‘Cube’ is still on ice but Astor Alive! Fest will celebrate plazas


BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Everything is looking good for next week’s inaugural Astor Alive! Festival — except one key piece, the centerpiece, is still missing. Tony Rosenthal’s famed “The Alamo” sculpture a.k.a. “The Cube” still is being restored and might not be back in place in time for the festivities.

As a result, a planned dedication on Thursday to kick off the celebration is being pushed back.

“The problem is, it’s not guaranteed that ‘The Cube’ will be back,” said William Kelley, executive director of the Village Alliance Business Improvement District. “So we’re not doing the press photo-op and dedication. If it’s not there and everyone is taking photos — it’s just not right.”

Eventgoers can get crafty and volunteer to participate in free giant puppetry-making workshops run by the legendary Processional Arts Workshop.

The festival, on Fri., Sept. 16, and Sat., Sept. 17, will go on, however. The dedication event on Sept. 15, which was to feature the unveiling of Jim Power’s renovated mosaic-encrusted lampposts, will be “TBD,” date to be determined, awaiting “The Cube” ’s comeback.

The turnable sculpture’s return is now several months overdue.

“I was just at a meeting about it, and they’re still working on the greasing mechanism to spin it,” Kelley explained. “ ‘The Cube’ has to be fully operational, i.e. it turns. The Parks Department, the city Department of Design and Construction and the conservator all have to sign off on it.”

If “The Cube” isn’t correctly “lubed,” it will corrode around that area, Kelley added.

In a way, though it’s disappointing, the BID director said, the upside is that the delay will give the “Mosaic Man” a bit more time to finish restoring his seventh and final pole that will be reinstalled in the area. One pole is already in place back on the street — it was put in to see how the reinstallation would go — and five of the other restored street-art structures are currently in storage, he said.

So, even though “The Cube” ’s absence will leave a hole in things, the Village Alliance will present the Astor Alive! Festival next week to celebrate the upcoming reopening of the new Astor Place, which will be complete in the fall.

As a vibrant cultural district with more than two dozen theater, dance, music, art, architecture and historic landmarks — including Blue Man Group, Fourth Arts Block, Cooper Union, Joe’s Pub, St. Mark’s Church and the Public Theater — the festival will debut Astor Place’s four new public plazas, among other streetscape improvements, as part of the area’s larger $16 million revitalization project.

“We are thrilled to present this cultural free festival and celebrate the continued revitalization and rich history of Astor Place,” said Kelley. “We are working closely with the Department of Transportation, the Department of Design and Construction, NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders, City Love, Grace Church School and other community partners to showcase some of the neighborhood’s most beloved artists, cultural institutions, local schools and more.”

The Astor Alive! Festival will feature dozens of free performances by local artists, including work curated by Joe’s Pub, La Mama E.T.C., Danspace and more.

The fest will include four performance stages, spanning from E. Fourth St. to E. Ninth St. There will be 20-plus groups from local theaters, performing-arts companies and schools giving shows throughout all three days. Among those on the bill are La MaMa, Joe’s Pub, Bowery Poetry Club, The Public Theater, Theater for the New City, Hetrik-Martin Institute, Standard Sounds, Rod Rodgers Dance Company, Peridance Capezio Center and Danspace Project.

Performances will focus on five historical themes of Astor Place, including “Theater for All,” “Alternative Cultures and Radical Politics,” “Thinkers and Writers,” “Immigrant Populations” and “Architectural Frontiers.”

On the evening of Fri., Sept. 16, the renamed “Alamo Plaza” will be the setting for a glamorous cabaret evening presented by Joe’s Pub and La MaMa Café. The entertainment will feature short sets by an array of local cabaret artists. Theater for the New City will kick off the night with a selection from its summer traveling show performed by a cast of 30 actors and six musicians.

Friday’s performances will run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

On Sat., Sept. 17 — dubbed Astor Alive! Festival Day — the main stage will feature music, dance and spoken-word performances by Peridance Capezio Center, Bowery Arts and Science, Rod Rodgers Dance Company — and a headliner to be announced in the coming weeks. The full day of entertainment will feature a wide variety of performances, including original site-specific dance pieces and dance lessons on the “Dance Plaza”; slam poets and indie music groups on the “Multi-Arts Stage”; a beat-box workshop and “mini-‘Cube’-making” at the family-friendly “Workshop Plaza”; plus performances by students from N.Y.U. Tisch School of the Arts, Hetrik-Martin Institute, Grace Church School, and others on the “Youth Stage.”

Saturday will also boast a parade a.k.a. the Astor Place Procession. The Processional Arts Workshop — the official pageant puppeteers for the annual Village Halloween Parade — will create props and puppets, as well as offer a weeklong arts workshop, which is open to all.

Parade participants will carry colorful oversized puppets, silk banners and large spinning paper “Cubes” that will lead the way. In addition, marching musicians, parade drummers and the Bond Street Theater stilt band will keep up the momentum, along with dancers, theater groups and those carrying mini-“Cubes” made at the festival.

The parade will wend through the new plazas from E. Ninth St. to E. Fourth St. and then back up again for a finale at the northern plaza.

Saturday’s performances will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., followed by the parade from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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