Theater for the New City’s award-winning Street Theater Company opens its 33rd annual tour August 1, 2009 with “Tally Ho!, or Navigating the Future,” a rip-roaring musical which will tour City streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs through September 13.
The production, free to all New Yorkers, has book, lyrics and direction by Crystal Field and musical score composed by David Tice. (Schedule follows at bottom of this document.)
TNC’s award-winning Street Theater always contains an elaborate assemblage of trap doors, giant puppets, smoke machines, masks, original choreography and a huge (9′ x 12′) running screen or “cranky” providing continuous movement behind the actors. The company of 27 actors, twelve crew members, two assistant directors and five live musicians shares the challenge of performing outside and holding a large, non-captive audience.
The music varies in style from Bossa Nova to Gilbert & Sullivan. Complex social issues are often presented through children’s allegories, with children as the heroes, making these free productions a popular form of family entertainment.
The musical is a morality play about how America, facing financial failure, must set a course through the uncertainty of what’s to come. Two accountants – one clever and ambitious, the other sensible and caring – exemplify citizens gripped by our nationwide financial disaster.
The status-seeking, flashier one jumps on the speculative bandwagon and prospers with each successively greater scheme. The steady, responsible one takes the low road, but the economy is at the mercy of the passions of the day. The innocent go broke with the guilty. Everyone is buried in a vast mountain of useless commercial paper and misinformation.
There’s hell to pay, with investors, financiers and Ponzi addicts going head-to-head in a colossal food fight with seltzer squirting and pie throwing. The two accountants end up in the headlock of a burly muscleman who personifies History. He takes them on a 1930s adventure to witness how New Deal idealism is undermined by modern political canoodling. With transparency, we can see only skeletons!
No one can stop the Nation’s economic decline, but a “Broadway number” can stop the show, featuring brazen performances by Miss Toxic Assets and her chorus dancers, Miss Take, Miss Step and Miss Fortune. A bailout bill without regulation is stymied by collusion between Democrats under investigation and Republicans who won’t investigate. The show asks, is there a right road? It preaches, “Tally Ho! Organize! Speak Out!”
Author/director Crystal Field began writing street theater in 1968 as a member of Theater of the Living Arts in Philadelphia. She wrote and performed her own outdoor theater pieces against the Vietnam War and also curated and performed many poetry programs for the Philadelphia Public Schools. There she found tremendous enthusiasm and comprehension on the part of poor and minority students for both modern and classical poetry when presented in a context of relevancy to current issues. She realized that for poetry to find its true audience, the bonds of authoritarian criticism must and can be transcended. Her earliest New York street productions were playlets written in Philadelphia and performed on the flatbed truck of Bread and Puppet Theater in Central Park. Peter Schumann, director of that troupe, was her first NY artistic supporter.
In 1971, Ms. Field became a protege of Robert Nichols, founder of the Judson Poets Theater in Manhattan. It is an interesting historic note that “”The Expressway” by Robert Nichols, directed by Crystal Field (a Street theater satire about Robert Moses’ plan for a throughway to run across Little Italy from the West Side Highway to the FDR Drive). It was actually the first production of Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival. Nichols wrote street theater plays for TNC in its early years, but as time went on, wrote scenarios and only the first lines of songs, leaving Field to “fill in the blanks.” When Nichols announced his retirement to Vermont in 1975, he urged Field to “write your own.” The undertaking, while stressful at first, became the impetus for her to express her own topical political philosophy and to immerse her plays in that special brand of humor referred to often as “that brainy slapstick.” Her first complete work was “Mama Liberty’s Bicentennial Party” (1976), in honor of the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution.
Field has written and directed a completely new opera for the TNC Street Theater company each successive year. She collaborated for eleven years with composer Mark Hardwick, whose “Pump Boys and Dinettes” and “Oil City Symphony” were inspired by his street theater work with Ms. Field. At the time of his death from AIDS in 1994, he was writing a clown musical with Field called “On the Road,” which was never finished. One long-running actor in TNC street theater was Tim Robbins, who was a member of the company for six years in the 1980s, from age twelve to 18.
The Village Halloween Parade, which TNC produced single-handedly for the Parade’s first two years, grew out of the procession which preceded each Street Theater production. Ralph Lee, who created the Parade with Ms. Field, was chief designer for TNC’s Street Theater for four years before the Village Halloween Parade began.
Field has also written for TNC’s annual Halloween Ball and for an annual Yuletime pageant that was performed outdoors for 2,000 children on the Saturday before Christmas. She has written two full-length indoor plays, “Upstate” and “One Director Against His Cast.” She is Executive Director of TNC.
Composer David Tice scored last year’s street theater production, “It’s the Economy Stupid! or The Turning Point.” He received a masters degree in composition and piano at the University of Michigan School of Music. For three summers he was repetiteur and choral director at the Jandor International Opera Seminar in Ghent, Belgium. In 1971 he appeared in the very first play ever done at TNC, “Dracula:Sabbat.” Since then, he has been active as a composer in NY experimental theater, composing scores for such shows as “Radio Wisdom” (Richard Foreman), “Owls in the Ivy” (Arthur Williams), “Dead Wrong!” (Jeffrey Herman), “Twenty-four Inches” (Robert Patrick) and “The Tree Artist” (Rosalyn Drexler). All but “Dead Wrong” were presented by TNC; he received ASCAP awards for the last two. Tice has acted in numerous films and television dramas, notably Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” in which he appears as a bemused waiter. He has accompanied singers such as Matti Lehtinen, Leyna Gabriele, William McGrath, Dorothy Coulter and Ron Bottcher and accompanies soprano Clamma Dale in the CD “Unforgotten,” which is in current release.
“Tally Ho!, or Navigating the Future” will tour streets, parks and playgrounds of New York City from August 1 to September 13, 2009. Admission to all events is free. Audience members can find more information on (212) 254-1109 or on Theater for the New City’s website, www.theaterforthenewcity.net.
The schedule is:
Saturday, August 1st at 2PM at Manhattan (TNC, East 10th Street at 1st Avenue.)
Sunday, August 2nd at 2PM in Manhattan – Morningside Park, West 113th Street & Manhattan Avenue.
Saturday , August 8th at 2PM in Manhattan – Tompkins Square Park at E. 7th St and Ave. A.
Sunday, August 9th at 2PM in Brooklyn – Herbert Von King Park at Marcy & Tompkins.
Friday, August 14th at 8PM in Brooklyn – Coney Island Boardwalk at W. 10th St.
Saturday, August 15th at 2PM in Manhattan – Wise Towers at W. 90th St bet. – Columbus & Amsterdam.
Sunday, August 16th at 2PM in Manhattan – Central Park Bandshell, 72nd Street Crosswalk.
Saturday, August 22nd at 2PM in Brooklyn – Prospect Park Concert Grove.
Sunday, August 23rd at 2PM in Queens – Travers Park, 34th Ave between 77th & 78th Streets.
Saturday, August 29th at 2PM in Bronx – St. Mary’s Park at 147th St. & St. Ann’s Ave.
Sunday, August 30th at 2PM in Manhattan – Washington Square Park.
Saturday, September 12th at 2PM in Staten Island – Sobel Court & Bowen Street.
Sunday, September 13th at 2PM in Manhattan – St. Marks Church, E. 10th St at 2nd Ave.