Downtown Arts Festivals Kick Off in January

Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd, photo by Ian  Douglas

Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd, at the American Realness festival,  photo by Ian Douglas

Editor’s note:  This festival roundup is from our Arts contributor, Robin Schatell.

Happy New Year LES! It has been a while since I last wrote about our local arts scene. But what a time to start again. Winter festival season starts this week in NYC. Some of the newest work by local, national and international theater, dance, opera, and music artists will be performed right here on the LES over the next month in what has become known as JanArtsNYC.

JanArtsNYC is a partnership among eleven independent multidisciplinary festivals, performing arts industry and international marketplace gatherings. Every January more than 45,000 performing arts leaders, artists, and enthusiasts from across the globe converge in New York City for JanArtsNYC, making it one of the largest and most influential gatherings of its kind.

Lucky for us, three of these festivals are based right here in the LES and the East Village, and have become fixtures of the New York theater season:

The Public Theater’s Under The Radar Festival (January 4 – 15) is now in its 14th year. This year’s highly anticipated program features a trove of work by theater artists from across the U.S, and around the world including Cuba, China, Canada, Italy, Japan, UK, Poland, and Slovenia. The festival is curated by UTRFestival Director Mark Russell.

Performance Space 122’s Coil Festival (January 10–February 4) celebrates the opening of its newly renovated, column-free space at 150 1st Ave., after nearly six years presenting work in partnership with venues across New York City.  The Coil Festival has presented cutting edge, multidisciplinary performance since 2006.

American Realness (January 9 – 16) is a festival of experimental dance and performance created by downtown impresario Thomas Benjamin Snapp Pryor. It is co-presented with Abrons Arts Center and Gibney Dance. This year’s line-up boasts three world premieres, four North American premieres, four New York City premieres and six encore engagements.

Whew! If that’s not enough, all three festivals have expanded their reach this year to venues throughout New York City. There are the usual suspects like the East Village’s LaMama etc., and Danspace Project, and LES’s Abrons Arts Center. But if you are up for traveling outside of the ‘hood, you can catch shows at the Sculpture Center in Long Island City, Invisible Dog Art Center and BRIC house in Brooklyn, or Gibney Dance on Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan–an easy 20-minute walk from the LES.

In addition, across town in Soho, HERE Art Center presents PROTOTYPE, its premier festival of opera-theatre and music-theatre, running January 7-20.

Bleecker Street’s Le Poisson Rouge is the home base for Winter Jazzfest (January 10 – 17) a multi-venue festival that has become a hub of the New York City jazz scene since its inception in 2005, with performances by contemporary jazz musicians from around the world.

Some of these shows are already sold-out – like Toshi Reagon’s Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, at Joe’s Pub, as part of UTR, and the Coil Festival’s Jupiter’s Lifeless Moons by Dane Terry. Hopefully both will get longer runs later in the season, but there are plenty of other exciting shows to choose from — plus, late night parties, talks, and panel discussions.

Here are a few of my top picks:


Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)
 Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw: Split Britches


Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)
is a new exploration of ageing, anxiety and ‘doomsday,’ created through conversation and collaboration with an array of elders and artists. Developed between the UK and US, pioneering theatre-makers Weaver and Shaw have created a unique production, combining darkly playful Dr. Strangelove-inspired performance with a daring new protocol for public discussion–the Situation Room. Co-presented by LaMama Experimental Theatre Club.

January 4-21 La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club 66 East 4th Street, Manhattan Tickets: $25 |

 Janek Turkowski (Poland)

In 2008, Janek Turkowski discovered a cardboard box containing 64 reels of 8mm film in a North German market close to the Polish border. Each reel consisted of images of the same woman, Margarete Ruhbe. Using digital and 8mm projections that he edited from the found footage, Margarete
 unfolds from Turkowski’s curiosity-driven purchase to his private investigation into the identity of a woman who left only a brief but indelible mark through home movies.

