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We’re Stuck at Home, but Let’s Still Be Cultured

I’m not in a “La La Land” kind of mood. These strange times call for real life, so I found myself landing on “Strike a Pose.” Watching this 2016 documentary about the dancers who performed in Madonna’s “Blond Ambition” tour — one called it a show “about freedom, freedom as an artist, freedom as a human being” — the word I’m left with is resiliency.

The movie, which is available on Netflix, Tubi and iTunes, checks in with the dancers in the documentary “Truth or Dare” 25 years later. One, Gabriel Trupin, has died of AIDS; the others made it out alive, but have lost some glitter along the way. Armed with life experience — a couple have rebounded from rock bottom (drug and alcohol abuse), others are H.I.V. positive — they are defined by determination. “Strike a Pose” can go to dark places with rivers of tears, but, again, it’s real.

The dancers in “Strike a Pose” are no longer the boys they were in “Truth or Dare.” They’ve grown up, and they’re looking outward, still dancing and also teaching the next generation — watching it is a painful reminder that dance’s oral tradition of passing on knowledge, body-to-body, is in jeopardy.

The men perform solos in their apartments; poetic dances, considered and raw that somehow get to the essence of their art form: don’t stop, which is particularly apt now. For a companion piece there is this performance of “In the Upper Room” on YouTube. Twyla Tharp’s remarkable 1986 ballet set to music by Philip Glass, grainy or not, is another reminder of bravery. This, like, “Strike a Pose,” is a demonstration of courage: through bodies, tenacity and sweat.



The world has always been right there in your computer — you just have to press play. Online radio offers special opportunities to learn more about sounds that are percolating in scenes around the globe. It has been particularly robust in London — that’s the home of Rinse FM, the long-running pirate-turned-legit radio station. For more than two decades, it has been at the bleeding edge: You can hear of-the-moment grime and British rap, throwback garage and drum ‘n’ bass and much more. Also from London is Balamii, which embraces an eclectic blend of electronic music, soul, jazz, UK funky, hip-hop and more.

Closer to home is the Lot Radio, which ordinarily broadcasts from a shipping container near the Williamsburg-Greenpoint border in Brooklyn. Given the current circumstances, it has now made the switch to intimate video streams, inside the living rooms and kitchens of the D.J.s. It’s a strong reminder that the party is wherever the songs are, and the songs are wherever the D.J. is. That could be anywhere. And you could do it too — the world is listening.


movies and TV

A weekend watching all 12 films in the “Friday the 13th” franchise sounds like heaven for some horror fans. But for a marathon of more snack-size scares, classic horror anthology series are plenty satisfying. (They may also be family-friendly, depending on how well eerie entertainment is tolerated by the kids.) The five seasons of the original “Twilight Zone” (Hulu, CBS All Access) offer smart scripts and A+ acting; start with the popular episodes “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and “To Serve Man.” “The Outer Limits” (Hulu) takes a ’60s sci-fi route to terror, especially in out-there episodes like “The Galaxy Being” and “It Crawled Out of the Woodwork.”

If you want to indulge in some ’80s-’90s nostalgia, a good place to start is with the lewd (and sometimes nude) “Tales From the Crypt” (Amazon, iTunes), an HBO series that featured Brad Pitt (“King of the Road”) and Demi Moore (“Dead Right”). Continue the Gen X flashback with six seasons of “The Ray Bradbury Theater” (Amazon Prime), a dark and crafty series adapted from the science fiction writer’s own macabre novels and short stories. “The Crowd,” a first-season creep-fest about accident gawkers, remains a ghoulish delight.

For gotcha scares and “Punk’d”-style practical jokes, check out “Prank Encounters,” hosted by Gaten Matarazzo (“Stranger Things”); and “Scare Tactics,” with Tracy Morgan, now streaming on Netflix. These hidden-camera reality shows put unsuspecting “victims” in situations with freaked-out babysitters, campground killers and other weirdos from the horror movie playbook.



The lyrics from Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical “Company” now sound less like an invitation and more like a taunt: “Phone rings, door chimes, in comes company!/ No strings, good times, room hums, company.” Had the Broadway season continued, we could have seen “Company,” a masterfully ambivalent 1970 musical, recently reimagined by the director Marianne Elliott, this week.

