Crystal Field, Alberto Ferreras and J.C. Augustin getting ready for Lower East Side Festival of the Arts. Photo by John David West.

Crystal Field, Executive Director for Theater for the New City, will showcase over 200 luminaries in the performing arts, poetry, puppetry, cinema, and independent artistry May 24-26, under the theme: “Democracy: Use it or Lose it” at 155 First Ave. (and surrounding area). The gathering, a tradition since 1996, momentarily shifted to the digital realm in 2020 amidst pandemic shadows. Now, returned with renewed vigor, a constellation of talents takes the pulse of our times.

Among the major talents to take part are:  David Amram, Austin Pendleton, and Penny Arcade, as well as City Council member Carlina Rivera.

Stages fill eye and ear with a diverse array of ensembles, each bearing the torch of their unique artistry. From Bond Street Theater to the Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theatre, from the spirited cadences of Cobu to the enduring narratives of New Yiddish Rep, this festival emerges as a testament to the inexhaustible spirit of human expression with Chinese Theatre Works, The Drilling Company, Ego Actus, Folksbiene National Yiddish Theater, Kinding Sindaw, Le Squeezebox Cabaret, Textile Theater Company and Wise Guise.

There will be original writings (many penned exclusively for the festival) by Alberto Ferreras, Anne Lucas, Barbara Herr, Barbara Kahn, Bina Sharif, Daromies, David Elyha, David McDonald, David Willinger, Douglas Lackey, Eduardo Machado, Elizabeth Ruf, Eva Dorrepaal, Ishmael Reed, Lissa Moira, Lyle Kessler, Melanie Goodreaux, Miguel Loyola, Misha Schulman, Pamela Enz and C.C. Kellogg, Raymond Lindie, Sarah Lilly, Toby Armour, Tom Diriwachter, Victor Vauban and Vinnie Nardiello.

Excerpts of plays performed will include “A Ribbon for the Birthday Girl,” “Aftershocks,” “Broken Chains,” “Flies, “Issue #9,” The Coming Storm” by Stephan Morrow; works by Peter Welch, Robin Goldfin and Roman Primitivo; songs from TNC’s 2024 Street Theater and projects of Mary Tierney’s TNC Theater Workshop. 

Individual performers appearing will include Alec Harrington, Austin Pendleton, Bryce Payne, Christine Stoddard, Evan Laurence, Face Boy, Jeff Davis, John Grimaldi, John Jiler, King Drag, Lei Zhou, Mila Levine, Smokey Stevens, Stan Baker, Steven Harris, Terry Lee King (Amazin’ Grace), Thomas Baker, Tym Moss, Veena Shetty, Zero Boy, David W. Jacobson, Devorah Shubawitz, Ed Malin, Eric Kuzmik and JC Augustine

Dance performances will be by Alessandra Belloni, Ashley Liang Dance Company, Carol Tandava, Charly Wenzel, Constellation Moving Co., Infinity Dance Theater, Nobuya Nagahama, Rastro Dance Company (Julieta Valero), Rasvan Stoian Dance, Rod Rodgers Dance Company and Thunderbird American Indian Dancers

Musical performers appearing will include Amelia Sasson, Art Lillard Quintet, Bennett Pologe, Citizens United Protest Band, David Amram, Dawoud Kringle, Donald Arrington, Ejyp Johnson, Ellen Steier, Janice Lowe, Joe Bendik, Jonathan Fox Powers, Judy Gorman, Lex and The Cult of Spirits, Liz Magnes, Louisa Bradshaw, Lower East Side Performing Arts, Maude Lardner Burke, Michael A Green, Michael David Gordon, Michael Vazquez, Mimi Block, Mister Pablo, Nissen Gregory, Noam Finegold: Burning City Orchestra, Oyu-Oro, Peter Dizozza, Rebecca Willson, Rew Starr, Richard West, Rita Costanzi, Rob Varcony, Robert Gonzales Jr., Stephanie Trudeau, Sylvan Lorrow and Yip Harburg Rainbow Troupe

There will be comedy by Hollie Harper and Zoe Gray and magic by The Great Dubini

Poets appearing will include Austin Alexis, Stan Baker, Briana Bartenieff, Anthony Cedeno, Didi Champagne, Peter Dizozza, Alisa Ermolaev, Faceboy, Joanie Fritz Zosike, Davidson Garrett, Phillip Giambri, Melanie Goodreaux, Bobby Hieger, David Huberman, Mathew Hupert, Linda Kleinbub, Ron Kolm, Fran Luck, Peter Marra, Prince A. McNally, Lois Kagan Mingus, Lissa Moira, Valery Oisteanu, Howard Pflanzer, Lola Rodriguez, John Sarno, Amelia Sasson, Bina Sharif, Nate Smith, Peyton Watson and Richard West

Films, curated by Evan Dorrepal, will include “Best Life,” directed by Andrew Shemin, “No Time,” directed by Engin Altintas, Stars, directed by Mars Roberge, “Garbaggia,” directed by Rolanda Politi and Daniela Fabrizi, “Subterranean Love,” directed by Robert Haufrecht, and “Fire Ant,” directed by Charlie laRose.

