Little Island Unveils Free Monthlong Festival With Over 450 Artists
Little Island was envisioned as a paradise for the performing arts on the Hudson River, and in its early months it was also touted as a playground for performers who were kept away from the stage for too long time.
Operators on the island announced Tuesday that it will host a free month-long arts festival starting in mid-August that will feature more than 450 artists in more than 160 performances.
There will be dancing, including works curated by Misty Copeland, Robert Garland and Georgina Pazcoguin. There will be music, including pianists Jenny Lin and Adam Tendler, composer Tyshawn Sorey and saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin and his band. And there will be live-action comedy, with TV stars like Ziwe and Bowen Yang in the lineup.
The festival – which is produced by Mikki Shepard, formerly executive producer of the Apollo Theater – is another major effort by New York’s performing arts community to revive the arts after the pandemic has darkened theaters and venues. together for over a year. For performers, it’s an opportunity to get paid to create new works and explore where their art is heading after months of pandemic restrictions and in the wake of racial justice protests that have swept the country.
“We wanted artists to have a voice in terms of, where are they now? Shepard said. “At the end of this pandemic, where do they want to be?
By offering free performances, the aim of the festival is to welcome an audience that combines typical patrons of the arts with people who would not normally buy tickets to see live music or dance. There will be a charge for performances in the 687-seat Little Island Amphitheater, but shows elsewhere on the island will not, allowing tourists and other park visitors to stumble upon them as they stroll through the 2.4 acre area.
“Nothing is fancy,” said George C. Wolfe, senior advisor working on the festival, which is called NYC Free. “It’s to give people a place to play.
Copeland and Garland co-host a performance on August 18 featuring eight black ballet dancers from three major companies: American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet and the Dance Theater of Harlem, where Garland is a resident choreographer. During the performance, Copeland will read aloud texts from American history in addition to hip-hop, soul and funk music.
Other dance performances include Ballet Hispánico presenting an evening of new works by Latino choreographers on August 18, an evening of dance hosted by choreographer Ronald K. Brown on August 25 and a performance by tap dancer Dormeshia on September 1. .
As for the music, the first day of the festival, August 11, will feature the work “4’33” by John Cage – in which the score states that no instruments are to be played. It will be performed by students from Third Street Music School Settlement, conducted by Tendler. Other musicians include jazz duo Cécile McLorin Salvant and Sullivan Fortner; Flor de Toloache, an all-female mariachi band; and Ali Stroker, the “Oklahoma!” performer, who will sing and tell stories on stage. The final night of the festival features an all-female jazz performance, hosted by drummer and songwriter Shirazette Tinnin.
The comedy lineup includes a stand-up show hosted by Michelle Buteau and a live show called “I don’t think so, honey!” Hosted by Yang and Matt Rogers, which originated from a segment of their podcast.
The festival is funded by Barry Diller, the mega-tycoon who paid off Little Island and whose family foundation will fund the park’s first two decades of operation. It will run from August 11 to September 5.
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