Your Culture Essentials for March


It’s still too early to tell whether this March will be more of a lion or a lamb (or just continue to rapid cycle between spring and winter), but one thing is for sure–there are plenty of cool cultural events to keep us occupied until spring officially arrives later this month. From films to flower shows to a West Coast composer ushering in an epic new wave of jazz, here are our 10 culture picks for the month ahead.

The Witch 2

If you plan to see The Witch at BAM this month, you might want to bring a spare pair of underwear. Photo: BAM

10. When my friend Scott suggested that we go watch The Witch at BAM this month, his main selling point was that the movie promised to be “pee-in-your-pants scary.” I’ve never seen pants-wetting used as a selling point with such aplomb, but in the case of Robert Eggers’ directorial debut, the description is spot on. The film follows the downward spiral of a Puritan family in 17th century New England whose witch hunt creates not only hysteria, but also one of the most widely praised horror films in recent history. Eggers won the Best Director Award at Sundance last year, and The Witch is playing at BAM through March 10.

9. Actor Forest Whitaker has played everyone from Idi Amin to a rogue FBI agent, but it’s his current role as the down-on-his-luck gambler Erie Smith in the Broadway revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Hughie that’s drawing renewed interest in the Oscar winner at the moment. Set in the dingy lobby of a New York City hotel in 1928 and performed in one act that is pretty much a soliloquy by Smith, Hughie is directed by Tony winner Michael Grandage and marks Whitaker’s debut on the Great White Way. If you want to see Whitaker give his regards to Broadway, I’d buy tickets now, as Hughie will be on a strictly limited engagement at Booth Theater this spring.

8. If the current fight for the Republican nomination was actually a subplot on the fourth season of House of Cards, I might be more inclined to find it entertaining. Sadly the reality of this year’s election season is proving to be scarier than fiction—and makes the double dealings of Frank Underwood, current commander-in-chief on HOC, seem civil by comparison. The next season of the Netflix original series is slated to premiere on Friday, March 4. Frank, Claire and the Pandora’s box of political problems they opened in their quest for the White House last season return with the couple on the brink of a breakup. I’ll be tuning in to see if an act of diplomacy will be enough to get them back to sharing late night cigarettes and sideways glances this season.

Blook 27. We’ve all been warned not to judge a book by its cover. This is especially true when you’re looking at a blook—an object that looks like a book but actually holds something else between its covers, like a flask, a pocket lantern, a cigar box, biscuit tin, an ice-cream mold or a package for men’s suspenders. These are just some of the functions of the 130 blooks currently on display at the Grolier Club in Manhattan as part of the exhibition Blooks: The Art of Books that Aren’t. The entire collection belongs to Mindell Dubansky, head of the Sherman Fairchild Center for Book Conservation at the Thomas J. Watson Library in the Met. Dubansky started collecting blooks over 20 years ago in and effort to research not only the history of book objects, our relationship to them culturally. Her collection, one of the coolest and kookiest I’ve ever come across, will be on view through March 12.

Photo caption: Reading light in box. Magic Booklite. Eagle Electric Manufacturing Company, Incorporated. Long Island City, New York. U. S. Patent 155,617. American. C. 1949. Collection of Mindell Dubansky

The Magic Booklite is an imitation of the iconic half-leather binding. The binding motif continues to the paper insert, to which the Magic Booklite is clipped.

6. American Psycho the Musical, are four words I never thought would be uttered together, but based on the sold-out London run of the stage adaption to Bret Easton Ellis’ psychodrama (made even more famous by Christian Bale’s film portrayal of its protagonist, Patrick Bateman, in 2000), singing and serial killing make pretty terrific bedfellows (as I suppose Sweeney Todd also proves). Set in the hedonistic heyday of 1980s Manhattan, the musical will still explore the excess that defined the era—think The Wolf of Wall Street but with more blood and fewer barbiturates—only this time set to stellar, 80’s-inspired dance songs by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening). APM also marks the Broadway return of Benjamin Walker (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), who will bring Bateman’s killer instinct to the stage. Previews start on March 24.

5. The first track on Kamasi Washington’s latest jazz album, The Epic, is titled “Change Of The Guard,” and listening to the Los Angeles-based saxophonist play, it’s clear that Washington is ushering in a new wave of West Coast jazz aimed at doing just that. While I would say The Epic is best listened to at home with the lights turned low and two fingers of whiskey in hand, it will also get you through your work day. You can stream the entire thing on Soundcloud here.

4. It’s safe to say that 2015 was out of this world for astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent the past 340 days aboard the International Space Station in order to study how the human body responds to long-term weightlessness. His identical twin brother and fellow astronaut, Mark Kelly stayed behind to serve as a control group—not sure who drew the short straw on this one. Scott safely re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on March 2, the same day Time released its documentary series, A Year in Space, which chronicled Kelly’s mission in an eight-part series.

Laura Poitras (b. 1964), ANARCHIST: Power Spectrum Display of Doppler Tracks from a Satellite (Intercepted May 27, 2009), 2016. Archival pigment print on aluminum, 45 1/4 × 65 in. Courtesy the artist

Laura Poitras, ANARCHIST: Power Spectrum Display of Doppler Tracks from a Satellite (intercepted May 27, 2009), 2016.  Courtesy the artist

3. One of cultural offerings I’m looking most forward to checking out this month is Laura Poitras: Astro Noise currently up at the Whitney Museum. Astro Noise is the first solo museum show of Poitras’ work, which covers themes like mass surveillance, the war on terror, the U.S. drone program, Guantánamo Bay Prison, occupation and torture. Last year, Poitras, a journalist as well as an artist, won an Oscar for her investigative documentary, Citizenfour. On March 11 at BAM, she will be in conversation with famed whistleblower and former intelligence worker Edward Snowden, the subject of her documentary. WNYC’s Brian Lehrer will interview both Poitras (in person) and Snowden (via video) as part of RadioLoveFest. The event is standby only at this point–you have to go to BAM day of and put your name on a waitlist (I did this last month to see Gloria Steinem speak and got in).

Explore the adventurous history of the 19th-century orchid collecting craze in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where thousands of orchids create a tapestry of varied color.

Explore the adventurous history of the 19th-century orchid collecting craze in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where thousands of orchids create a tapestry of varied color.

2. Cherry blossom season is still a few months away, but if you’re  looking for a flower fix, plan to check out the New York Botanical Garden’s annual Orchid Show. If the closest you’ve ever come to an orchid is standing in the checkout line of Trader Joe’s, then it is definitely worth a trip to the Bronx between now and April 17. Thousands of orchids will be in bloom and on display inside the garden, allowing visitors the opportunity to while away a few hours pretending spring has sprung and learning a bit about the history of orchid collecting. Given the number of orchidaceae on exhibit, it’s pretty apt that NYBG named this year’s show, it’s 14th, Orchidelirium.

What is not yours is not yours by helen oyeyemi 21. If you’re looking for a literary work to unlock this month, might I suggest What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi? For her latest work, the award-winning author created a series of interconnected short stories centered around the theme of keys, both to the tangible and the abstract. Whether it’s a key to someone’s heart or a simple house key, in each story Oyeyemi provides her characters the tool necessary to open unexpected places in both their own lives and the lives of others.

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