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Liberal Arts

A guide to this month’s politically inclined artistic offerings.

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Imagine Festival of Arts, Issues & Ideas
THE GIST: A multi-genre romp featuring the liberal intellectual-entertainment complex (Lewis Lapham, Alec Baldwin, Eve Ensler) plus a few unusual suspects, like eye-patched rapper Slick Rick.
PROBABLE HIGHLIGHT: For the Freedom of Expression National Monument, architect Laurie Hawkinson will help construct a gigantic red megaphone in the financial district’s Foley Square, onto which any New Yorker may “step up and speak up.” (August 17 to November 13.)
POSSIBLE LOWLIGHT: Marisa Tomei plays the lead in a staged reading of Sophocles’ Elektra, to be followed by “a discussion on violence, retribution, and compassion.” And then there’s Lenny & Larry Lumberjack, a play about ax-wielding presidential candidates.
MOST CONSERVATIVE FARE: Architectural walking tour of “Abraham Lincoln’s New York” including “Haughwout Store . . . which Mary Todd Lincoln favored for the purchase of White House china.”
• (August 28 to September 2; see imagine04.org)


International Fringe Festival
THE GIST: The year’s oddest and leftiest independent theater packed into two weeks.
PROBABLE HIGHLIGHT: The best (or at least most coherent) political dramas are personal. Hence Rome, by Herman Daniel Farrell III—about two couples who fought it out during the 2000 Florida debacle and meet again on 9/11—and How to Save the World and Find True Love . . . in 90 Minutes, a musical in which a U.N. tour guide falls in love, by Random House editor-in-chief Jonathan Karp.
POSSIBLE LOWLIGHT: The glut of plays with Jesus as political figure. Mankynde: The Postmodern Medieval Musical somehow makes the fifteenth century’s most popular play into an allegory of the 2004 election, and The Passion of George W. Bush needs no further explication. Ditto Dementia Presidentia.
MOST CONSERVATIVE FARE: It’s going to have to be Rome, Farrell’s companion piece to the 2002 Fringe Award–winning Portrait of a President, a critical look at Bill Clinton.
• (Through August 29; see fringenyc.org)

Art Shows
THE GIST: Artists vent their frustrations in museum exhibits and collaborative shows, including “amBush!” at Van Brunt Gallery and “Watch What We Say” at Schroeder Romero.
PROBABLE HIGHLIGHT: Larry Fink’s photographic series “The Forbidden Pictures: A Political Tableau,” at powerHouse Gallery, shows a George Bush look-alike engaged in a variety of Dionysian activities.
POSSIBLE LOWLIGHT: “Sketch in the City,” an evening at the Art Students League combining dancing with life-drawing from nude models, as a rejoinder to the Justice Department’s draping of suggestive statues.
MOST CONSERVATIVE FARE: In a six-minute sound piece at Roebling Hall gallery, Bjørn Melhus crafts a catchy synth-pop tune by layering snippets of Rummy’s press conferences over a Kraftwerk- style backing track.


Margaret Cho  

Comedy Performances
THE GIST: A smattering of theaters welcome comics of various political stripes.
PROBABLE HIGHLIGHT: Margaret Cho, recently uninvited to a prominent gay-and-lesbian rally during the DNC (owing to fears that she might pull a Whoopi), kicks off her world tour, “State of Emergency,” at the Apollo.
POSSIBLE LOWLIGHT: Éminence grises E. L. Doctorow, Calvin Trillin, Jane Wagner, and friends try out their own version of the Capitol Steps in the political shtick of Thalia Follies, running every night of the convention at Symphony Space.
MOST CONSERVATIVE FARE: The Right Stuff troupe, at the Laugh Factory for the convention. Sample humor: “Now they’re calling illegal aliens undocumented workers. Soon they’ll be calling burglars unwelcome houseguests.”

Howl! Festival of East Village Arts
THE GIST: Billed as a “countercultural county fair,” this down-and-dirty riot of East Village bohemianism has 1,500 artists.
PROBABLE HIGHLIGHT: A terrific slate of political films and performances by downtown artists like Stephin Merritt, Karen Finley, and Carl Hancock Rux. (And a minimum—fingers crossed— of speechifying.)
POSSIBLE LOWLIGHT: Kosher ChiXXX, an “all-Jewish burlesque extravaganza,” promises “six of the sexiest Semites who will surely tickle your fancy!”
MOST CONSERVATIVE FARE: Billionaires for Bush kind of pretend to be Republican . . .
• (August 17 to 24. Also see “The Word,” and howlfestival .com.)

Plus:
Through 9/4: The play I’m Gonna Kill the President at an undisclosed location.
8/20: Guantánamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom, opens at 45 Bleecker Street Theatre.
8/20: Documentary Uncovered: The War on Iraq opens.
8/21 to 9/4: “The Experimental Party Disinformation Center” at Luxe Gallery.
8/24 to 9/3: “Peace Signs: The Anti-War Movement Illustrated” at Chisholm Gallery.
8/25: Deborah Harry and pals perform in support of gay marriage at Central Park’s “Summer of Love Concert”.
8/26 to 10/24: “War! Protest in America 1965–2004” film series at the Whitney.
8/27 to 9/11: “The Unconvention” theater festival, featuring Hillary and Monica.
8/27: Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove, opens.
8/29 to 9/12: “A More Perfect Union,” a protest-poster show organized by Downtown for Democracy, at Max Fish.
8/31: The Dazzle Dancers present “Fahrenheit 5-6-7-8!” at Fez.


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