Saturday outdoor performances, curated and hosted by Richard West assisted by Didi Champagne, will include Didi Champagne with The Blueberry High Heels, Shu Nakamura Band, Mark “The Musician” 6 guys JAZZ, Joe Bendik, Peter Dizozza, Lewis Keith, Peter Kozlowski, Stan Baker, Viviana Duncan, Ellen Lytle, Linda Marks, Pete Dolack, Ron Kolm, Austin Alexis, Valery Oisteanu, Wanda Phipps, Thaddeus Rutkowski, Peter Marra, Margaret Yard, Phillip Giambri, Linda Kleinbub, Matthew Hubert, Kathryn Fazio, Lissa Moira, Richard West, Su Polo, Susan Weiman and surprise guests.

Emcees will be Crystal Field, Robert Gonzales Jr., Danielle Aziza, Melanie Goodreaux and Sabura Rashid (in the Johnson Theater) and David F. Slone Esq. and Joe John Battista (in the Cabaret Theater). The film program will be emceed by Eva Dorrepaal.

Specialty curators of the festival include Lissa Moira (poetry), Eva Dorrepal (film), Danielle Hauser (kids’ performances), Carolyn Ratcliffe (visual art) and Richard West (outdoor theater-dance-music). The whole festival is run by the LES committee (see below) and chaired by Crystal Field. 

Indoor performances will take stage from 6:00 PM to midnight each day, utilizing two of TNC’s four theaters. From 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM Saturday, vendors and food sellers, including booths from nearby restaurants, will set up in the closed-off block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues. On Saturday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, an outdoor stage adjoining the theater will offer music and multi-discipline performances curated by Richard West. On Saturday afternoon inside in the Johnson Theater, there will be performances by and for children, curated by Danielle Hauser. On Saturday from 1:00 PM to 11:00 PM in the Cabaret Theater, over 15 films curated by Eva Dorrepaal will be screened, accompanied by talkbacks with a number of the film makers. On Sunday from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM in TNC’s Community Theater, there will be a “poetry jam with prose on the side” curated by Lissa Moira. Throughout the festival, an art show curated by Carolyn Ratcliffe will grace the TNC lobby spaces. This art show will have its own free, special opening Wednesday, May 23.

The performers’ roster is still building as of this writing and the number of applicants exceeds any previous year.

L-R: Richard West, Nobuya Nagahama (kneeling), Eva Dorrepal, Stephan Morrow, Alberto Ferreras (kneeling), David Slone Esq., Lissa Moira, J.C. Augustin, David Mandelbaum (kneeling). Photo by John David West.


The first festival, presented June 14 to 16, 1996, was a three-day, indoor and outdoor multi-arts festival, organized by TNC and a coalition of civic, cultural and business leaders.  The aim was to demonstrate the creative explosion of the Lower East Side and the area’s importance to culture and tourism for New York City. It employed two theater spaces at TNC plus the block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues, featured over 100 attractions, drew favorable press and attracted crowds from all around the City. Its success prompted TNC to continue the festival annually on Memorial Day Weekend. For 28 years it has been presented free each year to an average attendance of 4,000. (In 2020 it was held online due to pandemic concerns).

The concept of the festival was developed by Crystal Field, Executive Artistic Director of TNC and Esther Cartegena (d. 2006), President of Loisaida, Inc., to portray the Lower East Side (LES) as a haven for artists and artistic creation. The region is a unique multi-ethnic community with an unusually high level of artistic vitality. Large populations with differing languages and cultures coexist there successfully and a large artistic population helps glue the neighborhood together. Its theaters are also an unprecedented source of tourism. Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Buried Child,” was commissioned and first produced by TNC. The committee envisioned an event that would demonstrate the region’s cultural fervor, its large artistic population and its multiplicity of ethnic influences to contradict the neighborhood’s stereotype as a dangerous refuge for drug dealers and criminal activity.

Disciplines presented have always included theater, music, dance, poetry, puppetry, cabaret, visual art, film and children’s programming.


Festival Director is Crystal Field. Assistant Directors are Sarah Iles and Dianne Ramirez

The LES Committee for 2024 is: Crystal Field, JC Augustin, Joe John Baptista, Alex Bartenieff, Walter Corwin, Eva Dorrepaal, Myrna Duarte, Carol Dudgoen, Alberto Ferrara, Andrea Fulton, Robert Gonzales Jr., Melanie Goodreaux, Robert Greer, Philip Hackett, Alan Hanna, Barbara Kahn, Anne Lucas, Lissa Moira, Stephan Morrow, Emily Pezzella, Richard Ploetz, Michael Scott Price, Carolyn Ratcliffe, Ramiro Sandoval, Jonathan Slaff, David F. Slone Esq., Mary Tierney, Jenne Vath, Jimmy Walker, Jon Weber, John David West, Richard West, Roman Primitivo, Miguel Loyola and Lewis Widoff.  Press Representative is Jonathan Slaff.


May 24 to 26, 2024

In and around Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street)

Free (donations accepted)

Info:, (212) 254-1109

Lineup of performances:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *