Theater for the New City's 41st Street Theater tour will be
"Checks and Balances, or Bottoms Up!"
Rip-roaring musical tours City's streets, parks and playgrounds August 5 to September 17.

August 5 to September 17 (critics invited to all performances).
In NYC streets, parks, and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs.
See complete schedule at bottom of this document.
Presented by Theater for the New City (
Free to the public. Audience info (212) 254-1109.
Runs 1:15. Critics are invited to all performances.

NEW YORK, May 4 -- Theater for the New City's award-winning Street Theater Company will open its 41st annual tour August 5 with "Checks and Balances, or Bottoms Up!," a rip-roaring musical in which a young New York Catholic School girl is galvanized into a community activist. Free performances will tour City streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs through September 17. Book, lyrics and direction are by Crystal Field; the musical score is composed and arranged by Joseph Vernon Banks. (Schedule follows at bottom of this document.)

The musical is about a young woman--a Catholic School girl--in New York who learns to become a feminist activist after being deemed a white elitist by her friends. She witnesses forces of tyrrany, prejudice and hatred and learns to struggle against them it. She is incited to action by the injustice and callousness of a certain giant puppet who represents the dominion of arrogance and calls to passing women, "Here pussy, pussy, pussy!" Characters of the piece include a walking and dancing Statue of Liberty, guys in suits who celebrate the "digitally literate elite, the tourist trade, the engineering elite and corporate princes," immigrants from all over the world who get shoved around, and Terry Lee King as a blue fairy with a quiver full of love glitter who brings people together but is never happy himself. Ultimately, he throws his love potion on the big, bad puppet and he melts like a wicked witch, crying TWEET TWEET as he slides down the trap. Songs include "Sanctuary City Blues." The phrase "bottoms up" in the title refers to our need to organize decent people from the bottom up, not from the top down.

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 movement behind the actors. The company of 30 actors, twelve crew members, two 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 Gilbert & Sullivan. 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.

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. 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). It 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 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 Executive Director of TNC.

Composer Joseph-Vernon Banks has written original music for the TNC street theater productions "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," 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.


Sat, August 5 - 2PM - Manhattan - TNC, East 10th Street at 1st Avenue
Sun, August 6 - 2PM - Bronx - St. Mary's Park at 147th St. & St. Ann's Ave
Sat, August 12 - 2PM - Manhattan - Tompkins Square Park, E. 7th St and Ave. A
Sun, August 13 - 2PM - Manhattan - Central Park Bandshell, 72nd Street Crosswalk
Fri, August 18 - 6:30PM - Brooklyn - Coney Island Boardwalk at W. 10th St.
Sat, August 19 - 2PM - Harlem - Jackie Robinson Park, W. 147th Street &Bradhurst Avenue
Sun, August 20 - 2PM - Brooklyn - Herbert Von King Park at Marcy & Tompkins
Sat, August 26 - 2PM - Brooklyn - Sunset Park, 6th Avenue & 44th Street
Sun, August 27 - 2PM - Queens - Travers Park, 34th Ave between 77th & 78th Streets
Sat, September 9 - 2PM - Manhattan - Washington Square Park
Sun, September 10 – 2PM - Manhattan - Wise Towers at W. 90th St. betw. Columbus & Amsterdam
Sat, September 17 – 2PM - Staten Island - Corporal Thompson Park at Broadway & Wayne St.
Sun, September 17 - 2PM - Manhattan - St. Marks Church, E. 10th St at 2nd Ave

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REVIEWERS ARE INVITED to all performances.

A selection of high resolution photos from TNC Street Theater productions from 2001 to 2015 are available at: