Arlene Wolff Does It Again... Over a Half Century Later

"I'm the kind of girl who's tried everything once," Valerine Perrine purrs in Lenny. As Mrs. Bruce in the Bob Fosse film, her claim, let's say, contained slightly off-color elements.

Not so for the chanteuse Arlene Wolff, who can make the same assertion and whose career path followed a similar timeline (the 1960s onward). She, however, always took the high road. Yes, her notable achievements are indisputably aboveboard and even more varied. She opened for Jackie Mason in his early days, toured Europe as a singer of standards, and as Assistant to New York City's Mayor Abraham Beame, Wolff devised the Big Apple's now iconic street fairs. If that were not enough, for you sailor buffs, she organized the arrival of the tall ships in New York Harbor for the Bicentennial. Then because she had some free time on her hands, she married Manhattan's then Chief of Police (Mickey Schwartz) and did a little sheep farming. Read more »

Quote of the Week: Groucho Marx


"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."

Groucho Marx (2 October 1890 - 19 August 1977), Born Julius Henry Marx, he was an American comedian and film and television star. He was known as a master of quick wit and is widely considered one of the best comedians of the modern era.

Guy Clark, Master Craftsmen, 1941-2016

The year 2016 continues to take some of our best and brightest stars. We have lost Bowie, Prince, Merle, and a slew of others. I don’t have to go through all of the names. I generally put up a quick, "Well, we lost another great one" post on Facebook. This will not be one of those, because the latest loss -- Guy Clark, who passed away on May 17 at the age of 74 -- hits me hard. Read more »

Song of the Week: Dusty Wright - "Fly"

I got inspired to write and record an uplifthing song about depression and religious intolerance. "Fly" is based on the emotional hardships of a religiously repressed woman from New York City who committed suicide last summer. Her tormentors would not afford her the comfort of acceptance and she couldn't fly free of the repression. Tragically, she could only find one way out. We all know depression hurts, let's reach out to those in need of support. Please feel free to share it with your loved ones. Artwork by French artist Frederic Leduc (uchronie.ultra-book.com). Thanks to Martin John Butler for playing bass, co-engineering and mixing the track. The amazing Sammy Merendino played the drums and singer/songwriter Queen Esther provided the hook vocal. peace, Dusty

This Time, It's Real.

This Time
Written by Sevan K. Greene
Directed by Kareem Fahmy
Presented by Rising Circle Theater Collective, The Sheen Center, NYC
May 7-21, 2016

This Time is the continent- and decade-spanning yet intimate new play by Sevan K. Greene, presented in its world premiere by Rising Circle Theater Collective, a group that focuses on original work by artists of color. Greene based his play on Not So Long Ago, the memoir of Amal Meguid, director Kareem Fahmy’s grandmother, to whose memory This Time is dedicated. This Time actually follows two threads of time, one in 1990s Toronto, the play’s present, and one that begins in 1960s Cairo and moves towards that present. In the latter thread, a young Amal (Rendah Heywood) meets Nick (Seth Moore), a Canadian on business in Cairo, at a party. Both are trilingual; Amal is blunt, honest, and married; Nick, avowedly romantic, pushy, and sleeping with his secretary.

Read more »

All The Gorey Details

Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey
Written and directed by Travis Russ
Presented by Life Jacket Theatre Company, HERE, NYC
April 30-May 22, 2016

If you’ve ever watched the opening of the long-running PBS anthology series Mystery!, then you’ve seen the art of Edward Gorey. If you haven’t, well, he is not the most mainstream of artists, though perhaps the mainstream has edged closer to his sensibility in our post-Tim Burton, post-Hot Topic world. Gorey: The Secret Lives of Edward Gorey, a new play by Travis Russ, does not walk the audience through Gorey’s greatest hits in common biographical narrative fashion (so if you are unfamiliar with his work, do yourself a favor and look into it on your own). In fact, in this play, Gorey refers to his most famous work, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, with clear weariness. Instead, Gorey quickly asserts that time is "fragile, fleeting, and fluid," and takes that idea as its structuring principle. Andrew Dawson, Aidan Sank, and Phil Gillen share the stage as younger, mature, and older versions of the artist, a compression of Gorey’s life that derives poignancy from its multiple perspectives and voices, such as when the youngest Gorey cheerfully says that the move to the Cape Cod house that he and his cats would occupy until his death is only temporary. Gorey was something of a collector, to put it mildly, and the contents of his house, catalogued by volunteers after his death, provide the other structuring principle in the play, with items often triggering memories or enactments of various points in his life. Read more »

Broadway's Secret Weapon

Drew Hodges is at a loss for words. Asked if he’s surprised at the life he’s leading -- did he imagine he’d grow up to fly around the world orchestrating scenes with great actors and artists for his own wildly influential agency -- he pauses three entire seconds. “I wish I had an answer for you,” he says. “It's like, Come for the veal, stay for the floor show.”

