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Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Photograph: Ben AronsNatasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Here's what you'll see in Ars Nova's 24-hour telethon this weekend

A complete guide to the NYC theater company's humdinger of a fund-raiser

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman
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If you've got some time to kill this weekend, Ars Nova has just the weapon. The consistently hip and sharp-minded theater company, a keystone of NYC's Off Broadway theater scene in the 21st century, has come up with a characteristically crazy-ambitious idea for its annual benefit: a free, star-studded live-streamed telethon that will last 24 straight hours and involve more than 150 different artists.

Starting at 6pm EST on Friday, December 4, and running through 6pm on Saturday, The Ars Nova Forever Telethon promises to be a maximalist variety show par excellence. You can watch it here.

RECOMMENDED: Our day-by-day roundup of the best theater, opera and dance to stream online

Ars Nova has mounted of some of New York’s most memorable shows of the past 15 years—including the musicals Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 and KPOP and the plays Jacuzzi, boom, Small Mouth Sounds and Underground Railroad Game—and its monthly variety show Showgasm is a reliable sampler pack of rising stars. The company has a gift for spotting talent early, which is one reason it inspires such ferocious loyalty among its alums, dozens of whom are pitching in for this event.

Billy Eichner, Tina Fey, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Phillipa Soo, Freestyle Love Supreme, Bridget Everett, Ashley Park, Robin Lord Taylor, Lilli Cooper, Amber Gray, Kyra Sedgwick, James Monroe Iglehart, Brooke Shields, Lea DeLaria, Ben Sinclair, Joe Iconis, Betty Gilpin, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Joél Perez, Matt Rogers, Heather Christian, Jason Tam, Rachel Chavkin, Sakina Jaffrey, Dave Malloy, Isaac Oliver, Larry Owens and Natalie Walker are just some of the major talents who will help make the day fly by.

The Ars Nova telethon will be divided into a dozen two-hour segments, as outlined below. There's no charge to watch, but fundraising is the point, so making a donation would be appropriate if you can afford to do so. And if you can't catch all of the telethon, don't fret: It will remain viewable through Tuesday, December 8.

The complete schedule for The Ars Nova Forever Telethon:

Friday 6–8pm: The Kickoff
Ashley Pérez Flanagan and Grace McLean play host as Ars Nova gets the ball rolling with performances by César Alvarez, the Bengsons, Starr Busby, Laura Galindo, Khiyon Hursey, Joe Iconis, Michael R. Jackson and James Monaco and appearances by Kyra Sedgwick and Beau Willimon.

Dave Malloy and Rachel Chavkin
Photograph: Ben Arons | Dave Malloy and Rachel Chavkin

Friday 8–10pm: The Comet Comes Home
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 auteur Dave Malloy and director Rachel Chavkin anchor this salute to the wondrous immersive musical adaptation of War and Peace, which tracks its arc from Ars Nova to Broadway's Imperial Theatre. Participants include Phillipa Soo, Denée Benton, Amber Gray, Brittain Ashford, Grace McLean, Mimi Lien, Gelsey Bell, Blake DeLong, Manik Choksi, Nick Belton, Courtney Bassett, Brian Bogin, Josh Canfield, Kennedy Caughell, Claudia Chopek, Erica Dorfler, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Paloma Garcia-Lee, Nick Gaswirth, Alex Gibson, Billy Kiessling, Bradley King, Blaine Krauss, Andrew Mayer, Karyn Meek, Mary Page Nance, Shoba Narayan, Kenny Nuñez, Pearl Rhein, Phil Romano, Celia Mei Rubin, Scott Stangland, Cathryn Wake, Charity Wicks, Katrina Yaukey, Paloma Young and Lauren Zakrin, with appearances by Billy Eichner, Jennifer Kidwell, Scott R. Sheppard and Robin Lord Taylor.

Friday 10pm-midnight: Showgasm
Matt Rogers (of the podcast Las Culturistas) and Shalewa Sharpe (of HBO’s 2 Dope Queens) hosts a special edition of Ars Nova's variety bash. Expect performances by Nick Chambers, Sarah Dooley, Kenice Mobley, Eliza Orlins, Zilla Vodnas and Sydnee Washington, and special appearances by John Early, Cole Escola, Bridget Everett and Murray Hill.

Saturday midnight–2am: Isaac Oliver's Lonely Quarantine
If David Sedaris and Fran Lebowitz had a baby who wrote about subways, theater patrons and blow jobs, he might be a lot like Isaac Oliver. The hilarious and poignant comic essayist (Intimacy Idiot) ushers in the new day with guests, games and stories. Joining him are Katja Blichfeld, Naomi Ekperigin, Ryan O'Connell and Ben Sinclair, with appearances by Betty Gilpin, Chris Lowell and Ashley Park.

