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

NEXT WAVE FESTIVAL: THE SECOND WOMAN

The Second Woman repeats the same scene from John Cassavetes’s Opening Night one hundred times (photo by Heidrun Lohr)

The Second Woman repeats the same scene from John Cassavetes’s Opening Night one hundred times (photo by Heidrun Lohr)

THE SECOND WOMAN
BAM Fisher, Fishman Space, 321 Ashland Pl.
October 18, 5:00 pm - October 19, 5:00 pm, $25
718-636-4100
www.bam.org/secondwoman

Last month, Cyril Teste’s multimedia adaptation of John Cassavetes’s 1977 film Opening Night kicked off FIAF’s Crossing the Line Festival, an immersive production highlighted by the US stage debut of French star Isabelle Adjani. Cassavetes’s film stars Gena Rowlands, his wife, as a theater actress getting lost between fiction and reality during out-of-town previews of a show called Second Woman; Cassavetes plays her leading man. Now BAM is presenting another unique exploration of the film in its Next Wave Festival. Beginning at 5:00 on the afternoon of October 18 and continuing for twenty-four consecutive hours, actress Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development, Blaze) will perform the same scene from Opening Night one hundred times, each with a different man playing opposite her. (There will be short breaks at 7:00 pm and then every two hours.) Created, written, and directed by Nat Randall and Anna Breckon, Second Man features video direction by EO Gill and Breckon (there are four cameras in use), lighting by Amber Silk and Kayla Burrett, sound by Nina Buchanan, and set design by Genevieve Murray/FUTURE METHOD STUDIO.

As opposed to theater, which is live every night, a movie scene can be done over and over again until everyone involved — particularly the director and the star — is happy with the result. However, in this case, Shawkat — who in Miguel Arteta’s Duck Butter played a character on a twenty-four-hour date with another woman, making love every sixty minutes — will be caught in an endless loop, a repetition that will be different every time as the other actor changes. “The Second Woman takes as its starting point the idea that emotions and identities are culturally and historically specific, and that gender identities are defined by, and produced through, emotional cultures and norms,” Randall and Breckon explain in a program note. “Taking gender, as a particular relation to cultural power and privilege, as its focus, The Second Woman explores the ways in which gender privilege and power expresses itself through feeling.” Advance timed tickets allow entry at 5:00 and midnight on Friday and 4:00 and 8:00 am on Saturday; otherwise, you can buy tickets at the venue, and you are allowed to leave and come back at any time as space permits.

WHITE LIGHT FESTIVAL 2019

(photo copyright Hiroshi Sugimoto / courtesy Odawara Art Foundation)

Sugimoto Bunraku Sonezaki Shinju’s The Love Suicides at Sonezaki kicks off Lincoln Center’s tenth annual White Light Festival (photo copyright Hiroshi Sugimoto / courtesy Odawara Art Foundation)

Multiple venues at Lincoln Center
October 19 - November 24, free - $165
212-721-6500
www.lincolncenter.org

Lincoln Center’s multidisciplinary White Light Festival turns ten this year, and it is celebrating with another wide-ranging program of dance, theater, music, and more, running October 19 through November 24 at such venues as the Rose Theater, the Gerald W. Lynch Theater at John Jay College, Alice Tully Hall, and the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. “The resonance of the White Light Festival has only deepened during its first decade, as we have moved into far more challenging times here and around the world,” Lincoln Center artistic director Jane Moss said in a statement. “The Festival’s central theme, namely the singular capacity of artistic expression to illuminate what is inside ourselves and connect us to others, is more relevant than ever. This tenth anniversary edition spanning disparate countries, cultures, disciplines, and genres emphasizes that the elevation of the spirit the arts inspires uniquely unites us and expands who we are.” Things get under way October 19-22 (Rose Theater, $35-$100) with Sugimoto Bunraku Sonezaki Shinju’s The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, a retelling of a long-banned tale by Chikamatsu Monzaemon using puppets, composed and directed by Seiji Tsurusawa, with choreography by Tomogoro Yamamura and video by Tabaimo and artistic director Hiroshi Sugimoto. That is followed October 23-25 by Australia ensemble Circa’s boundary-pushing En Masse (Gerald W. Lynch Theater, $25-$65), directed and designed by Yaron Lifschitz, combining acrobatics and contemporary dance with music by Klara Lewis along with Franz Schubert and Igor Stravinsky.

