17th Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts Set for Memorial Day Weekend

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THE LOWER EAST SIDE (LES) FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS celebrates its seventeenth year of bringing together under one roof, in just three days, over 100 performing arts organizations, local and international celebrities, independent artists, poets, playwrights, musicians, puppeteers, film makers and many others - all of whom reside, work or have their roots in the culturally diverse, willfully anarchistic Lower East Side - for New York City's most diverse free 3-day festival, from Friday, May 25 through Sunday, May 27, at Theater for the New City (155 1st Avenue, between E. 9th and 10th Sts.) in Manhattan. OBIE Award-winning actress Crystal Field is co-founder and Artistic Director of Theater for the New City.

The 3-day, indoor and outdoor festival of the arts is organized by Theater for the New City and a coalition of civic, cultural and business leaders, and is free to all New Yorkers and its visitors. THE LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS was founded in 1996 to demonstrate the creative explosion of Manhattan's Lower East Side and the area's importance to the culture and tourism of New York City. Last year's festival attracted over 3,000 people.

This year's lineup includes the popular aerial act, Suspended Cirque, plus folk singer Judy Gorman; Tony Award-winning actress Tammy Grimes; Talk-show host Joe Franklin; Oscar-winning actor F. Murray Abraham; excerpts of works from La MaMa E.T.C. and Horse Trade Theater Company, and Take Wing and Soar Productions; The Rod Rodgers Dance Company; Reno; The Mariana Bekerman Dance Company; comic duo Epstein and Hassan (a.k.a. The Black and The Jew); Maya DeSilva Flamenco Dance Company; burlesque from The Slipper Room; a sneak peak at Off-Broadway's upcoming SIREN'S HEART: MARILYN IN PURGATORY; and other participants, to be announced.

There will also be brand-new works, created for THE 17th ANNUAL LES FESTIVAL, by writers Barbara Kahn, Lissa Moira, Larry Myers, Gene Ruffini, and others.

The theme of this year's LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL is "LEGALIZE FREEDOM: ART IS ACTIVISM."

All weekend events celebrate the rich history of Theater for the New City and the Lower East Side which have embraced all genres of the arts and nurtured artists, including George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Yip Harburg, Eddie Candor, Molly Picon, Eugene O'Neill, Mark Twain, and countless others, who have lived and created, in poverty and in wealth, in New York City.

Festivities kick off on Friday, May 25 at Theater for the New City at 6pm, with a diverse roster of artists presenting theater, music, dance, comedy, performance art, and other entertainment.

On Saturday, May 26, THE 17th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS offers a day-long block party, beginning at noon, hosted by composer/satirist Richard West, featuring performances from musicians, singers, belly and flamenco dancers, comics, poets and more, as well as a community Cultural Fair with food and crafts vendors. Additional attractions on Saturday afternoon will emphasize performances with and by kids and tweens, hosted by NY Lyric Circus' John Grimaldi, curated by actor and teacher the talented Primy Rivera, with the Experimental Dance Group at the Children's Workshop School, Latin singer Carmelina Vargas, the PS 165 Youth Choir (under the direction of singer Pablo Beracochea) and TNC's own Arts-In-Education program.

Another highlight on Saturday, May 26 is the LES Film Festival. Francesse M. Maingrette hosts screenings of full-length features, shorts, and animation about the Lower East Side and its inhabitants, or created by local filmmakers, including Ang Lee, whose "Lust, Caution" will be screened.

On Sunday, May 29, playwright and poet Lissa Moira hosts a Poetry Jam and tribute to poet and filmmaker Ira Cohen, with a special guest to be announced; and the festival concludes with performances, beginning at 6pm, in the Cabaret Theater.

Throughout the festival, TNC's lobby art gallery offers a new LES Art Show, curated by artist and activist Carolyn Ratcliffe, featuring local painters, sculptors, and photographers, and live human art exhibits from Human Kinetics and The Thing Machine. The LES Art Show hosts a special opening at TNC on Wednesday, May 23, beginning at 5:00pm.

THE 17th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS features performances for and by kids, and performers with disabilities. Additionally, the distinct ethnic communities of the Lower East Side are amply represented, including the Latin American, African American, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Native American, Polish and Ukrainian communities.

Previous participants have included: Quentin Crisp, Elaine Stritch, Oscar Brand, KT Sullivan, Miguel Algarin, Bond Street Theatre, Vinie Burrows, Kaleidoscope Dance Company, Sudden Enlightenment Theater Company, Penny Arcade, Tuli Kupferberg, Ellen Stewart, Matt Morillo, and Kitty Carlisle, among others.

Theater for the New City (TNC) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning community cultural center known for its high artistic standards and widespread community service. One of New York's most prolific theatrical organizations, TNC produces 30-40 premieres of new American plays per year, at least 10 of which are by emerging and young playwrights. 

THE 17th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS runs in and around Theater for the New City (155 1st Avenue, between E. 9th and 10th Streets) throughout Memorial Day weekend: Friday, May 25, 6pm-1am; Saturday, May 26, noon-1am (noon-5pm - Cultural Fair, outside on East 10th Street between 1st and Second Avenues; 2pm-5pm - Performances for kids and by kids, inside Theater for the New City); and Sunday, May 27, 6pm-1am.

All events are FREE and open to the public. For additional information and a full performance schedule, please call Theater for the New City at 212-254-1109 or visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net.

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