One potential comfort: D.H. Pennebaker’s “Original Cast Album: Company,” one of the great theater documentaries, which films the “Company” cast during a nerve-rending, larynx-shredding, 18-and-a-half hour recording session. But it isn’t streaming anywhere (though YouTube hosts most bits), and honestly Elaine Stritch’s “The Ladies Who Lunch,” somehow both deeply ironic and as lacerating as a straight razor, may not be the tonic anyone needs now.

So why not try the note-perfect parody courtesy of the comedy series “Documentary Now!”? In the season 3 winner, “Original Cast Album: Co-op,” available on Netflix, cast and pit musicians gather to record a musical that has already closed. Written by Seth Meyers and John Mulaney, who also appears as the Sondheim-esque composer, the episode froths with Broadway favorites — Renée Elise Goldsberry, Alex Brightman, Richard Kind. Paula Pell steps into Stritch’s hat, shoes and sandpapered throat, growling through 27 takes and an ophthalmology procedure. If we can’t have “Being Alive” live, at least we have this.

In the no-concerts era, some classical music presenters have started offering live-streams of performances. But one crucial online portal, OperaVision.eu, was already scooping up recent productions of note from European houses, and presenting them free (and on-demand). Each video broadcast comes with an option for English subtitles and typically remains available for a six-month period.

One highlight of the current slate is a Teatro Regio Torino staging of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “Violanta” — a rarity that mixes late-Romantic lushness of texture with an early-20th-century appreciation for narrative tautness. Inside 90 minutes, a Venetian noblewoman schemes to avenge her sister’s suicide by seducing the dead sibling’s Don Juan. (Complications ensue.)

Korngold was still a teenager when the opera premiered, in 1917. His midcentury career in Hollywood — which paved the way for John Williams’s scores — was still decades away. Yet this one-act opera has the grown-up, malevolent poise of “Deception,” a 1946 noir that the composer would later score for Warner Brothers. The lyric sound of the soprano Annemarie Kremer is well suited to the title role — and the orchestra likewise revels in the opera’s eroticism. (If the opera leaves you wanting more Korngold, consider a recent Blu ray of “Das Wunder der Heliane.”) Available through Aug. 28 on OperaVision.eu and YouTube.



The mystery begins with a dead crow. Soon three curious children — the friends Rani and Maria, and Maria’s little brother, Eduardo — discover other deceased birds. They learn that the siblings’ grandmother has been hospitalized with a high fever. More people fall ill. With the aid of adult scientists and their own meticulous investigation, the young heroes finally identify a microbial culprit. Spoiler alert: It’s not the new coronavirus.

Transmissions: Gone Viral,” a graphic novel developed by the New York Hall of Science and available free on its website, was inspired by the West Nile virus. First detected in New York City in 1999, West Nile cannot spread person to person. But like the coronavirus, it originated in animals, and during the current crisis, the museum recommends this fictionalized account as an educational resource.

The novel is also terrific (and not alarmist) entertainment. Intended for middle-schoolers, “Transmissions” includes character portraits, a science glossary and the photo blog Maria keeps. When read online, the five chapters are interactive: You click on symbols to see microscope slides, specimens and further information. Written by Karen de Seve and illustrated by Charlie LaGreca, the book features an electronic exercise to map patterns in the viral outbreak. Another game, Gone Viral!, lets you play a pathogen out to infect the world — one competition I didn’t mind losing.



You heard but didn’t see this comedian and native New Yorker tell a bit in the 2019 “Joker” movie. (Playing himself, he performed just before Joaquin Phoenix’s character at a Gotham open mic.) And you won’t get to see Morril headline this weekend at the real-life Gotham Comedy Club since the coronavirus has put a halt to his live gigs. But after hosting his own talk show in 2017 on the MSG Network, “People Talking Sports* (*and other stuff),” and having Amy Schumer present his first Comedy Central hour, “Positive Influence,” in 2018, Morril is back with a new 47-minute performance filmed at the Comedy Cellar’s Village Underground.

“I Got This” has attracted more than 1.4 million views since Comedy Central uploaded it on Feb. 10 to its Comedy Central Stand-Up YouTube channel. In it, Morril cracks wise about becoming an accidental hero in the #MeToo era, the many varied reasons he prefers the city to working on the road, and even a joke about his mother worrying about him touching a dead pigeon. Which remains frighteningly solid advice in these times.


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