In Zauberland (Magic Land) (October 29-30, Gerald W. Lynch, $35-$95), soprano Julia Bullock performs Schumann’s Romantic song cycle Dichterliebe while facing haunting memories; the text is by Heinrich Heine and Martin Crimp, with Cédric Tiberghien on piano. The set for Roysten Abel’s The Manganiyar Seduction (November 6–9, Rose Theater, $55-$110) is mind-blowing, consisting of more than two dozen Manganiyar musicians in their own lighted rectangular spaces in a giant red box. Last year, Irish company Druid and cofounder Garry Hynes brought a comic Waiting for Godot to the White Light Festival; this year they’re back with a dark take on Richard III (November 7-23, Gerald W. Lynch, $35-$110) starring Aaron Monaghan, who played Estragon in 2018. Wynton Marsalis will lead The Abyssinian Mass (November 21-23, Rose Theater, $45-$165) with Chorale Le Chateau, featuring a sermon by Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III. In addition to the above, there are also several one-time-only events, listed below.

(photo by Robbie Jack)

DruidShakespeare will present Richard III at the White Light Festival November 7-23 (photo by Robbie Jack)

Thursday, October 24
Jordi Savall: Journey to the East, Alice Tully Hall, $35-$110, 7:30

Tuesday, October 29
Mahler Songs, recital by German baritone Christian Gerhahe with pianist Gerold Huber, Alice Tully Hall, $45-$90, 7:30

Thursday, November 7
Stabat Mater by James MacMillan, with Britten Sinfonia and the Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers, Alice Tully Hall, $50-$85, 7:30

Saturday, November 9
White Light Conversation: Let’s Talk About Religion, panel discussion with Kelly Brown Douglas, Marcelo Gleiser, James MacMillan, and Stephen Prothero, moderated by John Schaefer, Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Studio, free, 3:00

Sunday, November 10
Goldberg Variations, with pianist Kit Armstrong, Walter Reade Theater, $25, 11:00 am

Wednesday, November 13
Ensemble Basiani: Unifying Voices, Church of St. Mary the Virgin, $55, 7:30

Thursday, November 14
Attacca Quartet with Caroline Shaw: Words and Music, David Rubenstein Atrium, free, 7:30

Sunday, November 17
Tristan and Isolde, Act II, with the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda, featuring Stephen Gould as Tristan and Christine Goerke as Isolde, David Geffen Hall, $35-$105, 3:00

Thursday, November 21
Gloria, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and its Choir, conducted by harpsichordist Jonathan Cohen, featuring soprano Katherine Watson, countertenor Iestyn Davies, and soprano Rowan Pierce, Alice Tully Hall, $100, 7:30

Sunday, November 24
Los Angeles Philharmonic: Cathedral of Sound, Bruckner’s “Romantic” Symphony, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, David Geffen Hall, $35-$105, 3:00

THE HEIGHT OF THE STORM

(photo by Joan Marcus)

Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce play a happy couple dealing with death in The Height of the Storm (photo by Joan Marcus)

Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through November 24, $79-$169
heightofthestorm.com
www.manhattantheatreclub.com

