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.
A teacher, subway conductor and neighborhood school girl lead community activists in the fight against the monster of apple pie fascism and threats of planetary death from the pumpkin head of state.
WHERE AND WHEN:
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 (www.theaterforthenewcity.net).
Free to the public. Audience info (212) 254-1109.
Runs 1:15. Critics are invited to all performances.
Photos are available at: https://goo.gl/photos/13TxHj8WMNY19TWw8
NEW YORK, June 28 -- This year, the American theater has been responding to the change in national politics with infuriation, vexation, and distrust. Satires abound. Classics are widely being reinterpreted into a modern context. There will likely be a wave of modernist plays on the "new human condition" -- witnessing the downfall of the civil society but being powerless to do anything about it. Playwright/director Crystal Field, Artistic Director of Theater for the New City (TNC), opposes powerlessness and maintains that small people can fend off tyranny through local activism. That's the idea behind "Checks and Balances, or Bottoms Up!," her newest made-for-outdoors musical, that she will direct for Theater for the New City's award-winning Street Theater Company. The piece will tour City streets, parks and playgrounds in free performances throughout all five boroughs August 5 to September 17. (Schedule follows at bottom of this document.) Field has written book and lyrics and Joseph A. Banks has written the score. In the piece, a young New York School girl is galvanized into a community activist and together with key allies, learns to fight back against forces of tyranny, prejudice and hatred.
TNC's street theater productions typically provide a bouncy joyride through the undulations of the body politic with astute commentary couched in satire, song and slapstick. Their scores are a mix of music from Bossa Nova to Hip Hop to Musical Comedy to Gilbert & Sullivan. They 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. A brand new work has been presented annually since 1976.
In "Checks and Balances, or Bottoms Up!," a Gotham school girl learns to be a feminist activist after being deemed a white elitist by her friends. Not least of her motivations is the injustice and callousness of a certain giant puppet who represents the dominion of arrogance and calls to passing women, "Here pussy, pussy, pussy!" During a spontaneous protest by subway passengers on the L train, this unlikely heroine acquires two key allies--a subway conductor and a teacher--and is inspired by three others--a Buddhist monk disguised as an itinerant bum, an investigative reporter and a blue fairy. Together, they witness the agony of deportation, the shortage of health-care, the misery of unemployment, the threats to clean air and water, and the fight to stifle the free press. So they set out to thwart the monster of apple pie fascism and threats of planetary death from the pumpkin head of state. The phrase "bottoms up" in the title refers to our need to organize decent people from the bottom up, not from the top down.
Other 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," and immigrants from all over the world who get shoved around. Highlights of the spectacle-filled production will include a Fake News Ballet with a chorus of women dressed in newsprint, a giant Statue of Liberty puppet (which is dismembered by the villains and carried off), a song named "Sanctuary City Blues" and a Spirit of Trump apparition which rises above the stage as its two arms--with their little hands--envelop the stage. The aforementioned Blue Fairy has a quiver full of love glitter and he brings people together with it but he is never happy himself. Ultimately, he throws his love potion on the Pumpkin Head of State and the demon melts like a wicked witch, crying TWEET TWEET while sliding down the trap.
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 28 actors, teb crew members, two assistant directors, two stage managers 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Author/director Crystal Field, with an Associate's Degree in Dance from Julliard and a Bachelor's from Hunter, 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 through way 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 "Election Selection, or You Bet!," "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.
SCHEDULE (AS OF JUNE 29, SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
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 - Brooklyn - Herbert Von King Park at Marcy & Tompkins
Sun, August 20 - 2PM - Harlem - Jackie Robinson Park, W. 147th Street & Bradhurst Avenue
Sat, August 26 - 2PM - Queens - Travers Park, 34th Ave between 77th & 78th Streets
Sun, August 27 - 2PM - Brooklyn - Sunset Park, 6th Avenue & 44th Street
Sat, September 9 - 2PM - Manhattan - Washington Square Park
Sun, September 10 – 2PM - Manhattan - Wise Towers at W. 90th St. betw. Columbus & Amsterdam
Sat, September 16 – 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.
PHOTOS ARE AVAILABLE at: https://goo.gl/photos/13TxHj8WMNY19TWw8
A selection of high resolution photos from TNC Street Theater productions from 2001 to 2015 are available at: https://picasaweb.google.com/115459090905543846120/Street_Theater_History?noredirect=1.