Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Performance Space New York presents THE EAST VILLAGE SERIES

Performance Space New York presents THE EAST VILLAGE SERIES

Performance Space New York presents THE EAST VILLAGE SERIESPerformance Space New York (formerly Performance Space 122) presents the East Village Series, its first semi-annual themed series, and the first program curated by the institution's new Executive Artistic Director, Jenny Schlenzka. This presentation of works from some of today's most radical performers and multidisciplinary artists resituates the institution in newly revamped spaces, designed by Deborah Berke Partners, in 122 Community Center (150 First Avenue, at East 9th Street), where Performance Space 122 was founded, and where it operated until it moved out in 2011 for the building renovation. The series contemplates the past, present, and future of the organization and its neighborhood.

As the organization prepares to welcome the public for the 2018 Coil Festival (January 10 - February 4, 2018), it has updated its name, to Performance Space New York, to communicate its ambition going forward: to be New York'sperformance space-one representing, and inclusive of, all of New York-while also honoring this singular history. The name nods to both the local and globally-reaching nature of New York, and to the organization's rise as one New York's-and the United States'-most internationally influential sources of contemporary performance.

Today Performance Space New York also announces five additions to its Board of Directors-visual artist Kerstin Brätsch; choreographer Ishmael Houston-Jones; Opening Ceremony and Kenzo Paris creative director Humberto Leon; Poppy Pulitzer; and artist, singer/songwriter, and producer Michael Stipe-and its 2018 gala, honoring poet Eileen Myles, April 14.

The themed series are a new, semi-annual mode of programming devised by Schlenzka to further expand Performance Space New York's ideal of interdisciplinarity and hybridity-not only the blurring of genres within works, but also the juxtaposition of artists' visions and philosophies. Through their placement within a larger themed series, the organization's performances, exhibitions, readings, and screenings (and more) create a vital dialogue. The East Village Series brings together works by Performance Space New York veterans and newcomers alike, with programming that looks toward a neighborhood's history as a guide to its future. Mining the multifaceted movements and histories within the neighborhood since the 1980s, the East Village Series examines punk, fashion, club culture, forces of gentrification, the AIDS epidemic, activist organizing, and the history of Performance Space New York itself.

From 1980, when a group of local artists occupied the empty building that had been home to Public School 122, through the 1990s, the country saw a swell of social conservatism and neoliberalism overtaking American politics, further neglecting the poor and leading, on a local level, to a long history of gentrification in this historical immigrant community. From this well of necessity and desire, East Village artists created highly political and personal work in response to a reactionary government that was defunding their art and violently ignoring the premature deaths of queer peers during the AIDS epidemic. It was a time of explosive creativity-when the spirit of punk rock gave everyone permission to make art and collaborate, freely disregarding conventional distinctions between artistic genres.

Performance Space New York presents THE EAST VILLAGE SERIESToday, almost 40 years since its birth, Performance Space New York is faced with a radically transformed neighborhood unaffordable for young artists and a national political climate that feeds off social inequity more than ever. The inaugural East Village Series asks what kind of art organization it needs to become in light of this ever-more exclusionary social and political context. The multidisciplinary performances in this series evoke a neighborhood-largely erased and reshaped by the collusion of time and capital-and considers new paths for its future.

The series begins with Welcome to Lenapehoking (February 17), organized by the Lenape Center, the Indigenous organization devoted to continuing the Lenape cultural presence. This opening celebration led by Indigenous artists and leaders recognizes the original caretakers of Manhattan, as well as the widespread yet oft-uncited influence of Native American artists. The story of this city begins with the Lenape. The opening also brings an expanded version of Avant-Garde-Arama, the institution's longest-running program, to the new spaces (February 18). This Avant-Garde-Aramafeatures a mixed bill of performers, dancers, musicians, and filmmakers. The renewal of this Performance Space New York tradition, gathering disparate artistic forces into one liberating evening, exemplifies the organization's historical and continued role as a catalyst for wild experimentation.

