Photo: The Iceman Cometh (1973) / THE AMERICAN FILM THEATRE / PHOTOFEST
For a little under two years, in the mid-Seventies, an initiative called the American Film Theatre attempted to bridge the divide between stage and screen, giving plays the reach of films, while lending the moviegoing experience a bit of theater’s highbrow linguistic glamour. The brainchild of the producer Ely Landau, the project brought together famed actors, writers, and directors who agreed to work at a fraction of their normal rates on filmed adaptations of plays, using the full text of the original script as their screenplay. The resulting movies would then show in roughly 500 movie theaters around the country for just a few screenings each. (Filmgoers subscribed to the program the same way they would to a normal theater season.) For the next week, all but two of the AFT’s productions can be seen as part of the Quad Cinema’s series “Screen Play: The American Film Theatre.”
M. Geddes Gengras, an experimental electronic musician, has spent years toiling in the Los Angeles underground scene, releasing album after album of intellectual modular synthesizer music. His work ranges from abrasive rhythmic noises to beautiful ambient soundscapes that bring to mind artists like Tim Hecker and Eluvium. This week at Alphaville, Gengras will perform in collaboration with Greg Fox, the über-talented drummer known for his work in Liturgy, GDFX, and Guardian Alien. Both artists love to explore the bounds of music through experimentation and improvisation, and their collaboration should be fascinating.
It’s been two years since the release of Eat Pray Thug, the solo album from former Das Racist rapper Heems. On that effort, Heems tried to find his voice as a solo act, to varying degrees of success. His album last year with his new project, Swet Shop Boys — a collaboration with the U.K.–born rapper and Star Wars actor Riz Ahmed — showed that he still has plenty of fire left. Heems’s half-joking, half–deadly serious rhymes deal with themes of racism, politics, and the experience of growing up as a first-generation immigrant in Queens. His music feels more vital now than ever.
Photo: Fargo (1996) / Courtesy MoMA
From New York to California, Mississippi to Minnesota, spanning genres like a Turner Classic Movies marathon, Joel and Ethan Coen have introduced us to ordinary people whose actions spin out of their control. Their characters are left with insoluble questions: Why has this happened to me? What does it all mean? The Coens’ movies can drive viewers similarly mad with the search for meaning. But despite plots denser than a Sarah Palin endorsement speech, it’s a mistake to impose a grand narrative theory on their films. The forces that propel the brothers’ plots are random, not designed, and their people don’t triumph over those forces so much as wade through them, frantic for answers.
If you’re stuck in town for the week of Turkey Day, you could do worse than to grab your high school friends and take them down to Jupiter Disco, where Veronica Vasicka, DJ and founder of record label Minimal Wave, will headline a night of dark dance music. Backing her up is Soren Roi, a DJ associated with the weekly experimental electronic party Nothing Changes. The venue makes for an intimate spot to dance, and has a great sound system and cheap covers to boot — perfect for a night out with people who might be new to this kind of music.
There are many electronic artists who choose to keep their identities a mystery, but none whose ambiguity feels quite as ominous as Headless Horseman. The producer and DJ, who gained particular renown after a live set in 2014 at the notorious Berghain, performs with a long, dark fringe covering his face, like a creepier Cousin Itt in a hoodie. Since then, he’s only spoken a few times to the press, preferring to let his dark, industrial techno and famously hard sets do the talking for him. We can only hope that this TBA venue in Brooklyn is a cavernous warehouse worthy of his unsettling music.
Photo: Texas Isaiah's "My Name Is My Name I" (detail) / Courtesy the artist
It began with “Freestyle,” back in 2001. Since then, every few years the Studio Museum in Harlem has held a series of influential exhibitions that are specifically intended to bring a fresh crop of noteworthy Black American artists to the attention of a broad audience. An alliterative conceit binds together what have become known as the “F shows”: “Frequency” in 2005, “Flow” in 2008, “Fore” in 2012. Now, the museum has decided the climate is right to release a new batch of talent from the continual prospecting that is part of its mission. “Fictions,” featuring work by nineteen artists from around the country, and with a strong proportion of installation and work in unorthodox materials, began in September and runs through early January.