You might not know Drew Hodges’ name, but if you’ve enjoyed some form of popular culture in the past decade, you’re living in a world he helped create. "When I started, the idea of theater was still very much that ‘fabulous invalid’ thing," he says, “sort of dying, old, kind of nostalgic. I was lucky enough to work on a lot of stuff that started to chip away at that."

Twenty years ago, art-directing for his small design firm’s music, film and cable clients, Hodges was offered his first theater project, a little show called Rent. The man for whom performance meant taking the train from Hyde Park, NY, as a high schooler to see Yes at Madison Square Garden harnessed the excitement he felt watching innovative theater and expanded his rock & roll take to advertising, moving the firm carved out of his Flower District apartment closer to Broadway, where it would grow into the entertainment powerhouse SpotCo. Read more »

Song of the Week: Nada Surf - "Rushing"

Damn, they've done it again! From their latest longplayer You Know Who You Are, my favorite NYC-folk-rock band deliver a perfectly executed subway love song called "Rushing". I've been a fan for years and this is one of the best songs they've ever executed. Two decades in and they are still bursting with smart lyrics and gorgeous sing-along melodies! 10 new tracks available on Barsuk Records. Don't delay, buy them all today!

Susan Sarandon’s Mommy Issues

What happens when the private persona of a performer bleeds over into the public creative sphere? The line is so fragile it often rends our ability to lose ourselves in the fictional world of art. Read more »

Top 25 Twenty-First Century Jazz Albums

Today being international jazz day, there will be much celebrating of the greatness of its history. I’ve done that in the past; it is a great history. But it is not all back in historical times; jazz lives, and evolves, and continues to be great. Yet how many lists of the greatest jazz albums include anything from the current century? Read more »

Tribeca Review: Bugs or “Waiter, Can You Put a Fly in My Soup?”

Will maggot fat oust coconut oil as a foodie favorite? Is PepsiCo replacing the corn flour in its Fritos with ground cricket corpses? And, hey! Who doesn't want to bite into some chicken with garlic and saffron sauce topped with crumbled buffalo worms?

Answers: Possibly. Not yet. Less people than you might think. Read more »

You've Got Spam!

SPAM
Written by Rafael Spregelburd and translated by Jean Graham-Jones
Directed by Samuel Buggeln
Presented by The Cherry Arts
JACK, Brooklyn, NYC
April 14-30, 2016

Making a performance look easy is very difficult, but the fantastic new production of Argentine playwright Rafael Spregelburd’s intricately-constructed SPAM makes it look effortless. SPAM, making its English-language première in a translation by the City University of New York’s Jean Graham-Jones, probes some of those boundaries and spaces between appearance and reality, especially where language is concerned. Mario Monti (Vin Knight) is a linguistics professor with an ethically questionable relationship to the work of one of his thesis students and a case of amnesia from a head wound. As the play unfolds, both he and we come to understand more about how he ended up living in a hotel room in Malta, trying to hawk Chinese-manufactured talking dolls on the beach for cash and befriending a Swiss diver filming an underwater documentary. Read more »

R.I.P. Prince Rogers Nelson 1958-2016

Prince didn't give a fuck what anybody thought about him. Read more »

Farewell, My Prince

Those who know me well, know that I was the publisher/editor of Prince's short-lived magazine NPG (New Power Generation) back in the mid '90s. (Culture Catch's managing editor Steve Holtje was our managing editor, too.) I had just finished my stint as editor-in-chief at Creem magazine where I was the only journalist to interview him in 1992. I had to agree to his seemingly restrictive demands that I not record our interview on a cassette recorder or use pen/pencil and paper and that he'd have final approval on the article, something we'd never done with any artist ever. I agreed since I was meeting him in person on his home turf. I did interview everyone in his inner circle and then finally met him in his private room where he played me his new record The Love Symbol Album in its entirety and we chatted about all kinds of things. Then known as the "Symbol/Glyph," "The Artist Formerly Known As..." or "The Boss" as he was known in and around his creative compound Paisley Park, I was told he really liked my creative cover story (Feb, 1993) that was as much an homage to Alice in Wonderland meets the Wizard of Oz as a visit to the astral/mystical world of Paisley Park. Read more »

Spot On!

On the Spot
Broadway Comedy Club, NYC 
Monday nights, 8:00 PM

In the olden days ("Tell us great-grandfather") there was vaudeville, where young performers could cut their teeth, playing on the various circuits all around the country. So where do emerging singers and comedians get their time before an audience in this strangest of all eras? Of course there's the web, but tweeting responses or comments below a YouTube video do not in my opinion constitute a flesh and blood audience--those hearty folk who make an effort to move their bodies into a performance space, and let a singer or comedian know in no uncertain terms if they've "got it." Read more »

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