Just Do Art!

Photo courtesy of the artists Dance band Maquina Mono (“The Monkey Machine”) will open the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, at 6pm on Fri., May 24.

Photo courtesy of the artists
Dance band Maquina Mono (“The Monkey Machine”) will open the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, at 6pm on Fri., May 24.

THE 17th ANNUAL LOWER EAST SIDE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS
Founded 18 years ago by Theater for the New City’s prolific, indefatigable Crystal Field, the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts — like TNC’s annual Halloween bash and its upcoming summer street theater — just keeps going and going (and growing). Organized in collaboration with local civic, cultural and business leaders, this three-day indoor/outdoor festival offers performances from over 100 arts organizations, local and international celebrities, independent artists, poets, playwrights, dancers, comedians, musicians, puppeteers, filmmakers and other utterly unique creative types who call the Lower East Side home.

This year’s lineup includes Academy Award-winning actor F. Murray Abraham, solo performer and comedian Reno, TV and radio host Joe Franklin, aerial performance group Suspended Cirque, dance groups Desert Sin and The Rod Rodgers Dance Company — plus new work from Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. Cultural institutions such as New York Theatre Workshop, La MaMa, Bond Street Theater, Beautiful Soup Theatre Collective, The Living Theatre and TNC will present work, and there will be plenty of creative output by kids, as well as performers with disabilities. The area’s distinct ethnic populations will also be represented — including the Latin American, African American, Chinese, Indian, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Native American, Polish and Ukrainian communities. “Art for Eco Justice: Ecology and Economy” will be the theme.

FREE. In and around Theater for the New City (155 1st Ave., btw. E. 9th & 10th Sts.) throughout Memorial Day weekend: Fri., May 24, 6pm-1am; Sat., May 25, noon-1am (noon-5pm: Cultural Fair, outside on E. 10th St., btw. 1st & 2nd Aves., and from 2pm-5pm, performances for kids and by kids, inside Theater for the New City) and Sun., May 27, 6pm-1am. For info and a full performance schedule, call 212-254-1109 or visit theaterforthenewcity.net.

WHAT I’M FAILING TO LEARN
Back when old school was still in session, we used to call it “high concept” — but these days, the ensemble of young artists who’ve collaborated on “What I’m Failing to Learn” characterize their work as “a mashup of theatrical drama/live concert/multimedia video.” No matter what name you give it, there’s plenty going on here. Anchored by the folk, rock, punk and Latin-infused compositions of 14-year-old Schuyler Iona Press (the youngest artist ever to play the singer/songwriter sessions at the Bitter End), this journey through the unpredictable streets of NYC also gives audiences a glimpse into the interior world of a modern adolescent. Played close to the bone by Schuyler, that main character’s constant questioning of her world and status as “an outsider longing to be on the inside” is used to confront the “positives and negatives of growing up unsheltered from certain truths of our human world.” Sound familiar? Her quest may sound a lot like your teen years — but chances are, you didn’t have the benefit of a live band, percussive modern Irish dancers and video. That’s the advantage of searching for self, mashup-style.

Through June 15. Wed. at 7pm, Sat. at 3pm. At the 13th Street Rep (50 W. 13th St., btw. 5th & 6th Aves.). For tickets ($18-$30), call 866-811-4111 or visit 13thstreetrep.org. Also visit whatimfailingtolearn.com.

Photo by Roe Carroll At the HOWL! Festival’s 2012 opening celebration, a Greek chorus of voices read their own work, followed by the signature reading of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

Photo by Roe Carroll
At the HOWL! Festival’s 2012 opening celebration, a Greek chorus of voices read their own work, followed by the signature reading of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl.”

HOWL! FESTIVAL 10TH ANNIVERSARY EXTRAVAGANZA
He saw the best minds of his generation — but even at the pinnacle of his meditative clarity, it’s not likely that “Howl” author Allen Ginsberg managed to conjure up a vision of the future in which a festival named for him would be celebrating its tenth anniversary (with no signs of shrinking or slowing down). The 2013 edition of the Howl Festival promises to “continue the Ginsberg tradition with more poetry, theatrical madness and activities for parents and kids than ever before!” After the three-day Tompkins Square Park festival, HOWL! extends its reach throughout June — in the form of the HOWL! Arts Project (a month-long program of poetry, theater, performance art, music, dance, puppetry and children’s performance to support HOWL! Emergency Life Project — which provides assistance, and a health fund, for the East Village and Lower East Side arts community).

First things first, though. The May 31-June 2 offerings include an opening celebration featuring the work of contemporary poets (and the traditional reading of “Howl”). At the weekend-long “Art Around the Park” event, festivalgoers will connect with more than 140 artists as they turn a giant blank canvas encircling the exterior of Tompkins Square Park into an explosion of color and creativity. The Kids Carnival offers games, fairway attractions and art activities for “toddler taggers and pint-sized Picassos” — while those of more advanced years will heed the siren call of Riki Colon’s Men In Skirts “And Still I Rise” (featuring an international cast of singers, dancers and drag performers). Elsewhere, “The Beautification Station” is a marathon reading by the Poetry Project, and “Low Life 7: Bowery Bombshells” features generations of local contemporary and alternative performers — including butoh performance ensemble Vangeline Theater, Velocity Chyaldd, The Rachel Klein Theater and The Duelling Bankheads.

FREE, Fri., May 31 through Sun., June 2 (4:30-7pm on Fri., 11am-7pm on Sat./Sun.). At Tompkins Square Park (enter through southwest entrance, Ave. A & 7th St.). Visit howlfestival.com for a full schedule of events.

BY SCOTT STIFFLER

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