Volume 19, Number 2 | May 26 - June 1, 2006

Joe Franklin takes the mic at T.N.C. festival


From poets to puppets, playwrights to pianists, painters to preachers, motion pictures to monologists, dancers to desperados, and even — who woulda thunk it? — to the inventor/progenitor of the TV talk show, the 11th annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts bursts all over E. 10th St. at First Ave., indoors and outdoors, this weekend.

The TV (and radio) guy — interviewer of everyone who ever lived (well, 20,000 of them) — is none other than New York’s own Joe Franklin, who a few minutes after 6 p.m. Friday opens the three-day bash as keynote speaker. What’s Franklin’s connection to the Lower East Side? He’s from there.

The festival, embracing hundreds of artists, performers, craftspeople, lovers, cooks, revolutionists, talents of all kinds who live, work or have their roots in the Lower East Side, reigns Friday through Sunday at Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave.

On Saturday a daylong block party and arts fair fills 10th St. adjacent to T.N.C. Saturday noon brings the screening (indoors) of “Permanent Nation,” Jim Jarmusch’s 1980 film about a young man’s search for himself, or for meaning, or for something, in Downtown Manhattan.

Saturday evening, in the Johnson Theater within T.N.C., a lady of much beauty and 95 years, Miss Kitty Carlisle Hart, will show us all what singing is — singing and meaning it. Two who also mean it in different ways are, later on that night’s bill, composer/conductor/instrumentalist David Amram and “Nonviolent Exocutionist” Steven Ben Israel.

Sunday evening will be graced by a special tribute to Ellen Stewart, the mama of E. 4th St.’s La MaMa Experimental Theater Club. Further on the schedule that night, just for a few, are performances or readings by Taylor Meade, Mark Mercante, Mario Fratti, Tuli Kupferberg, Kathleen Chalfant, Black-Eyed Susan, fiery Reno and the Tokyo Penguins Live.

Affirmations of the power of art, theater, “peace, justice and individual freedom” are to be rendered by radical author Howard Zinn and by Judith Malina, co-founder of the Living Theater. By chance or by scheduling, a work called “Forget That,” by and performed by Gary Goodrow, one of the stars of the Living Theater’s historic 1959 production of Jack Gelber’s “The Connection,” precedes by an hour Sunday night’s “No Sir!” a video of the current Living Theater’s interactive on-site drama at the Times Square military recruiting booth.

The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts is and was the creation of Crystal Field, indomitable co-founder and artistic director of T.N.C. itself. Why did she start this festival in 1996? “To show the Lower East Side’s tremendous cultural gifts to that world.” Last year 3,000 people — from here, from everywhere — enjoyed the fete.

No, Ms. Field never herself lived on the Lower East Side — “but my mother did.” Her mother, another great lady, was Dr. Fanny Stoller, a T.N.C. playgoer almost to age 98, a physician who made house calls many of her many years.

“In the old country she was Fegateira, which means Jewel Bird — Fegateira Stollowitzkyeruss. Here in the early days she lived on Cherry St., the poorest street in New York.”

Tenth St. will not be the poorest street in New York this Friday through Sunday, May 26-28. Not by far. All performances are free. Call 212-254-1109 for more information.


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