Thursday, June 10, at 7 pm, at the Johnson Theater. Please try to get there between 6-6:30 pm. Also, please note, The restrictions are that people must show proof of vaccination or a negative test within the last 7 days.
YES! THE 26th ANNUAL L.E.S. Is coming your way at Theater for the New City 155 1st Avenue, New York, NY (212) 254-1109 www.theaterforthenewcity.net
THE LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND FRIDAY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY MAY 28, 29 AND 30 FREE! FREE! FREE!
THREE FABULOUS DAYS AND NIGHTS! LES – MAY 28, 29 and 30, 2021 FRIDAY, SATURDAY and SUNDAY
Community Space Theater
Outside onEast 10th Street
Fri, May 28
Performances 6pm – 11pm
Performances 7pm – 11pm
Sat, May 29
Performances 6pm – 11pm
Film Program 12pm – 6pm
Cultural Festival, Performances, Food, Vendors and More 1pm – 5pm
Sun, May 30
Performances 6pm – 11pm
Performances 7pm – 11pm
Poetry Readings 4pm – 7pm
All vaxxed up and no place to go? We’ll tell you where to go! The 26th Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts—L.E.S.
L.E.S. is our annual, joyous, boisterous, thought-provoking and always exciting celebration of the Arts of the Lower East Side and East Village. From the prestigious past, the knockout now, and fabulous future.
For 24 years, it took place at Theater for the New City at 155 First Ave, but last year, we spent our silver 25th Anniversary in the virtual world. Just like the rest of the world, we were cornered by COVID and performed on Zoom. But now for our 26th Annual L.E.S., we are back, back home on stage and ready to welcome you all to join us for our free to all festival.
As always, we cast our eyes, minds and hearts back to the amazing artistic history of our beloved Lower East Side and East Village; which produced the genius and magic of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin and Yip Harburg. Edgar Allan Poe spent time writing here, as did Mark Twain, Eugene O’Neill, and Garcia Lorca. Eddie Cantor, George Raft and James Cagney (whose early films featured the fluent Yiddish he picked up here) all hailed from The Lower East Side. Molly Picon started here, as did the Yiddish Theater, and the entire film industry had its Genesis on The Lower East Side. The talent goes on ad infinitum.
And then we look to the art that is happening right now, all around us. Icons and stars who either live on the Lower East Side, or work here all the time. And then of course there is the future we embrace and present. New names about to make their mark and perhaps one day destined to join the pantheon of stars who began their journey to greatness here.
L.E.S. consists of theater, music, dance, comedy, poetry, film and fine arts. Numerous theater and dance groups and companies present excerpts of work they will be performing at their own venues in the area. Hundreds of solo performers take part as well.
Some of the notables who have already signed on to bring the arts back alive to L.E.S. include:
David Amram: International Jazz Man, Composer, Conductor and LES fave.
James Rado: World-famous as one of the creators of “Hair.” His warmth and spirit casts the brightest of lights wherever and whenever he performs. He is, we are happy to say, a close friend of TNC and L.E.S.
Phoebe Legere: A Wow of a woman with peerless talent as a Composer, Performer, Playwright and Teacher of the young.
Penny Arcade: A woman for whom a microphone is a lethal weapon, a Performance Artist best known for her barbed social commentary on the subject of everything…and funny as hell.
Ashley Liang and her Dance Company: An exquisite combination of traditional Chinese dance limned with a modern sensibility and tinged with a hint of the sacred. You don’t watch Ashley dance. You experience her.
Vinie Burrows: Star of stages from Broadway to TNC, Community activist and lifelong force for good. Eric Yves Garcia: Up-coming star of cabaret and boites all over town (when the town was open). L.E.S. audiences left yelling for more…so we had to have him back.
Reno: Raucous, ribald, lesbionic, and learned legend with the wisdom of age—She can always complain and does so to hilarious effect.
Rod Rodgers Dance Company: It wouldn’t be LES without them. They say so much with glorious movement and never fail to live up to the legacy of their founder.
