September 7, 2015 Monday started as a typical morning for me… I got up, checked my email, saw this email from the New Yorker saying their festival line-up was now up, and I said “Ok I will check it when I am back from my morning run”… Then I was off to my “5 miles of music and planning the day in my mind”… at the end of which I casually checked Twitter… and I saw THIS!
Oh My God!!!!!
What did I tell you earlier?
I love New York
I love Damian Lewis more
I love Damian Lewis in New York the most! 😀
Damian Lewis having a fun summer in New York with his family — visiting museums, renting a place in the Hamptons, and then starting the fall at hot spots, brunch at The Spotted Pig and drinks at Marlow, and at hot events, US Open Men’s Final between Djokovic and Federer — kept putting a smile on my face… But none of those can measure up to what I felt when I saw THAT tweet — a feeling that I could describe as a combination of happiness, excitement and pride!
Summer is fun in New York, but my favorite season in the city is FALL for many different reasons. One is the beautiful weather, of course, accompanied with the wonderful fall foliage in Central Park and throughout the city… But the bigger reason pertains to the city’s cultural life that things really get into full swing during the fall: New plays, new films, new exhibitions, new books, and of course, fall festivals popping up left and right in the city… One of these festivals, and my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE, whose line-up I just cannot wait to see every year is The New Yorker Festival.
I’ve been reading The New Yorker quite religiously for more than a decade now. I still vividly remember the first issue (September 6, 2004) I bought at the airport on my way to a conference in Chicago as well as the first article that I read in that issue… And the rest is history… I don’t remember how many subscriptions I gave to friends as gifts over the years and it is still one of the few subscriptions that I receive in the mail every week. For those of you that are not familiar with it, let me just say that the quality of writing in the magazine can even make topics that you would never think you would be interested in the most interesting you have ever read about!
The New Yorker launched an annual festival in 2000 that is celebrating its 16th year this October. The festival feels like the pages of the magazine literally coming to life for a weekend throughout the city with talks, conversations, readings, performances, panels with individuals that are at the top of their game in their respective fields — including arts, sciences, politics, sports, theater, music, literature, film, TV, food and more… As someone that has had the privilege of attending quite a few events at the festival over the years, I can confidently say that, independent of the context, all events share one characteristic: intelligence. The festival participants are without exception endowed with some real brainpower. They are, in The New Yorker‘s own words, “some of the most talented and influential thinkers about topics ranging from politics to pop music, science to cinema, and so much more.”
Accordingly, I always thought of Damian Lewis as a potential participant in the festival — in fact, when I blogged about why I admire him so much earlier here, I gave his intelligence and articulateness among my reasons to love him. I have read and seen so many interviews with Damian in which he analyses the movie or the show he is in, as well as the character he plays, and you clearly see he is not an actor that just learns his lines and delivers them well. He does research, thinks deeply about his character and his character’s place in the big picture, and talks very intelligently about it. Well, yes, everyone can do some name dropping. But an actor that can refer to Kowalowski or Freud or Mamet in a particular context, and in a clear and effective way? No wonder People magazine calls Damian “thinking person’s sex symbol.” Take your time and see a few serious interviews with Damian, say it’s Times Talks London from May 2014, or Charlie Rose Show from November 2013, or read the PBS interview with him about Forsyte Saga from 2002, and you will be truly impressed.
Anyhow, I am, as a fan, very proud that Damian will be making not one but TWO appearances in this year’s festival. And just taking a look at this festival line-up shows the great company he’s in!
Toni Morrison. Billy Joel. Jonathan Safran Foer. Junot Diaz. Atul Gawande. Zaha Hadid. Don Delillo. Patti Smith. Enough said!
OK. Let me make one last effort to contain myself so that we talk a bit about the two upcoming Damian Lewis events at the New Yorker Festival.
Event # 1:
Hero and Antihero. Dick Winters is a real life WWII hero. Nicholas Brody on the other hand is an anti-hero, a flawed hero, if you will, that could, in fact, be more interesting than the traditional hero, one that a reader or a viewer could naturally identify with. And, Damian has such a wide portfolio of characters that we could place all over the hero – antihero spectrum that this conversation may go in any direction which makes it all the more tempting!
Damian Lewis reading a new play by Lawrence Wright is so wonderful in many different ways! First, Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer winning writer of The Looming Tower, an excellent non-fiction on the rise of Al-Qaeda and the intelligence failures that eventually led to 9/11, as well as a long time staff writer for the New Yorker. Wright’s new play “Cleo” is the story of the 1963 production of Hollywood film Cleopatra along with the scandalous love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It should be an EPIC play like its title and its main protagonists!
Now… Here’s a fun fact about Damian Lewis! When asked “which role would you like to play but would never get cast in?” by Ms. Lindsay Whitaker in the American Buffalo programme booklet, Damian answers: “Cleopatra.” 😀 So, Damian, this is as close as you get to Cleopatra, huh, by reading Richard Burton playing Mark Antony 🙂 And, fun aside, I also see this reading as a real nice tribute for Richard Burton, a Welsh actor, by Damian Lewis, an actor also with Welsh roots… and I just LOVE it!
Ok. Damian is reading Richard Burton, but who is reading Elizabeth Taylor playing Cleopatra? I know… It’s Damian’s dream role, but it will be wonderful Lily Rabe reading that part 😀 I have seen Lily Rabe in several Public Theater productions for Shakespeare in the Park in New York City over the years… I saw her as Portia in a wonderful production of Merchant of Venice in 2010 that moved to Broadway after its successful run in the park and for which Rabe received a Tony nomination for best actress in a play, I saw her as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing last year, and finally I just saw her this summer as Imogen in Cymbeline that inspired me to do a Throwback Thursday to a 1997 RSC production of Cymbeline that Damian Lewis was in ! She’s a brilliant stage actress. And, as “Cleo” writer Lawrence Wright rightly points out in a tweet, this reading seems to be a “dream world.”
New Yorker Festival Tickets usually sell out pretty fast. Thus, if you plan to attend either of these events, you’d better hurry and book your tickets here. If everything goes according to the plan, some of us will be there, too. Well, you know us now, with most of the memory space in our brains reserved for all things Damian, we will be doing our best to cover the events to their minuscule details. Please watch this space!