Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Abrons Arts Center Sets 2016-17 Season

On February 12, 1915, the Abrons Arts Center's Henry Street Settlement Playhouse opened its doors on the Lower East Side. Since that day, it has remained a vital cultural resource, providing audiences with artistically bold work while offering artists opportunities to dynamically grow. Since becoming Artistic Director in 2006, Jay Wegman has done much more than maintain "one of the last standing locations for avant-garde performance downtown" (The New York Times, 2009). He has created an arts venue that is unique to the city's cultural landscape, presenting an international mix of cutting-edge performing and visual artists, both established and emerging, from across the country and around the world, as well as from New York City. In a 2015 New York Times profile, Wegman says Abrons is "a place for people to succeed or fail or land somewhere in between."

The OBIE Award-winning institution, has drawn a diverse audience to its historic home at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side, and has garnered a wealth of critical acclaim in various disciplines. Abrons Arts Center's 2016-17 season, the final one curated by Wegman, underscores the organization's increasing stature and its unique programmatic profile.

Wegman will be assuming the role of Director at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. About the 2016-17 season and his departure Wegman says: "It's been a privilege to guide Abrons through the last decade of its lifecycle. I wanted to create a vibrant home for artists - a place of safety and experimentation, where process is prized over product. In today's increasingly commercialized art market, I hope Abrons can stand as an example of an organization that places the artistic work first, above all else."

The lineup, comprised almost entirely of premieres, includes:

  • A unique mix of traditional circus, opera, dance and sound, Circus Amok takes to the streets of New York, (September 11)
  • OBIE Award-winner Brendan Connelly and Bessie winner Scotty Heron's collaboration Appalachian Spring Break blends the roles of choreographer and composer as they generate all movement, light and sound onstage, (September 16-25)
  • Joshua William Gelb directs the 1866 musical The Black Crook in celebration of its 150th anniversary, (September 19-October 7)
  • Paul Lazar stars in Suzanne Bocanegra's Artist Lecture: When a Priest Marries a Witch, (September 23 & 24)
  • Drag fabulist Dickie Beau brings icons like Marilyn Monroe to life in Blackouts, an ethereal revitalization of lip-syncing, and impersonation performance, (October 6 - 15)
  • Witness Relocation present The Loon, an evening length dance / theater performance inspired by the sociology of domestic life and party games, directed by Dan Safer, (October 13-29)
  • Brooklyn Based theatre company Little Lord present Now is the Time, an epic treatise on trying to leave one's mark on a world that never stands still, (October 19-29)
  • The world premiere of Wildernessby En Garde Arts is a live documentary-performance illuminating the parent-child relationship in cases of mental health issues, (October 20-November 13)
  • Aaron Landsman conducts a long-table discussion with architects, urban planners and critics on the preservation and gentrification of the Lower East Side, (October 25)
  • Travelogues: Pere Faura; In this work, Spanish choreographer Pere Faura takes on the iconic works of dance in Abrons' dance series curated by Laurie Uprichard, (November 11-13)
  • REAL TALK / KIP TALK is a series of live talk shows about the state of contemporary performance in New York City, hosted by Kippy Winston, (December 3, February 20 & April 15)
  • Legendary downtown theater maker Anna Kohler is posing naked for painters - but who is looking at whom? MYTHO? Lure of Wildernessis a unique, immersive, and sensory experience, (December 7 - 23)
  • The eighth annual American Realness (January 5­-15)
  • The US premiere of Dutch choreographer Jan Martens' Sweat Baby Sweat covers the lifetime of one man and one woman in just one hour, (January 27 & 28)
  • Your Hair Looked Great, this series of motivational speeches and TED-style talks by Tiny Little Band asks us what defines the good life, and how do we define success? (February 9 - 25)
  • New York City Players present a return of Richard Maxwell's critically acclaimed Good Samaritans, (February 26 - March 24)
  • The Terrifying is a world premiere from Minor Theater which brings horror movies to live theater, experimenting with sound, darkness, silence and suspense, (March 9 - April 01)
  • Aynsley Vandenbroucke uses experimental literary devices to create a series of live, three-dimensional essays, (March 30 - April 01)
  • Mourning Becomes Electra continues Target Margin Theater's two-season exploration of Eugene O'Neill, (May 3 - 20)
  • Commissioned by Abrons Arts Center, The Joyce and The Chocolate Factory Ivy Baldwin's latest work Keen (Part 2) is an exploration of that which we avoid, the contours of grief, (May 31-June 11)
  • Dylan Crossman's dance piece Here We Are uses movement and an electronic soundscape by Jesse Stiles to explore the concept of humanity within formalism, (June 15-17)
  • 2016 Guggenheim Fellow Christina Masciotti returns to Abrons Arts Center with world premiere Raw Bacon from Poland, (June 1 - 18)
  • OpenICE aims to share the most essential elements of ICE's creative process--creation, collaboration and performance--with a wider audience, through free concert and activity programming. Season launch September 16-18.