Le Squeezebox Cabaret: Led by David F. Slone, Esq. Will they strip? Will they ascend the ropes…and strip? Will they break into techno-dance? Will David belt out Le Jazz or make like a rabbi and have us practically doven with him? All to the strains of an accordion? One never knows with Le Squeeze Box cabaret.
An excerpt from acclaimed poet and memoirist Dean Kostos’s “The Boy Who Listened to Paintings:” a musical adapted from his book of the same name. Music composed by Paul Kirby and directed by Lissa Moira. Starring Moore Theobald and William Broderick.
Judy Gorman: Folk singer, a favorite of Pete Seeger‘s, a woman whose talent is only exceeded by her social conscience.
Louisa Bradshaw: An actress and chanteuse who has graced stages all over the world.
Melange: Consisting of guitarist Richard West, violinist Susan Mitchell and percussionist Jiggers Turner. Their music defies categorization, with strains of Indian ragas, flamenco, classic jazz, folk, classical and so on and on.
The Love Show, The Drilling Company, Zero Boy and so many, many more.
Some of the writers who have created new works expressly for the festival include: Tom Diriwachter, Lissa Moira, Bina Sharif, Barbara Kahn, and Peter Welch.
For the uninitiated who have never joined us in these 26 years, here’s how our three-day festival known as L.E.S. works:
Friday, May 28, upstairs in the Johnson Theater from 6pm to 11pm (we’ve curtailed our hours to comply with COVID regulations): A continuous cavalcade of Theater, Music, Dance, Comedy and Performance Art (This special year, we will break into the action hourly to let audience out and bring in audience members who have been waiting in our holding area, again to comply with COVID capacity regulations.).
Friday, May 28, downstairs in our Cabaret Theater from 7pm to 11pm: We present more intimate, outré or sub-rosa acts, again Theater, Music, Dance, Comedy and Performance Art.
Saturday, May 29, outside on East 10th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues, from 1pm to 5pm: We throw up a stage and curator and Host, Composer, Playwright, and Bohemian Historian, Mr. Richard West will gift the crowd with Music, Dancers, Comedians, Poets and his own wit and wisdom and guitar licks. Lining the streets will be tables full of vendors hawking their colorful goods (all within COVID regulations.).
Saturday, May 29, downstairs in the Cabaret from 12pm to 6pm, we will have the film portion of our festival (Usually it goes from noon to midnight, but again we bow to COVID curtailment): It will be curated by the talented and very knowledgeable film maven Eva Dorrepaal (she is currently sifting through the deluge of submissions). Expect shorts, animation and feature-length films by local auteurs and filmmakers who have created works pertinent to the Lower East Side and East Village. Watch this space for the list of chosen films. Sharing hosting duties will be the gifted man responsible for making TNC’s On-The-Air Series possible, John David West. Roy Chang will handle the technical elements. Again, to accommodate the COVID situation the audience will go through a good number of changeovers, so those who are waiting have a chance to partake.
Saturday, May 29, upstairs in the Johnson Theater from 6pm to 11pm: Live Theater (doesn’t that sound just marvelous)! Music, Dance, Comedy and Performance Art continues unabated, except for stoppages to allow for audience turnover because of COVID capacity rules.
Sunday, May 30, upstairs in the Community Space Theater from 4pm to 7pm, L.E.S. presents a Poetry Jam with Prose on the Side: Curated and hosted by Playwright, Director, Actor, Artist and Poet Lissa Moira. This year’s featured guest will be celebrated Poet and Memoirist Dean Kostos. Over three dozen of the East Village’s most published and prolific poets will be participating, as well as many newly-minted word warriors eager to share their work, followed by an open mic for those in the audience who wish to surprise us.
Sunday, May 30, Upstairs in the Johnson Theater 6pm to 11pm: Glorious Theater, Music, Dance, Comedy and Performance art galore goes on and on.
Sunday, May 30, 7PM to 11PM: We again give you, in our black box Cabaret, more outside-of-the-box entertainment.
