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THE LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS (LES) celebrates its 18th year of bringing together -- in one location, over three days -- more than 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 Lower East Side. Once again this year, New York City's most diverse FREE 3-day, indoor and outdoor cultural celebration will take place on Memorial Day Weekend, from today, May 24 through Sunday, May 26, at Theater for the New City (155 1st Avenue, between E. 9th and 10th Sts.) in Manhattan.

THE LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS (LES) was founded in 1996 by OBIE-winning actress Crystal Field, Co-founder and Artistic Director of Theater for the New City. Organized by Theater for the New City and a coalition of civic, cultural and business leaders, LES demonstrates and celebrates the creative explosion of Manhattan's Lower East Side and the area's importance to the culture and tourism of New York City. It is FREE to all New Yorkers and its visitors.

This year's lineup for THE LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS includes: Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham, solo performer-comedian Reno, singer-actress KT Sullivan, composer-musician David Amram, TV & radio host Joe Franklin; aerial performance group Suspended Cirque; dance groups Desert Sin, The Rod Rodgers Dance Company, The Love Show, and The Amy Marshall Dance Company; and new works from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz (Anna of the Tropics) and Eduardo Machado (Crocodile Eyes, Havana Journal, 2004). Writers creating new works expressly for this year's LES include Barbara Kahn (Crossing Paths in Washington Square), Lissa Moira (Before God Was Invented, Time It Is), Larry Myers (The Devil's Home Movies) and Bina Sharif (Afghan Women). Cultural institutions such as New York Theatre Workshop, La MaMa, Bond Street Theater, Beautiful Soup Theatre Collective, The Living Theatre and Theater for the New City will also present work.

The annual LES festival tips its hat and heart to the pantheon of greats who lived and created and performed their art on the Lower East Side and the East Village in the past, such as: George and Ira Gershwin, The Adlers, Molly Picon, Irving Berlin, Charlie Parker, Yip Harburg, Eugene O'Neill, Garcia Lorca, Mark Twain, James Cagney, Fanny Brice, George Raft, Eddie Cantor, etc.

LES 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

The theme of this year's LES is "ART FOR ECO-JUSTICE: ECOLOGY AND ECONOMY."

The complete lineup and schedule for THE 18TH ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL can be found online at

- The festivities will kick off at Theater for the New City at 6pm, upstairs in the Johnson Theater, with a diverse roster of artists presenting theater, music, dance, comedy, performance art, and other entertainment (until 1am).

- Downstairs in the intimate black box Cabaret Theater starting at 7pm, slightly edgier fare will be presented in an evening hosted by humorist/playwright/actor Bob Homeyer.

- A day-long block party will be held, beginning at noon. Hosted by composer/satirist Richard West, this outdoor celebration features a mix of acoustic music (folk to funk), dance (flamenco, belly and otherwise), comedy, poetry and various other performances, as well as a community Cultural Fair with food and crafts vendors.

- From Noon to Midnight, the downstairs Cabaret provides a cozy home for the film portion of the LES Festival, hosted and curated by Francesse Maingrette. Selections run the gamut from animation to shorts, to feature-length films and video submitted by local auteurs whose works are related to the East Village and Lower East Side. The recent documentary KOCH has already been selected.

- The popular Youth Program will be held in the Johnson Theater from 2-5pm. Emphasizing performances with and by kids and tweens for other kids, this event is curated by actor/teacher Primy Rivera and hosted by the NY Lyric Circus' John Grimaldi. Performances from local schools, as well as Maya daSilva's young Flamenco Troupe, the Experimental Dance Troupe at the Children's Workshop School, TNC's own Arts-In-Education program, and more will be featured.

- In the Johnson from 6pm to 1am, Theater, Music, Dance, Comedy and Performance Art will be presented.

- From 4pm to 7 pm in the Community Space Theater, Poetry takes the spotlight in a Jam curated and hosted by playwright/poet Lissa Moira. The event will also feature an open mic after the 30 scheduled poets.

- The festival concludes with performances, beginning at 6pm, in the Johnson Theater and beginning at 7pm in the downstairs Cabaret Theater.

All weekend long, Friday through Sunday nights, the Lobby Gallery boasts Performances from groups such as Human Kinetics and the Thing Machine, as well as an exhibition of work from
local visual artists, curated by artist and community activist Carolyn Ratcliffe. The exhibition will have a special opening on Wednesday, May 22 from 5-8pm, and is scheduled to remain on display through June.

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. Many influential theater artists of the last quarter century have found TNC's Resident Theater Program instrumental to their careers, among them: Sam Shepard, Moises Kaufman, Richard Foreman, Charles Busch (THE DIVINE SISTER), Maria Irene Fornes, Miguel Piñero and Academy Award-winners Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody. TNC also presents plays by multi-ethnic/multi-disciplinary theater companies who have no permanent home. Among the well-known companies that have been presented by TNC are Mabou Mines, The Living Theater, Bread and Puppet Theater, the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Ma-Yi Theater Company. TNC also produced the Yangtze Repertory Company's 1997 production of BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH, which was the only play ever produced in America by Gao Xingjian before he won the 2000 Nobel Prize for Literature. TNC seeks to develop theater audiences and inspire future theater artists from the often-overlooked low-income minority communities of New York City by producing minority writers from around the world and by bringing the community into theater and theater into the community through its many free festivals. TNC productions have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and over 40 OBIE Awards for excellence in every theatrical discipline. TNC is also the only Theatrical Organization to have won the Mayor's Stop the Violence Award.

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 24, 6pm-1am; Saturday, May 25, 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

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