Photo: CAITLIN SPIESS OF ILL PRODUCTIONS
At 627 5th Avenue in South Slope, Brooklyn, stands a generic, white-brick building, the kind you’d probably never notice if not for the message scrawled in black paint on its side: “Are you curious?” It’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t be. This is the home of Curiosities, an immersive theater production that opened earlier this month and is in residence through November 26. The era, 1930s; the setting, the Menagerie, a jazz club out of which “the Professor” (played by Anthony Logan Cole) and his coterie of misfits operate an underground sideshow full of sins and secrets. The ambience is a little bit speakeasy, a little bit David Lynch. The plot is refracted across ten separate storylines, each anchored around a different character who might at any point beckon you into the hazy darkness backstage.
Jake Ewald has a lot more free time than he used to. His main band, the emo revival outfit Modern Baseball, went on hiatus last year, citing the mental-health troubles of one of the band members, Brendan Lukens. Now, Ewald has released the second album by his solo band, Slaughter Beach, Dog, a quieter, indie folk effort with intimate lyrics that tell quasi-autobiographical stories about love, substance abuse, and ennui. This music is strong enough that it could succeed without the draw of Ewald’s other group’s fame. Fans of that outfit are encouraged to check this out.
Another great option for the generally quiet Thanksgiving week is this show at Silent Barn, which features several standout local acts alongside touring bands. Math the Band are a bonkers chiptune act whose music defies explanation — you need to see them live to get a feel for their overactive enthusiasm. The Brooklyn two-piece punk group Shellshag will also play, along with the instantly lovable New Brunswick garage poppers Teenage Halloween and the Brooklyn pop rock act Nervous Dater.
In her own productions, the electronic musician Laurel Halo combines warped vocals, synths, and drum beats to stretch and bend fragments of dance music into something altogether stranger. Her DJ sets are often more straightforward, though her offbeat sensibility shines through nonetheless. She’ll headline this night at Elsewhere alongside the rising Brooklyn DJ SHYBOI, a member of the collective #KUNQ who uses dance music to explore her identity as a Jamaican woman and the historical dynamics between Caribbean and American culture.
Photo: HENRY DILTZ
Hip-hop-hating hippie harmonizer David Crosby, 76, has been enjoying an exceptional late-in-life career revival. After leaving the Byrds, which he co-founded in 1964, he played in various combinations with Steve Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young until last year, when Nash declared he’d had enough of his old friend’s cranky ways. While Crosby has recorded only six solo albums, beginning with his weird and willowy 1971 masterpiece If I Could Only Remember My Name, the three most recent of the bunch have all appeared since 2014. With its inventive musicianship, relaxed self-assurance, and gently cantankerous autumnal wisdom, 2016’s Lighthouse is the keeper, but his new Sky Trails isn’t half-bad, either. This show is a strictly solo affair, though — just Croz and a guitar delivering idealist anthems like “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Long Time Gone,” and “Triad,” along with a helping of fresher fare.
The international superstar techno DJ Nina Kraviz headlines this bill of incredible female DJs at a Brooklyn warehouse party. Kraviz, who emerged from Russia to dominate the global underground techno scene over the last few years, is known for her willingness to take risks in her big-room sets. The rest of the bill is just as impressive. Umfang, a local DJ on the Discwoman roster, plays pounding techno that often closes out the best local raves. Experimental artist and modular synth pro Antenes will play b2b with Mary Yuzovskaya, another of underground techno’s greatest hopes. This party is where you’ll find the hippest raver kids working off their Thanksgiving dinners until dawn.
Photo: Joan Marcus
Tectonic Theater Project, long at the forefront of documentary drama, opens a new show this week about the underexplored subject of life with autism. (The group, under Moisés Kaufman’s leadership, is famous for consciousness-raising through the telling of real stories — from The Laramie Project, which documented the 1998 hate-killing of Matthew Shepard, to Doug Wright’s Pulitzer Prize–winning I Am My Own Wife.) Anushka Paris-Carter and Andy Paris’s Uncommon Sense, running at the Sheen Center, explores the experiences of four people living on the autism spectrum, and is accompanied by an educational program, including panels of experts and an exhibit of visual works by artists with autism. Maybe most importantly, Tectonic will offer two “relaxed performances,” which mellow the lighting and sound, and lift the usual mandate to sit still and stay quiet — modeling what accessibility can look like in the theater.