in a statement, “Even as film and dance artists face some of the most difficult times during the pandemic when it comes to creating, they have not let these difficulties stand in the way of their need or ability to work. They have done what creative people do: taken what they have available and made art.” The streams begin on July 25 at 8:00 and will remain available through August 31; $5 gets you in to see everything.
Who: Kes, Lila Downs, Junglepussy, Madison McFerrin, Shantell Martin, ?uestlove, Angelique Kidjo, Yemi Alade, Buscabulla, Glendalys Medina, the Tallest Man on Earth, Common, Robert Glasper, Karriem Riggins, Michelle Buteau
What: BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival
Where: BRIC Facebook, YouTube
When: Saturday, July 25, and Sunday, July 26, free, 8:00
Why: Every summer I make sure to return to the borough of my birth, in the park where my parents used to push me around in a stroller, to revel in the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, a months-long party of music, dance, art, food, and camaraderie. Of course, with New York City in pandemic lockdown, the in-person festival has been canceled; however, you can get a taste of what you’re missing when Celebrate Brooklyn! goes virtual this weekend. A wide-ranging collection of international performers will be taking part, with Kes, Lila Downs, Junglepussy, Madison McFerrin with Shantell Martin, and ?uestlove (DJ set) on Saturday night and Angelique Kidjo, Yemi Alade, Buscabulla with visual artist Glendalys Medina, the Tallest Man on Earth, and Common joined by Robert Glasper and Karriem Riggins on Sunday evening. The event will be hosted live on Facebook, YouTube, and Brooklyn cable channels by comedian and actress Michelle Buteau. In addition, there will be an all-star finale celebrating the greatest borough in the world. The festival is free, but donations will be accepted for the BRIC Creative Future Relief Fund here.
Who: Koichi Sato, Ken Watanabe, Chigumi Obayashi, Noriki Ishitobi, Yo Nakajima, Takako Tokiwa, Aaron Gerow, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Yuko Iwasaki, Yuichi Watanabe, Noriko Yamasaki, Aiko Masubuchi, Nanako Hirose, Ian Thomas Ash, Kaori Oda, Kaori Sakagami, Amber Noé, Shinichiro Ueda
What: Annual Japan Cuts film festival
Where: Japan Society online
When: Through July 30, film rentals $3-$7, panel discussions free
Why: My favorite film festival every summer is Japan Cuts, Japan Society’s annual survey of the state of new Japanese film. One of the joys is the wide range of genres represented, from horror, romance, martial arts, goofy comedies, sci-fi, and crime dramas to anime, family stories, historical epics, musicals, war movies, and, well, the unexplainable. Just about all of them are evident in Labyrinth of Cinema, Nobuhiko Obayashi’s last work, and one that is almost impossible to explain. The legendary auteur behind such films as Hausu, Casting Blossoms to the Sky, Seven Weeks, and Hanagatami died in April at the age of eighty-two, and Labyrinth of Cinema is quite a grand finale. Obayashi wrote, directed, photographed, and edited the three-hour surreal marvel, a colorful, endlessly clever celebration of the movies, made while he was battling cancer. On closing night, July 30, at 9:00, there will be a live Q&A with the yet-to-be-announced recipient of the Obayashi Prize, named in honor of the master.
In addition, you can watch “Nobuhiko Obayashi: A Conversation” at any time, a ninety-seven-minute discussion of the life and legacy of Obayashi, with his daughter, Chigumi Obayashi, journalist Noriki Ishitobi, Theater Kino founder Yo Nakajima, and actress and Obayashi regular Takako Tokiwa, moderated by Yale East Asian Cinema and Culture professor Aaron Gerow, as well as “Shinya Tsukamoto on Nobuhiko Obayashi,” a video tribute from the Tetsuo trilogy director, and the 2019 documentary Seijo Story — 60 Years of Making Films, which traces the personal and professional relationship between Obayashi and his wife, Kyoko Hanyu.
There will also be a live panel discussion on July 23 at 9:00 about the centerpiece presentation, Setsuro Wakamatsu’s fast-paced thriller Fukushima 50, a minute-by-minute suspense yarn that follows the earthquake, tsunami, and deadly disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that occurred on March 11, 2011. Based on the book On the Brink by Ryusho Kadota, the film is a terrific companion piece to the Netflix series Chernobyl; while the latter focuses on the governmental cover-up, Fukushima 50 is all about people coming together bravely to try to do the right thing. The stars of the film and winners of the 2020 Cut Above Award, Koichi Sato, who plays shift supervisor Toshio Izaki, and Ken Watanabe, who portrays plant manager Masao Yoshida, will participate in the talk, which will be archived after its live airing.
The date 3/11 also figures prominently in Taku Tsuboi’s time-twisting debut, Sacrifice, a supernatural tale involving a cult, a college student with unusual abilities, a serial cat killer, and other mysterious elements. It’s dark and creepy, filled with plenty of shocks; make sure your cat isn’t around when you’re watching this Best Picture winner at the Skip City International D-Cinema Festival.