Performance Space New York pays homage to the punk culture that grew from the neighborhood during the 1970s and 1980s with a multiform tribute to the late postmodern punk poet/novelist Kathy Acker, whose hypersexual feminism was steeped in the culture of '70s and '80s Downtown New York. This sub-series, Focus on Kathy Acker,includes a group exhibit, a marathon reading, screenings, and more.

Co-curated by celebrated art provocateur Bjarne Melgaard, the exhibit Kathy Acker: Who Wants to Be Human All the Time (March 8-April 8) features works from Ser Brandon-Castro Serpas, Celia Hempton, Beatrice Marchi, Bjarne Melgaard, Alan Sondheim, Diamond Stingily, and Women's History Museum, and celebrates Acker's work and considerable but often-unacknowledged influence. Blue Tape, the hour-long, highly charged and confrontational truth-and-sex tape made by Acker-at the beginning of her career-and conceptual artist Alan Sondheim, are shown alongside these works by other artists.

Performance Space New York presents THE EAST VILLAGE SERIESFocus on Kathy Acker also includes Kathy Acker: "In the beginning there was a young girl...," organized by Tina Satter and featuring performances and readings by Shana Fletcher and Jess Barbagallo, I.U.D., Jeremy O. Harris, Gary Indiana, Ariana Reines, Tina Satter, Ser Brandon-Castro Serpas, and Anne Waldman (March 25); Kathy Acker: "boyfriend, brother, sister, money, amusement, and father," a screening, organized by Matias Viegener, of clips of Acker reading, performing and being interviewed from the 1970s to the 1990s (April 7); and a marathon reading, organized by Sarah Schulman, of Acker's novel Blood and Guts In High School, with Lynne Tillman, Carolee Schneemann, Charles Bernstein, Penny Arcade, Jennifer Blowdryer, Justin Vivian Bond, Richard Foreman, John Godfrey, Bette Gordon, Jessica Hagedorn, Carla Harryman, Tracie Morris, Matias Viegener, Tommy Pico, Betsy Sussler, Carl Hancock Rux, Bina Sharif, Kate Zambreno, and many more (April 8).

Beyond Focus on Kathy Acker, the East Village Series features performances from artists whose work has fundamentally influenced the identity of the space. Choreographer Ishmael Houston-Jones, composer/guitarist Chris Cochrane, and poet/novelist Dennis Cooper revive THEM, their cacophonous and unblinking work that, in response to the AIDS epidemic, depicted the ways men could be with men, and made its trailblazing debut at Performance Space 122 in 1986 (June 21-30). Likewise returning to the institution is legendary Downtown New York rabble-rouser Penny Arcade, who continues to tear down oppressive conventions in her fifth decade of biting performance. She revives her hit Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! (May 11-19), a performance that, in its 1990 premiere at Performance Space 122, asserted the importance of political art, at a time when conservative politicians sought to defund anything that could be deemed offensive. Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!'s enduring testament to free speech returns at a moment where threats of censorship weigh heavily on national discourse. The East VillageSeries also features the U.S. premiere screening of "high priestess of death goth" (The Guardian) Diamanda Galás' film Schrei 27, based on a work she first developed for radio, and ultimately performed at Performance Space 122 in 1996 (March 30).

The East Village Series includes new commissions from two choreographers-Yve Laris Cohen (March 8-11) and Sarah Michelson (April 27-May 5).Cohen is interested in dance as it responds to architecture; his new piece will be a site-specific work made for Performance Space New York's new large theater. Michelson has been a defining presence at Performance Space 122 through the years, presenting work like the site-specific two-part Shadowmann Part II, Group Experience, and Daylight in the space, and constantly remapping the lines between audience and performance.

Performance Space New York collaborates with the Alliance for Positive Change, one of its neighbors in 122 Community Center, helping New Yorkers living with HIV and other chronic health conditions get medical care, peer support, and housing assistance-to throw a Kiki Ball (June 16). The event, for which all profits will go to the Alliance for Positive Change, honors the intricacies of another highly related vital support system-the Kiki scene. Veering from New York's infamous mainstream Ballroom scene, the Kiki subculture was initially formed by organizers in community nonprofits, and provides a safe haven for young queer people of color and members impacted by HIV. This evening provides a platform for the artistry of the members of Kiki houses who've helped build the celebratory refuge of the subculture.

