Inside the six-month experiment to revive New York’s performing arts scene

Inside the six-month experiment to revive New York’s performing arts scene

This weekend marks a key milestone in reigniting performing arts across New York state.

Today (Feb 20), the first of a series of 1,000 live performances kicks off a seven-month festival called NY PopsUp. In essence, NYPops Up is a large-scale experiment in how to safely jumpstart the sector that contributes billions of dollars to the state’s economy each year. While access to indoor venues remain highly restricted, the festival will make stages out of unusual locations such as “transit stations, parks, subway platforms, museums, skate parks, street corners, fire escapes, parking lots, and storefronts,” according to a statement released by New York governor’s office.

The first performance, a traveling concert paying tribute to healthcare workers, will begin at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The sprawling venue in midtown Manhattan bears special significance during the state’s coronavirus saga. Earlier in the pandemic, it was transformed as a 1,000 bed overflow hospital for Covid-19 patients. It has since been converted to a vaccination distribution center for thousands of New Yorkers.

Veteran Hollywood producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal are overseeing NYPops Up and stage director Zack Winokur serves as its curator. The festival schedule is yet to be published, but Winokur describes his intention to create a program with “a near limitless range, colliding disparate styles, disciplines, and points-of-view.” Hugh Jackman, Renée Fleming, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Patti Smith have confirmed their participation. NYPops Up’s biggest events will happen in June with Tribeca Film Festival’s twentieth anniversary celebration and the inauguration of a new man-made park along Manhattan’s west side called Little Island at Pier 55. Most events will be free to the public and streamed online.

“We think of NY PopsUp as a bridge that will take New York state’s performing arts industry from its cu

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