Over 180 Performances Set For
TNC’s 26th Lower East Side Festival Of The Arts
May 28-30, 2021
Artistic output of this fabled neighborhood will be on display again to live audiences, with the emphasis on safety.
NEW YORK — Theater for the New City‘s Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, which had to be presented virtually last year, returns May 28-30, 2021 as an indoor and outdoor live audience event with an emphasis on safety. Extra precautions have been introduced for the safety of the festival’s audiences and the cohort of theater, dance, performance, music, film, literary and visual artists who are participating. All events will be presented in and around Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street). Admission is free but donations will be gratefully accepted.
The event started in 1996 as a three-day, indoor and outdoor multi-arts festival intended to demonstrate the creative explosion of the Lower East Side and the area’s importance to culture and tourism for New York City. It employed two theater spaces at TNC plus the block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues. For the past 25 years, it has been organized by TNC and a coalition of civic, cultural and business leaders and presented free to an average attendance of 4,000. Last year, with the obligatory quarantine caused by Coronavirus, it was mounted entirely on TNC’s website for virtual audiences.
This year, the festival is mounted with the theme “LES is home again” to celebrate its return to live audiences and the reopening of TNC’s performance complex. Over 180 artists of all disciplines will be participating in the three-day event. Indoor performances will take stage from 6:00 PM too11:00 PM each day, utilizing two of TNC’s four theaters An art show will grace the TNC lobby spaces. From 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM each day, vendors and food sellers, including booths from nearby restaurants, will set up in the closed-off block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues. An outdoor stage adjoining the theater will offer music and multi-discipline performances from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM each day and poetry on Saturday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.
TNC has always prided itself on being a safe space, and is zealous to guarantee that everyone will feel secure while performing and watching its performances. All the theater’s staff are fully vaccinated and its HVAC systems have new air filtration systems. Masks and temperature checks will be required for both performers and theatergoers, all of whom must present either proof of vaccination or negative COVID test results from the last 3-5 days for admission. Seating will be socially distanced, employing every other seat in every other row. Pods of seating are available for audience members who have quarantined together. Hand sanitizer stations are numerous and available at the entrances.
In all performance events, the theater is honoring the policy of Actors Equity Association that members of a show must be fully vaccinated and cannot come into contact with unvaccinated performers or crew. Onstage microphones will be sterilized between acts by the running crews.
Special guests appearing will include James Rado (composer of “Hair”), Penny Arcade, Phoebe Legere, Vinie Burrows and Reno. David Amram, Art Lillard, Mister Pablo and Rob Varcony/Star 69 will head the list of 36 musical acts. There will be over 25 works of theater, 30 mixed-performance events and 11 modern dance events. Eleven films, curated by Eva Dorrepaal, will be screened. A “poetry jam with prose on the side,” curated and hosted by Lissa Moira, will offer readings by 36 literary artists. There will be various cabaret, comedy and magic acts. Works by 40 visual artists, curated by Caroline Ratliffe, will be displayed in the lobby. Elected officials appearing will include Brad Hoylman (State Senator, 27th District) Friday at 8:15, Harvey Epstein (State Assembly Member, 74th District) Friday at 9:00 PM, Carlina Rivera (City Council Member, 2nd District) Saturday at 7:15 PM and Gonzalo Casals (NYC Commissioner of Cultural Affairs) Sunday at 7:30 PM.
The performers’ roster is still building as of this writing and the number of applicants exceeds any previous year, a testimony to pent-up demand among local artists for performance opportunities. A list of participating artists, updated periodically, can be viewed at www.jsnyc.com/season/LES-2021.htm.
Last year, due to the exigencies of quarantine, the entire festival was presented virtually. This year, the festival is dedicated to the return of live audiences, but in order to offer it to the widest possible following, selected performances will be live-streamed on the TNC website, www.theaterforthenewcity.net.
The concept of the festival was developed by Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director of TNC and Esther Cartegena (d. 2006), President of Loisaida, Inc., to portray the Lower East Side (LES) as a haven for artists and artistic creation. 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 unprecedented source of tourism. Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Buried Child,” was commissioned and first produced by TNC. The committee envisioned an event that would demonstrate the region’s cultural fervor, its large artistic population and its multiplicity of ethnic influences to contradict the neighborhood’s stereotype as a dangerous refuge for drug dealers and criminal activity.
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.
Disciplines presented have always included theater, music, dance, poetry, puppetry, cabaret, visual art, film and children’s programming. With the need to rely on vaccination and testing in order to preserve the theater as a “safe space,” it was decided to forego children’s audiences this year.
Festival Director Crystal Field. Assistant Directors Katharine Dreves, Milton Tran, Devorah Shubowitz, J.C. Augustin and Anika Prager. Emcees of the 2021 Festival are: Crystal Field, Robert Gonzales Jr., Melanie Goodreaux, Susan Hemley, Alberto Minero, David Slone Esq., John David West and Eva Dorrepaal.
The LES Festival is created and organized by The LES Committee: David Aronson, Alex Bartenieff, Briana Bartenieff, Roy Chang, Walter Corwin, Eva Dorrepaal, Myrna Duarte, Carol Dudgeon, Crystal Field, Matthew Fitzgerald, Andrea Fulton, Robert Gonzales Jr., Melanie Maria Goodreaux, Robert Greer, Susan Hemley, Barbara Kahn, Dan Kelley, Anne Lucas, Donna Mejia, Lissa Moira, Stephan Morrow, Brian Park, Emily Pezzella, Carolyn Ratcliffe, Liana Rosario, Ramiro Sandoval, Ed Shea, Jonathan Slaff, David F. Slone, Esq., Claude Solnik, Mackenzie Surbey, Mary Tierney, Jenne Vath, Jimmy Walker, Jonathan Weber, Richard Weber, Peter Welch, John David West and Richard West. Press Representative is Jonathan Slaff.