NY PopsUp initiative to revive performing arts industry kicks off at Javits Center

Coronavirus

MANHATTAN, N.Y. — A new initiative to bring New York’s performing arts industry back to life kicked off in Manhattan on Saturday.

“NY PopsUp” is an expansive festival featuring hundreds of free, pop-up performances across the state and the five boroughs over 100 days.

A range of artists from theater, dance, comedy, pop music and opera will perform, including Hugh Jackman, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kenan Thompson, Billy Porter and Patti Smith.

PIX11 News caught up wuth a surprise popup marching band in Cadman Plaza Park featuring Jon Batiste, the band leader of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and his signature Love Riots. The top musicians playing in an impromptu, unannounced way on the move in these covid, socially distant times.

This was the first day of an expansive, statewide festival of 100 days of pop up events delivered right into the lives of New Yorkers wherever they are in this pandemic.

“We can’t gather anywhere right now so we come right to you to bring high-quality performances,” Zack Winokur, artistic director of NY Pops, told PIX11 News. “This is a statewide festival of pop-up performances meant to revitalize re-energize the ethos and live spirit of performance.”

On East 10th Street, between First and Second Avenues in the East Village, another way to enjoy live performances in a socially distant way, out of a mid-block garage.

For the last 16 weeks, Theater for the New City has been performing for passersby, 2 p.m. every Saturday, for free. Cobu drummers were followed by a play called “The Garden Party.”

Ben Harburg, the grandson of lyricist Yip Harburg, sang his grandfather’s signature song, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” in a celebration of his 35th birthday.

“We do street theater in all five boroughs,” Crystal Field, the director of Theater for the New City, told PIX11 News. “We pray and hope we’ll be able to perform in parks this summer. We’d love to make tenth street one of those streets people come to for theater,” she added.

The state-run program launched Saturday with a special performance at the Javits Center — a tribute to health care workers — and runs through Labor Day.

The one-of-a-kind performance featured three-time Grammy Award nominated jazz musician Jon Batiste; choreographer and Hoofer Award-winning tap dancer Ayodele Casel and Grammy Award nominated singer, actor, and international opera star Anthony Roth Costanzo.

The artists will also travel around New York City throughout the day for special pop-up performances in courtyards, workplaces, parks, and street corners, as well as the Flushing Post Office, Elmhurst Hospital, and St. Barnabas Hospital.

Batiste will wrap up the day’s festivities with one of his signature “Love Riot” street parades, starting at Walt Whitman Park in Brooklyn and ending at nearby Golconda Playground.

Other NY PopsUp venues include The Shed, The Apollo, Harlem Stage, La Mama and The Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he hopes NY PopsUp will revitalize the spirit and emotional well-being of New Yorkers with the energy of live entertainment.

“During the darkest days of the pandemic, live performances were shuttered to reduce the spread of COVID-19. While it was a necessary step, it also had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of countless performers and on the spirit of this great state,” Cuomo said Saturday in a statement. “New York is not New York without the performing arts — we are the proud home of world-class performers and an unrivaled arts industry, and NY PopsUp will help us bring this vital sector back online in a safe and unique way. My thanks to the performers who are participating and helping us recognize our health care heroes, who truly are the embodiment of New York Tough.”

The governor said NY PopsUp will serve as a pilot program, creating a large-scale model for how to bring live performances back amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The monthslong festival will culminate with two events in New York City: the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and the Festival at Little Island at Pier 55.

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