Are you ready for the summer? Best bets for Village arts events


By Scott Stiffler

Who in their right mind would ever want to escape the city for overhyped, overplayed, undeserving destinations like the Hamptons? If it’s a pleasant diversion you want, why go anywhere else? There’s a reason the world flocks to NYC (and it’s not that new pedestrian mall in Times Square). No, it’s the culturally enriching, good times to be had by all — much of it happening within walking distance of the place you call home. 

Whether you’re a restless resident on the prowl for something to occupy your already overstimulated urban mind — or charged with the daunting task of showing your out-of-town guests the best our city has to offer — summertime arts activities in the Village are sure bets in the quest to be enlightened and/or entertained. 

To that end, here’s our totally biased, not nearly comprehensive (but still worth your while) compilation of Village-centric activities and events happening from now through the middle of the summer. They’re not arranged according to genre or date — and a select few aren’t even happening in what any reasonable person would consider part of the Village. Drives you nuts, doesn’t it? Well, stop nitpicking and focus on something palpable to complain about — like NYC’s relentlessly oppressive July heat. Then, remind yourself that, all things considered, you live in the city’s funkiest, art-fueled neighborhood — and resolve to enjoy that rare privilege to its fullest. 

Although we’ve put together what we feel are some of the Village’s best events, some of your favorite artists, activities or venues may be conspicuously absent. That’s why we’re encouraging our readers to submit their suggestions for worthy arts events to be featured in our mid-summer through Labor Day “Summer in the City” arts edition (coming to you around mid-July). Email Scott@thevillager.com. In the meantime, though, consider these artful offerings; and stay cool. 

Photo by Michele Firpo-Cappiello

Robert Firpo-Cappiello as the hobo “Dooley” 


Promising to take you on “a whisky-fueled, guitar-driven odyssey across Depression-era America,” the one-man folk musical “Beggars Rain” gets our award for most-hyphenated press release promise. See if writer/performer (and Emmy-nominated composer) Robert Firpo-Cappiello delivers as he portrays a hobo named Dooley who hops trains across the blasted 1930s American landscape. Odds are you’ll come up with some hyphenated adjectives yourself after seeing the much-praised Firpo-Cappiello (a Bronx native who made his show-business debut at the age of five on WOR-TV’s “Romper Room”). 9:00p.m., May 28th, June 25th at 13th Street Repertory Company, 50 East 13th Street. Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors). To order, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.theatermania.com.   


The movers and shakers who’ve kept Chelsea Opera alive let their hair down and do some moving and shaking of their own — thanks to the lubricating powers of the modest margarita. The resulting shenanigans (be they liquid or lampshade-based) are all for a good cause, though. Their “Mid-Summer Margarita Madness II” event benefits the Opera’s production fund. Raise a glass, beat the summer heat, support the arts and take a chance on their 50/50 raffle! The $25 ticket includes 2 standard margaritas, chips and a $12 tax deductible donation. To purchase tickets, see the July events page at www.NYCharities.org. See the good things your money does at www.ChelseaOpera.org. Wednesday, July 22nd, 6:00p.m. at the Caliente Cab Company, 61 Seventh Avenue South at Bleecker Street. 



Still going strong (and not going anywhere else anytime soon), the spectacular comedy/variety spectacle known as “No Name and A Bag O’ Chips” continues its relentless comedic run. Always bespectacled but rarely befuddled, your host Eric Vetter presents a multiethnic mix of comedic and musical talent — with the occasional illusionist or poet thrown in. Although all performers have the chops to entertain, chances are you’ve never heard of them — hence the namesake consolation prize: a bag of chips. Summer shows are at 7:00p.m. on June: 12th, 19th, July: 10th, 17th, 24th and August: 14th and 21st; at Otto’s Shrunken Head Tiki Bar and Lounge (538 E 14th St. (between Aves. A and B). Free admission; no cover, no minimum. Call (212) 228-2240 or visit www.nonamenyc.com. 


One of the shining cultural stars of Fourth Street, Horse Trade Theater Group presents (proudly we’re assured) “Bigger Than I.” Conceived, written and performed by Counting Squares Theater, this new work takes a skeptical look at the popularity of the electronic confessional. How can we be ourselves in a world where blogs and websites make it so easy to create and nurture alternate personas? A night of filtering that question through scene work, song, dance, multimedia and good old fashioned theater just might provide some answers. If nothing else, it’ll get you out of the house and away from your electronic tube of choice. Thursday through Sunday, 7:30p.m., June 4th through 20th; at UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place, between 1st Ave. and Avenue A). Purchase tickets, $18, by calling 212-868-4444 or online at www.horseTRADE.info. 


