Joseph Vernon Banks Memorial

March 16 – March 16
Saturday, March 16th, 2024 at 3 PM

TNC to host memorial for composer Joseph Vernon Banks March 16

NEW YORK — On March 16 at 3:00 PM, Theater for the New City (TNC), 155 First Avenue (at East Tenth Street), will celebrate the life of Joseph Vernon Banks, the long-time composer of its Street Theater productions, who died at age 62 on November 11, 2023.

Banks wrote original music for eighteen of TNC’s free street theater productions between 2003 and 2023 and conducted their five-piece orchestras, touring with the company for two months each summer through parks, playgrounds and closed-off streets throughout the five boroughs.  The plays were bouncy joyrides through the undulations of the body politic, with astute commentary couched in satire, song and slapstick. The music of each show varied in style from Jazz to Bossa Nova to Hip Hop to Musical Comedy to classical Cantata.  TNC Street Theater productions are delightfully suited for family audiences, with complex social issues often presented through children’s allegories, with children and neighborhood people as the heroes.

“The State of the Union”
Theater for the New City Street Theater production
Identity confusion causes the neighborhood to be raided by men in black.
Photo by Jonathan Slaff, 2003

Banks composed the scores for “Liberty or Just Us: a City Park Story,” “No Brainer or the Solution to Parasites,” “SHAME! Or The Doomsday Machine,” “Checks and Balances, or Bottoms Up!,” “Teach it Right, or Right to Teach,” “EMERGENCY!!! or The World Takes A Selfie,” “99% “Reduced Fat, or, You Can Bank On Us,” “Bamboozled, or the Real Reality Show,” “Tap Dance,” “The State Of The Union,” “The Patients Are Running The Asylum,” “Bio-Tech,” “Code Orange: on the M15,” “Social Insecurity,” “Buckle My Shoe,” “Gone Fission: Alternative Power,” “Critical Care, or Rehearsals for a Nurse,” and “Life on the Third Rail, or A Subway Delay to the Future.” All were written in collaboration with Crystal Field, who penned book and lyrics and directed the pieces.

Banks fought cancer throughout his final years but in spite of numerous setbacks in his health, managed to write a new score and lead the orchestra year after year. Recently, he mentored and supported a successor, Peter Dizozza, an up and coming composer, to take his place as resident composer of TNC’s Street Theater.

Ms Field wrote, “His music for our five-borough tour lent grace and joy to each new musical. His generosity of spirit pervaded the theater during the rehearsals and performances of each new work. His philosophy showed itself in his music and greatly influenced the direction in my writing. His legacy is strong and vibrant and his memory will remain  in the hearts of the many performers who graced and will grace the outside stage of each new ‘Operetta for the Street’.”

Banks’ other TNC productions included music and lyrics for “Life’s Too Short To Cry” by Michael Vazquez.

His awards included a Meet The Composer Grant, the ASCAP Special Awards Program, and a fellowship from the Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at NYU. His musical “Girlfriends!” premiered at The Goodspeed Opera House. He was a composer–in-residence in The Tribeca Performing Arts Center Work and Show Series and a member of The Dramatists Guild.

The memorial March 16 will feature tributes by Michael Roberts, Elizabeth Barkan, Olive Joseph, Jessie Ortiz, Michael David Gordon, Terry Lee King and TNC’s Street Theater Company with time for speakers at the end.


COVID Protocol:
As of September 26th, 2022, we are no longer requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination for our audience upon entry.
Wearing of masks is suggested in the lobby, restrooms and performance spaces at Theater for the New City, but they are not required.