Eileen Atkins and Jonathan Pryce are more than reason enough to see Florian Zeller’s latest intricate family drama, The Height of the Storm, although the play doesn’t quite live up to its lofty ambitions. The follow-up to Zeller’s trilogy of The Father, The Mother, and The Son, this new work shares themes with its predecessors, particularly The Father; as in that story, an elderly man named André (Pryce) with two daughters, Anne (Amanda Drew) and Élise (Lisa O’Hare), is having trouble with his memory. But in this case, there has been a death, but it’s not clear whether it’s André, an extremely successful writer, or his wife, Madeleine (Atkins). References to a recent bereavement are many, yet the two elderly married characters appear in scenes together that do not seem to be flashbacks. “There’s nothing to understand. People who try to understand things are morons,” an ornery André says, which is good advice to the audience as well, who shouldn’t try to think too hard to figure out what’s happening, whether we’re watching the present, the past, or the meanderings of a man suffering from dementia.

Anne is going through her father’s papers at the request of his editor to find more material to publish. Élise and her latest boyfriend, real estate agent Paul (James Hiller), are in from Paris, about to rush back for an important meeting. Madeleine is much calmer, walking through their vegetable garden and making her husband’s favorite mushroom dish. (The play takes place in Anthony Ward’s cozy, high-ceilinged kitchen set.) But when a woman (Lucy Coho) arrives claiming to be an old friend of André’s, his memory is tested yet again. “I had a life. I don’t deny it. But in the end, what’s left?” André opines. “A few faces? A few names lost in the fog? Here and there . . . Not much more. May as well forget everything.”

(photo by Joan Marcus)

A family gathering is interrupted by an unexpected guest in Florian Zeller’s The Height of the Storm (photo by Joan Marcus)

Pryce (Comedians, Miss Saigon), who has won two Tonys and two Olivier Awards, and three-time Olivier Award winner Atkins (Honour, A Room of One’s Own) are impeccable, delivering meticulous performances anchored by the fear that after fifty years of marriage, either André or Madeleine must go first, leaving the other one alone. Drew (Three Days in the Country, Enron), who played Anne in James Macdonald’s production of The Father at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 2016, is staunchly resolute as the daughter trying to keep everything from falling apart. The ninety-minute play features profound lighting by Hugh Vanstone, particularly as it relates to Pryce, who is sometimes cast in darkness while the others remain lit and talking. But director Jonathan Kent (Plenty, Naked) and translator Christopher Hampton (who did the same for the previous three related works) don’t always maneuver fluidly through the narrative; part of the intent is to set the viewer off balance, but too much manipulative confusion is not ideal, especially when accompanied by a clichéd twist. “What is my position? What is my position here? What is my position? My position! What is my position here? My position. Here. What is it? My position . . . what is it?” André frantically demands at one point. The audience is often not sure, which can be both hypnotic and aggravating.

I CAN’T SEE

i cant see

133 Greenwich St.
Tuesday - Sunday through November 3, $45-$50
nightmarenyc.com

I loved the grand finale of I Can’t See, the latest immersive frightfest from Timothy Haskell and Paul Smithyman of Psycho Clan, the masterminds behind such other surreal events as Full Bunny Contact, Santastical, and This Is Real. Unfortunately, much of what came before left me uncomfortable and unimpressed. I Can’t See is a forty-five-minute guided journey in complete darkness; after signing in, visitors are double-blindfolded and given headphones through which they receive instructions and follow the narrative, which is based on “The Toll-House,” the classic 1909 British ghost story by W. W. Jacobs about a group of friends who decide to spend the night in a possibly haunted mansion. The setup is that you, identified as Sam, are taking part in an experiment by Optecs Corp about fear. “You’ve often mocked the poor decisions of others who are in situations of peril. Confident that you would do better,” a voice says. “Now you have that chance. You will be in peril. You will make decisions. Decisions that will reflect your character. . . . It is better that you know that you are not a hero than to think you could be one if only you had the chance. That is also freeing. Free to be the coward you have been too afraid to admit you are.”

