Frances Ha still
via Rooftop Films
Rooftop Films opened this weekend with an advance screening of Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha” to a controversial reception. Almost drowned out by a spectacular spring thunderstorm, the evening started in the elaborately painted auditorium of Open Road High School on the Lower East Side. The band Brazos played eerie, rousing, psychedelic rock n’ roll as murals loomed over the stage and trippy reflections of color were projected on a screen behind them.
When the band put down their instruments to applause, Rooftop Films founder Mark Elijah Rosenberg announced the weather would hold and the film would be shown on the roof. Crowds pushed joyously to the top of the building where a clear sky and sparkling skyline greeted us.
Continue reading “Frances Ha” Greeted With Cynical Debate From Crowd
The Perils of Obedience at Abrons Art Center.
The Lower East Side has long been a breeding ground for hopeful artists and dreamers. Now, Itziar Barrio’s The Perils of Obedience, at Abrons Art Center this past weekend, brilliantly harnessed that drive and made it into a fascinating performance. Following an open call held at the Henry Street Settlement, selected actors auditioned for four days with theater director Nigel Smith. The surviving seven actors performed their last two days of callbacks in front of a live audience. The entire process was recorded and will be included in a resulting video piece, in which the final four actors will also star.
Continue reading Audition as Live Performance, and a Film, From Itziar Barrio
The (*) Inn. Photo by Erik Carter.
The shtetl is haunted. Many of the Lower East Side’s Jewish immigrants of the early 19th Century came from such small shtetls, villages in Eastern Europe full of superstition and also vibrant culture. These explode onto the stage in Peretz Hirschbein’s The (*) Inn, put on by Target Margin Theatre at Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Art Center.
Directed by David Herskovitz, the action follows a farming family who lives across from an abandoned inn. Strange lights play across the inn’s windows at night and spirits whisper from its walls. But the family accepts this with rather gleeful nonchalance until the father decides to wed his eldest daughter and as her dowry knock down the crumbling building and rebuild it as a way for her and her new husband to make income off travelers that will surely stop at the restored and ghost-free old country bed and breakfast.
Continue reading Target Margin’s “Inn” Offers a Macabre Evening
Ethan Joseph, Leah Wells and Sara Banleigh. Photo by Judy Rosenblatt.
The noisy crowd at Dixon Place’s bar instantly falls silent as Leah Wells and her band take the stage. Though Wells is usually kind and unassuming, under the spotlight, in a glittering red headpiece, she morphs into a soulful songstress. Wells has been a Lower East Side dweller since 1980, when she dropped out of Bennington, a clothing optional liberal arts college in Vermont, to hitch-hike her way back to downtown New York. Now a mother, Wells balances raising her two adolescent sons with honing her musical craft.
For this performance, Wells is joined by David McKeon on Guitar and Mandolin, Ethan Joseph on Fiddle, Mary Noecker on Bass and Sara Banleigh, who shimmers in black lace and gold bracelets. Wells met Banleigh singing Irish folk songs at the New York Public Library and the two have been a musical match ever since. Banleigh performs songs Wells wrote when she was a young twenty-something, capturing their lonely, gritty, crooning energy and making them new again.
Continue reading Leah Wells Brings Bluegrass Banjo and Flamenco Guitar to Dixon Place
The crowd at Broome Street Gallery‘s private reception for Bob Gruen seems famous. Flashbulbs pop and people pose by a golden saxophone statue pouring water in the center of the room. Perhaps it is the electrifying energy of Gruen’s legendary rock n’ roll photography that hangs on the walls. Gruen is best known for his iconic image of John Lennon wearing a New York City shirt in front of the Statue of Liberty, but Broome Street Gallery has put together a magnificent show dedicated to the Rolling Stones. Jagger in wild action, big lips pursed in Prophetic pout waltzes across a stage in one black and white image. Mick, John Lennon and a young Yoko Ono share a laugh in another. Keith Richards scowls, Andy Warhol pops up in others. Continue reading Broome Street Gallery Pays Tribute to Bob Gruen’s Rolling Stones Photography
Barbara Rubin’s film Christmas On Earth was shot at 56 Ludlow Street, the Lower East Side apartment of John Cale. Now, it is being projected onto the walls of Boo Hooray Gallery, a short hike from the long vacant apartment where it was filmed. Grainy, sexual, alluring, disturbing images flicker across the white gallery wall: Rubin’s camera captures a sexual tableaux — straight and gay — bodies coming together without care for gender in a tumult of limbs enhanced by Rubin’s decision to superimpose two separate reels of film over each other, with additional lighting effects layered on these images. Continue reading Boo-Hooray Gallery Pays Tribute to Barbara Rubin’s “Christmas on Earth”
Edmund White with BGSQD owners Donnie Jochum and Greg Newton. All photos by Lee Brozgol.
