Things are Lighting Up in Theater with Sneak Peeks at the Soon-to-Be Future
By: Ellis Nassour
April 15, 2021– Following a game-changing but one-night-only event of performances by Tony-winning Broadway Treasure Nathan Lance and faster-than-a-speeding bullet Tony-winning tapper/actor/choreographer Savion Glover for an acceptable roster of guests at the St. James.
NY PopsUp, the New York State initiative designed to celebrate and reinvigorate the arts, presented a second warm up to curtain up at the Broadway Theatre, starring singer/actress Amber Iman (Soul Doctor). Sadly, it was only for a socially-distanced audience made up of deserving Broadway performers who’ve been out of work since the theatre closures last March.
In attendance were cast members from Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, Chicago, Come from Away, Hamilton, Jagged Little Pill, Dear Evan Hansen, Diana, Moulin Rouge!, West Side Story, Wicked, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, and The Book of Mormon.
NY PopsUp events, often free but rarely announced in advance, run through Labor Day, coinciding with the 20th Anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and The Festival at Little Island at Pier 55 (West Side Highway at West 13th Street. Performances are coordinated in lock step with state public health officials and will strictly adhere to New York State Department of Health COVID-19 protocols and guidelines.
The organization is a collaborative private/public partnership developed by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development. Programming is curated by the interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur in partnership with artistic advisors representing the diversity of New York’s dynamic performing arts scene and artistic communities.
NY PopsUp is providing a model for delivering safe performance experiences as a reopening roadmap for cultural institutions, including Lincoln Center, where an outdoor performing arts complex (Restart Stages) with 10 outdoor rehearsal and performance and rehearsal spaces, has opened.
Lincoln Center Plaza Will Go May 10
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts announced that Mimi Lien, celebrated set designer and MacArthur Genius grantee, has been commissioned to physically reimagine Josie Robertson Plaza as part of Restart Stages. The Greenwill transform approximately 14,000 square feet of open, concrete expanse surrounding the Revson Fountain into an environment that invites New Yorkers to relax and enjoy a new park-like space.
Restart Stages, Lincoln Center’s initiative to help kickstart the arts sector and New York’s revival ages is part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation-Lincoln Center Agora Initiative, a collaboration that reimagines and reactivates public space.
“When invited to consider how the space could be re-envisioned for a more inclusive and inviting environment, I thought that by changing the ground surface from hard paving stones with no seating to a material like grass, where everyone would be able to sit anywhere,” said Lien.
“I dreamt of making the plaza a space of inhabitation, pleasure, and rest — a place where you could lie on a grassy slope and read a book, sit in the sun, have a picnic,” she continued. “It will be like a town green – a place to gather, a common ground.”
The Green will be constructed of recyclable, bio-based SYNLawn, provided by SYNLawn New York. The grass-like material has a high soy content, fully sourced from U.S. farmers. Fabrication is being provided by Hudson Scenic Studio.
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will have books for borrowing; and a snack bar is planned for the northeast corner. There’ll be pop-up performances, screenings, concerts, dance, and family fare.
“The arts can be the centerpiece of New York’s economic, social, and spiritual revival—a powerful vehicle to reconnect as we enter the spring season,” said Henry Timms, President & CEO of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. “We’re thrilled to launch this space for all to re-energize, and find inspiration and uplift.”
The Green will open May 10 – September, 9 A.M. – midnight. Safety protocols will be in place as well as regular cleaning of the space.
Restart Stages is made possible by the generous support of the Lincoln Center Board of Directors and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) as part of the SNF-Lincoln Center Agora Initiave. “Remaking this space is an invitation to New Yorkers to see their surroundings in new ways, to rethink public spaces so they truly welcome. Making the familiar unfamiliar as a catalyst for necessary change is one of the most important roles art can play,” noted SNF co-president Andreas Dracopoulos.
Adhering to accessibility guidelines, the SYNLawn, ramps, and curved elements will be designed so people with different levels of mobility can access. Cane detection for the blind or those with low vision is integrated into the architecture.
At the close of Restart Stages, SYNLawn New York will upcycle The Green material to upstate playgrounds for at-risk youth in upstate New York.
Visit RestartStages.org for updates. For more information, visit NYPopsUp.com. Follow NYPopsUp on Twitter and Instagram.
Reopening Broadway & Beyond: ZOOM Panel Discussion April 19
The Episcopal Actors Guild will present a Zoom discussion with three theater executives on Monday, April 19 at 7 P.M. to discuss ways to get Broadway and theater in general back on its feet.
The industry panelists are Ryan Conway, second vice president of the Off Broadway League and president of Architect Theatrical, general managers (West Side Story revival, Rock of Ages); Carl Pasbjerg, managing partner, Alchemy Production Group (manager/co-producer, Broadway and worldwide companies of six-time 2017 Tony nominee, including Best Musical, Come From Away, which won the Tony for Best Director (Christopher Ashley); and record-breaking actress/producer Catherine Russell (Perfect Crime; redeveloper of Snapple Center into the new totally environmentally-complicit Broadway Theatre Center).
Moderating will be veteran Tony-winning producer and BAFTA and Episcopal Actors Guild member Margot Astrachan (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder; Diana Netflix prior to Broadway). “Among the standpoints to be discussed,” says Astrachan, “will be the all-important labor and safety issues, the ongoing negotiations, and how they can be resolved.
The Zoom event is a Pay-What-You-Will tab, but the suggested donation is $20; $15 for EAG members. “Tickets” are available at ticketstripe.com/eag-reopening-theatre-panel.
Proceeds benefit the Guild fund to assist theater artists in need, which is especially crucial due to Covid-19 and theatre closures. At almost 100 years, EAG has been supplying emergency care and career support to the artistic community since 1923. For more information on EAG, visit www.actorsguild.org/who-we-are.html.