January 4-15The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, Manhattan Tickets Start at $25

Thunderstorm 2.0
 Théâtre du Rêve Expérimental & Wang Chong (China)

Thunderstorm 2.0 at NYU Skirball Center

Thunderstorm 2.0 at NYU Skirball Center

Cao Yu’s early 20th-century drama Thunderstorm, regarded as a masterpiece in Chinese theater, is dismantled and reassembled in this new interpretation- Thunderstorm 2.0
, helmed by internationally acclaimed director Wang Chong. Using real-time video editing and sound mixing from action occurring on stage, a hypnotic, near- silent movie unfolds to tell the explicit story of two female characters discovering that they have been cheated on by the same womanizing playboy. Performed in Chinese with English supertitles. Co-presented by NYU Skirball.

January 6-7NYU Skirball | 566 LaGuardia Place Tickets: $25 | 

The Hendrix Project
 Roger Guenveur Smith & CalArts Center for New Performance (USA)

On New Year’s Eve 1969, Jimi Hendrix’s electronic blues trio, Band of Gypsys, played a legendarily funky concert at New York City’s Fillmore East. Twelve disciples have gathered in the upper balcony to bear witness, in The Hendrix Project
, as heat is brought to a nation caught in mid-winter chill. As “bullets fly like rain,” at home and abroad, the ensemble movingly reimagines an iconic moment in rock and roll history through the timeless power of Hendrix’s music. It’s the end of the Sixties. And Jimi Hendrix’s final New Year’s Eve.

January 11-14 BRIC House | 647 Fulton Street, Brooklyn |Tickets: $25 |


The Way You Look (at me) Tonight | Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis – NYC Premiere

Leading UK disabled artist Claire Cunningham and San Francisco/Berlin based choreographer and performer Jess Curtis’, The Way You Look (at me) Tonightcombines performance, original music, and video to wrestle (sometimes literally) with important questions about our habits and practices of perceiving each other and the world.

 January 10 – 13 Gibney Dance 280 Broadway (Entrance at 53A Chambers Street), Manhattan|  Single Tickets $25Gibney Festival Pass $

Variations on Themes from Lost and Found: Scenes from a Life and other works by John Bernd | Ishmael Houston-Jones & Miguel Gutierrez with Nick Hallett and Jennifer Monson  

John Bernd, a pivotal figure in the New York downtown dance scene of the early 1980s, died at age 35 of complications of AIDS. Variations revisits and reconstructs dances and images, and collages themes and excerpts from his body of work to interrogate the effects of his loss on work made today.  Co-presented by Danspace Project and Gibney Dance.

January 11 – 13 Danspace Project, 131 East 10th Street, Manhattan Advance Tickets $22  Danspace Project Members $15Door Tickets $25

#PUNK Nora Chipaumire

Nora Chipaumire - PUNK, photo credit: Jesus Robisco

Nora Chipaumire – PUNK, photo credit: Jesus Robisco

#PUNKpart of a multi-part song cycle inspired by Chipaumire’s formation, growing up in 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s Zimbabwe, takes its cue from Patti Smith’s iconic song, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger.”

 January 11 – 13, 10:00pm Abrons Arts Center, Playhouse, 466 Grand Street, Manhattan  Single Tickets $25 / Abrons Festival Pass $20 / Abrons Arts


visions of beauty | Heather Kravas (New York Premiere)

Punk in attitude, feminist in spirit and deliberately anti-spectacle, visions of beauty  is a dance about itself and the compulsive, lopsided, angry, funny, frustrating and redemptive messiness of everything.

January 10 – 13 Performance Space 122 150 First AvenueTickets $15–$25

he his own mythical beast | David Thomson  

David Thomson (USA) he his own mythical beast

David Thomson (USA)
he his own mythical beast

Dance maker David Thomson’s he his own mythical beast  is a meditation on the mythologies and contradiction of identity, race, gender, and the black body in post-modern American culture. Photo credit 

January 31 – February 4 Performance Space 122 150 First Avenue|  Tickets $15–$25


Black Inscription (World Premiere) Composers Matthias Bossi, Jeremy Flower, & Carla Kihlstedt Lyricist Carla Kihlstedt

Black Inscription at HERE, Photo by Valentina Suarez

Black Inscription at HERE, Photo by Valentina Suarez

A free diver descends into the depths of the ocean, never to resurface. As her terrestrial ties dissolve, she embarks upon an Odyssean journey. Black Inscription is a multimedia contemporary song cycle written by a team of veteran creators, drawing on the most powerful aspects of rock, classical, and pop music. Through music, sound and imagery, Black Inscription plunges us into our oceans and fills us with wonder, outrage, and hope.

