Abrons Arts Center Announces Fall 2011 Season

Our friends at the Abrons Arts Center have announced a fantastic lineup for their fall season. They write:

Henry Street Settlement’s Abrons Arts Center continues to carve out a unique culture nitch on the Lower East Side. With three world premieres and a distinctive mix of contemporary performance, immersive theater, new music, and innovative twists on popular classics, the Abrons’ Fall 2011 season offers practically something for all tastes and levels of artistic exploration.

Abrons is proud to present the return of Arias With a Twist starring the demented diva Joey Arias and a cadre of fantastical puppets under the direction of Basil Twist. This is then followed by the wildly successful Steampunk Haunted House, this year creating an immersive performance environment in the Abrons Playhouse that adopts the more terrifying elements of Lewis Carroll’s classic stories.

Highwire Daredevil Comes Down to Earth at Abrons

Philippe Petit will perform in Wireless! at Abrons Arts Center June 16-18

The world famous French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, known for his daredevil trip between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in 1974, will present his first theatrical one-man show, Wireless! A Work in Progress, at the Abrons Arts Center on Thursday.

Petit’s book, To Reach The Clouds (re-titled Man On Wire in paperback), which recounts one of the most astounding “artistic crimes” of all time, is the subject of the brilliant Academy Award-winning documentary film, Man On Wire.

John Zorn & Co. To Headline Benefit Concert for Japan

Innovator, composer and musician John Zorn has announced one of his three benefit concerts for Japan earthquake relief will be held at Abrons Arts Center on April 8th.  Zorn will host two shows that evening and has invited over a dozen big-name musicians from the realms of indie rock, contemporary jazz, and avant-garde to come together in support of recovery efforts in Japan.  The performance at 6:30p will include Thurston Moore, Matthew Shipp, Gyan Riley, Masada String Trio, Erik Friedlander and more.  The performance at 9:30p will include Norah Jones, Jesse Harris, Vinicius Cantuaria, Buke and Gass and more.

City Declares Henry Street Theater an Historic Landmark

This morning the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to designate Henry Street Settlement’s Neighborhood Playhouse an historic landmark. The 1915 building at 466 Grand Street was already on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Commission called the playhouse one of New York’s first experimental theaters, which “gave rise to the Off Broadway movement.”  The three-story red brick neo-Georgian-style structure was built by Alice and Irene Lewisohn, the daughters of a wealthy German-Jewish philanthropist, and, the Commission noted, was “completely controlled by women.” In 1967, the theater was renamed for Harry de Jur, a former Henry Street Settlement director.

Today the theater is the home of the highly regarded Abrons Arts Center.

Carnegie Hall Concert Series Brings Modern Japanese Folk Music to Abrons

A special free concert (one that feels especially poignant right now with the current crisis in Japan) comes to Abrons Arts Center next weekend.  The Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert Series will present two of Japan’s best known Tsugaru shamisen performers, Yutaka Oyama and Masahiro Nitta as part of their ongoing citywide JapanNYC festival. Abrons notes: The Tsugaru shamisen is a banjo-like instrument from the Tsugaru region in Aomori Prefecture in the northernmost part of Japan’s central island of Honshu. Both Oyama and Nitta are known for using the instrument to bring a modern sensibility to an ancient, highly percussive folk music, which is sometimes referred to as “Japanese bluegrass.” Watch a fantastic video of them performing after the jump.

“Sky Boys” Sings, Brings Family Fun to Abrons

Sky Boys at Abrons Arts Center - photo by Carol Rosegg

There’s a fun musical running at the Abrons Arts Center right now that has been getting some glowing reviews. “Sky Boys: The Building of the Empire State Building,” is presented by Making Books Sing, a creative educational theater company (originally an off-shoot of the Vineyard Theater) that brings picture books to the stage for family entertainment. The show tells the story of the Empire State’s improbable construction, in 1930-31, through the eyes of  Mickey, (Aaron Riesebeck) a 13-year-old who’s widowed father has left town.

Tony Winners Jason Robert Brown and Anika Noni Rose to Perform at Abrons

Jason Robert Brown and Anika Noni Rose will perform at Abrons for three nights in April.

Broadway fans are in for a treat.  Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown is bringing his solo show downtown to the Abrons Arts Center for three nights in April.  The concert will feature another Tony winner (and rising star), Anika Noni Rose, with an eight-piece band performing songs from Jason’s acclaimed musicals (such as Songs for a New World, Parade, The Last Five Years, and 13) as well as his solo albums and upcoming projects.

Fun Ensues After “The Annihilation Point” at Abrons

Dave Johnson, Bradley Wrenn and Justin Jain in The Annihiliation Point now at the Abrons Arts Center.

The Berserker Residents, a site-specific performance company based in Philadelphia, is getting rave reviews for their wacky production of The Annihilation Point, currently running at Abrons Arts Center.  The show is based on a time-traveler, Astronaut Z (Bradley Wrenn), who is the only human survivor of the annihilation point (“the big A.P.”), an apocalyptic event that took place on Dec. 12, 2012. Z and two alien crew members (Dave Johnson and Justin Jain) have come back to “time-jump the audience into the future, past the end of man.”