Show descriptions are below. Abrons Arts Center is located at 466 Grand Street, on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Tickets can be purchased by calling 212.352.3101 or visiting


Circus Amok
September 11

Circus Amok returns to the streets of New York for their 23rd madcap spectacle, adding a dash of opera to their singular mix of traditional circus, new dance, raucous sounds, and twisted narrative. In an attempt to thwart what ails us, Circus Amok uses high theory and low comedy to create a temporary euphoria, fueled by anger and seasoned with sass, sending the spectator out into the world ready to turn up the heat.

Brendan Connelly and Scotty Heron: Appalachian Spring Break
September 16-18 & 23-25
Experimental Theater

Appalachian Spring Break is the first collaboration of composer/musician Brendan Connelly (Obie-winning Theater of a Two-headed Calf) and Bessie-winning choreographer/performance artist Scotty Heron- a staple of the downtown scene in the 80's and 90's. Connelly and Heron play with the iconic, confused and clichéd relationship of choreographer and composer, glancing sideways at Martha Graham and Aaron Copland's only collaboration and its sepia-toned Americana. The lines of collaboration are gleefully blurred in this duet, where all movement, sound and light are generated and manipulated by the onstage duo.

Joshua William Gelb: The Black Crook (1866) (World Premiere)
Book by Charles M. Barras
Lyrics by Theodore Kennick
September 19-October 7
Underground Theater

In September 2016 The Black Crook - often considered to be the first piece of musical theatre that conforms to the modern notion of a "book musical" - celebrates its 150th anniversary, marking the rumored birth of the American Musical. From the rubble of the Civil War, The Black Crook emerged taking an entire country by storm; an unprecedented commercial juggernaut that contributed, whether first musical or no, to a popular melting-pot entertainment that blended art both high and low. The Black Crook is an origin story for the spectacle that is America, and 150 years after the fact, it will be exhumed once again. This production is conceived and directed by Joshua William Gelb.

Suzanne Bocanegra: When a Priest Marries a Witch: an Artist Lecture by Suzanne Bocanegra, Starring Paul Lazar
September 23 & 24

In 2010 the Museum of Modern Art Suzanne Bocanegra asked to give a lecture about her work. For that lecture she made a theater piece When a Priest Marries a Witch: an Artist Lecture by Suzanne Bocanegra Starring Paul Lazar. Paul Lazar, an actor long associated with the Wooster Group and co-founder of Big Dance Theater, performs as her, telling the story of how she became an artist, growing up in Pasadena, Texas. Part personal narrative, part cultural history, the piece focuses on a wild scandal that happened in her local Catholic church: a tale about identity, artistic expression, the Pope, and obviously, a witch.

