A Gift to New York City -- The LES Arts Extravaganza -- Memorial Day Weekend at Theatre for a New City

In a city that is constantly mourning its cultural and lifestyle losses, The Theatre For a New City has achieved what even the venerable NYC Opera has not.

When interviewing the group's Executive Director (Crystal Field) some years ago, I learned that this "Bohemian" bested the "Man" at his own game. Field, by pulling off a stunning real estate deal gained ownership of the building that hosts the multi-leveled theatre, resulting in the one of the most stable artistic institutions in NYC. That interview can be read here..

Located on 10th St. and 1st Avenue, the TFNC complex puts on a diverse style of original theatre including straight plays, musicals, operas and cabaret. That fare is available all year.

But, perhaps one of the most remarkable feats TFNC has pulled off its Memorial Day Weekend Extravaganza. The doors (and streets) are opened up to offer free entertainment from all the genres previously mentioned. And more: film, art, crafts, and exotic foods also can be found.

I spoke to Lissa Moira, TFNC Playwright in Residence, and a major force in behind the festival. I set up a phone chat, but after a few moments I knew I would not be able to document a fraction of Moira's accomplishments. Thus, I will pen a "Reader's Digest Version."

Lissa's voice was youthful and enthusiastic, and although born in Brownsville, Brooklyn had no discernable accent.

M. I have heard some stories about your extraordinary youth...

L. I graduated high school at fourteen ("WHAT?"). The teachers saw I was totally bored, and since I started reading at two years old they put me right into the fourth grade. I then (at fourteen), went to LIU. But I was not happy while I was there.

M. Please explain.

L. I was just too young to be there. When I was considered for Chekov's The Marriage Proposal, the professors saw I had no breasts, and I was ruled out. (Of the play, at least.)

M. Ouch! Then what happened?

Lissa proceeded tell me a story right out of the tail end of the "Age of Aquarius." She fled NYC and joined an artist commune in Berkley. She danced, sometimes covered only in body paint. And somehow she made it to Johnny Carson's house.

At nineteen, she returned to NY and went back LIU -- finally having a bosom. There was not much of formal theatre at the school, but they soon hooked up with BAM (Wow!), and Lissa met the likes of Lanford Wilson. (The Rimers of Eldritch). Her acting career started in earnest when she landed Ismene in Oedipus Rex, as picked by James Earl Jones. (Still at LIU!)

A landmark moment occurred when she met her collaborator and personal partner James West (guitarist, playwright and director). With him, she wrote Sexual Psychobabble , The Best Sex of the XX Century Sale , and the musical Who Murdered Love?

M. Whew, ok, so what is your most recent project?

L. Currently I am directing and collaborating on the writing of a musical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with music by John Taylor Thomas, opening at TNC this coming June.

And that was all this girl reporter could put on the record -- for the time being. Look for a part two with Ms. Moira, I know I want to know the rest of the story.

M. Getting back to the festival -- in what capacity are you serving it?

L. I have written and directed several pieces for it. I also curate the poetry portion of the weekend.

M. And what special "bit" are you putting up?

L. I will be performing a monologue from my play TIME IT IS . This piece was chosen as one of the ten finalists in the International Chesterfield/Paramount Competition from a field of 5000 entrants. (Almost an inconceivable thought.)

Here is a short list of highlights:

Murray Abraham, David Amram, Penny Arcade, Tammy Faye, Politically Satirical songs, Songs from Speakeasy, The Allisons in Wonderland (a new musical in development), Louisa Bradshaw, "Epstein and Hassan--The Black and the Jew," Folksbiene National Yiddish Theatre, Karen Kohler, Reno, Phoebe Legere, James Rado (co-creator of Hair) and the Rod Rodgers Dance company.

Find the rest and organize your viewing fare at

And please note there will be a rip-roaring outdoor music festival Saturday--from Noon to 5PM, led by the aforementioned Richard West.

And finally, there is the LES Art Exhibit. 30-40 local artists will have their art on display in paintings, collage, sculptures, photos, and multi-media; 5:30pm until 8pm. The public is encouraged to meet and mingle. Not to mention eat-up and drink some wine, if so inclined.

If you are in the City on Memorial Day, it might behoove you to sample all this gift that the TFNC has to offer.

Happy Holidays!

(FRIDAY, SATURDAY, SUNDAY -- MAY 22, 23 AND 24) 155 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003 http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net/