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(Image courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo)
(Image courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo)

Performing arts return to New York with 'NY PopsUp

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Mon, Feb 8th 2021 04:15 pm

√ Expansive statewide festival of pop-up events delivered right into daily life of New Yorkers, transforming existing landscapes into stages for world-class performance

√ More than 300 pop-up events planned throughout five boroughs & across New York state in 100 days

√ All made by New York artists to revitalize audiences & ‘bring struggling live entertainment sector roaring back to life’

√ Festival to serve as a bridge to full, safe return of live performance back to New York

√ Begins Feb. 20; multidisciplinary events to grow in scale, volume & geographical footprint through Labor Day

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced the launch of “NY PopsUp,” an “unprecedented and expansive festival featuring hundreds of pop-up performances – many of which are free of charge and all open to the public – that will intersect with the daily lives of New Yorkers. This series of events, intended to revitalize the spirit and emotional well-being of New York citizens with the energy of live performance while jumpstarting New York's struggling live entertainment sector, is a private/public partnership overseen by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development.”

Cuomo’s team said the Festival will serve as a "pilot program," creating the state's first large-scale model for how to bring live performance back safely after this prolonged COVID-19-related shutdown. The programming for “NY PopsUp” will be curated by interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur in partnership with a council of artistic advisers who represent the diversity of New York's performing arts scene. “NY PopsUp” will launch Saturday, Feb. 20, and run through Labor Day.

The festival will reach its climax with the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and The Festival at Little Island at Pier 55, bringing the total number of performances to more than 1,000.

A press release noted “NY PopsUp” is being coordinated in unison with state public health officials and will strictly adhere to Department of Health COVID-19 protocols.

"Cities have taken a real blow during COVID, and the economy will not come back fast enough on its own – we must bring it back," Cuomo said. "Creative synergies are vital for cities to survive, and our arts and cultural industries have been shut down all across the country, taking a terrible toll on workers and the economy. We want to be aggressive with reopening the state and getting our economy back on track, and ‘NY PopsUp’ will be an important bridge to the broader reopening of our world-class performance venues and institutions. New York has been a leader throughout this entire pandemic, and we will lead once again with bringing back the arts."

The events produced by “NY PopsUp,” in addition to being free of charge, will be staged across every type of neighborhood and district in all five boroughs of New York City, throughout Long Island and upstate New York, and in all regions of the state.

The release added, “As the current realities of COVID-19 make mass gatherings and large, destination-style events impossible, ‘NY PopsUp’ will meet New York City and state residents where they are, infusing their daily lives with the surprise and joy of live performance. The hundreds of free, pop-up events that constitute ‘NY PopsUp’ will make stages out of New York's existing landscapes, including iconic transit stations, parks, subway platforms, museums, skate parks, street corners, fire escapes, parking lots, storefronts and upstate venues, transforming everyday commutes, local communities and locations never used for performances into canvases of awe and exhilaration. Instead of there being masses of audience members at a handful of events, this festival is a mass of events, each for a safe and secure 'handful' of audience members.

“As COVID restrictions begin to loosen, the model that ‘NY PopsUp’ builds for holding safe live events will pave the way for the reopening of multidisciplinary flexible venues throughout New York state to open and participate in the festival. These will be the very first indoor performances since the pandemic began and will mark a major moment in New York's recovery efforts. Not only will these indoor events be a symbol to the entire world that New York is back, they will also be a key step in the long process of getting tens of thousands of arts professionals around New York state back to work; and a bridge to getting Broadway and all of the New York cultural world open.”

These flex venues are established performance spaces without fixed seating and are thus able to be adapted for social distancing. Examples of these venues would include The SHED, The Apollo, Harlem Stage, La MaMa, and The Glimmerglass Festival's Alice Busch Opera Theater. All indoor events will strictly follow Department of Health public health and safety guidance.

