Theater for the New City to Present ‘Tap Dance,’ an Opera for the Street

Theater for the New City’s award-winning Street Theater Company opens its 30th annual tour August 5th with “Tap Dance,” an opera for the street which will tour City streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs through September 17. The production, free to all New Yorkers, has book, lyrics and direction by Crystal Field and music composed and arranged by Joseph Vernon Banks.

The title refers to tap as in wiretap. It’s a play inspired by the Patriot Act and other recent government shenanigans that have been taking away our freedoms to protect our liberties. Government wiretaps have had our federal administration doing plenty of the Texas Two-Step, and all this dancing and whitewashing is gorgeous material for a musical. In this one, the whole company of 25 performers will tap dance. The whitewashing will all be done with suds.

A Corporate “Entertainer” adopts a disciple and endeavors to teach him the “Corporate Street Smarts”–misinformation and manipulation of every kind, cheating, fudging, lying in the classiest manner. But the kid can’t get it. So the Master shifts to more promising pupils: a middle class couple who have just been evicted from their home to make way for a shopping mall. Anxious to “get ahead,” the couple learns fast, finding themselves in the land of cell phones and BlackBerries and tapping into the big city code of ethics. Everyone around them, afraid to lose the little they have won by sweat and hard labor, joins in the Corporate Tap Dance. They tap themselves right into the war in Iraq, the condo-ization of rental apartments, privatization of public housing, destruction of health care and decimation of public education. On the way, they pick up a gun and a barrel of oil, and suddenly, their faces are gone, leaving only blank spaces.

Tap Dance, written and directed by Crystal Field
Tap Dance, written and directed by Crystal Field

Fear rides roughshod over their lives, and to tap it all off, they begin to protest. But a new kind of tapping occurs: their names and phone numbers are on a list. Their phones are tapped. Their reading lists are tapped into. Their sons and daughters are tapped for new wars. They are tapping as fast as they can, and find to their surprise that the President is always listening on the other end of the line.

Meanwhile, the abandoned young pupil meets an Iraq War veteran and they travel together, ending up on the Mexican Border, where a wall is being built and there are 20,000 troops are stationed to “protect” us. Along the way, they meet a memorable ex-Baseball player named Uke Johnson, who is traveling with his catcher, Dusty Roads; a librarian who refused to give out the names and reading lists of his patonsn; the Mayor of NYC, who is protesting the loss of Antiterror funding; a man whose Ethnicity keeps changing; and a group of Raging Grannies. In the middle of the Mojave Desert, they all learn the ukulele from Uke Johnson and the soft shoe from the spirit of Master Juba (who first introduced Tap Dancing to this country) and the spirits of the September 11th bombing victims. Their new soft shoe means redemption for all the unfortunate fools who were bamboozled by the Master Corporations. As Uke Johnson puts it, “It’s all in the wrist! Let’s hit a Home Run for the Homeland!”

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 25 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.

TNC’s “Tap Dance,” plays August 5 to September 17 (critics invited to all performances). Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm plus Friday, August 19 at 8:00 pm. In NYC streets, parks, and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs (schedule below). Presented by Theater for the New City ( Free to the public. For audience info call (212) 254-1109.

Sat, August 5th – 2 PM – Manhattan – TNC, East 10th Street at 1st Avenue

Sun, August 6th – 2 PM – East Harlem – Courtney Callendar Playground, 130th Street at 5th Avenue

Sat, August 12th – 2 PM – Manhattan – St. Marks Church, E. 10th St. at 2nd Ave.

Sun, August 13th – 2 PM – Brooklyn – Herbert Von King Park at Marcy & Tompkins

Fri, August 18th – 8 PM – Brooklyn – Coney Island Boardwalk at W. 10th St.

Sat, August 19th – 2 PM – Bronx – St. Mary’s Park at 147th St. & St. Ann’s Ave.

Sun, August 20th – 2 PM – Manhattan – Central Park Bandshell, 72nd Street Crosswalk

Sat, August 26th – 2 PM – Brooklyn – Prospect Park Concert Grove

Sun, August 27th – 2 PM – Staten Island – Clove Lake Park

Sat, September 9th – 2 PM – Manhattan – Wise Towers at W. 90th St. bet. – Columbus & Amsterdam

Sun, September 10th – 2 PM – Queens – Travers Park, Jackson Heights (34th Ave. betw. 77th and 78th Sts.)

Sat, September 16th – 2 PM – Manhattan – Tompkins Square Park at E. 7th St. and Ave. A

Sun, September 17th – 2 PM – Manhattan – Washington Square Park

Jonathan Slaff
Jonathan Slaff writes on cultural events from the brainy, the edgy and the good. He helps us keep ahead of the curve in the world of the arts and culture.