Summer in the City


By Scott Stiffler

Best Village Bets for July & August

Is there anything sadder than strolling through a NYC street fair — overpriced funnel cake or gyro in hand — while telling yourself you’re having a good time?

There’s got to be a better place to spend your summer than standing aimlessly in the middle of the street between two rows of desperate vendors hawking tube socks and sunglasses that nobody wants to buy. Of course, there’s a better place; and it’s right here; in the Village; just beyond that street fair.

Here, then (to save you from a fate worse than $1 Thai food or $6 smoothies) is our totally biased, not nearly comprehensive list of best Arts & Entertainment events happening between now and Labor Day. Depending upon your likes and general disposition, you’ll either be enriched or enraged by our choices — but you won’t be bored. And isn’t that why you live here in the first place?


Photo by Eamonn Farrell

The Queen, from Anonymous Ensemble’s “A Wonderland” (Ice Factory Festival)

Soho Think Tank presents the sixteenth annual installment of its Ice Factory Festival —which means to shield you from the summer steam by delivering the coolest performances it can muster from emerging and established downtown theater companies (with some national and international groups thrown into the mix as well).

July 8-11, Anonymous Ensemble’s “A Wonderland” delivers a psychedelic,  music-fueled take on Lewis Carroll’s timelessly weird tale — by casting Alice as an aimless urban dreamer whose journey through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole just might lead to a new and better self-identity.

July 15-18, Aztec Economy’s “Lavaman” concerns a shy Queens-based comic illustrator whose repressed anger spills into the pages of his unpublished graphic novel. July 29 through August 1, International WOW’s “Reconstruction” features a five-piece bluegrass band, a 30-person ensemble and the building of a house before your eyes — as a town destroyed by foreclosures and calamities rebuilds itself from the ground up.

August 5 through 8, “Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant” invites you to gather around banquet tables and enjoy a home-cooked five-course meal as art, food and consumption merge into one crazy, uncategorizable happening. The Ice Factory Festival runs July 8 through August 15; Wednesday through Saturday, 7:00p.m. at the Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street (between Spring & Broome). To order tickets ($15 for adults, $10 for students/seniors), call 212-868-4444 or www.SmartTix.com. Visit www.SohoThinkTank.org. 

CONVENTION: First Annual Asian American ComiCon

Taking place at the new, Maya Lin-designed Museum of Chinese in  America, the Asian American ComiCon (the first annual one, we’re assured) aims to assemble the best Asian American creators in manga, mainstream and indie comics. That’s good news for fans, who get to meet and mingle with masters like Larry Hama (G.I. Joe), Sean Chen (Iron Man), Greg   Pak (Hulk), Bernard Chang (Wonder Woman), Derek Kirk Kim (The Eternal Smile), Cliff Chiang (Green Arrow), Khoi Pham (Mighty Avengers), and many more. Attendees will have the chance to get autographed copies of their  favorite graphic novels, commission original sketches from top creators, and take part in panels with self-aware topics such as “Nerdpop: The rise of the nerds, and why geek chic is changing the game” and “Pop Goes East: How the Asianization of American pop culture has reshaped the graphic novel.” July 11, 10:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. at the Museum of Chinese in America (215 Centre Street). Tickets: $15 for students, $25 for adults (18 and older); $75 VIP Pass gets you priority reserved seating at all panels and workshops, plus a complimentary Asian American graphic novel signed by its creators — and an original sketch from one of the artists participating in the event’s Artists Alley. For more information visit www.aacomicon.com.

ART: Darleen Rubin

Rendered in luminous black and white, Darleen Rubin’s photographs of NYC are deceptive time capsules. Works like 1974’s “Coast Guard Eagle with Goodyear blimps” and 1972’s “DANGER No Swimming” depict what we’ve come to expect when viewing photographs of the city taken during the early decades of the last century. No matter the era depicted or evoked, you’ll find yourself thoroughly swept away by pleasant waves of melancholy and nostalgia once the full force of exhibit has its way with you. “Greenwich Village People, Piers and the Waterfront during the 1970s” shows at the Jefferson Market Library (425 Sixth Avenue at 10th Street) through August 31. For more information (and a chance to preview some of the content), visit www.darleenrubin.com. For a sneak peek at five of Rubin’s celebrity photographs (the likely genre of another likely showing at Jefferson Market Library this fall), check out the group show she’s part of (through August 2) at Chair and the Maiden gallery (19 Christopher Street; www.chairandthemaiden.com).