“I wanted to call this book ‘Paris Gossip,’ but my editor won’t let me,” Edmund White explains, smiling at a packed house before reading an exclusive preview of his soon to be published Paris memoirs. The renowned author, world traveler and one of the first to write about gay culture candidly and for a mainstream audience, White chose the perfect Lower East Side venue to launch his latest work. BGSQD (The Bureau of General Services Queer Division) is a pop-up bookstore, gallery and event space hosted by Strange Loop Gallery at 27 Orchard Street. Continue reading Pop-Up Queer Bookstore Hosts Edmund White Reading
John Forkner in Reid Farringtons’s A Christmas Carol at Abrons Arts Center. Photo courtesy of Abrons Arts Center
Reid Farrington’s A Christmas Carol starts off spooky. The Abrons Arts Center stage is lit by glowing candles, further hushed by red velvet drapes, a coffin stands facing the audience, with a shadowy head at its tip. Even before the production begins, I get the feeling that eyes from the head are looking at me. The audience is being watched.
The show starts with a moan, as the deathly face bursts to life, revealing actor John Forkner, the narrator of our tale. With perfect pomp and a dash of sardonic wit, he opens a large book to read this legendary Christmas tale of Scrooge. Holding the pages open toward the audience so we can see vivid projections of moving images, Forkner recites.
The story comes to life as Everett Quinton hobbles onstage as the miserly Scrooge, a character who is the antithesis of holiday cheer. Quinton is brilliant and unique, wearing a constant scowl that seems set in the very fibers of his face. He is his own Scrooge but many others, throughout the trippy performance, are projected over the characters’ faces on sliding screens and slates. From the Muppets to Bill Murray, multiple versions and enactments of the classic story are illuminated over the principal characters, creating both a feeling of vertigo and consumption.
Continue reading Review: A Post-Modern Christmas Carol at Abrons
Dan Black at Le Baron. Photo by Amanda Segur.
A stylish, excited and absolutely not sober crowd packed Le Baron Monday night for musician Dan Black’s private show. After the success of his song “Symphonies” featuring downtown Lower East Side party boy turned superstar Kid Cudi, UK native Black made his own downtown splash in the Absolut Encore concert series.
Le Baron’s décor is a mixture of 1920’s Shanghai opium den opulence mixed with futuristic touches—neon lights, disco ball, smoke machines and what appeared to be a glowing pink robot near the stage. The setting was perfect for Black’s sound: defiant, dance-y electronic beats with his soaring vocals and sometimes rap inspired rhyming. Continue reading Dan Black Makes a Splash at Le Baron
Sweat #5 (S5), 2012, collected on 08.04.2011 – tears essence, glass, brass, 3 x 2 x 2 inches (via Envoy Enterprises)
The crowd outside gallery Envoy Enterprises is here to smell a woman. For “Smell Me,” mixed-media and performance artist Artist Martynka Wawrzyniak has collected aromas from her body and placed them in a scent chamber, where one by one on this opening night, visitors immerse themselves in her aroma.
Video cameras watch while I wait in a long, cheerful line of people, around a white box of a room in the middle of the gallery. Cream curtains cover the only entrance, like we’re waiting for an audience with a perfumed Wizard of Oz.
Martynka’s smell portrait is essence of her sweat, tears, hair and night shirt and it has a scent almost scentless, while at the same time faintly like unwashed hands, dirt, lilacs, paint, nectarines and fashion.
Continue reading One Woman’s Scent on Display at Envoy Enterprises
El Regreso De Los Dinosaurios opening. Photo courtesy of Adrian Saldana.