Throughout the festival, in TNC’s Lobby Art Gallery: An exhibition of Fine Art. Painting, Photography and Sculptures of all description will be on display. Curated by community activist, dear friend of The Lower East Side and a Fine Artist in her own right, Carolyn Ratcliffe. The exhibition will remain on display through June and will have its own special opening reception on Wednesday, May 26 from 6pm to 8pm. Of course, open to the public to mingle, schmooze and wine with the artists. However, how many we will be able to accommodate, and what we will be able to serve as far as the lovely tidbits we usually offer, is still in flux, for again we must adhere to all the rules of COVID in order to keep everyone safe.
In 2021, there is very little not affected by the pandemic. Obviously, L.E.S. is no exception. And sadly, we cannot be as uninhibited and laissez-faire with our audience as usual. So, we must let you know that you WILL BE ASKED TO SHOW US YOUR VACCINATION CARD or a NEGATIVE COVID TEST NO MORE THAN FIVE DAYS OLD, IN ORDER TO BE ADMITTED! There will be masking and social distancing, and we will adhere to the most recent rules promulgated by the CDC, State and New York City. We feel your cooperation is a small price to pay for our otherwise FREE FESTIVAL. We want nothing more than to spread the joys of the artistic delights of The Lower East Side and the East Village to all who can attend. Crystal Field and the LES Production Committee are delighted to say ixnay on the oomzay, and welcome you all to our house, Theater For The New City for L.E.S.: HOME AGAIN!!!
*Small Program Note: L.E.S. cannot present its usual children’s program this year, because the youngsters cannot as yet be vaccinated.
JoinTheater for The New City and Art Loisiada Foundation
ARTISTS: Adrian DiMetriou, Andrew Hockenberry, Anna Pasztor, Anne Stanner, Antoinette Maclachlan, Bonnie Rosenstock, Carolyn Ratcliffe, Ciaran Tully, Cynthia Reynolds, Dennis Edge, Dorine Oliver, EJaySims, Eileen Doster, Esther Mizrahi, Ethan Shoshan, Francine Lange, Gilda Pervin, Glenora Blackshire, Gretchen Van Dyk, Horacio Molina, Jeffrey Cyphers Wright, Joan Meyer, Jorge Calvo, Kathryn Bloss, Kathy Creutzburg, Ken Ecker, Kristan Enos, Ken Kobland, Leslie Lowe, Lois Carlo, Maria Marta Rosario-Dann, Meg Boe Birns, Onno De Jong, Ruth Oisteanu, Sally Young, Valery Oisteanu, Walter (Vlad) Dubowski
(Live screening of exhibit is on the Art Loisiada Foundation Facebook page under SURVIVING COVID, and on the artistasdeloisaida.org website for a virtual online art experience. Live opening reception April 27 6-8 pm, COVID restrictions apply; Gallery open Thursday, Friday Saturday, April 29 – April 1 from 6-8pm; ZOOM OPENING 05/08 @ 7 PM EST. Updated Posted on websites & social media).
On Saturday, April 17 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM, Theater for the New City (TNC), will present a mixed music and performance lineup for the twenty-third and final installment of “Open ‘Tho Shut,” its afternoon of “walk-by theater” that is staged in its set shop and visible from East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues.
The theater will resume indoor performances on April 22. So April 17 will be the finale for the “Open ‘Tho Shut” series, which has been mounted every Saturday since November 14, 2020.
The program offers a succession of free, live performances in which acts are staged in the theater’s set shop for audiences of socially distanced passers-by, who watch through an open garage door on East Tenth Street.
