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UP CLOSE Announces The Artist Lineup For The 2019 Festival

UP CLOSE Announces The Artist Lineup For The 2019 Festival

The UP CLOSE Festival - an immersive theater event for ages 5 and up - is pleased to announce this year's program, presented by New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher Street) in NYC's West Village from December 27, 2019, to January 4, 2020. Tickets ($25) go on sale Monday, November 11th and can be purchased online at or by calling 866-811-4111.

After a hit 2018 debut, called "a hearty helping of community spirit" by The New York Times, the UP CLOSE Festival returns with an all-new lineup of participatory works, bringing together over 30 of NYC's most adventurous theatre artists under one roof. Guided by Jane Jacobs' rules for a healthy community in The Death and Life of Great American Cities, festival artists interpret her mandate for "mixed-use space" and "short blocks" as a recipe for hyperlocal immersive theater.

Family audiences are greeted by a local expert host, then enter The Archive: New Ohio's basement theater transformed into a secret interactive playspace where the forgotten stories of the surrounding neighborhood come to life. After freely navigating a 360° pre-show installation, a series of 10-minute pieces reimagine real moments from Greenwich Village's past in a way that casts the attending community as a central character. This year, three collaborative teams have designed an experience around a particular Greenwich Village community at precise moments in time:

  • Chess Shops on Thompson Street, 1995
  • Public Gardens at St. Luke's in the Fields, 1609/1842/1987
  • Sonic Researchers at Bell Laboratories (now Westbeth Artists' Housing), 1920

As with the 2018 festival that used local history to directly engage audiences in pertinent sociopolitical issues (immigration, LGBT and civil rights), the 2019 UP CLOSE program spotlights decolonization, understood as a conscious effort to include the seldom-told stories of New York's pre-colonial, indigenous past and tales grounded in the city's multicultural fabric. The interdisciplinary artist, writer, activist, and Grammy Award winner Ty Defoe - who has devoted a lot of his work to the issue - is this year's special advisor for the festival.

The UP CLOSE Festival was instigated by interdisciplinary artist and educator Peter Musante as an experiment in using immersive theatre to engage young New Yorkers with the histories of the spaces they inhabit. For over a decade, Peter has made all-ages site-specific immersive creations with Trusty Sidekick Theater Company at Lincoln Center Education and The Park Avenue Armory, and teams up this season with co-artistic producer and award-winning theatre director and educator Sara Morgulis, a longtime collaborator of the New York City Children's Theater.

Marisol Rosa-Shapiro, who delighted 2018 UP CLOSE audiences as Beat Poet-obsessed Pizza Rat, reprises her beloved character as our local expert host and will be joined by a team of Archive Apprentices - four NYC teenagers recruited from local public high schools and Trusty Sidekick Theatre Company's Young Devisers initiative. This new team will perform as uniquely engaging stewards of the Archive building basement on Christopher Street, developing their characters under the guidance of Trusty Sidekick's Brit Gossett and Esteban Rodriguez-Alverio. Together, they will invite the audience to discover the artifacts and lore of the festival's three featured Greenwich Village stories:

Experimental artists Marisa Blankier and Christopher-Rashee Stevenson, who met as instructors at The Wooster Group Summer Institute, join forces with Perfect City members Jahmorei Snipes, Jaime Maitin, and Tiffany Zorrilla for CHESS'95 - a story inspired by the forgotten conflict that arose in 1995 when Imad Khachchan opened Chess Forum directly across the street from his former employer, George Frohlinde, whose Village Chess Shop at 230 Thompson Street ruled the block for 30 years. The New York Times reported: "Not since Bobby Fischer declared his last checkmate in 1972 has the downtown chess world been so torn asunder." In the piece, audiences traverse an epic 1990s-themed chessboard where the pieces come to life and rely on their community to sort out the rules. Project advisors on this piece are Oye Group's Modesto Flako Jimenez and Perfect City's Aaron Landsman.

Spellbound Theatre presents Sanctuary/Garden, a historical dig into the soil of the urban sanctuary that is St. Luke's in the Fields' community garden. The audience nests together to follow the journey of a little sparrow who makes her home in this hidden garden on Hudson Street. Through puppetry, song-making and our senses, the audience and performers will fly through 450 years of history, landing in three particular moments in the life of the garden. This project is led by Spellbound's longtime company member Lauren Sharpe and is co-created with Robert Thaxton-Stevenson and Ben Weber.

Theatremaker Adrienne Kapstein and musician/sound designer Bhurin Sead (Blue Man Group) team up with visual designer Hillary Verni and researcher Paul Parkhill (co-founder of public art non-profit Place in History) to present a participatory sound-based installation that invites us to listen closely as The Society of Historic Sonic Happenings (SHSH) - an imagined experimental wing of the famous Bell Laboratories - reveals a secret sonic history of our surroundings. In 1920, as Bell Labs microphones ushered in the Golden Age of Radio, SHSH discovered that sound never dies and that the world is filled with the sounds of the past. But with the right device, at the right time, in the right place - and with some help - we can tap into these eternal frequencies and engage with the invisible layers of history around us.

Our family audiences will work directly with SHSH scientists to preserve these rare and forgotten sounds - from the crunch of dried tobacco leaves in Sapokanikan, the earliest known name for the area now called Greenwich Village (September 23, 1447) to the squeak of a pigeon squab on the window ledge of the 10th floor of the Archive Building (April 14th, 2017) - and work to preserve them in special sonic time capsules.

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