Monthly Archives: June 2021

NATIONAL BLACK THEATER PLANS NEXT ACT IN A NEW HARLEM HIGH-RISE ·

(Julia Jacobs’s article appeared in The New York Times, 6/4; via Pam Green; Photo: National Black Theater is working with developers to replace its longtime home. This rendering shows a planned 21-story building that will include a mix of housing, retail and a gleaming new theater.Credit…Luxigon, via National Black Theater.)

The pathbreaking company plans to replace its Harlem home with a 21-story building with apartments, retail and a new theater.

It was more than 50 years ago that Barbara Ann Teer rented space in a building at 125th Street and Fifth Avenue in Harlem that would serve as the home of a nascent organization called National Black Theater.

The theater blossomed into an important cultural anchor, presenting productions by, and about, Black Americans when their stories rarely appeared on mainstream stages, and hosting artists including Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Nina Simone, Nikki Giovanni and Maya Angelou. When the building was destroyed in a fire in 1983, many feared that the theater was doomed, said Sade Lythcott, Teer’s daughter. But Teer had another idea: She decided to buy the damaged 64,000-square-foot building on Fifth Avenue, with a vision of revitalizing it and trying to use real estate to help pay for the theater’s work.

“She saw it as the next piece of this temple to Black liberation, which is ownership,” said Lythcott, the theater’s chief executive. “Ownership would allow the real estate to subsidize the art, which was a model that would disrupt the standard practice of nonprofit theater funding.”

The move did not solve all their problems. There were struggles over the years, and a series of financial disputes that at one point left the theater on the brink of losing its home, but the work continued. Now National Black Theater is getting ready for its next act: It is replacing its longtime home with a 21-story building that will include a mix of housing, retail and, on floors three through five, a gleaming new home for the theater.

Lythcott and other National Black Theater leaders see the $185 million project, and the partnership they are entering with developers, as a new chapter with the financial and institutional backing to allow them to live out the dream of Teer, who died in 2008: to nurture a space where Black artists can thrive, and the company can work to bring a deeper sense of racial justice to the American theater industry.

“What we’re building today really has been informed in all ways by this blueprint that Dr. Teer put into place starting in 1968,” Lythcott said. “It feels like what our community of Black artists and the community of Harlem deserve.”

To realize the development project, National Black Theater has partnered with a new real estate firm, Ray, which was founded by Dasha Zhukova, a Russian-American art collector and philanthropist. Also joining the project are the subsidized housing developer L + M, the architect Frida Escobedo, the firm Handel Architects, and the design firms working on National Black Theater’s space, Marvel, Charcoalblue, and Studio & Projects.

The planning for the new development has come at a turning point in the theater world. With theaters closed for more than a year because of the pandemic, many institutions have been called on to turn inward and interrogate their own histories of racism and inequity, with many prominent voices calling for change when theaters reopen. It is the kind of discussion National Black Theater has been involved in for decades. This year Lythcott has advised Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on reopening the arts and, as chair for the Coalition of Theaters of Color, has spoken up about racial justice in arts budget negotiations.

Before they decided to work together, Lythcott and Zhukova had to have a frank conversation early on about a high-profile misstep in Zhukova’s past.

(Read more)

ICE FACTORY FESTIVAL RETURNS TO NEW OHIO THEATRE JUNE 30 – AUGUST 14 ·

(via David Gibbs, DARR Publicity)

New York, NY – New Ohio Theatre is excited to announce that the 28th annual Obie Award-winning Ice Factory Festival will return to live in-person performances, featuring seven new works over seven weeks, June 30 – August 14, 2021, at New Ohio Theatre, located at 154 Christopher Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets in New York City.

Performances are Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7pm ET (Liminal Archive performances at 7pm & 8pm). Tickets are $20 and $17 for students and seniors. Purchase at http://NewOhioTheatre.org. Special closing night benefit performance of My Onliness on August 14.

Artistic Director Robert Lyons says, “It was a long walk through a global pandemic but we are still standing and open for business! NYC artists are hungry to make and show their work. This year’s line-up is an eclectic mix of artists; all fully engaged in the contemporary conversations of the moment. As always, we look to our artists to help us navigate, imagine, and build a better post-pandemic world.”