It doesn’t get much stranger than Takuya Dairiki and Takashi Miura’s Kinta & Ginji, a thoroughly charming existential tale in which Beckett’s Waiting for Godot meets Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise by way of The Iron Giant and “Little Red Riding Hood.” In their twelfth film together, Dairiki and Miura (Honane, Fine as Usual, Koroishi) star as the title characters, a robot and a raccoon dog who go for long walks in the woods and across large swaths of land, discussing the absurdities of life and asking such questions as “Why are we here?” The camera never moves as set pieces play out in real time (there are only a handful of cuts within scenes), the two beings often barely visible, hidden in nature as they share their unique worldviews. It’s an absolute hoot, especially when seen during the current pandemic, when so many of us crave even the most mundane of conversations with someone, anyone else.
And speaking of conversations, there are a few more you can check out: “Collaboration and Community in Japanese Cinema During the Pandemic” features Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Yuko Iwasaki, Yuichi Watanabe, Noriko Yamasaki, and moderator Aiko Masubuchi; “New Approaches to Documentary from Japan” brings together Nanako Hirose, Ian Thomas Ash, Kaori Oda, Kaori Sakagami, and moderator Amber Noé; and Opening Night Live Q&A with Shinichiro Ueda is a July 17 discussion with Ueda, director of the opening-night selection, Special Actors.
The festival continues through July 30 with such other films as Natsuki Nakagawa’s Beyond the Night, Kana Yamada’s Life: Untitled, several of Yoji Yamada’s old and new Tora-san films, and a one-day-only preview streaming of Toshiaki Toyoda’s The Day of Destruction.
APOLLO AND THE ODYSSEY: THE SHARED ORBIT OF NASA’S LUNAR MISSION AND STANLEY KUBRICK’S 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY
Who: Todd Douglas Miller, Barry Miller, Bert Ulrich, Eric Hynes, Sonia Epstein
What: Illustrated online discussion
Where: Museum of the Moving Image online
When: Thursday, July 23, free with RSVP (suggested donation $10), 7:00
Why: In Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novel The Shining, young Danny is seen riding his Big Wheel through the hallways of the Overlook Hotel wearing an Apollo 11 sweater. According to Rodney Ascher’s terrific documentary Room 237, that is only one piece of evidence confirming the conspiracy theory that Kubrick was involved in faking the footage of the moon landing. Look for that to come up in the Museum of the Moving Image program “Apollo and the Odyssey: The Shared Orbit of NASA’s Lunar Mission and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey,” which airs live online on July 23 at 7:00. Held in conjunction with the exhibition “Envisioning 2001: Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey,” which has been closed during the pandemic lockdown, the talk features Apollo 11 director Todd Douglas Miller, NASA chief historian Barry Miller, NASA multimedia liaison Bert Ulrich, MoMI curator Eric Hynes, and associate curator Sonia Epstein. Written by Kubrick and sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke, the mindbending 1968 film was a game changer; the discussion will include rare archival footage as it explores elements of the U.S. space program, which has added relevance as President Trump gets Space Force under way.
Who: Justin Cunningham, Danyel Fulton, Marcia Pendelton, Andre Harrington, Michael Dinwiddie, more
What: Live Q&A
Where: Transport Group online
When: Thursday, July 23, free with RSVP, 7:00 (musical available for streaming through August 16)
Why: New York City-based Transport Group is streaming a filmed version of its fall 2019 world premiere musical Broadbend, Arkansas, through August 16, hosted by Tony winner Chuck Cooper; the show, which deals with racial inequality, caregiving, and police brutality and was nominated for three Antonyo Awards, stars Justin Cunningham and Danyel Fulton and is directed by two-time Obie winner and TG artistic director Jack Cummings III; the libretto is by Ellen Fitzhugh and Harrison David Rivers, with music and additional lyrics by Ted Shen. It’s free to stream, although donations are encouraged to the Black Theatre Network. On July 23 at 7:00, Transport Group will host a live discussion and Q&A with the cast and creative team in addition to Marcia Pendelton of Walk Tall Girl Productions and Black Theatre Network president Andre Harrington, moderated by NYU associate professor Michael Dinwiddie.
Who: Nina Arianda, Paul Giamatti, Pedro Pascal, Corey Stoll, Arian Moayed
What: Benefit reading series
Where: Cape Cod Theatre Project
When: Thursday, July 23, and Saturday, July 25, $50, 7:00
Why: Based in Falmouth, Massachusetts, Cape Cod Theatre Project is presenting a live, virtual benefit reading series, which they kicked off earlier this month with Zora Howard’s Bust, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz; Edith Freni’s The Hystericals, directed by Jessica Holt; and Michele Lowe’s Moses, directed by Daniella Topol. The quartet of newly developed work concludes with Kevin Artigue’s I, My Ruination, directed by Hal Brooks and featuring Tony winner Nina Arianda, Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Paul Giamatti, Drama Desk and Golden Globe nominee Corey Stoll, Pedro Pascal, and Tony nominee Arian Moayed. The play is set in 1952 Hollywood as Elia Kazan appears before the House Un-American Activities Committee and discusses his life and career with his wife, Molly, and fellow writer Arthur Miller. Among the other playwrights whose work has been developed by Cape Cod Theatre Project are Sharr White, Anna Ziegler, Will Arbery, Bess Wohl, Lucas Hnath, Hamish Linklater, and Heidi Schreck. The readings will take place July 23 and 25 at 7:00 and will be followed by an interactive talkback; tickets are $50.