The Week in Arts: One Ariana Grande, Two Stadiums; Toni Morrison on the Silver Screen
Pop: Ariana Grande at Madison Square Garden
June 18-19; ticketmaster.com
In February, Ariana Grande’s ascent through the upper echelons of pop music reached a new peak when she became the first artist since the Beatles to hold the top three slots on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously. The past year has been an especially prolific one for the Broadway actor-turned-Nickelodeon star-turned-recording artist: After releasing one chart-topping full-length album, “Sweetener,” last August, she returned to the studio and delivered its follow-up, “thank u, next,” just six months later.
The songs on these records demonstrate Grande’s vocal and emotional range: She is fierce on “7 rings,” introspective and gracious on “thank u, next” and starry-eyed on “breathin.” Expect to hear all three during her two-night run at Madison Square Garden this week, which follows up a weekend stint at Barclays Center. The resale market for both performances is well-stocked. OLIVIA HORN
Art: The History of Writing in Korea
Through Sep. 29; lacma.org
Like Japanese, Korean has an ancient tradition of writing with Chinese characters. But nearly 600 years ago, a scientifically minded Korean king introduced hangul, an indigenous writing system often called the best designed syllabary in the world. Whether or not the dashes, angles and distinctive little circles devised by King Sejong are really schematic diagrams of the way their sounds are articulated, as it is often claimed, they’re easy to learn and, stacked together in clusters, efficient to read. Along with nearly two thousand years’ worth of beautiful calligraphy, including Buddhist sutras lettered in gold on indigo-dyed paper and experimental 20th-century works, “Beyond Line: The Art of Korean Writing” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, features fascinating hangul-related ephemera, like this mid-century diagram of mouth positions. WILL HEINRICH
Dance: River to River Festival Illuminates Lower Manhattan
June 18-29; lmcc.net
This year’s festival, the first curated by Lili Chopra, encourages focus and stillness: In other words, it’s time to open your mind and calm the heck down. The 18th annual Lower Manhattan Cultural Council event hosts some of the biggest names in contemporary dance, including Sarah Michelson, Jennifer Monson and Pam Tanowitz, whose “Time is forever dividing itself toward innumerable futures” is a joint project with the ballerina Sara Mearns. The eclectic performance locations should help with the focus part; works will be presented across Lower Manhattan, from Federal Hall to Nelson A. Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City, where “Time is forever” will be shown during sunset. Set to an original score for voice and French horns by Ted Hearne, the dance delves into the tensions between ballet and modern dance, the natural and the unnatural world, the past and the present. Tanowitz always knows how to weave history into the here and now. GIA KOURLAS
Film: Toni Morrison on the Life of a Writer
As astonishing as it sounds now, Toni Morrison wasn’t able to call herself a writer, and believe it, until the commercial success of her third book, “Song of Solomon,” in 1977, when she was 46.
Make no mistake: She thought her own prose was “extraordinary and different and radical and beautiful,” Morrison, now 88, told Charlie Rose in 1993. But she “could not say, like the big guys, I am a writer.” She felt, as so many women do, that she needed permission.
More than 40 years after “Solomon,” with a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize to her name, there’s no question of Morrison’s legitimacy. And in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” opening Friday in New York and Los Angeles, she discusses her family, her artistry and her early recognition of the transformative power of words. Morrison wrote novels like “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula” and “Beloved” as someone not merely recounting but fully inhabiting the black experience — while banishing “the white gaze” from her pages.
“I think she captured the essence of what it means to be human, to be alive and to have done well here on Earth,” says Oprah Winfrey, paraphrasing one of the final lines of “Solomon.” “And she is loved.” KATHRYN SHATTUCK
Theater: Living While Gay in Uganda
June 20-Aug. 25; lct.org
In a boat, on a lake, under the stars. To Dembe, an 18-year-old in Kampala, Uganda, this is a pleasing spot for a first date — not only because it’s pretty, but because it’s private, and therefore relatively safe. Away from his neighbors, under cover of darkness, he runs less risk of being spotted romancing a man, which could land him in the newspaper, or in jail.
The British playwright Chris Urch’s drama “The Rolling Stone,” making its American premiere at Lincoln Center Theater, takes its title from the name of a Ugandan tabloid that outed gay people in its pages, calling for them to be hanged. Directed by Saheem Ali, the cast includes Ato Blankson-Wood (“When They See Us”) as the closeted Dembe; Robert Gilbert as his boyfriend, Sam; and James Udom as Dembe’s big brother, Joe, a pastor who spews anti-gay venom from the pulpit. Previews start on Thursday at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater. LAURA COLLINS-HUGHES
TV: On ‘Riviera,’ Things Aren’t So Nice in Nice
June 20; sundancenow.com
The filthy rich are different from you and me. Consider Georgina Clios (Julia Stiles), who, as “Riviera” reached its climax last season, was sailing away from the French coast into the sunset with a violent storm looming in the distance.
Georgina’s life is complicated, you see. Her husband, the billionaire philanthropist Constantine (Anthony LaPaglia), had been killed in a yacht explosion, prompting Interpol to investigate him for money laundering and art forgery — and leaving Georgina, a curator, feeling a little used.
Then she discovered that Constantine’s psycho offspring Adam (Iwan Rheon) was responsible for his father’s death. So she stabbed him in revenge. And for trying to rape her.
A woman’s gotta do what a woman’s gotta do.
Season 2 picks up with Georgina tossing his body overboard and being flung into the drink herself. To the rescue come a couple of honeymooners (Poppy Delevingne and Alex Lanipekun) on their mega-yacht. Meanwhile, Irina (Lena Olin), Constantine’s predatory first wife, is wondering where her son went, just as Georgina’s Uncle Jeff (Will Arnett) enters the fray.
Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”) created this tangled, glossy thriller — a big hit for Sky Atlantic. (Although he has since disowned it after claiming that others tinkered with his work.) Stream it at home in the States starting Thursday on Sundance Now. KATHRYN SHATTUCK
Classical Music: A Free Orchestral Series Moves Indoors
June 18; naumburgconcerts.org
For more than a century, the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts have presented outdoor performances in New York, and since 1923 in Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell. This summer, as the bandshell undergoes repairs, the free series moves inside to Temple Emanu-El. This Tuesday, the first concert of the season features the spry chamber orchestra The Knights, under the baton of music director Eric Jacobsen. To commemorate Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday, members of the orchestra have composed new works utilizing his poetry, with narration by Kristina Nicole Miller. Benjamin Britten’s haunting “Lachrymae,” featuring violist Nicholas Cords, and Mendelssohn’s buoyant Octet, provide more standard fare. But most intriguing is the premiere of a new arrangement of Lisa Bielawa’s 2017 “Fictional Migrations,” a captivating work inspired by Olivier Messiaen. WILLIAM ROBIN