Winokur said, "Having artists call on other artists as a means to build this festival's giant creative community will spur opportunities for wild, bold and intimate collaborations that would never otherwise have been possible. As a result, the work presented will represent a near limitless range, colliding disparate styles, disciplines and points-of-view to infiltrate the daily lives of New Yorkers in genuinely surprising and unprecedented ways. Ultimately, this festival is about using art as a means of reestablishing human connection. With ‘NY PopsUp,’ there is no mediating force between artist and artist, or artist and audience. It's humans in direct contact with each other, and the context of this particular moment will make that connection all the more profound."

The council of artistic advisers, who are all collaborating and co-curating “NY PopsUp,” is comprised of a unique group of New York's premier artistic visionaries, all hailing from different disciplinary backgrounds and each a leader in their own field. These advisers are charged with inviting other artists to join the “NY PopsUp” community. The artists they engage will, in turn, engage their own networks, ultimately populating the festival with the broadest, most diverse coalition of performers ever united around a single mission. In short, “NY PopsUp” is being built by artists asking artists to participate.

The council includes renowned choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham; three-time Grammy Award-nominated jazz musician Jon Batiste; choreographer and Hoofer Award-winning tap dancer Ayodele Casel; Grammy Award-nominated singer, actor and international opera star Anthony Roth Costanzo; the playwright of “Slave Play” – the most Tony Award-nominated play in history – Jeremy O. Harris; Tony Award-winning set designer Mimi Lien; legendary nine-time Grammy Award-winning musician Wynton Marsalis; two-time National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet, essayist and playwright Claudia Rankine; Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant; leading member of the Punch Brothers and four-time Grammy Award winner Chris Thile; acclaimed "Saturday Night Live" writer, comedian and actor Julio Torres; and acclaimed director and musician Whitney White.

The public will encounter a range of artists representing all areas of performance – from theater to dance, from poetry to comedy, from pop music to opera. Among the confirmed artists are Hugh Jackman, Renée Fleming, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Isabel Leonard, Nico Muhly, Joyce DiDonato, John Early and Kate Berlant, Patti Smith, Mandy Patinkin, Raja Feather Kelly, J'Nai Bridges, Kenan Thompson, Gavin Creel, Garth Fagan, Larry Owens, Q-Tip, Billy Porter, Conrad Tao, Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, Tina Landau, Rhiannon Giddens, Aparna Nancherla, Anthony Rodriguez, Jonathan Groff, Savion Glover, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Chris Celiz, Christine Goerke, Kelli O'Hara, Dev Hynes, Phoebe Robinson, Sara Mearns, George Saunders, Caleb Teicher, Danielle Brooks, Jeremy Denk, Idina Menzel, Sondra Radvanovsky, Gaby Moreno, Davóne Tines, Jerrod Carmichael, Taylor Mac, Sutton Foster, Jessie Mueller and Courtney ToPanga Washington.

The events are designed to “ignite imaginative collisions of different artforms.”

In a joint statement, Rudin and Rosenthal said, "As two lifelong New Yorkers, it has been utterly devastating to see our creative community brought to an absolute standstill for a year. It's inconceivable. We both spend our lives generating opportunities for artists, so we were both thrilled to be asked by Gov. Cuomo to try to ignite a spark to bring art and performance back to life for the state. The passionate enthusiasm of every person we asked to join us in this incentive is going to make this a labor of both love and invention. We're honored to be spearheading this campaign. Frankly, our most profound hope is that, by the time ‘NY PopsUp’ culminates on Labor Day, New York will be fully on the way to being reopened and revitalized and that this initiative, having served its purpose, will no longer be necessary. It's the spark, not the fire – the fire is the complete return of all the arts, in their full glory, standing as they always have for the rich, emotional life of the city and state in which we both live."

During the run of the festival, “NY PopsUp” will grow in its scale, volume of performances and geographical footprint, with events throughout New York, from the Bronx to Staten Island, from Buffalo to Suffolk County, from the Hudson Valley to the Capitol.