Schedule of 4.17.21 -Mistress of Ceremonies: Crystal Field – COBU (all-female Japanese Taiko drumming and dance troupe of Yako Miyamoto, Ayaha Otsuka, Mayu Yamashita, Micro Fukuyama and Kana Matsui) – Kenya Wilson in an excerpt from a play by Alicia Foxworth – Songs by Justin Rodriguez and Natasha Velez – Phoebe Legere and Crystal Field sing “Being Who You Are”
Streaming Host, Roy Chang Sound and Lightning Director, Alex Bartenieff Sound Engineer and Assistant Technical Director, Brian Park Sound Assistant, Roy Chang Audience and Actors Liaison, Bill Bradford and Richard Weber Set Design, Mark Marcante Set Painter, Lytza Colon Press, Jonathan Slaff
The series was launched November 14, 2020 as part of “More Ways than Broadway’s,” a city-wide collection of safe and socially distanced pop-up performances to demonstrate small theaters’ readiness and desperate desire to physically reopen and to counteract the perception, based on formal Broadway, that legitimate theaters can’t reopen safely. The performances were intended to demonstrate an Off-Off Broadway aesthetic that could allow smaller theaters to open safely at this time.
TNC pioneered walk-by theater in its 2020 Village Halloween Costume Ball October 31, when it reconfigured its set shop with lighting and sound to make it a venue for ten-minute plays. The effort was named “Chopshop Theater.” Ten live performances were offered for revelers who might pass by on East Tenth Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenues). They watched through an open garage door and were separated from the performers by a waist-high, see-through traffic barricade. Standing spaces for audience members were delineated six feet apart with chalked pumpkins on the sidewalk. Onlookers were urged to move on between performances so that the crowd would not become too large, health-wise.
The shop was renamed “The Chopshop Theater” for this series. It is outfitted with an elaborate set by Mark Marcante and Litza Colon, full stage lighting by Alexander Bartenieff and a four-mic sound system.
TNC requires all “Open ‘Tho Shut” performers to be tested before their appearances. Temperatures are taken as they arrive to perform. Hand sanitizer is provided and microphones are sanitized between performances. Masks are provided to any audience members who arrive without their own. Emcees have a separate mic.
Procedure and Etiquette for Attending and Producing a Production At Theater for the New City
To our beloved TNC family,
It is a known fact that the world has been a little darker since the closing of live theater, but we have tried our best to preserve and bring back some of that light. As much as we are trying our best to bring back the magical feeling of in-person theater, there will be new precautions to protect our amazing audience members.
The Theater has always been deemed a safe space, and therefore we will ensure that we will make everyone feel comfortable and secure while performing and watching our performances. Everyone who works here as our staff has been vaccinated. Both members of the production and audience members will need to show their vaccine card upon arrival. If they are not fully vaccinated then we require a negative Covid-19 test result taken within the past 3 to 5 days of arrival. The members of the audience will have to have a printed out version of the results in hand in order to expedite prompt show openings.Actors equity has ruled that equity members of any show must be fully vaccinated, and they can not come into contact with any member of the show in which they appear who has not been fully vaccinated. We understand that it may be difficult for everyone to get a vaccine in these current circumstances, but we want to make sure everyone is as safe as they can be.
We will be continuing with social distancing rules, as this has always been the CDC’s main priority in establishing safety. In our theaters we are going to have every other seat in every other row available for our lovely audience to be seated in. However, if people come in the same group of people they have been quarantining with, there will be sections made for them to sit together too.
The temperature will be taken at the door. Masks are always required from the moment you enter until you leave the building. We will also have hand sanitizer stations at the box office. We have also put in a new air filtration system in our HVAC systems so everyone can feel safe while existing in our artistic walls.
Theater for the New City has always been a home to all artists, and community members from all around the world. And home is always supposed to be the safest place. So please join us in welcoming our beloved artists and guests back home. Because although we’re sure you missed us from the past year, we can guarantee you we’ve missed you more.
a new radio play by Toby Armour directed by George Ferencz
Armour’s play dramatizes Carrie Chapman Catt’s leadership of the final effort to secure women’s right to vote through ratification of the 19th Amendment. Catt’s mentor, Susan B. Anthony, had spent a lifetime fighting for women’s suffrage. Dying in 1906, Anthony never saw the end of the struggle, but she never doubted. “Failure is impossible” were her words. The play is set in 1920 when the battle continued under Catt. The 19th Amendment, giving women suffrage, is coming to a vote in a special session of the Tennessee legislature. If Tennessee, the 36th state, ratifies it, the Amendment will finally become the law of the land after 87 years of struggle.
