Wave adieu to 2020, one video a day
The end of the year brings with it the chance for reflection. And as 2020 (finally) begins its denouement, we are looking back at the programs that got us through the year with a tradition of yore: the video countdown.
From new releases to old favorites, the list will update daily as the remaining time until the New Year shrinks. In step with the approach of the holidays, we’ll be sharing some programs that mirror what you’ll find on our broadcast channel and our seasonal roundups. (For more festive fare, check out our Holiday Season collection page.)
We begin the countdown (a day late) with a double feature of two recent releases. First up, we have the filmed performance of playwright Dael Orlandersmith’s one-woman show “Until the Flood.” The monologue — written and performed by Orlandersmith, with direction by Neel Keller — presents a multi-character examination of the aftermath left in the wake of the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
The work made its premiere on ALL ARTS in November, and was presented in collaboration with A Contemporary Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Goodman Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (where it was filmed).
To learn more about the work, tune in the ALL ARTS Talk: “Until the Flood” for a discussion between Orlandersmith and performance artist Sherman Fleming, moderated by ALL ARTS Artistic Director James King.
What a better way to get into the holiday spirit than with song? In this special episode of “Songwriters Under the Covers with Victoria Shaw,” the eponymous host is joined by fellow musicians Jim Brickman and Dave Barnes for an hour of tunes and heartwarming stories, all backdropped by a glistening Christmas tree and the warm glow of the stage. Shot with COVID-19 precautions in place, this live performance also features special guests Anita Cochran and Wendy Moten.
For some extra holiday treats, check out this festive playlist curated by Shaw.
If you’re looking to sink into a classic Shakespearean work, might we recommend this archival 1974 capture of “King Lear”? Filmed at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, the production stars James Earl Jones as the wrathful monarch, with Lee Chamberlin, Raul Julia, Rosalind Cash and Paul Sorvino rounding out the cast.
For us, part of the allure of the film is watching the behind-the-scenes footage at the top, during which actors get ready for the stage and audience members file in to their seats — truly a vision to hold on to!
With Ryan Murphy’s star-studded interpretation of Broadway’s “The Prom” recent release into the world, we find ourselves recalling this Broadway Sandwich episode, which debuted shortly after the musical’s final curtain call. In it, we take a trip with host Garen Scribner Uptown to cook with Broadway actress Isabelle McCalla, who originated the role of closeted teen Alyssa Greene.
If you’re still hungry for some more theater, we recommend checking out this episode of En Garde Arts Presents Uncommon Voices, starring stage sensation André De Shields in a reading of Kevin R. Free’s work “A Hill on Which To Drown.”
Hollywood Singing and Dancing was one of our most popular shows in 2020, and it’s easy to see why! With Broadway closed indefinitely, this might be the closest we get to the Great White Way for a while. Featuring interviews and vintage clips from some of the biggest names in the biz, the documentary series shows the history of musical theater on film. It goes decade by decade, so you can watch how some of the greatest show business dynasties secured their place in pop culture … from the Minellis to Beyonce.
Listen, sometimes you gotta get messy if you want to make art. Director Anne Bogart and choreographer Elizabeth Streb’s masterfully chaotic “FALLING & LOVING” does just that by colliding six dancers and six actors under a Guck Machine, built to unleash a torrent of slime, confetti, flour and other “guck” materials with the pull of a string. The words of Charles Mee provide a lyrical spoken soundtrack to the acrobatic dodging of bowling balls, sand, water and more in this performance, taped live at PEAK Performances in Montclair, New Jersey.
One of the program’s featured in this month’s Curator’s Picks, “Immersive Light” from the series IMMERSIVE.WORLD showcases the work of artists James Turrell, Dan Flavin, Anthony McCall and Anne Katrine Senstad. In addition to highlighting the temporality of the medium, the episode captures the sculptural qualities of working with light, casting a nuanced gaze on the art form.
Of the works, ALL ARTS programmer Annika Leybold states: “The simplicity of the pieces concentrates my attention, and I see these sculptures as an invitation to be embodied. We have to be aligned with the senses of our body to experience them.”
