Theater for the New City’s award-winning Street Theater Company opens its 35th annual tour August 6, 2011 with “Bamboozled, or The Real Reality Show,” a rip-roaring musical which will tour City streets, parks and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs through September 18, 2011. The production, free to all New Yorkers, will have book, lyrics and direction by Crystal Field (it’s in-progress as of this writing) and musical score composed by Joseph Vernon Banks. (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 32 actors, 15 crew members, two assistant directors and four 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 hero of the play is a lowly but reliable Postman, whose route runs through Jackson Heights. He has always been very happy with his job, delivering the happiness of birthday cards, news of newborns and the romance of marriage invitations. But this year, there is a terrible change-he is carrying a tsunami of unhappiness with pink slips, layoffs, businesses closings, Medicare terminations, closings of hospitals, firehouses and libraries; teacher terminations and condolences sent to the Japanese. The TV haunts his dreams and corrupts his reality, with its bizarre reality shows and its news of wars in which we’re not really there, but somehow we’re bombing them to pieces.
He experiences a visitation from Diablo Hysterico, the Rock ‘n’ Roll King of the Underworld, who reveals to him our Faustian contract with Nuclear Power. Diablo declares, “You are America! Lord and Master of the World!” Our hero resists the responsibility until he is visited by a fugitive from the future, who screams out what he has seen and pleads not to be sent back. But Diablo sings him away, and the Postman flies with him to see a people-less planet-a silent world, with nothing but grasses and overhanging trees, and little animals scurrying here and there, and the only vestige of Human Civilization…a few Pokemon characters left over from a digital remix.
The operetta shows how a strong young man, slipping quickly towards middle age, can see through the maelstrom of bad news towards a clear vision of a cleaner, more harmonious planet. Our hero fools the Devil and reminds us that a really good postman will ring three times if he has to, and even knock the door down if smoke is billowing from inside the house, and a person is screaming for help, as our planet is now.
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. Her earliest New York street productions were playlets written in Philadelphia and performed on the flatbed truck of the 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 Joseph-Vernon Banks has written original music for the TNC street theater productions “Tap Dance,” “State Of The Union,” “The Patients Are Running The Asylum,” “Bio-Tech,” “Code Orange: on the M15,” “Social Insecurity,” “Buckle My Shoe” and “Gone Fission: Alternative Power,” all with book and lyrics by Crystal Field. His other TNC productions include music and lyrics for “Life’s Too Short To Cry” by Michael Vazquez. His awards include a Meet The Composer Grant, the ASCAP Special Awards Program, and a fellowship from the Tisch Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at NYU. His musical “Girlfriends!” premiered at The Goodspeed Opera House. He has been a composer-in-residence in The Tribeca Performing Arts Center Work and Show Series and is a member of The Dramatists Guild.
As always, in the months leading up to the production, the acting company prepares for the play in “immersion workshops” to explore both the performance techniques of street theater and the issues the play presents. Activists leading workshops on the issues of the play include Orlando Gonzalez (NALC), Michael McPherson (Veterans for Peace), David McReynolds (WRL), Stephen Ringold and Mary Tek (Real Rent Reform Campaign). Performance workshops are led by veteran actors and playwrights including Michael-David Gordon, John Grimaldi (NY Lyric Circus), Mark Marcante (Commedia dell’ Arte), Kevin Martin, T. Scott Lilly, Zen Mansley, Elizabeth Ruf and Bina Sharif. Joseph-Vernon Banks will lead a workshop on the play’s music.
The designers are Mary Blanchard (Cranky), Lytza Colon (Costumes/Props), Myrna Duarte (Costumes), Susan Gittens (Costumes), Walter Gurbo (Flats), Joy Linscheid (Sound) and Zen Mansley (Special Costumes).
The cast of 32 includes Lenin Alevante, Matthew Angel, Alexander Bartenieff, Briana Bartenieff, Celeste Bradsher-Layne, Celestina Bradsher-Layne, Jhan Caro, Crystal Field*, Brandon Godfrey, Candice Goodluck, Michael-David Gordon* (as the hero postman), Ben Harburg, Rachel Kroninger, Hannah Kroninger, T. Scott Lilly*, Zen Mansley, Mark Marcante*, Grace Morales, Alison Nolan, Gabriela Nunic, Allison Patrick, Serena Pomerantz, Primy Rivera, Justin Rodriguez, Michael Sanders, Antoine Saunders, Songdance, Ramon Torres, Loralee Tyson, Juan Villegas, Paula White and Tracy Zhang*. (*indicates member AEA.)
The musicians will include Joseph Vernon Banks (piano), Michael Grayson (drums), Steven Himmelstein (guitar) and Phil Smith (bass). There is a running crew of 15.
S C H E D U L E
Sat, August 6th, 2011 – 2PM – Manhattan – TNC, East 10th Street at 1st Avenue
Sun, August 7th, 2011 – 2PM – Bronx – St. Mary’s Park at 147th St. & St. Ann’s Ave
Sat, August 13th, 2011 – 2PM – Manhattan – Jackie Robinson Park, W. 147th Street & Bradhurst Avenue
Sun, August 14th, 2011 – 2PM – Brooklyn – Herbert Von King Park at Marcy & Tompkins
Fri, August 19th, 2011 – 8PM – Brooklyn – Coney Island Boardwalk at W. 10th St.
Sat, August 20th, 2011 – 2PM – Manhattan – Wise Towers at W. 90th St bet. – Columbus & Amsterdam
Sun, August 21st, 2011 – 2PM – Manhattan – Central Park Bandshell, 72nd Street Crosswalk
Sat, August 27th, 2011 – 2PM – Brooklyn – Sunset Park, 6th Avenue & 44th Street
Sun, August 28th, 2011 – 2PM – Queens – Travers Park, 34th Ave between 77th & 78th Streets
Sat, September 10th, 2011 – 2PM – Manhattan – Tompkins Square Park at E. 7th St and Ave. A
Sun, September 11th, 2011 – 2PM – Manhattan – Washington Square Park
Sat, September 17th, 2011 – 2PM – Staten Island – Stapleton Playground, Broad Street & Tompkins Ave.
Sun, September 18th, 2011 – 2PM – Manhattan – St. Marks Church, E. 10th St at 2nd Ave
WHERE AND WHEN: August 6 to September 18, 2011. In NYC streets, parks, and playgrounds throughout the five boroughs. (See complete schedule at bottom of this document). Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm plus Friday, August 19, 2011 at 8:00 pm
Presented by Theater for the New City (www.theaterforthenewcity.net). Free to the public. Audience info (212) 254-1109.