Campaigning takes place during the sweltering days of August in Nashville. The opposition, led by a coalition of Southern belles and corporate lobbyists, is powerful. Double-dealing, threats, bribery, slander are all part of the action. Carrie Chapman Catt is fighting the battle of her life. It all comes down to one roll call vote in the Tennessee legislature. The suspense is hair-raising as the play shows us–up close and historically–how near the country came to never allowing women to vote.
CAST Richarda Abrams* John Barilla* Gregory Marlow Susan Patrick* Karen Sunde* Jenne Vath* and the Announcer is Dan Kelley * Actors appear courtesy of Actors’ Equity Incidental music is written and performed by Peter Dizozza assistant director, Karen Oughtred
NEW YORK, March 15, 2021 — Tim Robbins has joined the list of celebrities contributing performances for Theater or the New City’s 2021 “Love ‘N Courage” gala March 22, which benefits the theater’s emerging playwrights program. Robbins joins Charles Busch, David Amram, F. Murray Abraham and Vinie Burrows in the roster of stars sharing prepared performances.
The program will also include performances by stars and Downtown luminaries, addresses by elected officials, a performance by students in the theater’s cultural arts program and highlights from the theater’s “Open ‘Tho Shut” weekly walk-by theater series, which will have played for 20 weeks by the date of the gala. The event will begin streaming at 7:00 PM. Tickets are $200 and available on the theater’s website, www.theaterforthenewcity.net.
Tim Robbins cut his acting teeth at Theater for the New City, appearing in its annual Street Theater musicals when he was twelve and continuing until he was 18. His family’s affiliation with the theater preceded him: his sisters, Adele and Gabrielle, had been regular Assistant Directors before he became active there. Robbins also starred at TNC in the title role of “The Little Prince” (1973), a musical adaptation by Laurel Hessing and David Tice of the classic book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry that was directed by Crystal Field.
TNC stalwarts performing at the gala will also include Phoebe Legere, Cobu (all-women Japanese Taiko drumming and dance company), British Music Hall (Mark Marcante and friends, with texts of chorus provided for sing-alongs), Pablo Raul (conductor of Mr. Pablo Band), Arthur Abrams (Yiddish songs from Lower East Side Festival of the Arts), Thunderbird American Indian Dancers (Deer Dance), Yip Harburg Rainbow Troupe (songs by E.Y. “Yip” Harburg), Carol Tendava (Belly Dance), and Michael David Gordon, Justin Rodriguez and Natasha Velez (in songs from last summer’s TNC Street Theater oratorio, “Liberty or Just Us: a City Park Story”).
Theater for the New City turns 50 this month. The event salutes that milestone and has been scheduled for March 22, in the rebirth of early Spring, to celebrate theater’s rise from the ashes of Covid-19. With New York arts venues now allowed to reopen April 2 (to limited audiences), funds from this benefit will enable TNC to “hit the ground running” when reopening.
Elected officials offering greetings will include Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilmember Carlina Rivera.
The event will also feature a song written by students in TNC’s afterschool cultural arts program which was performed in its culminating event on February 21, and a montage of images from “TNC On The Air” hosted by John David West.
Theater for the New City (TNC) is a four-theater complex at 155 First Avenue. It started out in March 1971 in the Westbeth Artists Community and moved to a new home at 133 Bank Street (later known as the Jane Street Theater) that same year. In 1977, the theater moved from the West Village to the East Village, converting the former Tabernacle Baptist church at 156 Second Ave. near East 10th Street into a cultural complex with a rehearsal room and three theaters. Its final move, to the former Second Avenue Retail Market at 155 First Ave, was completed in 1986. Each migration was the result of gentrification that was catalyzed, at least partly, by the success of the theater. TNC made the final payment on the mortgage for its present building in 2013. Although the institution operates with very low budgets for its productions, its stability as an organization is a miracle in New York’s volatile and challenging theatrical landscape.