Looking for a laugh? Hosted by real-life lawyer Andrea Coleman, the comedy performance “Wack or Woke?” casts Judge Karen M. Ortiz and comedians Andres Mallipudi, Todd Montesi and Kate Sist as critics of two Washington State laws. The affair was captured at the Tank theater in New York City.
Bonus: Make today a double-feature and catch Pooja Reddy and Zubi Ahmed in the South Asian comedy show “Kutti Gang at the Tank.”
What is lost when neighborhoods are radically changed by gentrification? Box Burners “How We Stay” examines placekeeping in New York City’s Chinatown through the eyes of the fifth-generation porcelain ware shop Wing on Wo and the collective Chinatown Art Brigade. The episode — which touches on not only the physical displacement of losing a space, but also the psychological and emotional effects — suggests the importance of art and storytelling in maintaining community amid change.
A Blade of Grass Fellows are artists fighting for social change — including Khaliah Pitts and Shivon Love who created “Our Mothers’ Kitchens,” a Philadelphia-based cooking and literary camp for young Black women. With “Our Mothers’ Kitchens,” Pitts and Love show the connection between Black women in the literary world, their kitchens and meals, and the ongoing fight for liberation through intimate dinner parties that honor Black women from all walks of life and families. Follow the artist-activists in this film as they foster their community with delicious food and books.
In this gem from the archives, a documentary filmmaker follows James Baldwin as he tours Black neighborhoods in San Francisco in 1964. An observational documentary that gets out of its own way, “Take This Hammer” elevates the voices of the Black neighbors he meets. His call for intersectional social activism shows just how ahead of his time Baldwin was — American culture is still grappling with the impacts of racist housing on Black families. The Movement for Black Lives this summer continued Baldwin’s fight, and it’s inspiring to witness his insightful speaking of truth to power.
A veritable jukebox of Broadway hits, this concert brings together stars of the stage Kimberly Marable, Kayla Davion, Aléna Watters, Darlesia Cearcy, Lianah Sta. Ana, Kuhoo Verma, Genesis Collado, Barbara Douglas and Vanisha Gould for a packed performance. Filmed in February, the live-captured event honors Tony Award-winners LaChanze and Melba Moore, and was put together by Women of Color on Broadway — a theater organization co-founded by sisters Victoria Velazquez and Alexia Sielo with the aim of expanding access to mentorship and jobs within the theater industry.
Director Peter Sellars’ interpretation of Stravinsky’s “Perséphone” brings together myth and design to a striking effect. Filmed at the Teatro Real in Madrid, the opera follows Persèphone — daughter of Zeus and Demeter — as she journeys between the Underworld and Earth. The work, originally staged in 2012, is performed by a cast that includes an actress, tenor, chorus, children’s ensemble and dancers.
“Eschewing the usual ballet choreography, Sathya and the other featured dancers illustrate the journey of Persephone to the underworld and back through traditional Cambodian dance,” wrote ALL ARTS contributor Annie Seminara about the infrequently performed production earlier this year. “This alone is worth watching, but paired with the somber chorus and the heartfelt narration, the dancing is merely one part of an exquisitely unique production.”
In this episode of the ALL ARTS original series “On Display,” host Stephanie Johnson-Cunningham talks to cultural leaders Rob Fields, president and executive director of the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn, and Kamau Ware, founder of Black Gotham Experience, about “Black Spaces.”
Weeksville is a well-preserved neighborhood in Crown Heights that served as one of the largest free Black communities in pre-Civil War America. Black Gotham Experience began as a walking tour in Manhattan to showcase the history of Black people in the city after Ware realized how New York’s cultural history had been white-washed, but has since expanded to a studio space as well. Working side by side in this episode, “Black Spaces” asks viewers: How can history help resistance against issues like gentrification? And what do we risk without spaces dedicated to communities that are underrepresented in society?
Lorraine Hansberry, the first African American woman to have a piece performed on Broadway, is fresh off her success from her play “Raisin in the Sun” in this 1961 interview. Ripe with tips for any writer, Hansberry discusses her approach to her work, as well as what was to be her upcoming play about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, of which we see a clip in “Playwright at Work.” Unfortunately, she would not complete the piece before dying at age 35 from pancreatic cancer, but her mastery of literature and theater lives on.
