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Free production tours City streets, parks and playgrounds
Professor Midlife (R-Mark Marcante) and an earnest student (L-Craig Meade). Photo by Jonathan Slaff

August 4 to September 16
Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm plus Friday, August 17 at 8:00 pm.
In NYC streets, parks, and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs.
See full schedule of locations & times at bottom of this notice.
Presented by Theater for the New City.
Free. Audience info (212) 254-1109.

Theater for the New City will mount its 25th annual street theater production, "The Patients are Running the Asylum," written and directed by Crystal Field, from August 4 to September 16. This brand-new, rip-roaring outdoor musical comedy will tour City streets, parks, and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs and is free to all New Yorkers. It's a story about coming to sanity in a world where concepts of right and wrong, love and life, compassion and hate have been turned upside-down.

The forces of General Hate have kidnapped and imprisoned a psychiatrist-cum-philosopher, Professor Midlife, for professing the "revolutionary" notion that the poor should be fed. The professor sings, "If we first feed the face, and house and clothe the human race, and give each child an education, we won't need behavior modification." He tries to escape for the rest of the play, aided by Alpha, a large dog who has just graduated from CCNY with a BA in psychology and who wishes to understand the world in which he lives. What he sniffs out is a world run by Crazies, who constantly change their personalities in order to manipulate everything from elections to gas prices. They even sanction the bombing of their own country, singing "Oh by heckes, we'll bomb Vieques."

Self-actualization is nice, but the Crazies manage to actualize themselves as everybody else: the Supreme Court, the Pentagon, the HMOs and the prison contractors, to name a few. All of this goes unnoticed by the guys who are supposed to be in charge: the oblivious Resident of the White House (who can talk well enough only to start a new arms race) and the Mayor (who is locked out of Gracie Mansion and obsessed with breaking back in with his girlfriend).

General Hate ultimately gets vanquished by Alpha Dog and his pack of urban activists. The Mayor and the Resident become homeless and are forced to look for rent stabilized apartments. It's better than Real TV, wilder than Jurassic Park and more up and down than the NASDAQ.

The production is written and directed by Crystal Field and will be mounted by a company of 30 actors, ten crew and five live musicians. Music is composed and arranged by Joseph-Vernon Banks. (Schedule follows below.)

TNC's award-winning Street Theater always contains an elaborate assemblage of trap doors, giant puppets, smoke machines, masks, original choreography and a huge (9' x 12') running screen or "cranky" providing continuous movement behind the actors. This year, the cranky is designed by Mary Blanchard and flats are by cartoonist Walter Gurbo. The cast shares the challenge of performing outside and holding a large, non-captive audience.
Author/director Crystal Field began writing street theater in 1968 as a member of Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia. She wrote and performed her own outdoor theater pieces against the Vietnam war and also curated and performed many poetry programs for the Philadelphia Public Schools. There she found tremendous enthusiasm and comprehension on the part of poor and minority students for both modern and classical poetry when presented in a context of relevancy to current issues. She realized that for poetry to find its true audience, the bonds of authoritarian criticism must and can be transcended. Her earliest New York street productions were playlets written in Philadelphia and performed on the flatbed truck of Bread and Puppet Theater in Central Park. Peter Schumann, director of that troupe, was her first NY artistic supporter.

In 1971, Ms. Field became a protege of Robert Nichols, founder of the Judson Poets Theater in Manhattan. Nichols wrote street theater plays for TNC in its early years, but as time went on, wrote scenarios and only the first lines of songs, leaving Field to "fill in the blanks." When Nichols announced his retirement to Vermont in 1975, he urged Field to "write your own." The undertaking, while stressful at first, became impetus for her to express her own topical political philosophy and to immerse her plays in that special brand of humor referred to often as "that brainy slapstick." Her first complete work was "Mama Liberty's Bicentennial Party" (1976), in honor of the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution.

Field has written and directed a completely new opera for the TNC Street Theater company each successive year. She collaborated for eleven years with composer Mark Hardwick, whose "Pump Boys and Dinettes" and "Oil City Symphony" were inspired by his street theater work with Ms. Field. At the time of his death from AIDS in 1994, he was writing a clown musical with Field called "On the Road," which was not finished. One long-running actor in TNC street theater was Tim Robbins, who was a member of the company for six years in the 1980s, from age twelve to 18.

The Village Halloween Parade, which TNC produced single-handedly for the Parade's first two years, grew out of the procession which preceded each Street Theater production. Ralph Lee, who created the Parade with Ms. Field, was chief designer for TNC's Street Theater for four years before the Village Halloween Parade began.

Field has also written playlets for TNC's annual Halloween Ball and for an annual Yuletime pageant that is performed outdoors for 2,000 children on the Saturday before Christmas. She has also written two full-length indoor plays, "Upstate" and "One Director Against His Cast." She is executive director of TNC.

Sat Aug 4, 2:00 pm -- Manhattan, E. 10th St. and 1st Ave.
Sun Aug 5, 2:00 pm -- Manhattan, Harry's Playground, 206 E. 124th St.
Sat Aug 11, 2:00 pm -- Manhattan, St. Mark's Park/Abe Lebewohl Pk, E. 10th St. & 2nd Ave.
Sun Aug 12, 2:00 pm -- Brooklyn, Herbert Von King Park (Bedford/Stuyvesant)
Fri Aug 17, 8:00 pm -- Brooklyn, Coney Island Amusement, 100 Surf Ave.
Sat Aug 18, 2:00 pm -- Bronx, St. Mary's Park, 147th St. & St. Ann's Ave.
Sun Aug 19, 2:00 pm -- Queens, Rufus King Park in Jamaica, betw. Parsons and Sutton
Sat Aug 25, 2:00 pm -- Brooklyn, Prospect Park, Oriental Pavillion
Sun Aug 26, 2:00 pm -- Staten Island, Sobel Court & Bowen Street
Sat Sept 8, 2:00 pm -- Manhattan, Wise Towers, 89th St. & Amsterdam Ave.
Sun Sept 9, 2:00 pm -- Manhattan, Central Park Bandshell
Sat Sept 15, 2:00 pm -- Manhattan, Tompkins Square Park, E. 7th St. & Ave. A
Sun Sept 16, 2:00 pm -- Manhattan, Washington Square P

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