Weekend Arts Planner: The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts and new music with the New York Philharmonic
It's Memorial Day Weekend in New York City. And for those of us not at the beach, there are plenty of opportunities for theatre and music in town. WNYC's Culture and Arts Editor, Steve Smith joins Weekend Edition host David Furst for another edition of our Weekend Arts Planner.
1. The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts
Theater for the New City is hosting its 28th annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts over Memorial Day weekend. The event provides an ample smorgasbord of theater, poetry, music, film, performance art, children's events and more, all meant to celebrate the storied neighborhood’s cultural and ethnic heritage.
This year's Lower East Side Festival includes contributions from more than 200 performing arts organizations, independent artists, poets, puppeteers and film makers. The theme is "Global Warming: The Heat Is On," so you can anticipate a strong showing of activist art in various forms -- including a visual art exhibition and some of the films and plays.
As the name indicates, it's all focused on the Lower East Side, and chiefly at Theater for the New City, at 155 First Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets. Evening events are happening there from 6 p.m. until well past 11, Saturday May 27 and Sunday, May 28. But Saturday is the bigger deal: there's a street fair on East 10th Street between First and Second Avenues, starting at 10 am - and that includes an outdoor stage running from 1 to 5 pm. There's an entire slate of children's activities happening between 2 and 4, and a film program running from 1 to 11. It's a whole lot, basically, and you can find out more at Theater For The New City.
2. New music with the New York Philharmonic
The New York Philharmonic is presenting two very special programs over the next two weeks to wrap up their 2022 - 2023 season. We'll start with next Thursday, June 1, when the Phil presents a world premiere by New York City composer and Bang on a Can founder Julia Wolfe. We can't predict exactly what this new piece will sound like, but Julia Wolfe's LAST New York Philharmonic premiere, "Fire in My Mouth," illustrated a kind of musical activism. The piece was a multimedia work with multiple choruses, inspired by the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and more broadly on issues of immigration and labor, all set to beautiful and powerful music. Something similar could be in store for Julia Wolfe's new piece, "unEarth," which is a 45-minute work for choruses of men and children with video projections and special lighting and staging.
"unEarth" is a response to climate change, taking into account forced migrations, land loss and changing seas. In her program note, Wolfe acknowledges that "art can not solve the crisis," but her piece is meant to get people involved in the conversation. You'll be able to hear "unEarth" at three performances on June 1, 2 and 3.
And that sets the stage beautifully for the FINAL season program, which includes the New York premiere of "Become Desert," the latest in a series of profoundly beautiful and deeply immersive hymns to nature by composer John Luther Adams. The Philharmonic will play "Become Desert" in a thoughtful and appealing program that also includes water-inspired works by Benjamin Britten and Toru Takemitsu, and it's happening June 8, 9 and 10.