A return to the performing arts with 100 days of ‘NY PopsUp’ events

Governor Andew M. Cuomo has just announced that, beginning on Saturday, February 20, an unprecedented and expansive festival featuring hundreds of pop-up performances (many of which are free of charge and all open to the public) will intersect with the daily lives of New Yorkers, transforming cityscapes and landscapes – including iconic transit stations, parks, subway platforms, museums, skate parks, street corners, fire escapes, parking lots, storefronts, and upstate venues – into stages for world-class NY artists. With more than 1000 performances of over 300 NY PopsUp events planned throughout the five boroughs and across the state, the 100-day initiative is intended to jumpstart the struggling live entertainment sector, while revitalizing the spirit of New York with the energy of the live in-person performing arts.

The festival of multi-disciplinary events, designed to grow in scale, volume, and locations through Labor Day (reaching an apex with the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival and The Festival at Little Island at Pier 55 – a soon-to-open first-of-its-kind public park on the Hudson River that merges nature and art) is a private/public partnership overseen by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in conjunction with the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and Empire State Development (ESD). Coordinated with state public health officials in strict adherence to Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 protocols, it will serve as a pilot program for how to bring live performance back to NY safely after the long pandemic shutdown, forming a bridge to its full safe return.

“Cities have taken a real blow during COVID, and the economy will not come back fast enough on its own – we must bring it back,” said Governor Cuomo. “Creative synergies are vital for cities to survive, and our arts and cultural industries have been shut down all across the country, taking a terrible toll on workers and the economy. We want to be aggressive with reopening the State and getting our economy back on track . . . New York has been a leader throughout this entire pandemic, and we will lead once again with bringing back the arts.”

The NY PopsUp programming is curated by interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur and a hand-selected council of artistic advisors who represent the diversity of New York’s performing arts scene and artistic communities. The council is comprised of renowned choreographer and MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham; three-time Grammy Award-nominated jazz musician Jon Batiste; choreographer and Hoofer Award-winning tap dancer Ayodele Casel; Grammy Award-nominated singer, actor, and international opera star Anthony Roth Costanzo; Tony Award-nominated playwright Jeremy O. Harris; Tony Award-winning set designer Mimi Lien; nine-time Grammy Award-winning musician Wynton Marsalis; two-time National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet, essayist, and playwright Claudia Rankine; Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant; leading member of the Punch Brothers and four-time Grammy Award winner Chris Thile; acclaimed Saturday Night Live  writer, comedian, and actor Julio Torres; and acclaimed director and musician Whitney White.

Billy Porter. Photo courtesy of NY PopsUp.

The public will encounter a range of artists representing all areas of performance, from theater to dance, poetry to comedy, pop music to opera, and so much more. Among the confirmed artists are Hugh Jackman, Renée Fleming, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Chris Rock, Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Isabel Leonard, Nico Muhly, Joyce DiDonato, John Early and Kate Berlant, Patti Smith, Mandy Patinkin, Raja Feather Kelly, J’Nai Bridges, Kenan Thompson, Gavin Creel, Garth Fagan, Larry Owens, Q-Tip, Billy Porter, Conrad Tao, Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, Tina Landau, Rhiannon Giddens, Aparna Nancherla, Anthony Rodriguez, Jonathan Groff, Savion Glover, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Chris Celiz, Christine Goerke, Kelli O’Hara, Dev Hynes, Phoebe Robinson, Sara Mearns, George Saunders, Caleb Teicher, Danielle Brooks, Jeremy Denk, Idina Menzel, Sondra Radvanovsky, Gaby Moreno, Davóne Tines, Jerrod Carmichael, Taylor Mac, Sutton Foster, Jessie Mueller, and Courtney ToPanga Washington, and many others.

In a joint statement, producers Rudin and Rosenthal remarked, “As two lifelong New Yorkers, it has been utterly devastating to see our creative community brought to an absolute standstill for a year. It’s inconceivable. We both spend our lives generating opportunities for artists, so we were both thrilled to be asked by Governor Cuomo to try to ignite a spark to bring art and performance back to life for the State. The passionate enthusiasm of every person we asked to join us in this incentive is going to make this a labor of both love and invention . . .  Frankly, our most profound hope is that by the time NY PopsUp culminates on Labor Day, New York will be fully on the way to being reopened and revitalized and that this initiative, having served its purpose, will no longer be necessary. It’s the spark, not the fire – the fire is the complete return of all the arts, in their full glory, standing as they always have for the rich, emotional life of the city and state in which we both live.”More details about NY PopsUp will be announced soon. Please note that, given the impromptu nature and surprise element of the pop-up format, not all performances will be announced in advance. Please follow @NYPopsUp on Twitter and Instagram for the latest.


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