At The Stone, a “New Artists’ Space” in the East Village, you won’t be put upon to purchase drinks or buy a T-Shirt that advertises the space. Here, for a change, it actually is all about the music. This July/August, two new Terrence McManus Ensembles feature some of NYC’s top improvisers. July 22, “The Dream of the Ants-Beta” presents a new, expanded incarnation derived from the original trio. They’ll perform “The Machine” — a one-hour work divided into six overlapping sections and provocatively described as “a true chamber work in the classical idiom…highly influenced by the work of Morton Feldman, Gyorgy Ligeti, and Bela Bartok.”

On August 11, “The Wealthy Industrialists” features original compositions by McManus (formed in 2008 as a contemporary chamber trio, the “Industrialists” have since morphed into a quintet). They’ll perform a suite of newly rearranged material, plus some decade-old compositions which haven’t seen the light of public performance in many years. 8:00p.m. on July 22 and August 11; at The Stone (corner of Avenue C and E. 2nd St.). Admission is $10 ($5 for those 13 to 19; children under 12 admitted for free; no advance sales; purchases must be made at the door). Visit www.thestonenyc.com and www.terrence-mcmanus.com.


This group art show takes its title (“XX”) from the genetic, chemical composition of the female — but don’t show up expecting traditional depictions of wives and moms. Here, the subject matter is as advanced, radical, experimental and bold as its creators. As for the medium that delivers the message, expect to see sculpture, painting, light, video projection, graffiti, film, photography, cartoons, found objects, performance, circuit bending, text, audio and robotics. The result? A new artistic genre described by museum director Deborah Fries as residing in a state of “constant chaos, multi-sensory bombardment and ever-advancing technology. It’s assemblage on steroids.” Through August 31, at FusionArts Museum, 57 Stanton Street. Call 212-995-5290 or visit www.fusionartsmuseum.org.


Photo by Lisa Kapler

Playwright/performer Andrea Reese as Jackie O

Promising to be as revealing and compelling as the life of the woman whose carefully constructed persona still fascinates, “Cirque Jacqueline” breezes into town for two nights only — just long enough to leave us wanting more. Clearly, the one-woman play written and performed by Andrea Reese has learned a lot from its quicksilver subject matter. So beat feet to the Village, and you just may emerge having assembled a few more pieces of the Jackie O puzzle (which include her childhood with a womanizing father and abusive mother; her marriage to Jack Kennedy; her post-assassination trauma; her scandalous marriage to Aristotle Onassis; and her expanding interests during the last decades of her life). Appropriate for ages 16 and up. July 25 and 26, at The Players Theatre Loft (115 MacDougal St., 3rd floor; between West 3rd St. & Minetta Lane). $20 tickets can be purchased by calling 866-811-4111or online at www.jackieOshow.com. 



Andrew D’Angelo (Saxophone Festival)

The Saxophone Festival is part of Cornelia Street café’s ambitious, expansive schedule of mini-festivals taking place throughout July and August. From July 6-8 and 16-19, old friends and new faces celebrate “one of the most enigmatic instruments in jazz.” Andrew D’Angelo, Jon Irabagon, Michael Blake, Matt Darriau, Loren Stillman and others will be on hand with their saxophones — navigating the horn that’s been known to go from mournful to celebratory and back again before your raised glass makes its way back to the table. All shows are $10; at Cornelia Street café, 29 Cornelia Street (between W. 4th St. & Bleeker). For a complete schedule of the Saxophone Festival (and everything else going on at this space that gives the word “eclectic” back its good name), visit www.corneliastreetcafe.com.