January 11 – 20HERE’s Dorothy B. Williams Theatre 145 Sixth Avenue Tickets $30


 A Tribute to Geri Allen


On Martin Luther King’s Birthday Winter Jazzfest will honor the memory of the late pianist-composer-educator and innovator, Geri Allen, who passed in June 2017, weeks after celebrating her 60th birthday A Tribute to Geri Allen with music direction by Terri Lyne Carrington, features Angela Davis, Esperanza Spalding, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Maurice Chestnut, Ravi Coltrane, and S. Epatha Merkerson, plus more.


January 15 New School Tishman Auditorium, 63 5th Ave|  Tickets $65


Robin Schatell has been an active NYC arts & culture advocate, producer, manager, and curator for nearly three decades.  She lives on Grand Street in Lower Eastside.


Abrons Arts Center Announces Spring 2018 Performance Season + Special Discount on Classes! (Sponsored)

Abrons Spring Season 2018

Let’s be honest; 2017 was a strange year. And as 2018 unfolds before us, we have an opportunity to consider our current realities and commit to action. At Abrons, we make space for artists to contemplate challenging ideas, excavate nuance and envision futures we cannot yet imagine. Come to Abrons this season and allow the courageous imaginations of artists to inspire you!

-Craig Peterson, Artistic Director

Explore Abrons’ full season of shows and performances, and check out our schedule of music, dance, theater, and visual arts classes for youth, teens, and adults.

LoDown readers get a special 20% discount on classes with the code LODOWN2018!

Upcoming Shows at Abrons Arts Center:

Compagnie L’Heliotrope
With Jim Fletcher and Brigit Huppuch, co-presented with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in NY
In this play, acclaimed French playwright Fabrice Melquiot highlights how it is impossible to fully understand the brilliance and madness of Jackson Pollock without studying his marriage to artist Lee Krasner.

Modesto Flako Jimenez & Oye Group
¡Oye! For My Dear Brooklyn
Brooklyn impresario Modesto Flako Jimenez conjures his beloved borough in this bilingual elegy, told through poems, projections, and music.

Stein | Holum Projects
The Wholehearted
Spectators have a ringside seat for this “dazzling tour-de-force” (Los Angeles Times), a blood pumping revenge tragedy and intimate tribute to lost love.

Eliza Bent
Aloha, Aloha or When I Was Queen
Writer and performer Eliza Bent uses a home movie as a forensic document and as a jumping off point to lead audiences on a journey that grapples with personal history, legacy, and cultural appropriation.

See the Whole Season »

New Classes at Abrons Arts Center:

Abrons offers classes for art makers of all ages and every level of creative development. We nurture risk taking, boldness, and experimentation, and embrace curiosity. Participants are encouraged to construct meaningful responses and collaborate while thinking critically.
Come make something new. Tuition is based on a sliding scale.

The code LODOWN2018 gets you 20% off spring classes!

Youth and Teen Classes:

Ages 14 – 18
Saturdays | 3 – 4:30PM
This weekly class covers the basic movements of Dancehall, a style of dance originated in Jamaica. Students will contextualize the dance form by providing a history of the dance and culture.

Ages 9 – 13
Saturdays | 12 – 1 PM
Using the mythology and creation stories of ancient cultures, students will create an original work of theater through writing, improvisation and devised scene work. Engage with the creation mythology of ancient cultures, including the Greeks and Egyptians.

Adult Classes:

February 20 – April 24
Thursdays | 6:30 – 8 PM
Dive into the rich culture of Cuban dance while combining unique musicality with rhythmic steps and partner work. Learn the origins of Palladium and Salsa styles. Explore the richness and depth of Cuban popular music from Danzon to Timba.

