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Coalition to celebrate the artistic fervor of the region

Organizing committee of The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts: (L-R) Playwright Barbara Kahn, playwright/actor Lissa Moira, director Lisa Barnes, playwright/performer Crystal Field (who is Artistic Director of Theater for the New City), plawright/performer Penny Arcade, playwright Richard West. Photo by Jonathan Slaff

To demonstrate the creative explosion of the Lower East Side and the areaís importance to culture and tourism for New York City, a score of stars and over 100 performing arts organizations, independent artists, poets, politicians and film makers will join forces May 26 to 28 in the Lower East Side's fifth annual Festival of the Arts, in and around Theater for the New City at First Avenue and East Tenth Street. This three-day, indoor and outdoor festival of theater is organized by TNC and a coalition of civic, cultural and business leaders and is free to all New Yorkers. Last year, over 3,000 people attended. This year, the festival is dedicated to the late Quentin Crisp, a long-time friend of TNC.

The final list of attractions is in formation as of this writing, but a partial list of celebrity appearances is now available. Speaking or reading from their works will be James Earl Jones, Joe Franklin, Kate Millett, Lanford Wilson, Tony Kushner, Jean-Claude Van Itallie, Moises Kaufman, Eduardo Machado and Manhattan Borough President. Virginia Fields. Celebrity performances will be provided by Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson, Jerry Stiller, Paul Krasner and composer/performer David Amram.

Excerpts of Arthur Miller's latest Broadway play, "Ride Down Mt. Morgan," will be performed by an ensemble that includes members of the original Broaday cast. From La MaMa E.T.C., the cast of "Brace Yourself" will present that comedy, which is written by Ray Dobbins. Rome Neal will perform excerpts of "Monk" by Laurence Holder. Shami Chaikin will perform an excerpt from "Terminal," conceived and directed by Joe Chaikin, written by Susan Yankowitz. Simon Loekle (WBAI) will read from Herman Melville. Crystal Field will present a special tribute to Quentin Crisp. Don Friedman will speak on the legendary concert, "Lenny Bruce in Carnegie Hall" and his career adventures with the comedian. There will be short plays written for this festival by Maria Irene Fornes, Larry Myers, Barbara Kahn, Lissa Moira and Richard West.

SATURDAY IS KIDS' DAY -- On Saturday, May 27, TNC's large Joyce and Seward Johnson Theater is reserved for plays by kids for kids and attractions including Sutton Gymnastics. (L) Julia Slaff, (R) Richard Westf

On Saturday, TNC's large Joyce and Seward Johnson Theater is reserved for plays by kids for kids and attractions including Sutton Gymnastics.

Lobby attractions include "The Golden Age of Second Avenue," a loving chronicle of Yiddish Theater in America, starring Hershel Bernardi and featuring Boris Tomashefsky, Celia Adler, Jacob Ben Ami, Moishe Oysher, Molly Picon, Berta Gersten, Maurice Schwartz, Michael Michalesko, Ludwig Satz, Menasche Skulnik, Jennie Goldstein, Paul Muni, Isaac Beshevits and others. From the Arthur Cantor Film/Video collection.

Dance attractions will include Infinity Dance Theater, Rod Rodgers Dance Co., Thunderbird American Indian Dancers and edanz. Performance art attractions will include Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Charles Bush and Lavinia Co-Op. Musical attractions will include Ruby and the Rednecks and Silvercloud Singers and Drummers. Deep Dish TV will present a documentary on the recent Washington, DC protests against the IMF and World Bank.

Other theater organizations partcipating will include New York Theatre Workshop, New York Shakespeare Fesitval, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Living Theater, Dixon Place, Hot Peaches, INTAR, Ninth Street Theater, Rhythm Lounge, Razz M Tazz, Teatro Circulo, Teatro Teba, WOW Cafe, The Moth, Yangtze Repertory Theater of America, Mabou Mines and Jean Cocteau Repertory.

The festival will be three days of theater and theater-related events, from Friday to Sunday, employing three theater spaces at TNC plus the block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues. On Saturday, there will be a day-long, block-long outdoor carnival of musical attractions and a community arts fair. The list of attractions includes artists presently residing on the Lower East Side, arts groups performing there, prominent writers and artists whose work has dealt directly with the Lower East Side experience and plays written especially for this festival. The distinct ethnic communities of the Lower East Side are amply represented, including the African American, Chinese, Hispanic, Indian, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Native American, Polish and Ukrainian communities. The audience information and reservations number is (212) 254-1109.


A committee was formed in the fall of 1995, chaired by TNCís Director Crystal Field, to address the undervaluation of the Lower East Side as a cultural resource. The region is a unique multi-ethnic community with an unusually high level of artistic vitality. Large populations with differing languages and cultures coexist there successfully and a large artistic population helps glue the neighborhood together. Its theaters are also an underappreciated source of tourism, even though "Rent," "Stomp" and Blue Man Groupís "Tubes" exemplify the wide appeal of "downtown" theater. The committee envisioned an event that would demonstrate the regionís cultural fervor, its large artistic population and its multiplicity of ethnic influences.

The first festival, presented June 14 to 16, 1996, featured over 100 attractions, drew favorable press and attracted crowds from all around the City. Its success prompted TNC to continue the festival as an annual event.


FRIDAY, May 26 --

6 pm-1 am: speakers and performances in Joyce and Seward Johnson Theater, 8pm-midnight: Cabaret Theater performances.

SATURDAY, May 27 --

9am-6pm: (outside) vendors, Salsa, Merengue, jazz, poets, commedia; rain date Sunday, 2pm-4:30pm: (inside) Plays by kids for kids, 6 pm-1:00 am: Speakers and performances in Johnson Theater, film and video in Cabaret Theater.

SUNDAY, May 28 --

5pm-7pm: Poets in Cabaret Theater, curated by Jushi. 7:30pm-midnight: Dance and other performances in Johnson Theater.


Sponsors include Con Edison, European American Bank and the Julian J. Studley Foundation. Grand Marnier is sponsoring thePoetry and Film sections.

Related article: About Theater for the New City.

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