But those instructions, which conclude with a demonic voice threatening, “You’re going to die,” are disingenuous. For most of the presentation, you are led around by hands and bodies that push, prod, jostle, and shift you as you make your way through various scenarios. You must follow the unseen path by holding on to “umbilicals,” either rope, a banister, or another material, to help position you. I found myself regularly bumping into what I believed to be one of the other two people I was going through with, detracting from my experience while, I hoped, not negatively affecting theirs. These regular occurrences also took me out of the story, which I was fully prepared to invest myself in.

(photo by twi-ny/mdr)

I Can’t See offers a double-blindfolded trip through a classic ghost story (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

You might not be able to see, but you will get to use your senses of touch, smell, taste, and hearing, some of which is fun and some of which is not. There are also several mentions of a bright blue light, which made me think of the Tribute in Light that is projected every year on 9/11 where the Twin Towers once stood; I Can’t See takes place in a space on Greenwich St. in the shadows of the former World Trade Center.

But then comes the exciting ending, in which you are by yourself. (I would have much preferred to go through the whole thing alone.) At last, you get to make your own decisions, and in my case, I survived. The two people who were with me, alas, suffered a far worse fate. Early on in I Can’t See, after an escape artist has serious difficulties, the MC announces, “Terribly sorry, folks. That did not go as planned. We will work out the kinks and bring you another show tomorrow.” The same might be said for I Can’t See itself.

THE GLASS MENAGERIE

The Glass Menagerie

Amanda Wingfield (Ginger Grace) embraces her daughter, Laura (Alexandra Rose), in dark adaptation of The Glass Menagerie (photo © Chris Loupos)

The Wild Project
195 East Third St. between Aves. A & B
Wednesday - Monday through October 20, $35
thewildproject.com
www.theglassmenagerieplay.com

The front of the program of Ruth Stage’s intimate, streamlined production of The Glass Menagerie, which opened last week for a woefully limited engagement at the Wild Project, is a film-noir-like image of the cast, with Wingfield matriarch Amanda (Ginger Grace), son Tom (Matt de Rogatis), and daughter Laura (Alexandra Rose) dressed in black, staring out at the viewer; Amanda stands far left, stern and tall over the others; kneeling in front of her is Tom, who looks like a cat burglar with a black knit hat pulled tight on his head. He holds a cigarette, at the very center of the photo, that points at Laura, far right, in a sexy shoulder-baring dress with a few sequins, looking as vulnerable as the small, fragile glass animal she is balancing in her hand. In between the siblings sits the gentleman caller (Spencer Scott), in a gray suit and white shirt, peering at Laura. It’s a compelling portrait, and one that gets to the heart of this dark adaptation even though it is fantasy; not only is the scene not in the play, but the three Wingfields never wear those costumes, and the smoking is done with imaginary cigarettes. It’s like a misconstructed memory, a skewed reality. “I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion,” Tom says directly to the audience in the opening monologue. “The play is memory. Being a memory play, it is dimly lighted, it is sentimental, it is not realistic.” In the hands of codirectors Austin Pendleton and Peter Bloch, it is also bold, powerful, and exquisitely rendered.

The Glass Menagerie

Tom (Matt de Rogatis), Amanda (Ginger Grace), and Laura (Alexandra Rose) sit down for a minimalist dinner in The Glass Menagerie (photo © Chris Loupos)

Williams’s semiautobiographical 1944 play is about a domineering mother, a physically disabled daughter, and a desperate son who can’t find his place. But Pendleton and Block, who previously collaborated on Ruth Stage’s epic Wars of the Roses also with de Rogatis, offer a very different take in this intimate version of a dysfunctional family. Jessie Bonaventure’s set is cramped and claustrophobic, with a round kitchen table, a sofa, part of a fire escape, and an alley off to one side. Hovering over it all is a large photo of Amanda’s husband and Tom and Laura’s father, a telephone man who ran off years before and has not been heard from since, although his presence is felt in everything they do. Steve Wolf’s lighting, Jesse Meckl’s sound design, Sean Hagerty’s score, and Arlene’s costumes maintain the eerie mood.