February 13 – April 2
Tuesdays | 6– 8 PM
A class designed for PoC playwrights and theater makers who want to be rigorous with each other and delve deep into a writing practice without having to silence their truths or imagination to systemic and institutionalized white supremacist thinking.

See the Full Class Schedule »

*This is a paid advertisement.

Arts Watch: What To Do in February

The Civilians bring their premier of "Pretty Filthy" to Abrons, a new musical about the porn industry.

The Civilians bring their premier of “Pretty Filthy” to Abrons, a new musical about the porn industry.

Here are the highlighted events from our February events calendar, coming out in the latest edition of The Lo-Down’s print magazine next week:

Sun. 1 (opens Jan. 31 and runs through March 1, 2015) — The Civilians – Pretty Filthy at Abrons Arts Center: Investigative theater company The Civilians kick off the 100th anniversary celebration of the historic playhouse at Abrons Arts Center with a musical about the porn industry. Inspired by the tradition of classic musicals about show business, Pretty Filthy is the untold showbiz musical, based on interviews with adult entertainers. The Civilians’ crew listened and learned, conducting interviews and visiting sets to get an insider’s glimpse into a world that is far more than the sum of its (very) visible parts.

Featured in “Goings On,” The New Yorker writes, “The Civilians’ not-so-secret weapon is the composer Michael Friedman, whose melodic, emotive pop songs winningly walk the line between earnestness and irony.”

Through March 1, 466 Grand St., 8:00 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 2:00 p.m. matinee and 7:00 p.m. on Sundays, $50.

Sun. 1 – Black Footnotes at the Nuyorican: Rebel Theater Company presents its world- premiere documentary play with music that chronicles the lives and achievements of African-American scientists. The production features 34 actors, most of them women of color. Through Feb. 14, 7 p.m. and 3 p.m. matinees, 236 East 3rd St., $20 online; $25 door.

Sat. 7 – Preparing for the New Year in Chinatown at Museum of Chinese in America: MOCA’s walking tour takes visitors through Chinatown to learn about holiday traditions and customs observed by Chinese households. Witness how the neighborhood transforms itself in preparation for the New Year and discover the characteristics that make this holiday unique. Offered on Saturdays and Sundays in February through Sunday, Feb. 22, 215 Centre St., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., $8 to $15.

Sat. 7 – “Surroundings” at the New Museum’s First Saturdays for Families: Join in a family workshop offered in conjunction with the upcoming exhibition 2015 Triennial: “Surround Audience,” on view from February 25 through May 24. Investigate your urban surroundings and how you see yourself within it. 235 Bowery, 10 a.m., free.

Weds. 11 – Danspace Project and The Poetry Project present: A Reading for Edwin Denby: The Poetry Project hosts an evening of readings dedicated to the American dance critic, essayist and poet. A screening of Rudy Burckhardt’s film Remembering Edwin Denby will follow the readings. Inside the Parish Hall at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 East 10th St., 8 p.m., $8.

Fri. 13 – Horseplay: or, The Fickle Mistress at La MaMa: Theatre Askew continues its celebration of the history of queer culture in New York City with a biographical reconstruction/ridiculous reimagining of the life of the 19th-century international superstar Adah Isaacs Menken. Through March 1, Wed.–Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 4 p.m., $18.

Sat. 21 – International Women Artists Salon at Dixon Place: Curator and photographer Heidi Russell’s cross-disciplinary salon offers a showcase of performance, literature and video celebrating global artists in a casual setting. 161A Chrystie St., 7:30 p.m., free.

Sun. 22 – Chinese Lunar New Year Parade and Festival: Don’t miss the chance to ring in the Year of the Goat. Catch the confettied display of dancing dragons, mythical Chinese royalty and floats parading their way through the streets of Chinatown and landing in Sara Roosevelt Park (Canal & Forsyth streets), 1 p.m., free.

Tues. 24 – Ethan Lipton & His Orchestra at Joe’s Pub: The Obie Award winner and self-described “old-timey songwriter and playwright” returns to Joe’s Pub with his band for a yearlong residency. The witty and talented quartet will present new material from their upcoming fourth studio album as well as revisit fan favorites and collaborate with special guests. 425 Lafayette St., 9:30 p.m., $25.