Fourth Arts Block advocates for the good things to be found on, as the name implies, the East 4th Street cultural district (which covers E. 4th St. between Bowery & 2nd Ave.). To get you there, FAB offers discounted rush tickets for the fabulous theater, dance, film and uncategorizable performance events to be found at places like Horse Trade Theater Group, La MaMa E.T.C., New York Theatre Workshop,  Teatro IATI, Teatro Circulo, and Millennium Film Workshop. Every Friday in May and June (Saturdays in June, too), from 5:00-7:00p.m., the “FAB Fridays” is where you can purchase your discounted tickets (some as low as $5) and get a free gift. For booth location and a complete listing of all the shows (too numerous to mention here, but none of them over $20), visit www.fabnyc.com.


Who says there are no new tales to tell? To find one, La MaMa E.T.C. went considerably far back in time to come up with “the first play to tell the story of the ancient Greek god of medicine and healing.” Conceived, written and directed by the legendary Ellen Stewart, “AESCLEPIUS” tells how the son of sun god Apollo and mortal maiden Coronis transcends to his rightful place in the heavens because of his great work in medicine. As achievements go, it’s not like he won American Idol — but give Aesclepius a break; he was working in a less enlightened era. May 28th through June 14th (7:30p.m., Thursday through Sunday) at La MaMa E.T.C. Annex; 66 East 4th Street). Tickets are $25 ($20 students/seniors). To reserve, call 212-475-7710 or online at www.lamama.org. 


German dancer and choreographer Eva Weissmann presents “Reverenz an Constantia,” a solo dance performance entangled with spoken and sung text from the writings of Gertrude Stein, Anna D. Smith and Jeanne d’Arc. June 3rd through June 6th, 8:30p.m., at Cunningham Studio, 55 Bethune Street. Purchase tickets at the door on the night of the performance. For more information, visit www.wearewe.de.


Photo by MakiFotos

The two who are Violent Kin, times two


For years, our neighbors up north have been sending us some of America’s most beloved comedians. This summer, though, they’re giving us the gift of music — in the form of a band we just might not send back. Canada’s Violent Kin is moving to NYC for the summer — and taking up residency at Fontana’s (105 Eldridge Street) for a series of concerts ($7; 9:00p.m., July 1st, 8th, 15th). They’ll also perform a July 30th Midnight show ($8 admission) at Arlene’s Grocery (95 Stanton Street). For a sneak preview of what you’ve been missing — and what you’re likely to see this summer, go to www.myspace.com/violentkin. Access “Electrons” from their “available soon” CD “Bitter Blood” and discover what deserves to be a stateside summertime hit. 



Created by Sam Osterhout (co-founder of the Minneapolis-based radio sitcom Electric Arc Radio Show), this monthly hour of conversation recklessly, if lovingly, careens between the fine lines of interview, performance and questions from the audience — anchored by an old-time radio drama/comedy in which the special guest appears as him or herself. The June 13th inaugural edition features Norah Jones. Two more editions are sure things; always 2:00p.m., on the second Saturday of July, and August at (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleeker Street. Doors open at 1:30p.m.; tickets are $5. For more information, visit www.radiohappyhour.com and www.lepoissonrouge.com.  

Photo by William Chu

Bass trombonist David Taylor, who’ll premiere his new piece “Too Suite”


Recently, Philadelphia-based Avi Wisnia brought his bossa nova sounds to 92Y Tribeca. Now, Wisnia celebrates the first day of summer with the debut performance from his “New York Megaphonica.” Appearing as part of Make Music New York 2009, this experimental, genre-bending group presents improvised and arranged pieces performed solely with the human voice (and a megaphone). Comprised entirely of local NYC band members, singers, artists and their friends, the group takes the megaphone out of the realm of protests and emergency situations and bends it to the whims of pop, hip hop and spoken word arrangements. Audience participation is encouraged, and passers-by will receive free limited edition T-shirts and megaphones commemorating “the largest-ever all-megaphone performance.” Free; Sunday, June 21st, 12:00p.m. and 12:40p.m. at Union Square Park. Visit www.myspace.com/megaphonica. 