The tale is narrated by Tom, with de Rogatis, in a homey southern accent, making eye contact with all eighty-nine members of the audience, as if each of us is getting our own private telling. Instead of portraying Amanda as strict and manipulative, Grace plays her with a soft tenderness that is heartbreaking, reminiscent of Mary Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. And Rose, in her professional theater debut, is beguiling as Laura, who is not quite as fragile as usual; Rose uses no limp to depict her character’s physical impairment. This is Tom’s memory, after all, his remembrance of what happened once upon a time in 1939 St. Louis, and Pendleton and Bloch have replaced the homoerotic subtext that is often evident in the relationship between Tom and his work acquaintance, gentleman caller Jim O’Connor (sharply played by Scott), with incestuous undertones; when Tom lurks in the background, watching Jim and Laura, he appears jealous and unhappy, leaving when they kiss as if a spurned lover. He does not recall Laura as a physically damaged little girl but as a beautiful young woman who deserves more.

The Glass Menagerie

A gentleman caller (Spencer Scott) woos Laura (Alexandra Rose) in The Glass Menagerie at the Wild Project (photo © Chris Loupos)

There have been two major Broadway revivals of The Glass Menagerie in the last six years, first by John Tiffany, starring Cherry Jones, Zachary Quinto, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Brian J. Smith at the Booth in 2013, then by Sam Gold, with Sally Field, Joe Mantello, Madison Ferris, and Finn Wittrock at the Belasco in 2017. Pendleton and Bloch’s production might not have big names and a big budget, but its grim, haunting take is a must-see. Here’s hoping it gets extended past its October 20 closing date so more can partake of its ingenuity and inventiveness.

TWI-NY TALK: JOHN KELLY — UNDERNEATH THE SKIN

John Kelly takes on the persona of Samuel Steward in Underneath the Skin (photo by Josef Astor)

John Kelly takes on the persona of Samuel Steward in Underneath the Skin (photo by Josef Astor)

NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts
566 La Guardia Pl.
October 11-12, $35-$45, 7:30
212-992-8484
nyuskirball.org

“I like to move people. That’s my job, to move people. I’m not an entertainer; I’m an engager,” performance artist extraordinaire John Kelly told me in a phone interview earlier this week as he was hunkered down, preparing his latest show, Underneath the Skin, for its world premiere October 11-12 at NYU’s Skirball Center. For four decades, Kelly has been creating shows in which he takes on the persona of other artists, including Egon Schiele in Pass the Blutwurst, Bitte, Caravaggio in The Escape Artist, Joni Mitchell in Paved Paradise, and Antonin Artaud in Life of Cruelty. In the multimedia Underneath the Skin, Kelly, who is also a visual artist, filmmaker, dancer-choreographer, vocalist, songwriter, and author, explores the life and career of poet, professor, tattoo artist, novelist, diarist, and “sexual renegade” Samuel Steward. The Ohio-born Steward, who died in Berkeley in 1993 at the age of eighty-four, left behind a highly influential legacy despite constant systemic roadblocks because of his sexuality.

“Misfortune to a degree followed him, but maybe misfortune followed every gay man in those days,” said Kelly, who did extensive research for the show, which he wrote, directed, choreographed, produced, scored, designed the set and costumes for, and did the video editing. The piece, which is completely constructed of Steward’s words, also features Chris Harder, Alvaro Gonzalez, and Hucklefaery (ne’ Ken Mechler). “Every hour at this point is crucial,” Kelly noted, but he was still very generous with his time as we spoke about Steward, the AIDS epidemic, cultural amnesia, recalibration, and autobiography. Kelly will also be appearing at the Neue Galerie’s Café Sabarsky on November 26 in a cabaret concert of original music as well as songs by Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill, Charles Aznavour, Danny Elfman, and others.

twi-ny: Since the mid-1980s, you’ve been taking on the persona of other artists. What initially attracted you to do these kinds of character studies? As a child, were you doing impersonations, or were you drawn to artists?

