Historically, arts and the Roman Catholic Church have enjoyed a fruitful working relationship. Good branding, divine inspiration – whatever you wanna call it, most will agree that the church’s patronage ranks as one of the nobler pursuits done in the name of a higher being. Today, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York continues this fine tradition with the grand opening of the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in Greenwich Village.
Riding on the wave of favorable public perception recently triggered by a non-Nazi-empathizing, soon-to-be-visiting Pope Francis, the Sheen Center aims to be a “setting to explore contributions to the human spirit through the performing arts, film, art exhibitions and conferences,” per a press release. This will all be achieved through two state-of-the-art theater spaces, four studios and an art gallery.
To celebrate/demonstrate, the Center is holding a grand opening festival (starting today and running through October 22), spanning the full spectrum of programming. Below is our pick of the five typical events from the festival that we feel best embody the new Sheen Center for Thought and Culture.
1. An Evening With Jeanine and Jim Gaffigan
September 15, 7 pm: $10 (first 100 ticket’s sold), $39.50, $29.50, $19.50
Reassuring the skeptics, The Sheen Center immediately demonstrates an understanding of “contributions to the human spirit” by playing host to comedian Jim Gaffigan and his wife Jeannie (who, appropriately enough, were last seen at church). The conversation, centered on Gaffigan’s show, will also present unseen clips from episodes. Tickets are already sold out for this event, but fear not: the Gaffigans will be making another appearance at Union Pool in a few weeks, as guests on comedian Dave Hill’s “Meet Me in the Bathroom and Tell Me All Your Secrets.”
2. Divine Movement: An Evening of Sacred Dance
September 23, 7pm: $10 (first 100 tickets sold), $35, $25, $19.50
divine-movement-danceThe Sheen Center’s philosophy is centered on creating a dialogue around the cultural practices of different faiths and beliefs. Juxtaposing these group’s cultural expressions, this performance will see the stage shared by Avodah, a Jewish dance group; Sakshi, a neoclassical Odissi (Indian) dance group; the Trinity Movement Choir from Trinity Wall Street Episcopal Church, and Omega Dance Company – one of New York’s most acclaimed sacred dance troupes, currently celebrating it’s 40th season.
3. Physician Assisted Suicide/aid in dying: should it be legal?
September 28, 6pm: Free
While not your typical fun trip to the theater, this discussion reflects the range of ideas The Sheen Center aims to promote through its programming. Expert panelists, both for and against euthanasia, will include Dr. Donald Landry, Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Columbia University; David Leven, JD, Executive Director of End of Life Choices New York; O. Carter Snead, Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame; and Dr. Timothy Quill, Director of the Center for Ethics, Humanities and Palliative Care at the University of Rochester.
4. The Amish Project
October 1 & 2, 8pm: $10 (first 100 tickets sold), $35, $25, $19.50
amish-project1Confronting similarly heavy subject matter comes “The Amish Project,” which depicts events from the Pennsylvania school shooting that left ten Amish girls and the shooter dead. The Sheen Center’s description assures us that, despite its narrative, this one-woman play by Jessica Dickey, assures the Sheen Center’s description, “is ultimately an uplifting story about the power of forgiveness.”
5. Anthony De Mare – Liaisons: re-imagining Sondheim From the Piano
October 22, 7:30pm: tickets here.

Tipping the schedule’s scales back toward the light comes US concert pianist Anthony de Mare’s musical tribute to Stephen Sondheim. From the event’s description: “De Mare invited composers from a broad variety of genres – from Sondheim’s own world of musical theater to  jazz, classical, pop, film  and beyond – to ‘re-imagine’ a Sondheim song of their choice as a solo piano piece. Contributing re-composers include Steve Reich, Wynton Marsalis, Jason Robert Brown, Duncan Sheik, David Shire, Nico Muhly, Thomas Newman, Jake Heggie, and more…This concert will focus on the theater, film and opera composers from the collection, setting the pace for The Sheen Center’s future unique concert programming.”