Tomorrow at 2pm, Theater for the New City premieres this year’s iteration of its annual series of free summer theater. The “boisterous, multi-ethnic, hope-filled, full stage operetta for the street” is called Checks and Balances, or Bottoms Up! and shit’s gonna get political.
Featuring a puppet Pumpkin Head of State with “long orange arms and small hands that push the others around,” a head of the Environmental Protection Agency who applauds the Dakota Access Pipeline and a secretary of education who shuts down public schools, the musical’s critique of the country’s current affairs is not an attempt to be subtle. “We are here to inspire activists and those of us who are not activists, but who agree,” director Crystal Field said, “It’s a West Wing political musical for the family, but in the Bernie Sanders mode.”
Field, for decades a pivotal figure in NYC experimental theater, wrote a story that pits a Catholic school girl (Field’s granddaughter) and a subway conductor against Monster Pumpkin Puppet as the couple fights for the health and safety of New York, the civil rights of America and finally, the future of our planet.
“The whole world is laughing and trembling at the same time, we’ve become the clowns and monsters of the world,” Field explains of the chosen imagery. “We have to change that, we have to crawl out of the snake pit, which I know we will. We have been in snake pits before and we crawled out of it before.”
Known for its progressive and community-oriented theater, TNC has been offering free summer street theater since 1976. And it has always been Field, now 82, who wrote it. If prior years are any indication, the series will attract about 25,000 people all over the city, with the company aiming to visit disadvantaged neighborhoods in particular. “We go to a lot of poor neighborhoods and people living there know exactly what is going on, but they feel like they have no political clout,” Field said. “So we tell them: ‘Take action, go vote, get someone in office, even on the lower levels of power.’ ”
The 50-member company travels the boroughs until September 16. Here’s the full schedule:
Sat 8/5 2PM – MN – TNC, E10th St. at 1st Ave
Sun 8/6 2PM – BX – St. Mary’s Park, 147th St. & St. Ann’s Ave
Sat 8/12 2PM – MN – Tompkins Square Park, E7th St. & Ave A
Sun 8/13 2PM – MN – Central Park Bandshell, 72nd St. Crosswalk
Fri 8/18 6.30PM – BK – Coney Island Boardwalk at W10th St.
Sat 8/19 2PM – MN – Jackie Robinson Park, W147th St. & Bradhurst Ave
Sun 8/20 2PM – BK – Bed-Stuy, Herbert Von King Park at Marcy & Tompkins
Sat 8/26 2PM – BK – Sunset Park, 44th St. & 6th Ave
Sun 8/27 2PM – QN – Travers Park, 34th Ave b/w 77th & 78th St.
Sat 9/9 2PM – MN – Washington Square Park
Sun 9/10 2PM – MN – Wise Towers, W90th St. b/w Columbus & Amsterdam Ave
Sat 9/16 2PM – SI – Corporal Thompson Park, Broadway & Wayne St.
Sun 9/17 2PM – MN – St. Marks Church, E10th St. at 2nd Ave