Just Do Art!

Michael Conley conducts the Washington Square Music Festival Chamber Orchestra & The West Village Chorale, in a free concert at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (July 10, 8pm).  Photo by Liza Wallis

BY SCOTT STIFFLER  |  THE WASHINGTON SQUARE MUSIC FESTIVAL  The Washington Square Music Festival — under the auspices of the Washington Square Association and under the musical direction of Lutz Rath — is about to open its 54th season of free concerts.

The popular summer series begins July 10, with the WSMF debut of conductor Michael Conley and the West Village Chorale. Together with the Festival Chamber Orchestra, they’ll salute the Village neighborhood with a program of music and poetry. Soprano Lucia Hyunju Song will also perform.

On July 17, the Washington Square Festival Chamber Ensemble presents an evening of Viennese chamber music (at St. Joseph’s Church, 371 Sixth Ave.). With David Oei on piano and Lutz Rath on speaker and cello, selections include Mahler’s “Piano Quartet in A minor” and Schoenberg’s “Ode to Napoleon.” On July 24, the program “Music for Strings & Winds” features the Chamber Ensemble performing selections including Dvorák’s “Serenade in D minor, Op. 44” and Mozart’s “Divertimento in D for winds and strings, K.131.” On July 31, the Deep Sahara Band performs music of West Africa (featuring band leader and vocal soloist Abdoulaye Alhassane). Both the July 24 and 31 performances take place in Washington Square, main stage, south of Fifth Ave.; rainspace, St. Joseph’s Church).

All concerts are free and take place on Tuesdays at 8pm. The July 10 concert happens in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church (371 Sixth Ave., corner of Washington Place). Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. For info, call 212-252-3621 or visit washingtonsquaremusicfestival.org.

Dan Davies (Henry Seed), Crispian Belfrage (Zeke) and Sadie Kaye (Miss Wanda), in “West of Thunder.” Photo by Anna Anet Krivenkoff

“WEST OF THUNDER” BENEFIT CONCERT & SCREENING  Set in 1899 (nine years after the Massacre at Wounded Knee and the formation of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota), the Lakota-inspired film “West of Thunder” explores the possibility of revenge and the choice of a higher road. When mysterious stranger Henry Seed visits a small town on the outskirts of the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation, inexplicable and deadly events (mirroring atrocities experienced by the Lakota people) begin to occur.

On July 13, you’ll have the chance to see the film before its official premiere screening events in London, Paris, Israel and Hong Kong this September. With entertainment from the band The Fishkillers, this screening will benefit the film’s efforts to build the Sunka Wakan School — a University of Cambridge-accredited, Lakota-influenced K-12 school that will serve residents of South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation. The school, the first of its kind, will provide students with the highest level of academics along with an immersion in Lakota culture, language and traditional values. Herds of rescued wild mustangs will also be a part of the project — with equine therapy and Lakota cultural programs.

Fri., July 13, 7:30-10:30pm, at Theatre 80 (80 St. Marks Place). Tickets are $25. To order, visit theatre80.net. For more info, visit westofthunder.com.

“Cho H Cho,” presented by One-Eighth (part of the undergroundzero festival).

THE UNDERGROUNDZERO FESTIVAL |  Theater companies from all over the world dream of producing their work in Manhattan — while theater companies from the island set their sights on…Brooklyn. Times change, rents rise and venues close — and those who can’t evolve are on the fast track to extinction.

The 11-member cooperative of independent dance, performance and theater artists who are producing this year’s undergroundzero festival have banded together for the purposes of longevity and creativity — and they’ve invited several international theater companies along for the fest’s 2012 reboot.

Created originally as an annual guest artist festival, undergroudzero has evolved into a resident coalition model for independent companies producing in New York City. Artistic Director Paul Bargetto notes that it was an adapt or die situation. The fest’s first incarnation happened at the Lower East Side’s Collective Unconscious. Don’t look for it — it’s not there anymore. Neither, he points out, is the original Ohio Theater…and with PS122 closed for renovations, undergroudndzero turned to a few new LES cultural institutions for this year’s festival — then branched out to Brooklyn (where more than a few Downtown theater companies have moved in search of larger spaces and more reasonable leases).

Two members of the undergroundzero collective, Bargetto says, “are both really committed Downtown artists who are out in Brooklyn now. They’ve made the decision to move outside for financial reasons. So there’s a huge wave of Downtown people who are spreading out to the boroughs. I heard someone saying the other day that the city has gone from a cultural center to a cultural ring, where artists are pushed out from the center and into the perimeter, where real estate is affordable.”

The festival’s NYC core group is also setting its sights beyond Brooklyn by inviting guest artists from around the world. “What we’re looking to do,” says Bargetto of the fest’s long-term exchange program plan, “is leverage something for us as a cooperative, so everybody in the world wants to come and perform in New York. It’s unbelievable the amount of email I get from international artists. This is an opportunity for us to invite people, create relationships and find reciprocal arrangements where the work of the local artists here in New York can find touring opportunities overseas.”

Through July 29 at The Living Theatre (21 Clinton St., btw. Houston & Stanton Sts.); Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center’s Flamboyan Theater and Los Kabayitos (107 Suffolk St., at Rivington St.); JACK (505 1/2 Waverly Ave., Clinton Hill, Brooklyn) and Scapegrace (20 Wyckoff Ave., Bushwick, Brooklyn). For tickets and a full schedule, visit undergroundzeronyc.org or call 866-811-4111.

“Oxygen,” presented by Bangkok, Thailand’s B-Floor Theatre Company (part of the undergroundzero festival).


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