William Electric Black Interview

William Electric Black Interviewed by Briana Bartenieff at Theater for the New City in celebration of his newly published five play anthology, GUNPLAYS: Five Plays on Inner City Violence and Guns, published by Rowman & Littlefield

William Electric Black aka Ian Ellis James – Seven Emmy Award winning writer (Sesame Street – Nickelodeon – PBS – Lancit Media – Winchester TV & Film – Pinna FM). has been a major part of the downtown theater scene for many years (Theater For The New City – La MaMa ETC.). He is a faculty member at NYU TISCH, Department of Visual and Dramatic Writing.

His work on gun violence prevention and awareness, starting with 5 and 6-year-olds has been getting major attention. https://www.npr.org/2022/06/07/1103391896/how-the-arts-can-help-children-think-about-gunviolence

Q: How does it feel getting five of your plays that you have produced at TNC finally published in a book format?

“I thought they were gonna publish one play. But they were like “no, we want the whole thing” It was crazy!”

Q: How did these Gun Plays come into existence?

“I remember I came in and I was like “Oh my god Crystal, I wanna do a play every year for 5 years. Of course gun violence, that was early on, I was trying to do something… When I first started, people were like “gun violence, what are you talking about? I’m like “uh no”, and crystal was great, [she said]    “okay, go for it!” And we did the five plays and that’s how the gun plays came about.”

Q: Do you think the audiences are more accepting of the idea of gun violence now than 10 years ago?

“Totally, it’s freaking everywhere. When the news comes on I take pictures because it’s everywhere. This person got shot, that person got shot…people call me up for talks because everybody’s talking about it, it’s a health issue, finally, they deemed it a public health issue.”

Q: Do you believe that media, such as rap music and video games, has an impact on youth and gun violence? Do you think your more positive content, like your published book “Gun Plays” or your children’s book “A Gun is Not Fun,” also influences young people?

“We are not gonna get rid of the 400 + millions of guns… So, what’s the strategy? Is how to understand it, how to deal, how to speak up for myself and my community, so they can be advocates, they can have a voice, they can understand this is the world they live in. How do you survive in a world where there are guns?”

Q: Fondest memory at TNC?

“One of my fondest memories was when TNC was on Second Avenue. One of the first plays I ever got produced in New York was at Theater for the New City. It was “Billy Stars and Kid Jupiter: A sci-fi Jazzical.”  I’ve been at Theater for the New City, a long time, the beginning of my career.”

Q: What are your plans now that your book is published?

“I’m thinking of doing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as a play in late February/ March (2024) at TNC. I’m also working in Boston with these researchers on creating a program like Sesame Street from K-5th grade talking about Gun Violence.”

You can purchase William Electric Black’s new book GUNPLAYS: Five Plays on Inner City Violence and Guns at Target, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Links Below:

Target: https://www.target.com/p/gunplays-by-william-electric-black-paperback/-/A-89043856

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Gunplays-William-Electric-Black/dp/1493074806

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gunplays-william-electric-black/1142900318

ricci/collages Exhibition

August 9 to September 4, 2023

LIVE JAZZ RECEPTION ~ August 9th from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm

K.G. Ricci, a self-taught New York City artist, made a collage on a file cabinet in 2015. The creative possibilities of the medium immediately inspired him. Fifty cut and paste panels followed, visual improvisations on 20” x 40” or 2’ X 4’ hardboard. Next, Ricci completed another series on 8” X 24” hardboard with implied literary reflections or narrative lines. He categorized hundreds of his panels in series: Femma Dilemma, “Hotel Kafka” and “3:43 A.M.”

Recently, Ricci sustained his implied narrative focus in Numbered-Not Named, a series of original pieces, 6” x 9” on black stock.  His series: Random Thoughts in the Waiting Room, Wait…what? and his latest series, Incongruities, are visual flash fiction collages with a single word or a fragment of text in each composition.

K.G. Ricci has exhibited in 34 galleries including 5 solo shows and many more online galleries.    His collages have been published in dozens of poetry and literary magazines nationally and internationally online and in print.

Artist Statement  I work in a sort of literary/philosophical framework so within that context my reference points are the parables of Kafka and the aphorisms of Kierkegaard. Because elements determine content, the process of creation is both constrained and liberated by the available elements at any given time and it is the improvised procedure of choice, assembly and judgment that settles the argument. My work is not personal nor autobiographical in any way but rather seeks to address the “condition” we all share. That bring me to one of my favorite quotes by Kierkegaard, “I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it, ‘That piece cannot be moved’.”

