Happy July everyone! Given recent events, it feels like a weird one to be banging the drum about our great democracy and its supposedly guaranteed freedoms, but there are still some cultural and artistic events to celebrate this month and we’ve gathered some of them here for your convenience below. At the very least, try to take comfort in the fact that we live in a place that presents us with myriad opportunities to bask in the creative energy of a diverse group of talented writers, artists, and performers when we need to escape the relentless stream of horrific headlines. Enjoy!
1. Stranger Things, streaming now
So, I’m basically in the middle of an all-nighter writing this column and I fully blame the latest installment of Stranger Things, which dropped on July 1 and consists of two episodes that together clock in at over 4 hours. Like the first 3 seasons, the long-awaited fourth season of Netflix’s epic sci-fi hit– which was billed as the series finale – is scary, full of 80s nostalgia, and totally addictive. The difference is that this time around they have a massive budget to work with, and it shows. Who needs an elaborate Fourth of July box office blockbuster when you can just watch this thing from your couch?
2. Night of the Living Rez
Morgan Talty’s debut collection of short stories, Night of the Living Rez, which hit shelves July 5, is one of the most hotly anticipated books of the summer. Set within Maine’s Penobscot Indian Island Reservation, the twelve interconnected stories are told through the eyes of a boy named David, who comes of age against a grim backdrop of poverty, addiction, and mental illness. Early reviews are glowing, and this book sounds like it will introduce us all to a new and powerful literary voice that will endure.
3. Cindy Sherman 1977-1982, on now
I usually try to stay on top of new art openings of interest, both because I am personally interested in what’s around but also for the purposes of this column, so I’m not sure how I missed the Cindy Sherman, 1977-1982 exhibition at Chelsea’s Hauser & Wirth until now. Luckily, the iconic photographer’s groundbreaking character studies will be on display through July 29, so there’s still plenty to catch this retrospective show, which focuses on a particularly prolific five-year period in Sherman’s early career.
4. Dead & Co., July 15-16
There are lots of great outdoor concerts to see this season — hello, Bikini Kill at Pier 17, I’m looking at you — but the music that I grew up associating with summer is the Grateful Dead, and I’m most looking forward to Dead & Co.’s return to Citifield on July 15-16. I know it’s certainly not for everyone and there are a lot of haters out there, but if you’re looking for a chill vibe and a hyper-engaged crowd of all ages, you’ll find it here.
5. La Brooklynaise Tournament, July 17
For the second year in a row, the Carreau Club at Industry City is celebrating Bastille Day with a Brooklynaise, an open petanque tournament in its expansive outdoor space. You can grab a couple of friends and register to compete for trophies and prizes, or just swing by to watch the fun and sip on some Pastis. The event takes place at 11am on Sunday, July 17.
6. Fat Ham, through July 31
I ran into a particularly theater-savvy friend at a party last week, and she was borderline aggressive in her insistence that I immediately buy tickets to see Fat Ham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play whose debut run at the Public Theater was recently extended through the end of this month. The story is a funny, modern, and surprising riff on Hamlet — the main character, Juicy, is a queer college kid who returns home for a backyard family barbeque only to be confronted by the ghost of his dead father who asks Juicy to avenge his murder. In the end, though, this story is less about revenge and more about breaking free of the binds of familial expectations and identity. And, according to my friend, “it is really, really good.” I bought my tickets the very next morning.
7. Would It Kill You to Laugh?, now streaming
One of my favorite pandemic discoveries was HBO Max’s Search Party, a funny and wonderfully weird show which, despite a disappointing final season, served for a few weeks as an engrossing distraction from the horrors of the daily news feed. It also introduced me to John Early, the young performer who played the narcissistic and fashion-forward Elliot Goss to great comedic effect. Early has now teamed up with comedian and writer Kate Berlant on a new absurdist sketch show, Would It Kill You to Laugh?, that is now streaming on Peacock. The chemistry between the two longtime best friends was evident when Berlant played a brief turn in Search Party as Elliot’s long-suffering book publisher — I can’t wait to see what they’re able to do with their own platform.
8. Nope, July 22
The jury is sort of still out on whether I’m too much of a wimp to see Jordan Peele’s latest thriller, Nope, in theaters starting July 22. I said the same about both Get Out and Us beforehand though, and when the time came, there I was peering through my fingers like a child as blood-curdling, gory events unfurled on the big screen. Peele is a master of suspense who has truly revolutionized the genre, and it ultimately feels like it’s worth a few moments of abject terror to see the movie that everyone will be talking about all summer. That the marketing for Nope has been conspicuously devoid of detail — we basically know that it’s set at an amusement park and may or may not involve aliens — only adds to the excitement.
9. A Night at Niblo’s Garden, July 28
I am out of town at the end of the month, so I’m sadly going to miss the post-lockdown return of A Night at Niblo’s Garden at Green-Wood Cemetery on July 28 and 29, but I’d definitely buy tickets now otherwise. The beloved annual tradition celebrates permanent resident William Niblo, who created a Victorian pleasure garden in New York City in the 1830s that was one of the largest and most elaborate theaters of the time. The evening includes entertainment from fire eaters, musicians, contortionists, dancers, and more, and, if nothing else, an old-timey circus show is a cemetery is certainly a different way to spend the weekend.
10. The Bear, now streaming
It seems like everyone is talking about Hulu’s new show about a world-renowned chef who returns home to Chicago to take over his family beef sandwich business, but I will add to the chorus of voices proclaiming that The Bear is one of the best new shows of the year. The acting, the writing, the soundtrack, the drama, the characters, the random Molly Ringwald sightings (!) — I was totally sucked in and consumed all eight episodes of the first season over the span of two evenings. If you love food, this is the show for you, but that’s not even a prerequisite for enjoying this fast-paced, pressure-filled story with a season finale monologue from star Jeremy Allen White that will take your breath away. The Bear is currently streaming on Netflix and I suggest you check it out.