Check New Ohio’s website for the most current information on Covid restrictions. Currently, to attend a performance you must show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test (72 hours) for admittance into the theatre. Masks are required for all audience members. However, performers will not be masked.

Time Out New York calls Ice Factory “The coolest of the summer theatre festivals,” and The New York Times says the festival’s “an annual celebration of the weird, the wild and the unexpectedly wonderful.” New York Magazine praises the Ice Factory as “New York’s #1 Summer Theatre Festival,” and The New Yorker says, “The Ice Factory Festival has a fine record for presenting intellectually challenging and artistically daring fare.” “One of downtown theater’s most beloved and reliable incubators of new voices,” cheers the Observer.

New Ohio Theatre strengthens, nurtures, and promotes a community of independent theatre artists and companies by developing and presenting bold new work in New York City. Their Ice Factory summer festival offers emerging and established companies a prime platform to develop their work. Ice Factory prides itself on maintaining extraordinary aesthetic diversity along with an unequaled standard for intelligent, imaginative theater.

ICE FACTORY 2021 SCHEDULE

June 30 – August 14
Endless Loop of Gratitude
Ongoing Sound Installation
New Neighborhood
Created by Daniel Baker, Jackson Gay, Steven Padla, Riw Rakkulchon and Ashley Thomas

Endless Loop of Gratitude is a solo, interactive sound installation that opens one hour prior to the start of each Ice Factory performance. Participants are invited to record their own reflections on gratitude or read the words of another person who is not present. In a culture that can reduce the most profound feelings to blithe hashtags, this interactive installation invites participants up to the microphone to reflect on the people, places, and events that have impacted their own lives: what are you really grateful for?

June 30 – July 3
The Extremely Grey Line

A 23.5° Tilt Production
Co-written by Kate Pressman and Elizagrace Madrone
Directed by Estefania Fadul

Come take a ride on the Extremely Grey Line – a site-specific show led by psychopomps, designed around the streets of New York which are also the graveyards of New York which is also the life of New York. Audience members can choose which experience they’re signing up for when they purchase a ticket to The Extremely Grey Line – on bicycle, on foot, or sitting inside the Underneath (although, of course, the Underneath is only available to those with the PROPER Covid documentation).

July 7 – 10
Kim Loo Gets a Redo

Written by and featuring Lisa Helmi Johanson and Kimberly Immanuel
An Original Piece Inspired by Real Women

Combining reimagined 1930 & 1940 show tunes, original music, percussive tap dance, spoken word, and personal reflections, this genre-bending work celebrates the lesser-known history of the Kim Loo Sisters, the first Asian American act on Broadway. A deeply personal response to the rise of hate crimes against the Asian community, Kim Loo Gets a Redo shifts the historical paradigm to the AAPI perspective, explores the erasure of AAPI women both past and present, and reclaims agency lost.

July 14 – 17
Liminal Archive

Al Límite Collective
Producing Directors: Leah Bachar, Monica Hunken and Dennis Yueh-Yeh Li
Featuring Leah Bachar, Shan Y. Chuang, Spicy Delight, Sanam Erfani, Monica Hunken and Philip Santos Schaffer

This immersive theatrical experience guides audiences through the intimate moments of isolation experienced by artists as they traverse the unknown during the early days of the pandemic. Liminal Archive began as an open-source platform, providing a cultural exchange for international artists to collaborate together during a lockdown and mass uprisings, and it has collected more than 40 artworks, including music, digital art and theater. Al Límite has curated these offerings into a 40-minute odyssey of live performances, projections and audio journeys where we venture through the past, the present, and find our way together into the future.

July 21 – 24
As the Sun Sets

By Dow Dance
Choreography by Caleb Dowden
Featuring Imani Gaudin-County, Andy Guzmán, Jai Perez and Caleb Dowden

What does radical Black love look like in a racist world? How do we find love when we have to fight to simply exist? This dance/media work explores how Black people continue to find happiness and joy even in the predominantly white spaces of Sundown Towns, where their very presence makes them unsafe. A kinetic, visual representation of Black stories celebrating how radical Black love has and always will flourish, even in the midst of violence.