Performance Space New York presents THE EAST VILLAGE SERIESArtist/curatorTiona Nekkia McClodden presents CLUB (May 3-26), a performative installation that transforms the space into a club of sorts and thereby transforms a club into a work of sculpture, with sound installations, lighting, video, objects, and ephemera referencing legendary Lower East Side clubs. Fashion label Women's History Museum, whose aesthetic is largely inspired by the vintage and consignment shops of the East Village, brings a theatrical runway show to Performance Space New York, deepening the label's focus on feminine narratives using clothing, speech, puppetry, moving images, sculpture, sound, scent, taste, and screens (March 23). The series also features BRUJAS (Robin Giordani, Tabby Wakes, Sarah Snider, Ripley Soprano, Myles Sales, Taj Williams, Orlando Gil, Miles Giordani) (May 24-June 9), thefeminist art collective with a passion for radical politics, streetwear, and skateboarding, activating Performance Space New York with a skate park-built by industrial designer Jonathan Olivares-in the middle of the organization's retrofitted theater. BRUJAS founder Arianna Gil grew up skating in the East Village and Lower East Side, and was known as the "Tompkins Square Babysitter" at the local skate park; now, she and the BRUJAS bring a display of public enjoyment and expression to a neighborhood that has, since her youth, been engulfed by privatization.

Performance Space New York's new logo and identity were created by acclaimed international artist Sarah Ortmeyer. The identity is executed in collaboration with graphic designer Erin Knutson.


[Inaugural Event]
The Lenape Center
Welcome to Lenapehoking
With Nathan Young and Joe Baker
Saturday, February 17, at 4pm

The New York City neighborhood we call the East Village is part of Lenapehoking, the homeland of the first inhabitants the Lenape. Manhahtaan (the Lenape word for Manhattan) has always buzzed with economic and cultural exchange, breeding rich and diverse traditions of art, performance, and trade. To celebrate this ongoing legacy, pay respect to the original caretakers of this land, and recognize the considerable influence Native American artists have had on American performance and art, Performance Space New York is partnering with the Lenape Center-the local organization dedicated to the promotion of Lenape language and culture-for the inauguration of its newly renovated spaces. The opening celebration, led by Indigenous artists and leaders, is the beginning of an ongoing relationship between the local arts community and Lenape people on Lenapehoking.

[Multidisciplinary Event]
Opening Celebration
Sunday, February 18, at 6pm-Midnight

Avant-Garde-Arama is the longest-running program at Performance Space New York. Featuring a mixed bill of performers, dancers, musicians, and filmmakers, each performing short acts on a single night the much beloved program has offered less known artists first access to the theater and more experienced performers the opportunity to try out new work in front of a supportive, celebratory crowd. Legendary acts such as Spalding Gray, Carmelita Tropicana, Reggie Watts, Taylor Mac, DANCENOISE, Dresden Dolls, Alien Comic, and hundreds more have presented their work here, some of them for the very first time. Curated by a committee of artists and organized by Salley May, the program is a prime example of the communal effort that has kept our theater vibrant and alive throughout four decades. What better way to celebrate the opening of our newly renovated spaces with an expanded Avant-Garde-Arama taking place simultaneously on several stages welcoming everybody back to the anything-can-happen ethos.

Yve Laris Cohen
March 8-11 at 8pm
Tickets: $25

Traversing dance and visual art, Laris Cohen's work explores the relationship between the two fields, tracking their overlapping and divergent techniques and structures of support. He often focuses on the specific architectural and economic conventions of the black box, white cube, and sprung floor. For the opening of Performance Space New York's new theater, Laris Cohen's new work, P.S.122, maps aesthetic and political fault lines among the building's tenants over the past 40 years, bringing discrete groups into ambivalent collaboration.