If it’s fun, funky, artsy, absurd and original, chances are it’s probably from the folks at Horse Trade Theater Group — or anybody else on East Fourth Street’s Renaissance Row of theaters and dance spaces. That said, the stuff from Horse Trade has a vibe all its own. Their summer 2009 season, in full swing now, offers these three ones to watch:

“Twisted” is Rising Sun’s annual series of perverse and funny one-acts exploring the tangled web we weave when trying to create, retain or control relationships. It happens at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place, btwn. 1st Avenue and Avenue A), at 8:00p.m. Thursdays thru Saturday, thru July 25.

Human Group’s take on Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist” delves, like the troupe itself, into the deep end of a dark cage to reveal what tricks man will turn to gain and hold our attention. 8:00p.m., July 16 thru 18, at The Red Room (85 E. 4th Street between 2nd and Bowery).

Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company’s “Julius Caesar” tempers (or trumps) testosterone-charged Rome by unleashing an all-female cast meant to cast new light on gender preconceptions. Hopefully, the unique casting conceit will heighten the brutal competition among the play’s males and the propensity for attempting to avert tragedy by its female characters. A noble approach, considering it’ll all end up in a bloody mess. 8:00p.m., August 13 thru 16, Thursday thru Saturday; Sunday at 2:00p.m. at The Kraine Theater (85 E. 4th Street between 2nd and Bowery). For $18 tickets, call 212-868-4444 or visit www.horseTRADE.info.


If you’ve often dreamed of saying “checkmate” to a fierce opponent while breathing in the fresh air and taking in the adulation of passersby, then high tail it to Washington Square Park to learn the skills you’ll need to participate in one of NYC’s great fair weather free activities: playing chess in the park. This program, co-sponsored by Chess-in-the-Schools, the Friends of Washington Square Park and the City of New York Parks and Recreation, offers free chess lessons to anyone willing to learn. Mondays through Thursdays, 1:00p.m. to 5:00p.m., through August 6; at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park (near MacDougal Street and Waverly Place). A Master chess instructor is available, to guide children and adults at all levels (from first-time players to seasoned pros). For more information, call 212-408-0297 or visit www.washingtonsquarenyc.org.


Photo courtesy of Peter Leitch

“West Fourteenth Street, New York, 1999” (“New York to New Orleans,” through August 8)

Since 1971, Soho Photo Gallery has been showcasing a broad spectrum of imagery by emerging and veteran photographers. One particular artist, currently showing, takes a look at the old and the new — in both name, nature and concept. Peter Leitch’s “New York to New Orleans” features more than 30 photographs culled from several road trips Leitch made through the South (and his time spent here, at home, in NYC). The show contrasts New York City’s verticality, crowded streets and media saturation with the flat highways, cotton fields and low-rise architecture of the American South. In the process, musician/photographer Leitch both mirrors and differentiates the simplicity of the rural blues from the complexity of urban jazz. Through August 8, at Soho Photo; 15 White Street. Call 212-226-8571 or visit www.sohophoto.com. Gallery Hours: Wednesday thru Sunday, 1:00p.m. to 6:00p.m. and by appointment.


Singer and songwriter Rebecca Schiffman (whose album “To Be Good for a Day” has garnered generous praise from the most stingy of critics) will be the musical guest at Cakeshop’s “Mixer Reading and Music Series.” Schiffman, who gleefully skirts that fine line between clever and stupid, uses equal dashes of cynicism and charm to make her way through odes to everything from Dungeons & Dragons to prescription drugs. If that’s not a dense enough mix of stuff, the night also features readings by Walter Aikens, Fiona Maazel, and Monica Youn. July 15, 7:00p.m., at Cakeshop (152 Ludlow St., between Stanton and Rivington). Visit www.rebeccaschiffman.com and www.cake-shop.com.


Theater for the New City’s award-winning Street Theater Company presents its 33rd annual summer 2009 Street Theater tour — a high concept musical happening ripping and roaring its ways through streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs. “Tally Ho!, or Navigating the Future” is a kid-friendly morality play about how an uncertain America (in the throes of financial failure) must chart a new course. If all that seems a bit serious, rest assured the tale will be told with the 27-member troupe’s usual arsenal of trap doors, giant puppets, smoke machines, masks and original choreography. From August 1 through September 13; Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00p.m., plus Friday, August 14 at 8:00p.m.; one hour shows. For a schedule of performance dates and locations, call 212-254-1109 or visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net.