TNC’s awards include the Pulitzer Prize, 43 Village Voice OBIE Awards (including a grant and citation for “uncompromising commitment to unconventional and daring plays”), eight Audelco Awards, two Bessie Awards, five ASCAP Awards, 10 Rockefeller Playwrights Fellowships, The Mayor’s Stop the Violence Award, the Manhattan Borough President’s Award for Public Service and Artistic Excellence in Theater, and a NY City Council Proclamation that pays tribute to TNC’s contributions to improving the quality of life in the City by its “rich tradition of bringing theater to people in multi-cultural neighborhoods.”
The Emerging Playwrights program is integral to the theater’s mission, which includes being a center for new and innovative theater arts, discovering relevant new writing and nurturing new playwrights. TNC does not believe that readings are enough help for an artist to grow into the American playwriting mainstream. So the theater gives emerging artists full productions, with a minimal run of three weeks, full lighting, sets, costumes and overall good production values. The theater staff does marketing to make sure they have audiences, and ticket prices are kept low to ensure good attendance.
Each year there are between 20 and 30 emerging playwrights presented. No other theater approaches the volume of work by emerging playwrights that TNC has presented in the 50 years since its founding.
Playwrights are selected for the quality of their work and their historical and social vision. Executive Director Crystal Field declares, “That is our ballast. Everything else is just decoration.” Many colleges have playwriting programs, but the process at TNC is different from what happens in university theaters because at TNC, the playwright is involved in all aspects of the production and has final say on everything including budget, casting, designers and choice of director. The producer cannot fire the writer and there is no censorship in any way. It’s a nurturing relationship in which the author is also invited to create a new work for the following season.
Emerging playwright productions get to use the theater’s set and costume shops and its vast inventory of set pieces. Each theater space is fully equipped and this year, TNC has added a projector and sound mixer.
The benefit committee includes Mary Tierney (Chairperson) F. Murray Abraham, David Amram, Tom Attea, Alexander Bartenieff, Patricia Bosworth, Jean Buchalter, Vinie Burrows, Charles Busch, Janet Cooper-Piontek, Myrna Duarte, Carol Dudgeon, Crystal Field, Matthew Fitzgerald, Andrea Fulton, Assembly Member Deborah Glick, Robert Gonzales, Jr., Robert Greer, Margaret Guarino, Philip Hackett, Alan Hanna, Deena & Ernie Harburg, Celia Kornfeld, David Lewis, Anne Lucas, Eduardo Machado, Nancy Manocherian, Mark Marcante, Audrey Heffernan Meyer, Alberto Minero, Louis Mofsie, Lissa Moira, Matt Morillo, Stephan Morrow, Richard Ploetz, Council Member Carlina Rivera, Tim Robbins, Liana Rosario, Gerald E. Rupp, Esq., Michael Scott-Price, Edward Shea, David F. Slone, Jean-Claude Van Itallie, Betsy Von Furstenberg (in memoriam), Jenne Vath, Joel Vig, Jonathan Weber, Patricia & Dr. Jay Weiner and Frank Zuback.
Theater for the New City is looking for new works for our LIVE weekly reading series, TNC “On The Air,” where we work with a diverse group of writers, directors, and actors from the NYC theater community and beyond to present new works live online every Thursday evening.
Some of our previous plays include; “Visitors in the Dark” written and performed by Charles Busch; “Hamlet in Harlem” by Alberto Ferreras; and “PULL THIS OUT! Or a Play About Nerds” by Dan Moldovan.
How to submit: Please send the first 10 pages of your work and a brief synopsis.
Where to submit: Please include in the subject line: TNC “On The Air” Play Submission.
TNC PRESENTS ITS 46th ANNUAL THUNDERBIRD AMERICAN INDIAN DANCERS’ POW WOW AND DANCE CONCERT VIRTUALLY FEBRUARY 20, 2021.
Performance will also be available on-demand until March 7.
