James Franco and Joseph Fiennes To Appear During NYC Performing Arts Festival

Franco will hold a seance to communicate with dead Tennessee Williams via a Ouija board; Fiennes will perform at the opening night benefit during the fourth biennial NYC Performa series.
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Performa — the biannual performance art festival taking place November 1-21 at dozens of venues across New York City — has snagged two big-name stars for performances this year.

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On Sunday, November 13, James Franco and video artist Laurel Nakadate will perform Three Artists in Search of Tennessee, a three-part commissioned piece in which the pair will lead a seance to talk to the late playwright Tennessee Williams through a Ouija board. In part two, female actresses will audition for the part of Laura in The Glass Menagerie. And for the third act, male actors will audition for the part of Tom. Franco will play the “Gentleman Caller.” Performance at noon at the Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand St. For those who can't make it, the performances will be viewable afterward on art website Paddle8.com.

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This is hardly Franco’s first art project. His Rebel work (unrelated to Performa) was recently filmed in the Chateau Marmont’s Bungalow 2 and recreates salacious behind-the-scenes stories from the classic James Dean film Rebel Without a Cause. Franco's Rebel includes actors dressing in drag, a high-speed nude drive down Sunset Boulevard and an orgy scene with dildos and sex dolls. “Having sex with dolls with plastic dicks is fucking great because you ge tto examine that act without the onus of people just looking at it and saying, ‘That’s pornography,’ ” Franco recently said.

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Fiennes will perform with actor Charles Edwards (due to star in the world premiere production of the original play of The King’s Speech in London next year) in Happy Days in the Art World tonight for the opening benefit of Performa. The darkly comic commissioned work by artists Elmgreen & Dragset (Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset) is a portrait of two artists, inspired by Samuel Beckett’s 1961 play Happy Days. The performance and opening night benefit take place tonight, November 1, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, beginning at 7 pm.

Fiennes tells THR he’s excited about the chance to work in performance art. “ ‘Live’ is the word! This is the exciting element that separates film from art performance,” says the actor, who’s performing on stage for the first time in New York City. “It’s a laboratory where we are allowed to fail, explore without commercial pressures.” Fiennes previously worked with artists Dragset and Elmgreen and actor Kevin Spacey on the 2008 play Drama Queens at London’s Old Vic theater voicing one of six remote –controlled fiberglass versions of iconic sculptures that appeared onstage.

What else in the festival is Fiennes looking forward to? “Iona Rozeal Brown’s Battel of Yestermore, a hip-hop/kabuki performance,” he says. Nov. 17 at 8 pm and Nov. 18 at 8 pm at Skylight West, 500 W. 36th Street.

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More than 100 artists are taking part this year with more than a dozen commissioned works on the calendar, including pieces by internationally renowned photographer and video artist Shirin Neshat and Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin.

“We commission new work by visual artists. It is indeed live art. The exciting thing is that it takes visual artists, most of whom have not created live performances before and we’re offering them a chance to think in a new dimension,” says Performa founding director and curator RoseLee Goldberg.

The idea of getting artists out of the studio isn’t new. “Artists have always done live performances. The Medicis asked Leonardo DaVinci to come in and create the celebration for their daughter’s wedding,” says Goldberg.

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Exclusive photo below of dress rehearsal for Happy Days in the Art World. Photo: Neil Thomas Douglas. Courtesy the artists.

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