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Live performance has been gone from New York for more than a year — it’s time to bring it back

Downtown Live performers pose for a group shot in Lower Manhattan earlier this month (l-r: Katie Madison, Meghan Finn, Eisa Davis, Debora Balardini, Andressa Furletti, and Kaaron Briscoe)
Photo: Maria Baranova

There are many reasons people come to New York, to live or to visit. The jobs. The restaurants. The world-class museums. The 24-hour subway service. But one of the biggest draws New York has is simply its energy – the sensation that the city is always moving, always breathing, and that a day or night here is always on the brink of turning into magic.

Live performance is and has always been a big part of that magic. From the postRevolutionary War performances in Lower Manhattan’s own
erstwhile Park Theatre to the beatnik poetry readings in Greenwich Village coffee shops to the glittering marquee lights on Broadway, New York’s live music, theater and arts has made it an essential destination for centuries of creatives from across the globe. But for the last year-plus, our theaters, music venues and cafes have been quiet. We’ve lost the magic of catching a glitzy musical or elegant opera or your friend’s band at the dive down the block. And the artists and venues who brought us those magical experiences have taken a massive financial hit.

It’s time live performance came back. As vaccinations increase, Covid-19 cases go down and life begins to resemble normalcy, we need to support the artists and venues who help make New York the vibrant, exciting cultural destination it is. This month, the Alliance for Downtown New York is doing its part by teaming up with En Garde Arts + The Tank to host Downtown Live, a series of 30 in-person performances that will take place in unexpected outdoor spaces around Lower Manhattan. The festival, which runs on May 15-16 and 22-23, will feature live theatre, music and contemporary performance from a lineup that includes many Obie- and Pulitzer award-winning artists. We hope it reminds New Yorkers how special this city’s cultural scene is, and how lucky we are to have it.

This is just one small step. It is on us, when theater and concerts resume, to support the arts as much as we can, and to foster a creative environment in which our artists and venues can thrive. New York is coming back. Let’s make sure we capture all of it.

– Jessica Lappin, President, Alliance for Downtown New York

Sponsored by the Alliance for Downtown New York

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