All ticket sales and donations will benefit Native American scholarship fund.
WHERE AND WHEN: Live streamed February 20, 2021 at 7:00 PM
Recording available on-demand through March 7. A virtual production of Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (at Tenth Street). $5 general admission. Supplemental donations will be gratefully accepted. Ticketing available here!
Recommended for all ages. TNC box office: 212-254-1109, www.theaterforthenewecity.net Running time 90 min. Reviewers are invited. PHOTOS AND VIDEO ARE AVAILABLE. See directions at bottom of this document.
NEW YORK, January 23 — Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, will present its 46th annual Thunderbird American Dancers Pow Wowand Dance Concert live-streamed from facility’s Joyce and Seward Johnson Theater, on February 20, 2021, from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. This “virtual Pow-Wow” will be accessible from the theater’s website, www.theaterforthenewcity.net, and available there on-demand until March 7, 2021. There will be dances, stories and traditional music from Native Peoples of the Northeast, Southwest and Great Plains regions. The event, emceed by Bessie-winner Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago), has become a treasured New York tradition for celebrating our diversity by honoring the culture of our first Americans. TNC donates all proceeds from this event to college scholarship funds for Native American students. Admission is only $5 and additional donations will be gratefully accepted. The event is recommended for all ages. Ticketing available here!
A Pow-Wow is more than just a spectator event: it is a joyous reunion for native peoples nationwide and an opportunity for the non-Indian community to voyage into the philosophy and beauty of Native culture. Traditionally a gathering and sharing of events, Pow-Wows have come to include spectacular dance competitions, exhibitions, and enjoyment of traditional foods.
Highlights will include storytelling by Matoaka Eagle (Santo Domingo/Chickahominy), a Hoop Dance by Marie Ponce (Cherokee and Seminole) that will be set to drum and guitar, a Deer Dance (from the Yaqui Tribes of Southern Arizona) with Ciaran Tufford (Mayan/Cherokee) and Carlos Ponce (Mayan), and various ensemble dances: a Grass Dance and Jingle Dress Dance (from the Northern Plains people), a Shawl Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes), a Fancy Dance (from the Oklahoma tribes) and a Robin Dance and Smoke Dance (from the Iroquois). A new work, “Flute Music Old and New”, will be performed by Louis Mofsie (old) and Rob Mastrianni (new).
Pageantry is an important component of the event, and all participants are elaborately dressed. There is a wealth of cultural information encoded in the movements of each dance. More than ten distinct tribes will be represented in the performance. The dozen-or-so dancers are people of all ages, raging from twelve-year-old Isabel Cespedes (Mayan) to retirees.
Throughout the performance, all elements are explained in depth through detailed introductions by the troupe’s Director and Emcee Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago). An educator, Mofsie plays an important part in the show by his ability to present a comprehensive view of native culture. Mofsie was awarded the 2019 Bessie Award for Outstanding Service to the Field of Dance. In 2017, he was honored, along with Garth Fagan and Martha Myers, with a Lifetime Achievement Award from American Dance Guild.
The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers are the oldest resident Native American dance company in New York. The troupe was founded in 1963 by a group of ten Native American men and women, all New Yorkers, who were descended from Mohawk, Hopi, Winnebago and San Blas tribes. Prominent among the founders were Louis Mofsie (Hopi/Winnebago) and his sister, Josephine Mofsie (deceased), Rosemary Richmond (Mohawk, deceased), Muriel Miguel (Cuna/Rapahannock) and Jack Preston (Seneca, deceased). Some were in school at the time; all were “first generation,” meaning that their parents had been born on reservations. They founded the troupe to keep alive the traditions, songs and dances they had learned from their parents, and added to their repertoire from other Native Americans living in New York and some who were passing through. Jack Preston taught the company its Iroquois dances, including the Robin Dance and Fish Dance. To these were added dances from the plains, including the Hopi Buffalo Dance, and newer dances including the Grass Dance and Jingle Dress Dance. The company was all-volunteer, a tradition that exists to today. Members range in professions from teachers to hospital patient advocates, tree surgeons and computer engineers. Now Louis Mofsie says, “To be going for 50 years is just amazing to me, and to be able to do the work we do.”
