Rhonda Sherman is the Founding Director of The New Yorker Festival, now entering its 16th year. The Festival is a weekend-long series of more than fifty discussions, talks, interviews, and performances in New York City, produced by The New Yorker magazine every October. This year she is directing Tech@Fest, a new program focusing on technology’s impact on society. As Director of Editorial Promotion for the magazine, she has also produced The New Yorker College Tour, The New Yorker Conference, The New Yorker Speakeasy, and Fiction Live, among other programs. In 1995, Sherman joined the editorial staff of the magazine after working on the business side. Previously, she worked at Esquire and Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazines and was on the launch team of Spin. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
by Rhonda Sherman, The New Yorker Festival
Every fall, I eat, drink and sleep the New Yorker Festival, this year taking place October 2-4. The idea of the Festival is to bring the magazine to life, and to treat New York City as a stage for all the subjects and people The New Yorker is interested in. The Festival is like the city itself—diverse, uncategorizable, caffeinated—with too much to choose from and lots happening all at once.
Because I’m a born and bred New Yorker (Brooklyn, Queens, and now Brooklyn again), in addition to the Festival events I’ve singled out below, I’ve got some fall events and perennial favorite places to recommend.
1. Celebrating the Music of Bill Withers at Carnegie Hall. It’s a lovely day when you get to hear the likes of D’Angelo and Dr. John salute this American classic who scored his first hit, “Ain’t No Sunshine” at 31! And Bill will be there, too!
2. One of my all-time favorite places in New York is an unassuming brick house in Corona, Queens — the Louis Armstrong House Museum. Satchmo and his wife Lucille lived here from 1943 to 1971 and the house was left intact with all its original furnishings. Check out the exhibit “Genius at Work – Louis Armstrong in the Recording Studio” and take a tour of the jazz legend’s New York City home. 35-56 107th Street at 37th Avenue.
3. Does a bar count as culture? It does in my book. Welcome to my local: Frank’s Cocktail Lounge in Fort Greene. It’s the real deal, opened by Frank Perkins in 1974. It’s an old school establishment with friendly people who grew up in the neighborhood and those who are happy to have joined their ranks. No micro brews, no Moscow mules with artisanal ingredients. Just big drinks, fair prices, good company, and a killer juke box. 660 Fulton Street, Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
4. Polymath and all-round good guy Jesse Eisenberg will be interviewed by his New Yorker editor Susan Morrison at the Director’s Guild Theatre on Saturday, October 3 at 10 pm. He’s a triple threat: actor (I can’t forget his poignant debut in “The Squid and the Whale” and now he’s about to portray Lex Luthor in “Batman v Superman”), playwright (his most rcent effort, “The Spoils” received knock-out reviews), and New Yorker humor writer (“Marv Albert is my Therapist”). Plus, he’s a mensch. 110 W 57th Street.
5. If you are happy about the détente between America and Cuba, or if you just love Afro-Latin jazz, come celebrate at “Cuba, Sí,” a discussion and concert hosted by New Yorker staff writer Jon Lee Anderson, who wrote the definitive biography of Che Guevera. He’ll be talking to Cubans in their 20s and 30s, followed by performances from The Pedrito Martinez Group and Descemer Bueno. Saturday, October 3 at 10 pm. Acura at SIR Stage 37, 508 West 37th Street.
6. 9 on the Richter Scale. Right after we announced this panel discussion, there was an 8.3 earthquake in Chile. History and science tell us that sometime in the future—possibly in the near future—there will be an even more massive earthquake in the Pacific Northwest. New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz leads a discussion with local and international experts on what that will look like.
7. Sneak Preview: “The Lady in the Van.” Sir Nicholas Hytner, former head of England’s National Theatre, has directed a film based on the best-selling book and award-winning play by Alan Bennett. Starring Maggie Smith, the movie tells the true story of an eccentric woman who lives in her van, which she parked outside of Bennett’s home—for 15 years! Hytner will also be interviewed by New Yorker staff writer Judith Thurman. Great book, great movie, fantastic Maggie Smith!