From a uniquely theatrical festival in Brooklyn to a fair showcasing the best contemporary African art, here are the top cultural events to put on your to-do list this week.
‘The Birds’ in Brooklyn
One of the more unexpected spring arts festivals comes courtesy of the Onassis Cultural Center in New York: a variety of events (running through July 8) considering the themes and impact of Aristophanes’ satirical The Birds. The centerpiece is the American premiere of Nikos Karathanos’ adaptation of the original play, which was first produced in 414 B.C. in the midst of the Peloponnesian War—but which now, with its story of a society in turmoil in which two Athenians seek out the creation of an alternate utopia, seems newly resonant. Karathanos, whose production sold out the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in its world premiere, weaves modern influences, from drag to beach parties to the Greek debt crisis, into what he promises will be a “weird and outrageous experience.” St. Ann’s Warehouse, 45 Water St.; onassisusa.org; stannswarehouse.org.
‘Dorothy and the Prince of Oz’ in Columbus
A stunning dancer in his many years as a standout performer at both New York City Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, Edwaard Liang has over the past decade developed a reputation as an imaginative and skilled choreographer as well. Columbus, Ohio’s BalletMet premieres one of his most ambitious pieces this week: Dorothy and the Prince of Oz. Inspired by the last book in Frank Baum’s Oz series, it’s a romantic adventure in which Dorothy is called back to the fantastical land to help restore peace when the king and queen war over their son, and Liang’s ballet is an appropriately visually lush affair, featuring puppetry by master Basil Twist and a score, assembled by Oliver Peter Graber, mixing works by Glazunov, Grieg, Scriabin, and Bartok, among others. It’s a piece three years (and $1 million) in the making, and a great opportunity to see one of the U.S.’s excellent regional ballet companies in action. Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St.; balletmet.org.
Courtesy of Mark Blower/Frieze
Frieze New York
If one art fair seems to herald spring, it’s Frieze, set on the verdant Randall’s Island Park on the Hudson Riverfront. This year’s edition, featuring nearly 200 galleries from 30 countries, features a new layout by Universal Design Studio for visitors to follow as they explore the international selection 20th-century art on view. Other new highlights this year include Live, a platform for performance, installations and interactive projects throughout the fair; a themed section, curated by White Columns’ Matthew Higgs, devoted to Hudson, New York’s Feature Inc., which fostered the careers of various 1980s and ‘90s pioneers; and an expanded Spotlight section showcasing 20th-century trailblazers. frieze.com
Courtesy of artist / 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair
1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in Brooklyn
While the art crowd hordes shuttle over to Randall’s Island for Frieze, a slightly younger fair should draw enterprising aesthetes to a different New York waterfront, in Red Hook, Brooklyn. At the always inventive Pioneer Works, the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair—a presence in London and Marrakech as well—opens its fourth New York edition, bringing work from 21 galleries from South Africa, Ghana, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, France and the U.K. The more than 45 artists on display represent both old and new artists from Africa and the African diaspora, along with specially commissioned projects spanning photography, performance, sculpture and installation. 159 Pioneer St.; 1-54.com.
A jewel of an art collection in Hartford, Connecticut—recently, beautifully refurbished—the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art boasts a uniquely extensive collection of author and illustrator Edward Gorey’s work. Key works from a landmark gift Gorey gave the museum—among them, prints and drawings by artists who influenced Gorey like Manet, Meryon, Atget, and York among them—are displayed alongside Gorey’s own illustrations in this exhibition, which paints a rich picture of the artist that goes far beyond the signature dry humor and whimsy of his beloved pen and ink illustrations. Visitors smart enough to catch the show before it closes will learn about Gorey’s love of the ballet and George Balanchine, in particular; nature and animals; Surrealist art and literature; and much more. 600 Main St.; thewadsworth.org.