Dickie Beau: Blackouts (U.S. Premiere)
October 6-8 & 13-15

Drag fabulist Dickie Beau embodies counter-cultural figures and movie stars alike. Miming to spoken word rather than song, Beau has revitalized the tradition of lip-syncing, performing with the showmanship of a drag artist and the melancholy of a clown. At home on the stages of clubs, theaters and cabarets, he has received awards including the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award

For his first major U.S. solo show, Dickie Beau conjures the wayward spirits of Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, and journalist Richard Meryman. In uncanny impersonations performed to a shadowy soundscape of their own voices, he merges reality with illusion and his identity with those of his idols. The result is an ethereal portrait of icons in exile and a reflection on the lingering impressions they've left behind.

Witness Relocation: The Loon (World Premiere)
October 13-15, 20-22, 27-29
Experimental Theater

An all new, evening length, knock-down-drag-out, dance/theater show based in part on "Voices of the Loon" (an educational record put out by the Audubon Society in 1980); the work of sociologist Erving Goffman; "At Home" - Bill Bryson's study of the history of domestic life; party games; and what happens when the party is going VERY late into the night/next morning. A follow up of sorts to WR's acclaimed 2006 "Dancing vs. The Rat Experiment". Choreographed and Directed by Dan Safer.

Little Lord: Now is the Time (World Premiere)
October 19-29
Underground Theater

New York City, 1809: an older gentleman of questionable mental health goes missing. Now, over 200 years later, Diedrich Knickerbocker has reemerged in the Catskills, hiding out in the decayed ruins of a once legendary Borscht Belt resort. When his anxieties finally manifest themselves as terrifying garden gnomes, and his vengeful liver-eating bird-woman of a wife crashes through the ceiling, our modern/ancient hero is thrust from the mundane into the mythic. Inspired by Prometheus Bound, The Book of Ecclesiastes, Dirty Dancing, and the writings of Washington Irving, Now is the Time is an epic treatise on trying to leave one's mark on a world that never stands still. Coleslaw included.

En Garde Arts: Wilderness (World Premiere)
October 21-November 13
The Playhouse

Six kids stand at the brink of emotional chaos. A mother risks losing her child forever. Thoughts racing, emotions firing, one question plunges forward: how do we persevere when we feel most alone in the world?

In this captivating documentary theatre piece, En Garde Arts employs their signature brand of multi-media storytelling to illuminate the real experiences of young adults who struggle to find meaning in their lives, and parents who refuse to give up hope for their kids. Developed over two years through firsthand interviews and extensive field research, Wilderness features a driving folk score and sweeping video landscapes. The penetrating, no holds barred docu-drama transports us from our familiar domestic confines to the brutal and enlightening solitude of the high desert, where we have no choice but to confront our demons-and hopefully develop the courage to change.

Aaron Landsman: Perfect City
Tuesday, Oct 25
265 Henry Street

Get a glimpse inside the process of Perfect City, a multi-form project that asks us to imagine answers to pertinent questions about gentrification, capitalism, and community. Bringing young people from the Lower East Side into conversation with architects, urban planners, and critics, a long-table discussion will consider how to preserve the vibrancy of the neighborhood. Aaron Landsman is a singular performance-maker, playwright, and actor whose work engages vital issues-from faith and suicide to empathy and public policy-across forms.

Travelogues: Pere Faura (U.S. Premiere)
November 11-13
Experimental Theater

In this work, Spanish choreographer Pere Faura takes on the iconic works of dance - Singin' in the Rain, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker's Fase, Saturday Night Fever, and Swan Lake in his inimitable fashion with both enormous respect and with his tongue firmly in cheek. Curated by Laurie Uprichard.

