Theater for the New City, a beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning community cultural center located in the heart of the East Village, will not let Coronavirus prevent this year’s 25th Annual Lower East Side Festival of the Arts from happening. The Off-Off- Broadway Theater, founded in 1971, produces 30-40 premieres of new American plays every year. It has been instrumental in nurturing the careers of legendary theater artists such as Sam Shepard, Moises Kaufman and Maria Irene Fornés, to name a few. It has long been known for its commitment and involvement in the uniquely artistic, multi-ethnic community which it serves. Theater for the New City’s lineup is usually packed with experimental, bold and politically driven pieces, and The Lower East Side Festival of the Arts seems to be no exception.


The multi-arts festival, which started in 1996, was set to illuminate the “creative explosion of the Lower East Side,” an area once known more for its drug violence and criminal activity than for its tourism and art scene. The free public event averaged 4,000 audience members in attendance and was organized by Theater for the New City in addition to civic, business and cultural leaders. Now, the festival hopes to reach even more people as it can be viewed by anyone virtually, opening these performances and talks up to the world. This year’s 2020 festival is dedicated to essential workers.


On Saturday, May 23, at 8:00 PM, there will be a live concert of performances by David Amram, Charles Busch, F. Murray Abraham, Penny Arcade, Phoebe Legere, Austin Pendleton and William Electric Black.  Following their performances, these major LES artists will do a virtual “sit around” and discuss Theater, Politics and the Human Condition.

Guest speakers during the festival will include New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, New York City Counsil-member Carlina Rivera, Tribal Elder Nii Gaani Aki, Artist Candice Burridge and Columnist Michael Musto. Disciplines presented will include kid-friendly programming as well as theater, music, dance, poetry, puppetry, cabaret, visual art, and film. The Festival will kick off Friday, May 22nd, at 6 pm and run through the Memorial Day weekend.

“Let Theater for the New City wrap its arms around you, blow you kisses of entertainment and enlightenment and just plain fun,” said Crystal Field, the Executive Artistic Director of Theater for the New City.

Events will stream from 6:00 PM Friday, May 22 to 11:59 PM Sunday, May 24. The hour-to-hour schedule is posted here.