Focus on Kathy Acker
March 8-April 8

Avant-garde writer, punk poet, fashion icon, misfit. Few artists embody the radical and uncompromising attitude of the artistic era Performance Space New York emerged from more than Kathy Acker. As part of the East Village Series, we cast a focus on the life and work of the iconic writer who died twenty years ago, and whose deep and often-unacknowledged influence calls for reassessment.

[Group Exhibition]
Kathy Acker: Who Wants to Be Human All the Time
Co-organized with Bjarne Melgaard
With Work by Kathy Acker, Ser Brandon-Castro Serpas, Celia Hempton, Beatrice Marchi, Bjarne Melgaard, Alan Sondheim, Diamond Stingily, Women's History Museum
March 8-April 8 (Opening March 8 6-8pm)
Wednesday-Sunday 12-6pm

In 1974, 26-year-old Kathy Acker met the conceptual artist Alan Sondheim, and suggested a collaboration that would allow them to get to the bottom of their sexual attraction by exchanging "as much information about [themselves] as possible." The result is Blue Tape, an hour-long, highly charged and confrontational truth-and-sex tape. It is remarkable for its braveness, as well as the insight it gives into a young Acker, about to find her voice on sexuality, intimacy, family, and power relations--all themes that consistently recur throughout her oeuvre. For this group exhibition, Blue Tape will be shown next to works by contemporary artists in dialog with Acker.

Kathy Acker: "In the beginning there was a young girl..."
Organized by Tina Satter
With performances by Shana Fletcher and Jess Barbagallo, I.U.D., Jeremy O. Harris, Gary Indiana, Ariana Reines, Tina Satter, Ser Brandon-Castro Serpas, and Anne Waldman
Sunday, March 25, at 3pm
Tickets: $10

Kathy Acker: "In the beginning there was a young girl..." brings together a group of artists, writers, and performers whose practices and output at times recall the spirit of Kathy Acker and her work, but are also very different. Their collision with her writing and life offers us a necessary live communion with what Acker gave and what is still to come.

Kathy Acker: "boyfriend, brother, sister, money, amusement, and father"
Organized by Matias Viegener
Saturday, April 7 at 3pm
Tickets: $10

Kathy Acker famously described the father of her main character Janey in Blood and Guts in High School as "boyfriend, brother, sister, money, amusement, and father." Centered on Acker's notorious video with Alan Sondheim, Blue Tape, this screening program examines the urgency with which Acker approached sex, intimacy, relationships and writing in her work. Through this lens we look at clips of Acker reading, performing, and being interviewed from the 1970s to the 1990s-intimate, formal, and unpredictable.

Kathy Acker: Blood and Guts In High School
Organized by Sarah Schulman
With Lynne Tillman, Carolee Schneemann, Charles Bernstein, Penny Arcade, Jennifer Blowdryer, Justin Vivian Bond, Richard Foreman, John Godfrey, Bette Gordon, Jessica Hagedorn, Carla Harryman, Tracie Morris, Matias Viegener, Tommy Pico, Betsy Sussler, Carl Hancock Rux, Bina Sharif, Kate Zambreno and Many More
Sunday, April 8 12-6pm

"When you look in the mirror and see a smart, angry girl who wants to be free, you're seeing a paradigm Kathy helped bring into the realm of the recognizable," writes Sarah Schulman in The Gentrification of the Mind. Schulman, who has lived across from Performance Space New York for the last forty years, invites more than seventy artists-including many of Acker's peers, friends, mentees, and cultural descendants-for a marathon reading of the notorious 1978 novel Blood and Guts in High School. Its plot, partly situated in the East Village, spins the all-American coming-of-age story into a girl riot.

Women's History Museum
Friday, March 23, at 7:30pm
Tickets: $15

Harnessing a combination of thrift store finds and individual customizations, the DIY look that originated from downtown NYC was first broadcast by MTV in 1981, and quickly influenced how young people were dressing all around the world. As youth culture is now instantly co-opted as marketable fashion, the idiosyncratic designs of multifarious fashion-oriented project, Women's History Museum, present a counter cultural form of self-expression that resists mainstreaming. Founded by Amanda K McGowan and Mattie Rivkah Barringer in 2014, the collective stages an extended theatrical runway presentation of their latest collection.