July 28 – 31
A Grave is Given Supper

Poems by Mike Soto
Directed by Claudia Acosta
Featuring Elena Hurst
in partnership with Teatro Dallas

In this Narco-Acid Western two lovers converge in a US/Mexico border town during a raging drug war. Anchored by a series of surreal and interlinked poems, infused with rituals of love and loss, this multimedia work incorporates video projections, dance and a Nortec soundscape to explore the complicated desires of people living in the borderland.

August 4 – 7
HERSTORY

In Tandem Lab
Created and directed by Gisela Cardenas
Created by and featuring Laura Butler-Levitt and Heather Hollingsworth
Written by Javier Antonio González

A female artist leaves an inheritance to two young women with no apparent relationship to her
or each other. But on one condition: they must create something together. Excavating the artist’s drawings and short stories, captivated by revelations about their previously unknown past, these two women emerge from isolation in the act of giving life to another woman’s story. This new work asks: how can we start telling the stories written in our genes and passed from one generation to another? Inspired by Shakespeare’s female characters.

August 11 – 14
My Onliness

One-Eighth Theatre
Text by Robert Lyons
Directed by Daniel Irizarry
Composer Kamala Sankaram
Director of ASL Alexandria Wailes
in partnership with IRT Theatre
Featuring Daniel Irizarry, Cynthia La Cruz, Kamala Sankaram, Gabriel Silva, Rhys Tivey and Alexandria Wailes

A Mad King performs his royal power as an act of martyrdom in a desperate attempt to impress a mysterious petitioner while the Master of Ceremony orchestrates songs of torture, truth, and tenderness. (The poor Writer is simply collateral damage!) Is this a glimpse of our dystopian future? Or just the structure of human consciousness? An homage to Stanislaw Witkacy and his theories of “pure forms in theatre.” Performed with fully integrated ASL interpreters.

A new collaboration between Daniel Irizarry and Robert Lyons, following the international success of Yovo (NYC/Poland/Cuba).

Special Benefit Performance August 14 at 7pm celebrating our return to live theatre! Includes post-show sunset song and toast on Pier 45. Tickets are $30/$50/$100.

New Ohio Theatre is a two-time Obie Award-winning theatre that serves New York’s most adventurous theatre audiences by developing and presenting bold work from today’s vast independent theatre community. They believe the best of this community, the small artist-driven ensembles and the daring producing companies who operate without a permanent theatrical home, are actively expanding the boundaries of where American theatre is right now and where it’s going. From their home in the West Village’s historic Archive Building, the New Ohio provides a high-profile platform for downtown’s most mature, ridiculous, engaged, irreverent, gut-wrenching, frivolous, sophisticated, foolish and profound theatrical endeavors. For info visit http://NewOhioTheatre.org, Like them on Facebook at https://www.Facebook.com/NewOhioTheatre, and follow on Twitter (https://twitter.com/NewOhioTheatre) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/newohiotheatre

BELGIUM: ARTDOCFEST FILM FESTIVAL: AN OPPORTUNITY FOR VOICING THE TRUTH ·

(Nicolai Khalezin’s article appeared in The Brussels Times, 6/2; Photo: Nicolai Khalezin performing in Generation Jeans, an autobiographical duologue about rock music and resistance.)

This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.

Wear your mask over your nose and mouth and not over your eyes.” That was the motto of Artdocfest, Russia’s largest documentary film festival in Russia, which took place in April. Russian authorities, however, have firmly shown they want the mask over the public’s eyes. 

 Over the course of the film festival, showings were disrupted by the police, the consumer protection agency, homophobic Chechen nationalists and Kremlin loyalists. In St. Petersburg, authorities shut down viewings by sealing entryways into two screening halls. After the police came and didn’t allow any films to be presented, the festival moved on to Zoom and those who bought tickets were able to see films online.

These actions disrupted or stopped stories from being told: about the suffering of locals who opposed Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the government orchestrated torture of gay men in Chechnya, and the repressive measures taken against protestors in Belarus (where 354 political prisoners remain in custody) made possible by Russian support. It is erasure in its purest form.

