Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Never has a theater troupe done more with less than the Nature Theater of Oklahoma. Headed by husband-and-wife team Kelly Copper and Pavol Liska (she of the bird's nest hairdos, he of the luxurious mustaches), the company has made its name elevating the most quotidian chitchat to the extraordinary. They have built plays based around half-remembered snippets of Shakespeare, discussions of diet soda, and one man's quest to restage Rambo in his tiny apartment. In their current project, Life and Times, they are constructing an epic 10-part, 24-hour, singing, dancing, confetti-filled celebration of one woman's seemingly ordinary autobiography. If Nature Theater's performances are long and the ideation behind them occasionally heady, their shows are generous, spirited, and overstuffed with unabashed joy.
Although completed in 1998, artist Gregg LeFevre's series of 96 bronze sidewalk plaques seems a visitation from a more distant and charming past. The Library Walk was cemented into place during the dark infancy of the Information Superhighway, when we still read bound books and publications that would dirty your hands (and perhaps your mind) called newspapers. LeFevre used diverse fonts, witty layouts, and playful illustrations to complement quotes from Beckett, Woolf, Camus, Marianne Moore, Langston Hughes, and scores of others. The reliefs have been brightly burnished by countless feet (and are occasionally smudged by gum wads). One plaque bears Thomas Jefferson's proclamation "Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe," but in a sign of our times, most of the newspaper mastheads LeFevre cast to accompany this declaration are long gone.
Though many might question why on earth Matt Carman and Kseniya Yarosh would care about zines in 2013, we're glad they do. This spring, the young bespectacled husband-and-wife team organized the hugely successful second annual Brooklyn Zine Fest at Public Assembly. More than 2,000 attendees came to check out the self-made publications (ranging from Xerox copies to fancy letterpress) of about 85 writers, artists, and publishers, including The Runcible Spoon, a D.C.–based quarterly food zine; Homos in Herstory, which uncovers gems of America's gay past; and SubCulture, a zine all about art found in the subway. Vegan cupcakes, a pop-up library, and the performative comics event Brooklyn Brain Frame were also a part of this year's fun. But don't think it's all a bunch of Gen-Xers clinging to the past. Perhaps the best part of the fest is discovering that even people who grew up with the Internet still love expressing themselves through print.
Raise your hand if you've ever had to rush through your dinner and plead with the waiter to get the check "right now" to make it to the theater on time. When the Public Theater finally cut the ribbon on its four-year $40 million revitalization project last fall, it introduced a wonderful solution: The Library at the Public Theater, a cozy, dimly lighted bar and restaurant that's so pleasant you'll want to dine there even when you don't have a show to attend. The Public was once home to the Astor Library, hence the restaurant's name and shelves of beautiful old books lining the walls. For those in a hurry, take a seat at the island bar, where you can get your dinner fast, along with a mean cocktail from expert mixologist Tiffany Short. If you have more time, reserve a table and enjoy the full menu by chefs Andrew Carmellini and Michael Oliver. After the show, head back upstairs, where the Library remains open until 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. If you stick around long enough, you might even find one of the evening's performers messing around on the bar's piano.
This year, thanks to cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt, we finally learned the answer to the burning question: What do dogs really want? As illustrated in her fantastic first book, My Dirty Dumb Eyes (Drawn and Quarterly), the answer is: "a salt lick in the shape of human legs," a bride made of tennis balls, and "the dried, powdered urine of other dogs" (to snort like cocaine). Why didn't we think of that? Based in Brooklyn and an illustrator for Vanity Fair, Vice, and McSweeney's, Hanawalt received raves for her wickedly smart and totally absurd cartoons. A must-read for anyone with an offbeat or demented sense of humor (sex and poop jokes abound), the book also clues us in to Anna Wintour's secret fetish for overweight men, how to tell if Martha Stewart's been drinking ("dildos hot-glued to the oven knobs"), and the reason Mario Batali wears Crocs (they "double as pasta makers"). Best of all, Hanawalt's just getting started.
When Lorin Stein took over as editor of the Paris Review in 2010, one of his first orders of business was to give the venerable print publication's website a makeover. And so the wonderful Paris Review Daily was launched. Edited by the smart, savvy, bespectacled Sadie Stein (no relation), the blog is updated weekdays with intelligent essays on art and culture, author interviews, a morning roundup of literary news, and much more. Never predictable and always entertaining, the Daily might have a clip from a 1952 documentary on William Faulkner one day and a brilliant dispatch from John Jeremiah Sullivan (the magazine's Southern editor) the next. Alas, Lorin Stein, a former fiction editor at FSG, no longer writes his literary advice column. But his book recommendations in the weekly post "What We're Loving" will never steer you wrong.