Now in its seventh year, the Fresh Fruit Festival (July 9th through 27th) still manages to shock with its revelation that there are lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people working in the arts. Soak up this unexpected revelation by bearing witness to sassy, provocative LGBT-themed takes on theater, comedy, variety, literature, music, dance, poetry and visual and performance art. On July 15, at 7:00p.m., Lady Clover Honey hosts “Fresh Fruit Playhouse and Open Mic” — where anybody with something to say is invited to sign up for a performance slot (by arriving 15 minutes before showtime). $7 admission; at The Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 East 3rd Street (Between Ave B & C); call 212-780-9386. At 7:00pm on July 25, “OUT JAZZ” presents an evening of music dedicated to LGBT jazz greats, as performed by LGBT jazz artists. $25 general admission; at Joe’s Pub 425, Lafayette Street (between 4th St & Astor Place). For a complete schedule of festival events, visit www.freshfruitfestival.com. 


Show your support for two great neighborhoods that go great together in this special evening of entertainment, food and amiable schmoozing. The Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce presents internationally-acclaimed, award-winning cabaret performer Cynthia Crane, performing her show “I am confused, therefore I am.” That performance happens at 7:00p.m.. The event begins at 6:00p.m. and ends at 9:00p.m. — and by the time you leave, you’ll have some snacked on some Hors d’oeuvers, lifted a glass in celebration of the impending June 15th opening of The Highline, and made a $50 or $75 donation for the benefit of the sponsoring organization. Thursday, June 11th; at Arium (31 Little West 12th Street). For information, call (212) 337-5923



If you missed Memorial Day weekend’s Lower East Side Festival of the Arts (and the cavalcade of downtown talent it presented free of charge), check out this exhibit — which ran concurrently with the fest and continues through June. “Theater for the New City’s Lower East Side Festival of the Arts Exhibit” features the work of 46 Lower East Side artists, hand-picked by curator Carolyn Ratcliffe. Many of those artists will be on hand to meet, greet and intellectually engage the public on the topic of their art and whatever else comes to mind. Until the exhibit’s June 30 closing, take advantage of that rare creator/observer interaction Sunday through Wednesday, from 3:00p.m. to 5:00p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 5-7p.m.; at Theater for the New City Gallery, 155 1st Avenue; (212)254-1109 or www.theaterforthenewcity.net. 



Since 1986, Dixon Place has provided a space for literary and performing artist to create and develop new works—while the audience sat in a patchwork collection of reliably comfy chairs and couches. Now in a new home and not yet officially relaunched, they’re still providing a respectably full calendar of events until the big reveal this fall. Access the full schedule at www.dixonplace.org; and consider these two safe bets: June 14th at 8:00p.m. and June 15th at 8:00p.m. and 10:00p.m., Martha Wainwright performs the songs of Edith Piaf (while multitasking by recording the shows for her new album and video). From July 9th through 25th, downtown performance legend Penny Arcade premieres “Old Queen,” a work commissioned by and for Dixon Place’s 18th Annual HOT! Festival (the world’s oldest continuing queer performance festival). For Penny’s specific dates and times, and for more festival information, call 212-219-0736 or visit www.hotfestival.org. Dixon Place is located at 161A Chrystie Street. 


No spring chicken but not yet ready for social security, the Washington Square Music Festival remains healthy, strong and vital as it celebrates its 51st season. The opening concert, at 8:30p.m. on June 5th, offers Musical Director Lutz Rath leading the Festival Chamber Orchestra as they play works from Beethoven and Stravinsky. On June 19th at 8:30p.m., The Devil (played by Rath), commands the Festival Chamber Ensemble — whose offerings include Stravinsky’s “A Soldier’s Tale”—an adaptation of a 1918 theatrical parable in which a soldier trades his fiddle to the devil for a book that predicts the future of the economy. Both concerts are free; seating is first-come, first-served. At St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (371 Sixth Avenue). Call 212-252-3621 or visit www.washingtonsquaremusicfestival.org.  