[Screening and Talk]
Diamanda Galás
Schrei 27(U.S. premiere)
Friday, March 30, at 7:30pm
Tickets: $25

Hailed as the "high priestess of vocal apocalypse," legendary avant-garde musician Diamanda Galás presents the U.S. Premiere of her collaboration with filmmaker Davide Pepe, Schrei 27. The film is based on a work Galás first developed for radio and turned into a quadraphonic performance, Schrei X-a sequence of Beckettian monologues alternately sung, shrieked, whispered, or cried-that Galás gave in complete darkness at Performance Space 122 in 1996. Schrei 27 confronts the audience with an unrelenting visual and sonic portrait of a body enduring torture in the physical confinements of a mental health facility. To Galás, whose work often evokes the suffering of the powerless, "the object of this kind of torture is complete demoralization-and the erasure of all that the captive has ever known-including the fact that he was ever a human being."

Schrei 27 is about 30 minutes long and will screen twice followed by a talk with the artist.

Sarah Michelson
April 27-May 5 at 6:30pm
Tickets: $25

Sarah Michelson has been a defining presence at Performance Space 122 through the years, first as a dancer in the 1990s, then showing her own early work in peer-curated programs like Hothouse, followed by the evening-length pieces Group Experience (2001), Shadowmann Part II (2003), and Daylight (2005), which established her as one of the most original voices of her generation. After a 13-year hiatus, Michelson returns to Performance Space New York with a new piece that considers her own history with the organization, the building, and the community from which her work emanates.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden
May 3-26
Wednesday-Sunday, 12-6pm

The Lower East Side in the early 1980s teemed with live performance, happening within a vibrant network of clubs. For CLUB, Philadelphia-based artist and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden creates a performative installation that references distinct elements of present and past LES clubs, activated by a dense schedule of sound installations, performances, talks, and dance parties. McClodden, who will be present during opening hours, is interested in the liminal potential of night clubs, i.e. their ability to temporarily dissolve rules that govern our everyday lives and allow people from different backgrounds to interact more freely. In that respect, CLUB is less nostalgia for an irrecoverable era than it is a blueprint for Performance Space New York's future.

For a detailed schedule, visit

Penny Arcade
Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!
May 11-19, Doors at 7:30pm, Performance at 8pm
Tickets: $25

Penny Arcade is the undisputed queen of downtown performance, and Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! is her biggest hit. A freedom of speech rallying cry, the raucous sex and censorship show premiered at Performance Space 122 in 1990 during the height of the culture wars, when ultra-conservative politicians pressured the National Endowment for the Arts into defunding artists who made work that was considered "offensive to the average person." Deeply invested in the political role of art, Arcade sees a need to reassess the subject matter of censorship now-especially the "self-censorship coming from the left in the form of political correctness in today's culture."

[Workshops and Skate Sessions]
BRUJAS: Training Facility
Organized by Arianna Gil
May 24-June 9
Wednesday-Sunday 12-6pm
Open Skate Sessions Are Free
Workshops $5

By the 1990s, the area around the Astor Place Cube was an epicenter of skateboarding culture. Arianna Gil of the feminist art collective BRUJAS, whose founding members were born and raised on the Lower East Side, remembers her first skateboarding adventures in the neighborhood's many empty lots, most of which have now been developed. To compensate for Manhattan's limited skateboarding opportunities in 2018, BRUJAS (Robin Giordani, Tabby Wakes, Sarah Snider, Ripley Soprano, Myles Sales, Taj Williams, Orlando Gil, Miles Giordani) invites industrial designer Jonathan Olivares to build a skate park in Performance Space New York's new theater. People with a passion for skateboarding and radical politics are invited to join open skate sessions and sign up for collaborative peer-based workshops.

For a detailed schedule, visit

Kiki Ball
Hosted by the Alliance for Positive Change
Saturday, June 16, Doors Open at 4pm
Tickets: $25 (All proceeds benefit Alliance for Positive Change)

In 1993, the AIDS Service Center NYC (now Alliance for Positive Change) opened its Lower East Side Drop-In Center in the same building as Performance Space 122. Among the locals impacted by HIV/AIDS-the population the organization supports-are many young LGBTQ people of color who are members of the Kiki scene.

