Professor Hilton Als Launches Podcast with the New York Theatre Workshop
BY Angeline Dimambro, June 11, 2021
The podcast series follows the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, artist, writer, and curator as he lifts up what he considers marginalized classics of the 20th Century. Part one, available to stream now, highlights filmmaker Shirley Clarke’s 1967 groundbreaking film, Portrait of Jason. Clarke, originally from New York City, was an American experimental and independent filmmaker, director, and editor. Portrait of Jason was the third feature film Clarke made during the 1960s, having previously directed The Connection (1961) and The Cool World (1964).
“Captured over a single evening, the portrayal of gay African-American hustler and aspiring cabaret performer Jason Holliday interrogated race, class, and sexuality in ways that were, and still are, ahead of its time,” according to the podcast’s show notes.
For the podcast’s premiere episode, Als adapted the film into an audio drama, featuring writer and actress Jessica Almasy and actor and performer Mikéah Ernest Jennings, which “captures the intimacy, vulnerability, and rawness of the original piece while probing power and the price of storytelling itself.” Accompanying the audio drama are Als’ own commentary and illuminating insights.
The podcast’s next installment will focus on excerpts from three lesser-known plays by famed playwright Tennessee Williams—Clothes for a Summer Hotel (1980), In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel (1969), and The Red Devil Battery Sign (1976). Read more about the podcast here, and listen to the first episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite listening platform.
Als also presented a free lecture for The Met on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 on the life, paintings, and portraits of artist Alice Neel. The lecture was presented in conjunction with The Met’s exhibition, Alice Neel: People Come First, which The Washington Post has called “A perfect show for right now.” Neel has been an important touchstone for Als in his own work, as seen in his recent essay for The New Yorker, entitled “Alice Neel’s Portraits of Difference” (April 2021), which focused on the portraitist. The exhibition will remain on view until August 1, 2021. Als’ lecture is available to view on The Met’s YouTube channel.
Recipient of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, Als became a staff writer at The New Yorker in October 1994, and a theatre critic in 2002. He began contributing to the magazine in 1989, writing pieces for “The Talk of the Town.” Before coming to The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. He has also written articles for The Nation and collaborated on film scripts for Swoon and Looking for Langston. Als edited the catalogue for the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition entitled Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art, which ran from November 1994 to March 1995. His first book, The Women, a meditation on gender, race, and personal identity, was published in 1996. His later book, White Girls, discusses various narratives around race and gender. In 1997, the New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He was awarded a Guggenheim for Creative Writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002-03. In 2009, Als worked with the performer Justin Bond on Cold Water, an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and videos by performers, at La MaMa Gallery. In 2010, he co-curated Self-Consciousness at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin, and published Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis, his third book. Als has taught at Yale University, Wesleyan, and Smith College, and, most recently, Princeton. He lives in New York City.