The Brooklyn-based troupe Urban Bush Women uses dance, movement and hair to examine race and identity. This documentary goes inside their 2018–2019 residency at BRIC, focusing on the community engagement workshop “Hair Party” and the ways the narratives drawn from the discussions inform the stage production “Hair & Other Stories.”
The group was founded in 1984 by choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and among the company’s core values are validating the individual, catalyzing social change and highlighting stories from the African Diaspora.
The ALL ARTS original series “Famous Cast Words” takes stereotypes in casting calls to task. In this episode, host Lynne Rosenberg joins long-time friend and “Hadestown” star Amber Gray as they discuss typecasting and “The Mom” roles.
What stands out in this episode is the pure friendship between Rosenberg and Gray, who met as young teens — and even have the hilarious photos from a bygone era to prove it. There are tons of laughs as Gray adds “just a dash of paprika” to a casting call stating “Caucasian-ish, with some ethnically ambiguous thrown in” and pointing out that the commercial idea of “Mom” means she “straightens her hair” for the audition. But no joke takes away from the overarching point: Representation in media begins with casting calls, and if this is the language actors are up against, there’s still a long way to go.
A peek into the curatorial process, this 1965 documentary captures photographer Dorothea Lange as she prepares for a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As she works with then-curator John Szarkowski, the artist speaks philosophically about her career and life, outlining what she hopes will be carried forward and expanded upon by future photographers. Lange died of cancer shortly before the opening of the exhibition, which opened in 1966.
One of the documentaries included is the visually striking “Partisan” — a stylized film that centers on Berlin’s Volksbühne, also known as the “The People’s Theater.” In the piece, we see excerpts of works by director Frank Castorf, who was at the helm of the aesthetically daring institution from 1992 to 2017.
The documentary opens with a quote that highlights the potential of the art form: “Due to a lack of imagination, most people don’t even experience their own lives, let alone the world around them. Otherwise, just reading one newspaper would be enough to make humanity break out in riots. Therefore, stronger means are necessary. One of them is theater.”
Under the Greenwood Tree
This summer, the Public Theater was set to remount its 2017 Public Works production of “As You Like It,” but plans were halted as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. This documentary traces the creation of the work, going behind the scenes with the show’s creative team and community members to speak to how the musical transcends the stage.
“Building community isn’t just for this moment; it’s so we can hand something to people that they can feel welcome in,” Ato Blankson-Wood, who starred as Orlando, says in the film. “We’re not building communities for ourselves, we are building communities so it ripples out. And it continues after we’re gone.”
The 1989 documentary “Drawing the Line: A Portrait of Keith Haring,” directed and produced by Elisabeth Aubert, charts the career of the artist, tracing his rise in the street art scene in the 1980s. As an artist and activist, Haring played an instrumental role in the advocacy for AIDS awareness, and in 1989 — a year after being diagnosed with AIDS — he established the Keith Haring Foundation.
“If you love life, if you appreciate life and humans, then you should be against anything that is going against life and against people,” Haring says in the film. “I mean, when something is that obviously wrong, you have to be against it, you know? And I think it’s partly responsibility, but it’s partly just a natural response to seeing something that’s wrong and wanting to say something about it or do something about it.”
Haring died Feb. 16, 1990, at the age of 31 from complications related to AIDS.
Love ballet? Love books? This interview is for you.
This year, we launched Ballerina Book Club with American Ballet Theatre dancer Isabella Boylston. In this interview, colleague, friend and author Misty Copeland joins Boylston to chat about writing, art and education.
The virtuosic feats of Gandini Juggling meet the contemporary dance of Alexander Whitley in this PEAK HD performance, captured at Montclair State University. Set against a score by Gabriel Prokofiev, the jugglers and dancers are multiplied by the shadow-work on the stage.
Opera fans will recognize the stylings of Gandini Juggling from the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019 staging of Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten,” choreographed by the company’s director, Sean Gandini.