The troupe made a home in the old McBurney YMCA on 23rd Street and Seventh Ave. Within three or four years, they were traveling throughout the continental U.S., expanding and sharing their repertoire and gleaning new dances on the reservations. A number of Thunderbird members are winners of Fancy Dance contests held on reservations, where the standard of competition is unmistakably high.
The Thunderbird-TNC collaboration began in 1975, when Crystal Field directed a play called “The Only Good Indian.” For research, Ms. Field lived on a Hopi reservation for three weeks. In preparation for the project, she met Louis Mofsie, Artistic Director of the dance troupe and a representative of the American Indian Community House. Mofsie suggested a Pow Wow and dance concert to celebrate the winter solstice. Field, who is herself 1% native American, committed herself to bring this to fruition. The event has continued annually to this day.
The troupe’s appearances benefit college scholarship funds for Native American students. The Thunderbird American Indian Dancers Scholarship Fund receives its sole support from events like this concert (it receives no government or corporate contributions), and has bestowed over 350 scholarships to-date. Theater for the New City has been presenting Pow-Wows annually as a two-week event since 1976, with the box office donated to these scholarships
Video production of this event is by Alexander Bartenieff (lighting & sound director, video production manager) and Brian Park (camera/sound engineer, assistant technical director).
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CRITICS ARE INVITED. Press contact Jonathan Slaff (212) 924-0496.
VIDEOS ARE AVAILABLE upon request.
2019 PRODUCTION PHOTOS: https://photos.app.goo.gl/ebLLGRPPQVHjJsxt8
RECENT YEARS’ PHOTOS: https://goo.gl/photos/tcrxbtPYtF2hdvhV6 and https://goo.gl/photos/SLr4PXEHJrsq34j9A
HISTORICAL PHOTOS of Pow-Wows from 2004 to 2015 are available for download at:
“State and city government mandated that all theaters close in March. Darkness covered the theater world, with no promise of a re-opening date. Over time, many productions turned to live streams. In recent months, the Theater for the New City, led by its executive director, Crystal Field, launched an innovative weekly pop-up series featuring live music and spoken-word performances. The tightly-run one-hour variety show, called “Open ‘Tho Shut,” happens live on Saturdays at 2 p.m. in the venue’s set shop, renamed the ChopShop Theater.
The staging area features full stage lighting and a four-microphone sound system, and Mark Marcante and Lytza Colon created a colorful backdrop specifically for this series. A live socially-distanced audience on the sidewalk watches the shows through an open garage door. Cameras simultaneously broadcast the shows to home viewers via the venue’s website. Both the in-person performance and the live-stream are free of charge to the public. All installments of “Open ‘Tho Shut” are accessible on the Theater for the New City’s website.
The Theater for the New City’s health protocol requires that all “Open ‘Tho Shut” performers test for COVID before their appearances. Staff takes the temperatures of the performers as they arrive and offers hand sanitizer. Stage hands sanitize the communal microphones between performances, and the emcee uses a separate microphone.
Snowflakes drawn in chalk on the ground indicate where audience members should stand in order to remain socially distant. Staff provides masks to audience members who arrive without their own.
Today’s “walk-by theater” was the ninth installment of Open ‘Tho Shut. Crystal Field was the mistress of ceremonies. The performances began with COBU, the all-female Japanese Taiko drumming and dance troupe comprised of Yako Miyamoto, Ayaha Otsuka, Mayu Yamashita, Micro Fukuyama, and Kana Matsui. Mark Marcante, Dan Kelly, and Arthur Abrams led a vaudevillian British music hall sing-along set. Cheryl Gadsden sang pop standards and Robert Homeyer recited monologues by William Shakespeare.
“Open ‘Tho Shut” will continue throughout the winter as a weekly event. In inclement weather, the live audience will be able to shelter under tents.”