That erasure is something I know personally. In 2010, I founded the Belarus Free Theatre in response to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on freedom of speech. To ensure security, people who wanted to see our shows had to call a phone number to learn its physical location. Even that precaution was not enough; authorities still arrested or harassed every single member of our company. After the authorities brought five baseless criminal charges against my wife and I, we were forced to leave the country and become refugees.

This experience of living with organized harassment is why spaces like Artdocfest are so important to me. That is why we entered two films into the festival, Alone and Okrestin Sisters. They provide an opportunity for voicing the truth when the authorities are silencing it.

For a long time, Russia remained a place where Belarussian creatives were able to showcase their talents. However, the Russian regime is increasingly copying the Belarusian regime and is tightening its control over the world of art and culture. This includes the recently adopted amendments to the education law that requires Russian state permission for educational activities to prevent “foreign interference.” Authentic real- life documentaries, aimed at adults, fall under this category.

Everywhere, authoritarian regimes are locking step in an autocratic push-back against democracy. These regimes want to tell grand stories about states and leaders, which only work if the public cannot see the effects of the government’s policies

Russia, like Belarus, has been increasingly defined by what isn’t televised. Belarus continues to plough ahead in this arena banning the European news channel Euronews and making it easier to block other media.

(Read more)

BEST BOOKS FOR SUMMER ·

(Photo credit REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Great reads for summer 2021, represented by Marit Literary Agency:

REAGAN’S COWBOYS: INSIDE THE 1984 REELECTION CAMPAIGN’S SECRET OPERATION AGAINST GERALDINE FERRARO 

by John B. Roberts II

View on Amazon

Reagan’s Cowboys is something of a memoir of Robert’s career with the 40th president, and as such, it’s a time machine back to the days of typewriters, hard-line telephones, and Marlboro cigarettes…be grateful to Roberts for giving us history as it actually happened, uncensored and un-politically corrected. …Roberts gives us glimpses of a huge cast of characters in Reaganworld”―Breitbart

When rumors about Geraldine Ferraro–the first woman vice-presidential nominee by a major party in U.S history–reached First Lady Nancy Reagan during the 1984 presidential election, a secret operation was launched to investigate her. It revealed Ferraro’s ties to organized crime and the extent to which she would have been subject to pressure or blackmail by the Mafia if elected. Written by an insider responsible for running the investigation, this never-before-told story goes behind the scenes as an incumbent president’s campaign works to expose a political opponent’s mob connections. Part detective story, part political thriller, the narrative features all the major players in the Reagan White House and 1984 reelection committee, with revealing anecdotes about Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

THE SHERIFF 

by Robert Dwyer & Austin Wright

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Sheriff John Donovan is fighting to maintain his grip on Three Chop, Texas, the town he built and has ruled with an iron fist for twenty years. But as the twentieth century looms, Donovan faces a host of new challenges: powerful business interests, religious schism, and the budding women’s rights and Prohibition movements. As he navigates these changing times, making friends of enemies and enemies of friends, a twist of fate brings to Three Chop a gang of fearsome outlaws looking to wrest new riches and settle old scores. How else could such a struggle end but with bloodshed? A final showdown forces the residents of Three Chops to take sides, to choose between the town’s past and future.

Called “one of those rare modern Western fiction classics” by New York Times best-selling author Jeff GuinnThe Sheriff pays loving homage to the Western genre while brilliantly puncturing the myths of the Old West.

FIELD OF BLOOD: A GRIPPING MODERN WESTERN SET ON THE USA’S SOUTHERN BORDER

by Wayne Allensworth

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A modern Western…

In a small Texas town, the fallout from a globalized world tests the boundaries of loyalty and identity and the deepest attachments of the human heart. Parmer, Texas is a casualty of a clash of cultures and peoples, as the Mexican drug war opens a front in a town that has sent its men to far-flung battlefields. The town’s veterans, “the soldiers”, face a fight for the very existence of the place they call home, while the fate of one man may determine the future of Parmer and the fates of the soldiers themselves.

Field of Blood confronts the human tragedy playing out on America’s southern border.