This musical depicts the Christmas Truce of 1914, during which Allied and German soldiers temporarily laid down their weapons. Created by Peter Rothstein, the film’s mixture of singing and the reading of real letters from those involved creates an intimate and strikingly captured production.
“The ensemble cast takes on different characters, describing the journey to the trenches and the rats, mud and grenades they found upon arrival,” ALL ARTS broadcast programmer Annika Leybold wrote of the musical. “The specificity of each story of grief and homesickness — and the choral songs that follow — poignantly portrays the sweeping psychological effects of war on an entire generation.”
This toe-tapping concert pays homage to the iconic singer Ella Fitzgerald. Hosted by Vanessa Williams, the program takes inspiration from Fitzgerald’s classic 1960 album “Ella Wishes You A Swingin’ Christmas” to present a jukebox of holiday hits, performed by American Pops Orchestra and a slate of big-name artists.
Close out the year with the musical offerings of Brahms and Schumann, as performed by the Chamber Music Society. On the lineup for this presentation is Brahms’ moody “Cello Sonata No. 1 in E Minor” and Schumann’s “Piano Quintet in E-flat major,” which was dedicated to the musician’s wife and fellow composer (and celebrity pianist), Clara Schumann.
If you’d like to check out more performances, we suggest heading over to the “In Concert With CMS” program page, where you’ll find a bevy of musical offerings.
In August, we released a slate of plays presented at the 11th annual Fire This Time Festival. Named for James Baldwin, the yearly program highlights the work of playwrights from the African diaspora through the production of 10-minute plays.
Tyler English-Beckwith’s “Maya and Rivers” was one of the seven plays included in the festival. In the production, we are introduced to our two main characters, who escape from their dying home-planet for one last rendezvous on the moon.
“The future, to young people, is so vast,” the playwright wrote in an introduction to an excerpt of the play. “But unfortunately for Maya and Rivers, abundance doesn’t exist in their world. So dreaming about the future is just dreaming.”
Filled with interviews with artists and historians, this documentary takes a look at 20th century women artists, starting with German Expressionist Gabriele Münter. The film contends with the lack of women in the art history canon and how artists have fought back for recognition.
“That is why I was able to work for so many years with a complete ignorance of the market,” famed artist Louise Bourgeois says in the film in regards to her art being sold at prices lower than that of her male counterparts. “It is not me who ignored the market. It is the market who ignored me, and it was okay because it … did not discourage me at all.”
Filmed at Montclair State University as part of our PEAK HD series, this performance captures the Martha Graham Dance Company in the founding choreographer’s celebrated work “Appalachian Spring,” with music by Aaron Copland. The program also features the world premiere of Troy Schumacher’s sneaker-ballet “The Auditions,” set to music composed by Augusta Read Thomas. The music for both pieces is performed by the International Contemporary Ensemble, conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni.
This documentary follows Ojibwe artist Rabbett Before Horses Strickland, who creates large-scale paintings infused with mythology.
“Like so many artists, he has the courage to noodle around — whether that’s with a painting, on the piano or in a mathematical proof,” ALL ARTS broadcast programmer said of Rabbett, who is also a musician and a theoretical mathematician. “The perfectionist in me admires that spontaneity so deeply. What I see in him is a trust that everything will work out if he follows his dreams.”
What does it look like to build a musical community? This summer, we kicked off a series of films exploring National Sawdust’s experience with this process. Captured across the city and within what is now the space that holds the performance institution, the films are grouped into four themes: “Ex Situ: The Elements at the River to River Festival,” “Ex Situ: The Composer’s Voice,” “In Situ: Skyful (Pre-Roof Art)” and “In Situ: Structural Build through Art.”
“The pieces are woven to show the process of building a community and the creation of a building in tandem,” co-founder and artistic director of National Sawdust Paola Prestini said of the films. “How these artists and pieces of music paint an expansive view of the hopes for National Sawdust and its aspirational value in aesthetic equity.”
The film “Ex-Situ: HKZ” was included in the first grouping of films in the series, which can be found in full here.