Executive Director, Crystal Field
TNC Street Theater Summer Tour
LIFE ON THE THIRD RAIL or, A SUBWAY DELAY TO THE FUTURE
August 5 – September 17, 2023
Free! In The Streets!
Saturdays and Sundays @ 2 PM; Friday Performance in Coney Island @ 5:00 PM (full schedule below)
Writer and Director – Crystal Field
Composer – Joseph Vernon Banks
8/5 • 2pm • Manhattan • TNC at E. 10th St. & First Ave.
8/6 • 2pm • Bronx • St. Mary’s Park at 147th St. & St. Ann’s Ave.
8/12 • 2pm • Manhattan • Sol Bloom Playground, W. 91st Street betw. Columbus Ave & Central Park West
8/13 • 2pm • Manhattan • Central Park Bandshell, 72nd Street Crosswalk
8/18 • 5pm • Brooklyn • Coney Island Boardwalk at W. 21st St.
8/19 • 2pm • Manhattan • St. Marks Church at E. 10th St. & Second Ave.
8/20 • 2pm • Manhattan • Jackie Robinson Park at W. 147th St. & Bradhurst Ave.
8/26 • 2pm • Manhattan • Washington Square Park
8/27 • 2pm • Queens • Travers Park at 34th Ave. betw. 77th & 78th Sts.
9/9 • 2pm • Brooklyn • Sunset Park at 6th Ave. & 44th St.
9/10 • 2pm • Brooklyn • Fort Greene Park, Myrtle Avenue & St. Edwards Street
9/16 • 2pm • Staten Island • Tompkinsville Park, at Bay St. and Victory Blvd.
9/17 • 2pm • Manhattan • Tompkins Square Park at E. 7th St. & Ave. A
NEW YORK – Theater for the New City‘s award-winning Street Theater Company will open its 2023 annual tour Saturday, August 5 with “Life on the Third Rail, or A Subway Delay to the Future,” a rip-roaring original musical which tells a story in which a violent hurricane floods the subways, sending a heroic subway crew into a new world. Book, lyrics and direction are by Crystal Field, Artistic Director of Theater for the New City (TNC). The musical score is composed and arranged by Joseph Vernon Banks. Free performances will tour parks, playgrounds and closed-off streets throughout the five boroughs through September 17.
The musical is the saga of a Train Operator and a Subway Conductor in an emergency flood situation. A violent hurricane, spurred by global warming, has inundated the subways and so the MTA is moving all its trains out of underground tunnels and stations. The duo have been been driving a car for repair that somehow got left behind. Will they make it to the train yards?!
The emergency is reflected in their dreams as they wait for rescue. In watery tunnels, the elements of Planet Earth now cry out for sustenance. Water, Air, the Green of the Plants, the Electricity of Light, and the Torrential power of the Ocean come alive, dancing before their eyes as the Conductor and Train Operator, with the help of a Subway Tracker, try to back their #2 train into Central Station for repair. Will the Earth survive man’s destruction and exploitation? Will the Life Force continue to make us feel the beauty of today and the promise of tomorrow? Will the support necessary for the survival of the planet materialize? “Life on the Third Rail…” addresses these questions with the grace and strength of an activist’s mission.
The musical questions the future of NYC and the planet together, starting with climate change but rippling through many other economic and social challenges, from subway surfing to affordable housing, that weigh on our City’s ultimate survival.
The production will be staged with 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 moving scenery behind the actors. The company of 22 actors, ten crew members, two stage managers, three assistant directors and five live musicians (led by the composer at the keyboard) will share the challenge of performing outside and holding a large, non-captive audience. The music will vary in style from Bossa Nova to Hip Hop to Musical Comedy to classical Cantata. The play is a bouncy joyride through the undulations of the body politic, with astute commentary couched in satire, song and slapstick.
TNC’s free Street Theater productions are delightfully suited for family audiences, since complex social issues are often presented through children’s allegories, with children and neighborhood people as the heroes.
The production features Michael David Gordon as the Train Operator, Cheryl Gadsdon as the Conductor and Yesenia Ortiz as the Subway Tracker.
Theater for the New City has mounted a new musical for a five borough tour each year since 1976. In 2020, in response to the Covid-19 lockdown, TNC’s Street Theater production, “Liberty or Just Us: a City Park Story,” was an oratorio that live streamed for an eight week, 14 performance run. Each performance payed tribute to the park or other location it had been originally scheduled for. The popular tradition returned to live, in-person performances the following year.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
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 protégé of Robert Nichols, founder of the Judson Poets Theater in Manhattan, and of Peter Schuman, founder of Bread and Puppet Theater. It is an interesting historic note that “The Expressway” by Robert Nichols, directed by Crystal Field (a Street theater satire about Robert Moses’ plan for a throughway to run across Little Italy from the West Side Highway to the FDR Drive) was actually the first production of Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival. 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 the 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 200th anniversary of the American Revolution.
Field has an associate’s degree in Dance from Juilliard and a BA in Philosophy from Hunter College.
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 never 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 for TNC’s annual Halloween Ball and for an annual Yuletime pageant that was performed outdoors for 2,000 children on the Saturday before Christmas. She has written two full-length indoor plays, “Upstate” and “One Director Against His Cast.” She is co-founder and Artistic Director of TNC.
Composer Joseph-Vernon Banks has written original music for the TNC street theater productions “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,” “State Of The Union,” “The Patients Are Running The Asylum,” “Bio-Tech,” “Code Orange: on the M15,” “Social Insecurity,” “Buckle My Shoe” and “Gone Fission: Alternative Power” and “Critical Care, or Rehearsals for a Nurse,” all with book and lyrics by Crystal Field. His other TNC productions include music and lyrics for “Life’s Too Short To Cry” by Michael Vazquez. His awards include 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 has been a composer–in-residence in The Tribeca Performing Arts Center Work and Show Series and is a member of The Dramatists Guild.