A celebration of the life of Arthur Abrams

TNC’s 28th Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts 2023

With the roster still building, Theater for the New City has currently scheduled over 200 performing arts organizations, independent artists, poets, puppeteers and film makers for its 28th annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, which will be mounted May 26 to 28 in and around Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street). Admission is free but donations will be gratefully accepted.

This year, the festival is mounted with a theme addressing climate change: “The Heat Is On” followed by an exhortation taken from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Act Now in the Living Present.” The subject will be addressed in some of the playlets and acts written for the festival.

Lower East Side Festival of the Arts show page HERE

Read full Press Release below.

Theater for the New City Looking To Bring Improvements To Its Summer Festival In 2024

Theater for the New City (TNC) will not be accepting applications and will have no performances for Dream Up Festival in summer 2023. The theater will be taking the calendar year of 2023 to raise more money for the Dream Up Festival and is in the process of doing so. The goal next year is to add greater technical and production value to each show and to update TNC’s equipment for multi-disciplinary use . In addition, TNC is planning to bring the festival to a greater number of New Yorkers. It will expand its digitally based publicity and increase its festival staff. The monetary efforts will provide opportunities to refresh the summer showcase and tangible resources to serve participants and audiences. 

August 2024 will mark the 15th year of Theater for the New City’s summer festival known as Dream Up Festival. The festival started in 2010 took a 2 year hiatus in 2020 and 2021, performances in 2022 and now 2023 the reboot season. The theater would like to invite anyone interested in working at the Theater for New City to join the cause. Join the mailing list for updates about seasonal programming and news about Dream Up Festival 2024. https://theaterforthenewcity.net/email-updates/

Theater for the New City was founded in 1970 with a focus on innovative theater arts, playwrights not preoccupied with commercial pressures and to merge theater and the community. 

A quote from Crystal Field, Theater for the New City’s Co-Founder and Artistic Director “Theater for the New City has always been committed to providing pathways to talented performing artists and experiences to those that visit us at 155 First Avenue” “We felt the timing was right to relaunch the summer festival in 2024 bigger and better than ever”.
Stay tuned for news about the award-winning Theater for New City by going to http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net

TNC’s Arts-in-Education Program – Spring 2023

Our after school spring semester will begin March 20th. The Offer is only for children from the East Village and the Lower East Side neighborhoods.

NY ACKER Awards 2022

Sunday, December 11, 2022
Theater for the New City
155 First Avenue (between 9th & 10th Street)
Doors open 6 PM – Starts @ 7 PM to 10 PM
RIP Joe Zolkowski. Joe made the box this year.  Died later.  The box, like the others, is a  keeper for sure.  Loads of creative treasures.  Talked to Max Schulman at Printed Matter.   PM will in a specific topic newspaper let different ephemera collectors see the boxes and a list of content.  Would like to see a couple of complete sets in well traveled archives.  HOWL should have a set.  Cover so many of the same creators and communities – a  large overlap.  Zitos’s cups are over the top.  Jordan King gets Candy Darling Award for keeping the history of Candy Darling alive as well as Jeremiah Newton’s contribution.  Jordan will get a rare copy of Candy Darling Diaries.  So much amazing history is saved and collected.

LES Arts & Culture Open House


On Saturday October 22, 2022, the theater will be open from 2 PM – 5 PM

Theater for the New City is part of LES Arts & Culture Open House. Organized by FABnyc with 20+ Lower East Side organizations, a special event organized for Open House NY https://www.fabnyc.org/lesopenhouse/

TNC’s Village Halloween Costume Ball 2022

Theater for the New City’s Costume Ball is coming back this Halloween October 31st!

More Info

A celebration of the life of George Bartenieff at Theater for the New City

Theater for the New City (TNC) will host a memorial for George Bartenieff on Monday, September 19. The gathering is at 7:30 PM and speakers and performances at 8 PM. Among those who will speak are: Penny Arcade, Phoebe Legere, Briana Bartenieff, Eduardo Machado, Crystal Field, Margo Lee Sherman, The Thunderbird American Indian dancers will perform as well as The Fabulous Amazing Grace. Phillip Hacket will MC. At the end of the ceremony there will be an open mic although RSVP is recommended for those who would like to say a few words.