REAL TALK / KIP TALK(World Premiere)
December 3, February 20 & April 15
Underground Theater

REAL TALK / KIP TALK is a series of live talk shows about the state of contemporary performance in New York City, hosted by Kippy Winston, media mogul, Internet sensation, and citizen of the world. Since Kippy's weblog took flight in 2008, Kippy's larger-than-life persona and cottage industry empire has grown to encompass Kippy Winston Media, a boutique PR firm servicing all things theatrical; The Radish, a semi-autumnal gossip rag; Just Ask Kippy, a brief yet potent advice column; and an active social media presence. Formatted like a talk show but with room for debate, REAL TALK / KIP TALK blurs the lines between art and life and challenges participants of all stripes and creeds to engage in real talk about our starry performance landscape.

Anna Koehler: Mytho? Lure of Wildness (World Premiere)
December 7-23
Experimental Theater

A woman, naked on a podium, being carefully and bluntly scrutinized by the probing eyes of the painters in the room. Who is looking at whom? Who is more vulnerable? MYTHO? Lure of Wildness is an experiment, a study of the beast within, of beauty and it's transformation from young and fresh to old and worn, but not resigned. Conceived and performed by legendary downtown theater maker Anna Kohler, directed by Caleb Hammond, and featuring renowned performance artist Hapi Phace, MYTHO? immerses the audience in a unique sensory experience with media projection by Shaun Irons and Lauren Petty and new aroma technology from Harvard team David Edwards and Rachel Fields.

American Realness
January 5-15

American Realness, the magnetic two-week festival of contemporary dance and performance curated by Ben Pryor, is back at Abrons for the eighth edition.

Jan Martens: Sweat Baby Sweat (US Premiere)
January 27 & 28

The acclaimed Dutch choreographer Jan Martens returns to Abrons with Sweat Baby Sweat, an investigation on the symbiosis of storytelling and abstraction told through the relationship between a man and a woman. The result is a one-hour performance in which a lifetime is passing. All Martens' works explore the possibility of a perfect balance and symbiosis between storytelling and conceptualism. He is not trying to create a new movement language, but instead he molds and recycles existing idioms and places them in a different setting, so a new idea emerges. In his work the beauty of the incomplete human being stands up front, rather than to excel in choreographic complexity or physical virtuosity.

Tiny Little Band: Your Hair Looked Great (World Premiere)
February 9-25

What defines the good life? How do we define success? Why is everyone all up in trying to be about famous folks? In their latest show, Your Hair Looked Great, Tiny Little Band (Ghost Stories - Time Out NY Critic's Pick) intends to find some answers. In the process, they'll ask you to question life decisions, define value, and determine your role as an individual within a greater society. A wild mash-up of motivational speeches, keynote presentations and TED-style talks turned on their head, Your Hair Looked Great pops open the hood of the Ambition-mobile to see what makes that baby purr.

New York City Players: Good Samaritans
February 16 -March 24

New York City Players present a return of Richard Maxwell's critically acclaimed Good Samartians, a play with songs. In a dining hall at a rehabilitation center, pleasure battles virtue in this urban story of an intake counselor and her patient. Written and directed by Richard Maxwell.

Minor Theater: The Terrifying (World Premiere)
March 9-April 1

The Terrifying is a new theater piece about fear. In a creepy Little Village on the cusp of modernity, two teenagers and their families are stalked by a ravening monster. The piece takes cues from horror movies, but searches for a visceral scariness specific to live theater, experimenting with soundscapes and tableaux, textures of darkness and silence, suspense and sudden eruption. Building toward a final confrontation between girl and demon, The Terrifying asks how you can live every day with forces that want to destroy you-including the urge to destroy yourself.

Aynsley Vandenbroucke (World Premiere)
March 30- April 1

In this new performance, Aynsley Vandenbroucke uses experimental literary devices to create a series of live, three-dimensional essays. She plays with the lines between fact and fiction, narrative and abstraction, legibility and complexity. She works with - and against - the role of formal structures in writing, moving, and making a life.