“Wayne Allensworth provides a powerful and moving meditation on American modernity – part gritty action yarn, part compassionating polemic, part evisceration of spiritual emptiness. Across his grand, boldly-coloured, tragic landscapes, confused prisoners of circumstances kill or are killed, while republics and civilisations bleed in and out of each other, and everyone and everywhere are compromised” Derek Turner, author of Sea Changes

“This is a true, and terribly beautiful, novel by an artist of considerable ability. Wayne Allensworth has written a fine novel worthy of comparison with some of the best American works of fiction in recent times.. . .” Chronicles Magazine

Wayne Allensworth worked as an analyst for the Foreign Broadcast Information Service from 1991 to 2002. He is the author of The Russian Question: Nationalism, Modernisation and Post-Communist Russia. He lives in Keller, Texas.

EVENINGS WITH CARY GRANT: RECOLLECTIONS IN HIS OWN WORDS AND BY THOSE WHO KNEW HIM BEST 

by Nancy Nelson

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Charming, witty, effortlessly debonair, and elegant, Cary Grant was the ultimate leading man, a silver screen icon who seemed to embody all that a movie star should be. But beneath the glamour was a real and complicated man–a surprisingly vulnerable, unabashedly romantic, and often exacting perfectionist, who rose above a traumatic childhood and failed marriages to become an incomparable Hollywood legend. In this sublimely truthful and candid portrait biographer Nancy Nelson draws on interviews with Grant, as well as material from his personal papers, along with loving revelatory reminiscences from some of his closest friends and loved ones, including Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Quincy Jones, James Stewart, and many more to reveal the vaudevillian, actor, lover, and father. With a treasury of both well-loved and rarely seen photographs–and a foreword by Grant’s wife Barbara and daughter, Jennifer–this is the definitive biography of one of the screen’s greatest stars

THE LONG SHADOW 

by Phyllis Wheeler

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Anti-prejudice, anti-racist middle grade Christian fiction: The Long Shadow by Phyllis Wheeler (ranked #1 new release Teen & Young Adult Christian Social Issue Fiction (6/8/21 ranked #1 new release Teen & Young Adult Christian Social Issue Fiction; #3 on Amazon, regarding Children’s books about Prejudice and Racism; #18 in Children’s Self-Esteem and Self-Respect books; #1  (6/4/2021)

Aunt Trudy never wanted kids. Now that she’s Richie’s guardian, she makes his life miserable. Richie just wants to escape, so he seeks refuge in the deep Missouri woods he loves so much.

Suddenly it’s not summer, but late fall. How did that happen? Did the trucker who just gave him a ride somehow whisk him back fifty years in time?

The woods aren’t for Richie the haven they used to be. After a freak storm, he finds himself at the mercy of Morris, a mysterious black man who also calls the woods home. Is Morris a savior? Or someone to fear?

“Searching for a new favorite book? Look no further than The Long Shadow by Phyllis Wheeler. This is a great book for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird but with a time-travel twist. Richie grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the very end.”—Elsie G, age 13. 

“Sometimes we need to escape our own time and place to walk a few miles in someone else’s shoes. Phyllis Wheeler’s The Long Shadow will open your eyes, rend your heart, and take you on an invaluable journey.” —Wayne Thomas Batson, bestselling author of The Door Within Trilogy.

“Heartwarming and heartbreaking, Richie’s story is a shining example of how taking a chance on unlikely friendships is the best way to break down the barriers we build.” —Jill Williamson, award-winning author of the Blood of Kings trilogy.

“A powerful message wrapped in a page-turner.” — Cherie Postill, author, speaker, and mentor for teens at the St. Louis Writers Guild. 

“I’ve read this book and enjoyed the characters in the story. I like the friendship that blossomed in the story and how the story came full circle in the end. It was a good history lesson without being offensive to anyone.”—LaShaunda Hoffman, sensitivity reader and author. 

“Part survival story, part exploration of racial justice in America, part journey of self-discovery, and wholly engaging and memorable.  A well done and powerful story.  It is certainly stuck in my head.”—Joe Corbett, school librarian, St. Louis.