The production is directed by Dan Rothenberg, of Pig Iron, and created by Berserker member, Tim Sawicki. The group has turned the lower level of the Abrons Arts Center into a time-travel transit station and fun for all apparently ensues.  The Annihiliation Point runs through Sunday, Jan. 16th. Tickets are $15. Showtimes vary.

Acclaimed Dancer Returns to LES for Special Performance

In the world of professional dance, Amar Ramasar is a rising star. The New York Times said his joy in dancing is infectious. Dance Magazine praised his “eloquent, expressive dancing and his engaging, ebulliant personality.”  So it’s understandable that a lot of arts enthusiasts on the Lower East Side are anxiously anticipating a special performance by Ramasar, principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, this coming Sunday at the Abrons Arts Center (part of the Henry Street Settlement).

The event. “An Afternoon to Celebrate Amar Ramasar & Friends,” is notable on its merits. But because this is a homecoming of sorts, the benefit concert for one of our neighborhood’s most venerable arts institutions, carries special meaning.  It was nearly 20 years ago at Abrons that Ramasar, a 10-year-old boy, first fell in love with dance.

Nutcracker in the Lower Celebrates 9th Year at Abrons

Urban Ballet Theater‘s hip-hop/African dance/flamenco-infused/krumping version of The Nutcracker returns to Abrons Arts Center on Saturday for it’s ninth year. The production keeps Tchaikovsky’s original score largely intact but enhances it with contemporary, inner city beats from the Lower East Side, creating a unique take on the classic.

Lower East Side Showcase Seeks Big Talent

Our friends at Abrons Arts Center and the Seward Park Cooperative are hosting a Lower East Side Talent Showcase. But first, they are looking for some big acts to participate. They are seeking singers, actors, dancers, bands, comics, poets, and novelty acts for the big event. 

Steampunk Haunted House Returns to Abrons Arts Center

photo by Chad Heird

Last year’s popular Steampunk Haunted House is back at Abrons Arts Center this Halloween for a second season.  The “neo-Victorian” inspired tour looks like a lot of fun for the whole family (ages 8 and older).  It was created by Zach Morris and Third Rail Projects, incorporating installation and performance art into a winding “labyrinthine” adventure inside the Henry Street Playhouse.

Ann Magnuson Comes To Abrons With Dueling Harps

Downtown club diva and actress Ann Magnuson will make her first New York theatrical appearance in nine years (she’s been in L.A.) with perfomer Adam Dugas tonight at Abrons Arts Center.  Expect some theatrical fireworks in this musical mash-up performance that will be accompanied by harpists Alexander Rannie and Mia Theodoratus. In Dueling Harps, the quartet will present “an arsenal of tunes ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime: psychedelic calls to prayer, Henry Purcell’s Baroque art songs, Kraftwerk, Buffy St. Marie, Lee Hazlewood, and Pink Floyd, as well as original songs by Magnuson and Dugas.” Oct. 14 -16 // 8p // $20 // 466 Grand Street.

Joey Arias in Concert at Abrons Arts Center

Downtown performance artist Joey Arias will be at the Abrons Arts Center this weekend and next in his first New York City concert appearance in nearly a decade. Arias, who recently spent six years as the host of Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity is teaming up with jazz musician Ben Allison for the concert. CityArts has a nice article on the performers and the upcoming show here.  $25 // Oct. 1,2,8,9  // 8pm // 466 Grand Street.

(Sponsored) Abrons Arts Center Fall Classes

All sorts of people take classes at the Abrons Arts Center. This month we’ve gotten to know some of them — including a Lower East Side mom and her 8-year old daughter.  Today, in our final profile, we meet Timothy (left) and Adam, who have both been part of the Abrons family for more than a decade.

Timothy, 20, lives in Brooklyn but he attended P.S. 42 on Hester Street. He’s been involved in theatrical productions, ballet and music. He performed in Nutcracker in the Lower and has been part of Abrons’ immersive Steampunk Haunted House. Adam, 17, is a Lower East Side resident and a senior at LaGuardia High School.  His first experience at Abrons was in a piano class and from there he moved on to violin instruction, ballet and dance ensemble. Adam’s also had the chance to choreograph his own performances.

Tim and Adam both say they love the personal attention they get from instructors at Abrons. It’s the kind of direct interaction that’s impossible, even at an arts-oriented school like Laguardia.  They have big dreams — attending a conservatory, perhaps performing on Broadway.  Abrons staff have helped them both pursue their passions.

The Abrons Arts Center training program offers classes for all ages and skill levels in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts.  Registration for the fall semester open until the end of the month.  You can look over the many course offerings on the Abrons Arts Center’s web site.  Register online or call 212-598-0400, ext. 200.