Isaac Oliver
Photograph: Ben Arons | Isaac Oliver

Saturday 2am–4am: The Witching Hour
The Neon Coven, which created the immersive queer nightclub musical Oscar at the Crown, parties it up in the wee hours. The guest list includes Brandon Alberto, Fena Barbitall, Grace Calio, Tony Clements, Andrew Barret Cox, Tony D'Alelio, Kerri George, Brendan Henderson, Kim Hudman, Hannah Jewel Kohn, Sarah Lewandowski, Princess Lockerooo, Brandon Looney, Mark Mauriello, Michelle Martinelli, Kelly McIntyre, Olivia Miller, Chris Murphy, Deon Shotwell, Bessie D. Smith, Jada Temple, Tweet, Zofia Weretka and Karoline Xu, plus appearances by Stephanie Hsu, Leigh Silverman and Jason “SweetTooth” Williams.

Saturday 4am-6am: Cartoon Camp
For the benefit of night owls, insomniacs, vampires and hardcore telethon completists, Mahayla Laurence and Matt Gehring provide comic running commentary for cartoons that are not aimed at children. Joining them are Josh Nasser, Mike Poole and Caroline Reedy.

Saturday 6am-8am:
Ars Nova Rewind
As most of the audience slumber, Ars Nova shares archival videos of favorite moments from the troupe's 18 years.

Saturday 8am-10am: Morning Meditations
In a segment inspired by a personal-improvement retreat that is the subject of Small Mouth Sounds, Sakina Jaffrey hosts two hours of breathing, meditation and reflection. She is joined by Jaclyn Backhaus, Catherine Brookman, Nikki Calonge, Heather Christian and Erik Ehn, with appearances by Rachel Bonds, Babak Tafti and SMS playwright Bess Wohl.

Larry Owens
Photograph: Courtesy of the artist | Larry Owens

Saturday 10am–noon: Boom Crunch Zoom Brunch: A Celebration of Theatrical Choices
Musical-theater enthusiasts don't get much more enthusiastic than Larry Owens and Natalie Walker, who emcee this cabaret salute to legendary stage and screen performances. The lineup Demi Adejuyigbe, Michael Breslin, Ayo Edebiri, Patrick Foley, Meg Stalter, Patrick Vaill, Kuhoo Verma and Sydnee Washington, with appearances by Gavin Creel, Celia Keenan-Bolger and Alex Timbers.

Saturday noon–2pm: So You Think You Can KPOP
KPOP star Jason Tam hosts a celebration of the Korean-bubble-gum-music-factory tuner that may be bound for Broadway if Broadway can figure out how to handle it. Participants include Julia Abueva, Cathy Ang, Teddy Bergman, Joomin Hwang, Jinwoo Jung, Helen Park, Jennifer Weber and John Yi, with appearances by César Alvarez, Jason Kim and Ashley Park.

Jason Tam in KPOP
Photograph: Ben Arons | Jason Tam in KPOP

Saturday 2pm–4pm: Thon-Tha-Thon-Thon-Thon
Well before Freestyle Love Supreme ascended to Broadway, it was spitting its improvisational hip-hop rhymes at Ars Nova. Now the group revisits those times with James Monroe Iglehart, Arthur Lewis, Kaila Mullady, Chris “Shockwave” Sullivan and Anthony Veneziale, plus appearances by Lila Neugebauer and Brooke Shields.

Saturday 4pm–6pm: The Finale for The Future
All good things must come to an end, and hosts Lilli Cooper (Tootsie) and Joél Pérez (Fun Home) help send the telethon off in style.  Guests include John Behlmann, Michael Breslin, Andrew R. Butler, Manik Choksi, Bridget Everett, Patrick Foley, Deepali Gupta, Kyle Jarrow, Jo Lampert, Sammy Miller, Onyie Nwachukwu, Rona Siddiqui, Lauren Worsham and Zack Zadek, with appearances by Lea DeLaria, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Stephen Karam.

In addition to the above, The Ars Nova Forever will feature pop-in appearances by Tina Fey, Frankie Alvarez, Hannah Bos, Salty Brine, Shayok Misha Chowdhury, Karen Chee, Guadalís Del Carmen, Sonia Denis, Vinny DePonto, Dickie DiBella, Peter Friedman, Mitra Jouhari, Jenny Koons, Kameron Neal, Emily Oliveira, Tessa Skara, Peter Smith, Tansy, Stephanie Wright Thompson and others.

Lilli Cooper
Photograph: Danny Bristoll | Lilli Cooper

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