Abigail Zbikowski: The other side of disarray (World Premiere)
April 13-15

Fueled by the ethos and energy of punk and hip-hop, Abby Zbikowski and her crew of dancers, a.k.a. the New Utility, present their newest work, The other side of disarray. This evening of hard-hitting physicality takes place in a combative space between abstraction, representation, and function in dance. Performers continuously utilize, break down, and reassemble ballistic action of the body, forcing them to simultaneously to locate their abilities to act, ignore, fight, freeze, see, and be seen at rapid-fire speed.

Target Margin: Mourning Becomes Electra
May 3-20

Mourning Becomes Electra is the most massive vivid complex drama in American literature - it's a Greek tragedy, it's an American history play, it's a family romance. Eugene O'Neill captured the essence of our country in this great trilogy: love, race, money, and war. Now the unique sensibility of Target Margin shocks it into the present tense. Target Margin Theater gets drunk on Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra. With passionate irreverence, this production explodes The American Project. Intimate and intense, entertaining and challenging, you will never have a ride like it.

Ivy Baldwin (World Premiere)
Keen (Part 2)
May 31-June 11

Choreographer Ivy Baldwin's latest work, Keen (Part 2), is commissioned by Abrons Arts Center, The Joyce and The Chocolate Factory. This new dance for the Abrons Playhouse builds upon Baldwin's recent Keen (Part 1) for the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, CT. Keen (Part 2) is performed by Baldwin, Anna Carapetyan, Eleanor Smith, and Katie Workum, with a score by Justin Jones, lighting by Chloe Z. Brown, and costumes by Mindy Nelson. Keen grows out of an open-eyed exploration of that which we uncomfortably avoid: the contours of grief - the rites and rituals, spoken and unspoken, public and hidden, age-old and brand-new, grieving and salutary.

Dylan Crossman: Here We Are (World Premiere)
June 15-17

Here We Areis a study on humanity within formalism by choreographer and former Cunningham dancer Dylan Crossman. Through a mix of virtuosic, pedestrian and gestural movement, Crossman reveals the beauty and vulnerability within, acknowledging human flaws and the desire to connect to one another. Jesse Stiles' electronic soundscape will dress The Playhouse where performers will let each audience member see them for who they are.

Christina Masciotti: Raw Bacon from Poland (World Premiere)
June 1-18

2016 Guggenheim Fellow, returns to Abrons Arts Center with Raw Bacon from Poland. For Dennis, a shoe-salesman and aspiring personal trainer, it seems the fight to keep his life together after serving in Iraq just won't let up. He's managed to anesthetize the enduring wounds of that service with prescription drug abuse, but when he's arrested on a domestic violence charge and sentenced to Brooklyn Treatment Court, he's forced to find new ways to handle his volatile tangle of mixed emotions.

[New Music]
Various Dates

OpenICE aims to share the most essential elements of ICE's creative process--creation, collaboration and performance--with a wider audience, through free concert and activity programming. On the heels of a blockbuster season of OpenICE programming, the musicians of ICE catalyze a flurry of activity as they take up residency at the Abrons Arts Center for the 2016-2017 season. OpenICE also invites the audience to be a part of the creative process through open rehearsals and discussions, where questions about the works and the collaborations will be welcome and encouraged. High quality documentation of OpenICE activities feed a growing online archive of HD content, which is free for all to explore on ICE is thrilled to team up with the Abrons Arts Center engagement staff to turn the building into an "open space" for sonic experimentation!

The 2016-17 OpenICE season launches September 16-18 with a celebration of new and different ways of performing and experiencing music. Percussionist Greg Stuart and his students from the University of South Carolina join ICE to present the World Premiere full performance of sound sculptor Michael Pisaro's epic Ricefall 2, for grains of rice falling on objects. Pisaro's music will continue to activate gallery spaces through performances by ICE violinist Erik Carlson. The weekend will culminate in a concert featuring new music by Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir alongside master vocalist and improviser, Sofia Jernberg.

Related Articles View More Off-Off-Broadway Stories

NOS Dance

More Hot Stories For You