Emerging out of the historical House/Ballroom community, the Kiki scene is a highly organized and creative youth-led organization. It centers around so-called houses, with complex kinship structures, that function as vital support systems-support systems that the government and biological families often fail to provide. The underground scene is best known for its lavish balls, where performers present their unique looks and movement styles, competing in different categories for their respective houses. Kiki Ball celebrates 25 years of neighborship between Alliance for Positive Change and Performance Space New York, and the shared believe that community and performative expression can save lives.

Chris Cochrane, Dennis Cooper, Ishmael Houston-Jones
June 21-30 at 7:30pm (Post-Show Talk with Visual AIDS on June 27)
Tickets: $25

The AIDS epidemic had a devastating, lasting impact on the downtown artist community. Some of Performance Space New York's most influential artists (John Bernd, Ethyl Eichelberger, Ron Vawter, David Wojnarowicz among many others) died prematurely, leaving a gaping hole in this community and a subsequent generation without important mentorship. When Ishmael Houston-Jones first started working on THEM at Performance Space 122 in 1985, with a text by Dennis Cooper and a cacophonous live electric guitar score by Chris Cochrane, it was intended to be a poetic and frank coming-of-age story of gay men. By the time it was first premiered here in 1986, AIDS was ravaging queer communities, and the artists felt it would be disingenuous not to address it in the work. They consequently included coded allusions to the epidemic and turned THEM into one of the most haunting pieces of art that came out of the early AIDS years.


Founded as Performance Space 122, in 1980, from an explosion of radical self-expression amidst the intensifying American culture wars, Performance Space New York is the birthplace of contemporary performance as it is known today. The early acts that defined the organization's unique role in New York cultural history asserted themselves as living, fleeting, and crucially affordable alternatives to mainstream art and culture of the 1980s and early 90s. Emboldened by the inclusive haven of a tight knit group of artists, performers like Penny Arcade, Ron Athey, Ethyl Eichelberger, Karen Finley, Spalding Gray, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Holly Hughes, John Kelly, John Leguizamo, Tim Miller, and Carmelita Tropicana, among many others, engaged in radical experimentation and created hybrid works that existed somewhere between dance, theater, poetry, ritual, film, technology and music.

With the renovation and reimagining of its original abandoned public-school building in the East Village completed, Performance Space New York is entering a new, bracing chapter. Under the leadership of recently appointed Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka, and with state-of-the-art, column-free, high-ceilinged performance spaces, the organization is poised to make a case for the cultural vitality and relevance of performance for the 21st century. Schlenzka brings the idea of themed series to Performance Space New York. As part of a larger multidimensional whole, individual works are juxtaposed to evoke further meaning and push audiences to engage with our contemporary world in illuminating ways. The inaugural series (February-June) in the renovated building focuses on the East Village itself, including the institution's iconic history, re-anchoring the organization within its immediate surroundings.

Returning to a rapidly changing neighborhood during a time marked by divisive and oppressive politics, Performance Space New York builds on its own traditions of integration, political involvement and vehement interdisciplinarity, embodied by artists like niv Acosta, Big Dance Theater, Annie Dorsen, Elevator Repair Service, Tim Etchells, Maria Hassabi, Emily Johnson, Young Jean Lee, Taylor Mac, Richard Maxwell, Sarah Michelson, Rabih Mroué, Okwui Okpokwasili, Reggie Watts, and Adrienne Truscott.

Performance Space New York's lasting presence from the pre-gentrification East Village neighborhood fervently aims to create an open environment for artists and audiences, and thus foster community through performance and discourse-to be a countering force to the often-exclusionary nature of urban development.

Performance Space New York's upcoming East Village Series, and its Coil Festival, are inclusive, intergenerational, and interdisciplinary. Focusing on works that boldly resist classification, the organization continues to test and expand the boundaries of live performance.

Related Articles

More Hot Stories For You