A good decade or two before irony became the stuff of hipster smarm, Kenneth Anger was using sweet, fluffy pop tunes as a sinister soundtrack to his graphic, perverse imagery (in films like “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome”). But what has he done for us lately? Find out July 18 and 19 when Anthology Film Archives presents ten recent films by Anger (six of them making their NY debut). These new works include an exploration of Aleister Crowley’s art and a profane essay on Mickey Mouse. July 16, get your fill of classic Anger with films like 1947’s “Fireworks” and 1963’s widely influential “Scorpio Rising.” Watch it and discuss afterwards who ripped off what in the years since.

For groundbreaking visions of the future, crafted decades before Anger, bow before the great Fritz Lang. On August 15 and 20, his 1938 film “You and Me” screens. Described by the Anthology folks as “one of the oddest items in Lang’s filmography” (and that’s saying something), it features songs by Kurt Weill and concerns an ex-con who marries his love without realizing she’s done hard time too. August 15 and 19, Lang’s “Moonfleet” is the expansive filmmaker’s only work done in CinemaScope. At Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue. For a complete schedule of days, times and content, visit www.anthologyfilmarchives.org.


Cornelia Street café earns a second place in our short list of Best Village Bets with a memorial event promising to be more celebratory than mournful. Three Rooms Press present a reading and poets’ tribute to Harold Norse, who died on June 8. Born in NYC in 1916, Norse was hailed at 22 by William Carlos Williams as “the best poet of your generation.” He went on to live in 1960s Paris with William Burroughs and Alan Ginsberg (where he wrote “Beat Hotel”). Norse continued writing, and wracking up praise from a who’s who of literary types, until his death last month in San Francisco. This reading is co-curated by poet and Beat scholars Valery Oisteanu and Kat Georges — and features Ira Cohen, Max Blagg, Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, Steve Dalachinsky, Shelley Miller, Angelo Verga, Tom Walker and others. July 20, 6:00pm, at Cornelia Street café, 29 Cornelia Street (between W. 4th St. & Bleeker). Visit www.corneliastreetcafe.com.


For 30 years now, First Run Features has been heating up the art house circuit with rare, unique, odd — but almost always worthy and watchable — films. This summer, they’re set to premiere three new fiction films. For more information, visit www.firstrunfeatures.com.

Opening July 31 at Quad Cinema (34 W. 13th St.), Monika Treut’s romantic thriller “Ghosted” sees the director return to narrative film after a decade’s worth of work on documentaries. Shot in Hamburg and Taipai, “Ghosted” concerns a grieving Hamburg artist trying to cope with the murder of her Taiwanese lover. Will a seductive journalist take her mind off the past or plunge her further into chaos and despair? 2009, 89 minutes, color, 35mm & digital/video, in English, German & Mandarin with English subtitles.

Opening August 7 at Cinema Village (22 E. 12th St.), Turkey’s most acclaimed filmmaker brings the taboo topic of honor killings to the big screen. Abdullah O’uz’s “Bliss” begins when 17-year-old Meryem is found disheveled and unconscious by the side of a lake in the Turkish countryside. Believing her chastity to have been compromised, her family attempts to impose a strict moral code that condemns Meryem to death. 2007, 105 minutes, color, 35mm, Turkish with English subtitles.

Opening August 14 at Quad Cinema (34 W. 13th St.), Dani Levy’s biting satire “My Fuhrer” is set in December, 1944 — as Berlin smolders and loss becomes inevitable. Joseph Goebbles turns to Germany’s finest acting coach to break the demoralized Hitler out of his funk long enough to deliver the re-energizing speech the country needs. On the big day, Hitler loses his voice and his Jewish acting coach supplies the words as the Führer lip synchs; but he deviates from the script to give the astonished masses a speech they won’t soon forget. 2007, 89 minutes, color, 35mm, German with English subtitles.