John Kelly: I grew up assuming I’d be a visual artist. I could draw — I got that gift from my father. But then I switched to dance and ballet training, and modern when I was about seventeen. I came upon Schiele in art school and he became one of my early inspirations. So my performance work about him was a way of merging my dance background with my visual art practice, literally to embody an artist onstage, to see what that would look like.

The thing about the niche in my career focusing on the character of artists — my work has been fifty-fifty autobiographical or semiautobiographical or metaphorical, and then fifty percent focusing on actual characters from history, whether it was a real person or a mythological character like Orpheus. And I guess the reason with that is that when I do the autobiographical or metaphorical or semiautobiographical works, there’s an urgency in me that is wanting to get out. And then when I focus on an existing character, there’s something in their life story and work that speaks to me, and I’m able to embody them to some degree and also satisfy my need to express certain parts of myself and what I’m going through at any given moment.

(photo by Paula Court)

John Kelly traced his own life and career in the autobiographical Time No Line (photo by Paula Court)

twi-ny: When you were doing the autobiographical Time No Line, did you learn anything about yourself that you hadn’t realized before?

jk: I’ve been keeping journals since 1977, and I started scanning them because I wanted to get another copy, with an eye to an eventual memoir. But one of the things that fueled Time No Line was that I’m a survivor of my generation. My generation was pretty much wiped out by the AIDS epidemic, and I’m watching a couple of things: I’m watching the absence of my tribe in the world and the absence of those voices and the absence of our intergenerational dialogue between my generation and younger generations, and also I’m seeing my generation’s history being written by younger people who weren’t there and who probably had no way of really getting it.

I imagine they’re highly educated and well-intended — I just hope they get it right because they’re accessing the dead heroes, like David Wojnarowicz and Marsha P. Johnson; they’re not accessing the live heroes or the last survivors necessarily. With the world the way it is right now, there is a focus on activism in the kind of street sense of activism, but I embody a different kind of activism. I decided my place was on the stage, not on the streets, and that said, I made many pieces directly or tangentially about the AIDS epidemic and issues of survival and grief and all that.

It’s exacerbated by digital technology, it’s exacerbated by short attention spans, it’s exacerbated by a culture of narcissism and entitlement. Half the youth generally doesn’t really care to look back; they just assume that the ground they are standing on is solid and has always been there.

twi-ny: And they can like something on Facebook or post an article and then they’re done.

jk: Exactly. So it’s an uphill battle, and I do what I can to connect the dots. . . . But the upside of technology is that you can be on a platform like Facebook and connect and have dialogue and be reminded that our lives are still valid.

twi-ny: That leads us right into Underneath the Skin, about Samuel Steward, who, like you, was a diarist. What inspired you to take on his persona?

jk: I had read Justin Springs’s book [Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade] about four years ago and I really loved it. Then Jay Wegman, who runs Skirball, said, “I want to commission you to make a piece about him,” and I was like, “Whoa. Hey, let me think about this.” So then I went to Steward’s actual writings and drawings and the rest, and I avoided Springs’s amazing take on Steward because I had to formulate my own relationship to this man and his work. And also to witness it in context; probably the most profound aspect of his whole thing is that he prevailed and he took enormous chances at a time when literally if you went to a gay bar, you couldn’t even face the person next to you; you had to face front, and there were police outside waiting to arrest you if you didn’t have payola. And if you were arrested, your name and address were put in the newspaper. Those were the decades in which he was functioning and flourishing, albeit behind closed doors.

twi-ny: A lot of people still don’t know about the cops waiting to arrest gay people, in bars right around where Skirball is now.

jk: Exactly. That’s cultural amnesia; it’s a sad history to be reminded of.

