Performance Space New York's East Village Series Opens February 17

Performance Space New York's East Village Series Opens February 17

Performance Space New York kicks off its East Village Series, contemplating the past, present, and future of the organization and its neighborhood, with Welcome to Lenapehoking (February 17, 4pm, Free), a partnership with the The Lenape Center, and Avant-Garde-Arama, the extravaganza of experimentation that's also the organization's longest-running program (February 18, 6pm, Free). Performance Space New York's Executive Artistic Director Jenny Schlenzka steps into her new curatorial role with these events honoring the neighborhood's original caretakers and the organization's own trailblazing roots, as springboards into an exhilarating new chapter.

The New York City neighborhood we call the East Village is part of Lenapehoking, the homeland of the first inhabitants the Lenape. To celebrate this ongoing legacy and recognize the considerable influence Native American artists have had on American performance and art, Performance Space New York partners with the Lenape Center-the local organization dedicated to the promotion of Lenape language and culture-for the inauguration of its rejuvenated home. Welcome to Lenapehoking features a Welcome to Country from Lenape Center co-founder and executive director Joe Baker, opening both the event and the East Village Series as a whole. Multidisciplinary artist Nathan Young will tell a story of Lenape migration to and from Lenapehoking, through voice, video, and sound. This poetic narrative is derived from resources including folk knowledge, cartography, ethnological and anthropological data as well as the artist's drawing upon his own family and personal experience as a Lenape.

Over its history, the much beloved Avant-Garde-Arama 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. This year's expanded Avant-Garde-Arama takes place on several stages simultaneously across a single night, and features a mixed bill of performers, dancers, musicians, and filmmakers, matching the uncontained spirit and new life of the organization in its renovated spaces (150 1st Avenue, 4th floor).

The event includes performances from Daphne Always, Penny Arcade, Morgan Bassichis, Charles Dennis, James Godwin, Hamm, Justin Hicks and Jade Hicks - The Hawtplates, Holly Hughes, Joe E. Jeffreys, The Illustrious Blacks, John Kelly, Sibyl Kempson, Seung Min Lee, Cornelius Loy, Erin Markey, Mina Nishimura, Nuyorican Poets Cafe - La Bruja, Pat Oleszko, Peggy Pettitt, Pharmakon, Antonio Ramos, Courtnee Roze, Momo Shade, Shane Shane, Will Sheridan, Sister Jean Ra Horror, Spiderwoman Theater - Muriel and Gloria Miguel, Patti Spliff, Tony Stinkmetal, Alexandra Tatarsky, Adrienne Truscott, Reggie Watts, John Zorn, and more. The evening stretches from 6pm, when performances first begin, towards a dance party beginning at 9pm, DJed by JD Samson, Justin Strauss, and more.

Curated by a committee of artists and organized by New York performance artist Salley May, the program is a prime example of the communal effort that has kept Performance Space's theater vibrant and alive throughout four decades. What better way to celebrate the reopening of the organization's home than by welcoming everybody back to the anything-can-happen ethos of Avant-Garde-Arama?

Performance Space New York's East Village series mines the multifaceted artistic movements and histories within the neighborhood with which it shares a history. The organization was born as Performance Space 122 in 1980; from a 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. The series was conceived together with artists, performers, writers, filmmakers, musicians, designers, and other organizations, some intimately intertwined with our institution, others new to Performance Space New York.

Beyond Welcome to Lenapehoking and Avant-Garde-Arama, it features a month of programming devoted to the uncompromising spirit of the late Kathy Acker, dance performances from Yve Laris Cohen and Sarah Michelson, a performative installation from Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Penny Arcade's iconic Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore!, a skate-park, skate sessions, and workshops from feminist art collective BRUJAS, a Kiki Ball hosted by the Alliance for Positive Change, and Chris Cochrane, Dennis Cooper, Ishmael Houston-Jones' haunting THEM. The East Village Series evokes a neighborhood-largely erased and reshaped by the collusion of time and capital-and considers new paths for its future.


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.

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