This newly minted theater festival runs June 9th through June 28th and takes place at the newly renovated 440 Theaters. Committed to producing high-quality theater through non-traditional casting, unique perspectives, and plenty of politics, the festival productions are curated with the lofty, elusive (but hopefully attainable) goal of inspiring cultural education and human understanding. Among the highly subjective highlights: “Twin Towers” concerns an Iraq war veteran who returns to the Bronx in search of his childhood friend. “Hound” gives the musty Sherlock Holmes character a revisionist reboot, as grieving widower Watson takes up lodgings once again with the famous consulting detective—whom the world believes to be dead. What follows is a twisted retelling of “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” For a complete schedule of festival content plus times and dates for the shows mentioned above, Call 212-352-3101 or visit www.planetconnectionsfestivity.com. 440 Theaters is located at 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd floor, between Astor Place & East 4th Street.


Every Thursday night through September 4, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum serves up a full cultural plate of tours, Tenement Talks, and performance art — along with discounts at Area Bars, Restaurants & Shops. “Twilight Thursdays.” On June 11, artist Michelle Brody encourages you to stop by “Brody’s Tea Cart,” parked on Orchard Street across from the museum. There, you’ll sip free tea while Brody mines your family stories for her oral history project (find out more about that at www.michellebrody.com). On July 9, Jeffrey the Butcher reveals little known facts and secrets regarding his trade, his family’s Lower East Side history, and what life is really like in the Essex Street Market. For a complete listing of events, prices, times and all other such useful information, visit www.tenement.org; and see them in the real world by stopping by 97 Orchard Street. For reservations, call 866-606-7232.


Thirteen just might be your lucky number this summer, since it represents the amount of years Rooftop Films has presented “Underground Movies Outdoors.” Playing now through September 20th, the venerable fresh air film series offers up an extensive schedule of documentaries, fiction, drama, comedy animation and more—with most screenings including a Q&A with the filmmaker.

May 30, trek over to Brooklyn Technical High School for the documentary “Strongman” — which follows “the only man in the world who can bend a penny with his fingers.” That man, Stanless Steel, will be on hand to demonstrate. At the same venue, on June 10th through13th, “PANORAMA: Tales of Mere Existence” presents humorous films dealing with anxiety and awkwardness. Friday, June 12th, on the Open Road Rooftop above New Design High School (350 Grand St. at Essex), “PANORAMA: New York Non-Fiction” delivers short films that explore New York’s diversity through the perspectives of hustlers, lovers and royalty. Rooftop Films will announce its complete July through September schedule in June.

Tickets are $9 at the door or online at www.rooftopfilms.com. Unless otherwise noted, all screenings follow this schedule: Doors open at 8:00p.m., live music presented at 8:30p.m., film at 9:00p.m., with a spirited after-party happening from the time the last reel ends until 1:00a.m.; and when it rains, the show takes place indoors at the same location, same time.


This solo exhibition by photographer Khiang H. Hei commemorates the 20th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square uprising. A student at the time, Hei uses the photographs he took to tell the story of humanity and the struggle for freedom in a society of censorship. The exhibit’s title refers to the number of searches fund in Google China commemorating the June 4th incident at Tiananmen Square. Google it for yourself and realize how lucky you are. From May 29th through June 29th; gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11a.m. to 6:00p.m.; at Christopher Henry Gallery, 127 Elizabeth Street. For more information, call 212-244-6004 or visit www.christopherhenrygallery.com.


InDigest Magazine continues its free monthly series. Putting a unique spin on the seen-it-before format of the literary reading, participating authors bring in their own work to read as well as the work of an author who has inspired them — tracing a line of inspiration from the work of another to their own. As for the audience, the series “synthesizes the two most crucial parts of literature: words and alcohol. Listeners enjoy the happy hour libations offered by the venue, and everybody wins.”

On June 3rd, the bill features Rodrigo Toscano (author of “Collapsible Poetics Theater”), Angela Ball (author of Night Clerk at the Hotel of Both Worlds), Stephen Burt (author of “Close Calls with Non-Sense” and “Shot Clocks”) and Giao Buu (recently featured on NPR). On July 1st, InDigest presents Geoff Herbach (author of “The Miracle Letters of T. Rimberg”). The August 5 edition features “Lowboy” author John Wray and Marlon James (author of “The Book of Night Women”). Free; doors open at 6:30p.m.; reading begins at 7:00p.m; at (Le) Poisson Rouge, 158 Bleecker Street.