Samuel Steward is subject of John Kelly’s latest performance piece

Samuel Steward is subject of John Kelly’s latest performance piece

twi-ny: What do you think Steward would have thought about what’s going on today?

jk: From his vantage point between 1950 and 1984, he was already speaking to younger audiences and saying you have no idea what it was like. So to imagine him now, and maybe if he had survived the AIDS epidemic — he died December 31, 1993, at the height of the epidemic — I imagine he’d by joyful in the advancements that have occurred.

twi-ny: Do you think he would have taken quickly to the internet, which could have provided a forum for his different kind of works?

jk: The thing is, he wanted to write authentically and he couldn’t. I mean, he did, but he eventually maybe wrote most authentically when he wrote as Phil Andros for his erotic literature. I don’t call it pornography; I call it erotic literature because it’s beautifully written.

He wrote a novel, Angels on the Bough, in 1936, and he got fired from a teaching job for it because he had a positive presentation of a prostitute. He couldn’t be out. I think he might have a low tolerance for the minutiae of policing ourselves and the immediate vilification of any wavering from abject correctness, even with people who are coming from two generations earlier. He might have a hard time navigating that, or maybe he would endorse it. There’s no way of knowing. He was a smart man.

twi-ny: I don’t know if you’ve seen Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special, but he does a bit about the LGBTQ community and how it overpolices itself, and some people find it very funny and others think it’s highly offensive.

jk: Basically, the whole planet is recalibrating; the whole culture is recalibrating. And we’re in the process of recalibrating what really wants to happen and what does not want to happen anymore. And it’s a learning curve. . . . Especially on the internet, where there’s maybe no real consequence attached to a response, which could have a ripple effect and have enormous consequences.

twi-ny: Do you see anybody today continuing his legacy?

jk: When I think of Samuel Steward, I think of a gentle soul who had to put a hardened shell around himself because he wasn’t able to — he lived life freely, but he couldn’t live his life completely freely. . . . His greatest contribution was that he kept all this stuff, and it comes down to us, and that the ephemera and the archives are what speak to a life pretty fully lived in a time when it was illegal to do any number of the things that he did.

THE SÉANCE MACHINE

The Séance Machine,

Ilana Gabrielle, Lisa Lamothe, and Jonathan Cruz star as three doctors trying to communicate with the dead in the world premiere of The Séance Machine (photo by Brandon James Gwinn)

The Tank
312 West 36th St. between Eighth & Ninth Aves.
October 10-31, $20-$30
thetanknyc.org
brandonjamesgwinn.com

Sitting around a table with a medium attempting to contact deceased loved ones took off in the mid-to-late-nineteenth century as people flocked to spiritualism. EllaRose Chary and Brandon James Gwinn take communicating with the dead to the next technological level in The Séance Machine, running October 10 through All Hallow’s Eve at the Tank. Cowriters Chary and Gwinn and director Julia Sears invite fifty-six guests a night to spend an hour with Dr. Carolyn Blau’s Mechanical Wave Reassembly Hypercardioid Sequencing Module, the latest in spiritual equipment to deal with ghosts and time travel. NEMOD Industries CEO Carly McPherson explains in a promotional video, “Dr. Blau had the vision for a device capable of letting us hear aspects of our own universe no human ears have ever heard before.”

The cast features Jonathan Cruz (The Hollywood Special Effects Show) as anthropologist and psychologist Dr. John Alvarez, Ilana Gabrielle (It’s a Man’s World, Coming: A Rock Musical . . .) as paleontologist and geologist Dr. Gabby White, and Lisa Lamothe (Incredibly Deaf Musical) as audio-physicist Dr. Blau, with set design by Susannah Hyde and lighting by Annie Garrett-Larsen. Chary and Gwinn have previously collaborated on Cotton Candy and Cocaine, Thelma Louise, Dyke Remix, Queer. People. Time., and other shows and also curate the monthly cabaret series Tank-aret, which returns to the Tank on November 26 with “Maybzgiving: A Queerucopia.”