The 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival is June 9-20. The opening of one of New York's most highly anticipated projects is “Little Island” in June.

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by Rosenthal and Robert DeNiro in the aftermath of 9/11 to revitalize lower Manhattan. The release said, “Tribeca has come to symbolize the resilience of New Yorkers, the importance of our artistic communities, and their impact on the economic activity of our city. This year's 20th event will be the first in-person film festival in the entirety of North America since the pandemic began to host its filmmakers and their premieres in front of a live audience. With over 300 ticketed and non-ticketed events, the film festival will have screenings, panel discussions, concerts and more, in parks, on piers, on buildings, and on barges. Tribeca will reach all five boroughs in celebration of the spirit of New York with a closing night celebration of Juneteenth.”

The idea for “Little Island,” a soon-to-open, first-of-its-kind public park on the Hudson River that merges nature and art, was dreamt up as a solution to repair and reinvigorate New York's West Side after the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy. It is a Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation project, which will begin hosting performances in June and will serve as a permanent, year-round home for easily accessible, multidisciplinary programming. “Little Island” will continue bringing artists and audiences together after “NY PopsUp” hosts its final performance.

More details about “NY PopsUp” will be announced soon.

Note that, given the impromptu nature and surprise element of the pop-up format, not all performances will be announced in advance. Follow @NYPopsUp on Twitter and Instagram for the latest.

The first performances will include, among others still to be announced, the following:

√ Beginning Saturday, Feb. 20 (opening day), members of the artists council will lead a performance at the Javits Center as a special tribute to health care workers. The performance will feature Jon Batiste, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Ayodele Casel and additional special guests joining forces for a one-of-a-kind live performance.

Throughout the day, the performers will travel around New York City, meeting audiences at various locations throughout all five boroughs in courtyards, workplaces, parks and street corners, at the footsteps of locations such as Flushing Post Office, Elmhurst Hospital and St. Barnabas Hospital. Saturday will conclude with one of Batiste's signature “Love Riots,” beginning at Walt Whitman Park and ending at Golconda Playground in Brooklyn.

√ On Sunday, Feb. 21, legendary choreographer Garth Fagan's company will lead a special performance at the MAGIC Spell Studios at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a tribute for the staff who have made it possible for RIT to stay open and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Fagan said, "I remember with great pride and pleasure receiving a NYS Governor's Arts Award from then-Gov. Mario Cuomo and his wife Matilda in 1986. It is fitting that during our 50th anniversary season, we work with their son, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state of New York to revive the magic of live performance in Rochester, New York, simultaneously honoring our unheralded RIT essential workers. We look forward to ‘NY PopsUp’ creating more opportunities for artists in New York state in the months to come!"

Also:

√ Patti Smith performing at the Brooklyn Museum in remembrance of the passing of Robert Mapplethorpe.

√ Partnership with "Works & Process" at the Guggenheim, that will take new performances beyond the famed Rotunda to locations around the boroughs. These collaborations include George Gershwin's anthem to New York City, “Rhapsody in Blue,” performed by New York's own pianist and composer, Conrad Tao, with new choreography by Caleb Teicher; “The Missing Element,” a beatbox and street dance collaboration featuring Chris Celiz and Anthony Rodriguez's "Invertebrate"; and Masterz at Work Dance Family performing a brand-new dance by choreographer Courtney ToPanga Washington.

A series of performances in storefront windows, amplified out onto the street, from artists Gavin Creel, J'Nai Bridges, Davóne Tines, Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber.

√ A new live radio show hosted by Chris Thile, broadcast from stoops all over New York, from Brooklyn and the East Village to the steps of Albany's Empire State Plaza across from the Capitol building.

√ A series of dynamic and participatory performances created by Ayodele Casel taking place in the lobbies of free museums throughout the City of New York, including the Brooklyn Museum and Queens Museum.

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