Mexican Car Bombs were flowing freely at the Abrons Art Center’s gallery where the show El Regreso De Los Dinosaurios opened last Friday. The name of the drink, tequila infused margaritas with miniature Corona bottles dumped in, sums up both the artwork on the walls, the spirit of the crowd and the state of Mexico perfectly. The work includes a delicious combining of flavors, an explosive violence but also a passion for living vibrantly, in many colors.
Curated by Abrons’ General Manager Adrian Saldana, the show fills the space with the perfect combination of both bold and subtle modern art, from flashy videos playing on small monitors to a big representative painting using the eagle and cactus imagery of the Mexican flag, painted in sinister reds and blacks. Though the undercurrents of this show are political, the artwork stands alone in its beauty and the evening’s crowd was celebratory, not somber. As if the best way to meet suffering and injustice is by coming together as a community and celebrating what joins us.
Continue reading Politics, Media and Protest in El Regreso De Los Dinosaurios at Abrons
MCA by Ricky Powell
Ricky Powell’s photographs forever capture downtown New York and the Lower East Side as a dangerous, idealistic place filled with striving fame, frustration and debaucherous fun. The ‘80s and ‘90s are long gone, but Powell’s brilliant, self-taught lens has immortalized legends of those times from MCA of The Beastie Boys, to Run DMC, Cindy Crawford, Sofia Coppola, Keith Haring, the list is endless. Continue reading Ricky Powell Charms With “Oh No He Didn’t” Photos
Brandon Olson as Joey Girdler (center) and cast members in the World Premiere of The Etiquette of Death. Photo by Ves Pitts
Death can be uproarious. The macabre is celebrated in The Etiquette of Death, the final show in La Mama’s 50th anniversary run. Gaudy, glitzy, glamorous and demented, the musical comedy pits Joan Girdler (Chris Tanner), an over the top cosmetics saleswoman who is somewhat famous in the beauty circles, against Death (Everett Quinton), a bawdy queen who is both enamored of Joan’s work and also out to usher her and her melancholic, invalid son (Brandon Olson) into the afterlife.
Continue reading A Macabre Celebration, The Etiquette of Death at La MaMa
The Neighborhood School's 20th Anniversary. All photos courtesy of Lee Brozgol.
Everything looks smaller when you return to the past. Wednesday night, The Neighborhood School celebrated its 20th anniversary and the corridors, classrooms and playgrounds I remembered as a child in the first graduating class of the alternative school seemed to have shrunk. Yet the impact of these echoing spaces has been magnified.
Diverse and daring, The Neighborhood School occupied a floor in the P.S. 63 building on 3rd Street between First Avenue and Avenue A. The founding families were an eclectic group of artists and families seeking a new model of education in the rough Lower East Side of the early ’90s. For me, the school was a peaceful center in a turbulent time. The Lower East Side I remember was full of junkies and prostitutes, many of whom became the neighborhood fixtures I would wave to on my way to first grade. Continue reading Celebrating 20 Years With The Neighborhood School
Jackie Curtis was a Lower East Side legend. The actor, writer and singer would perform as both a man and a woman throughout his career, becoming a Warhol superstar and pioneering downtown drag with his signature red hair, torn stockings and face bedecked with glitter. In Jukebox Jackie, starring Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, Bridget Everett, Cole Escola, Steel Burkhardt, which opened at La Mama over the weekend, Jackie’s legacy is brought to life in vivid color. The review is a medley of ribald rock monologues musing on Jackie’s life, sexy scenes from his films such as Women In Revolt and a coordinated ensemble reading of Curtis’ famous poem, B-Girls.
The show is a passionate homage to glamour, played out on a glittering pink stage in front of a screen projected with images of Warhol stars like Nico and John Cage and the Hollywood legends that inspired much of Jackie’s style, like Greta Garbo and James Dean.
Most moving about Jukebox Jackie is the commentary on fame and loneliness, the half-broken dreams of stardom as a saving force, one that lifts us up from our mundane surroundings and celebrates individuality and the strange—in this case Jackie’s outspoken drag personality—in ways that everyday people might not relate to. Continue reading Review: A Ribald Tribute to Jackie Curtis at La MaMa