By Amber Roniger
If you’re aware of another venue where I can chill for a sunny afternoon and hear a mishmosh montage of sonic of beats from Romania, Yemen, the Balkans, North Africa and Tel Aviv, followed by ba-ba-ba-Afro-Cuban drumming and brass blasts mixing it up, by all means I’m all ears. Stumped, flamoogled? Yah, I would be too if not for the amazingly eclectic line-up going off at this season’s SUMMERSTAGE in ‘da Park. Summer Stage’s 21st season is the must place to bear witness to incredible musical talents drawn from all over the globe and presented to you by the City Parks Foundation in conjunction with Snapple.
I saw BALKAN BEAT BOX (www.balkanbeatbox.com) rocking out the circus-like atmosphere and jamming for peace in the Middle East in a crazy fusion of Israeli, Egyptian, Klezmer and Balkan dance rhythms, in their self-proclaimed musical attempt to erase political borders and keep fans listening with a common music ear. I must say that they put on a helluva show and positively hypnotized the audience with the captivating gyrations of a blue-clad belly dancer (seemingly more trance-inducing than snake charming, if you ask me). This summer, you’ll sooner see Balkan BB in Israel as in BK, but if you can wait till September, you won’t have to fly to the holy city to mosh out and practice your Horah in good company.
Following up the Balkan boys was ANTIBALAS AFROBEAT ORCHESTRA (translation “anti-bullets” or “bulletproof”) (www.antibalas.com), a slammin’ Brooklyn-based cooperative absolutely cranking out the Afrobeat rhythms passed down by the late Nigerian singer and activist, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, and sparking up the SummerStage. Their sound busts up a unique synthesis of jazz, funk, and traditional West African rhythms, coupled with heartfelt political themes. I mean frankly, any band that covers Marley with such a unique and modern twist tops off my list (yes, Marley is sooo my man).
In addition to spectacular world music, this SummerStage season’s amazing line-up boasts a roster of free events including dance, film, and spoken word. There are also several ticketed shows that support the SummerStage festival and help keep it (by in large) free. Some of the upcoming events that caught my little eye include: Lady Sovereign on Sunday, July 30th (I mean, anyone who calls themselves Lady Sovereign rocks my femmy-world), The New Pornographers on Thursday, August 3rd (yah, for obvious smutty reasons), and of course the great Edie Brickell and New Bohemians on Friday, July 28th (with a suggested donation of $15).
And just a teensy word to the wise, if I were you, I’d stay far away from the sold out Fiona Apple show on Wednesday, July 26th. When SummerStage says ‘sold out,’ they really mean it. Savvy New Yorkers have already devoured the Apple tickets, and in case you haven’t made the pilgrimage to the SummerStage space before, it is quite (ahem) compact, thank you very much, and probably not worth converging on sans ticket. You just wouldn’t believe how long many city folk are willing to wait in endless lines for fabulous music (would not believe), and frankly, I’m just not that artistically ambitious most of the time. But come a sensational Sunday afternoon this summer, sometimes it’s truly great to scope out a friendly patch of grass just outside the pearly gates, pop a squat, and listen to the breezy beautiful music wafting through the SummerStage trees.
IN THE LAB-OR-ATORY
By Alisa Leonard
To wit, ladies… summer is in full-tilt-bozo swing. And what between killer sample sales and The Devil Wears Prada, we must fully and consciously commit ourselves to not whittling the summer away and missing out on the brilliant NYC theatre scene. It’s high curtain time for LAByrinth THEATER’s revolutionary lineup, brought to you by (drum-roll please)… nobody-plays-Capote-like-him Philip Seymour Hoffman and his thespian band of merry pranksters, running theatrically amok down on Lafayette St. at THE PUBLIC THEATER. And exxxxxcuse me for being unable muster the endurance to sit through even one more night of Wicked! No ma’am! You’ll far sooner catch me zooming over to The Public to view me some of the creme de-la of NYC’s homespun theatre groups’ current season. I know how you thought PSH was just some Oscar-winner-player caught up in the clutches of the Hollywood celeb doldrums, ho-hum… but nay, nyet, no! You must understand that Grand-Master P is truly my every-man hero, NY-local, uber-genius, just-keeping-it-real actor/director/producer, charged with keeping me entertained on the stage. The consummate character actor turned dashing leading man (Cold Mountain is one of my guiltiest pleasures and holla-up for Brandt in Big Labowski), Mr. Phil is the Artistic Director of aforementioned brilliant theatre group. And I just feel all twiggily inside that Eric Bogosian, longtime staple of the downtown performance scene, keeps PSH in very good company. And if you don’t know Eric B, shame on you! (Proceed immediately to see Suburbia at Second Stage in September. Do not pass go, do not collect $200!)
I’m feeling the need to scoop out a little dish on the production currently up and running on LAB’s summer menu… viva le revoluccion! Uh, wait, which revolution? Che Guevara’s revolution, of course – the revolution that never artistically dies. You all know very well that after feasting your lusty ‘lil eyes on the delicious Gael Garcia Bernal in The Motorcycle Diaries, you’re positively fiending to slurp up SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS. School depicts the true chronicle of Che’s imprisonment in the heart of the Bolivian jungle and his conversations with a young schoolteacher who insisted on speaking with him. I strongly suggest grabbing your trusty gal pal or favorite geeky-adorable bookstore cashier, putting your bi-monthly trip to see Irena for your next waxing far from your mind, and sharing in an evening of live high art, NYC style.
And thespians take note, LAB hosts a Master Class taught by one of the company’s senior members (of course the Big P himself, uh-huh)… but there’s an eensy catch – you have to qualify for the class first. I know for myself, I can just as soon act my way out of a small brown bag as double process my own hair to perfection (clearly why I rely on Bergdorf’s, thank you). But major shout-out to my BFF, who had the balls to interview for the Master Class – fingers crossed! And if I may direct you in the worthy direction of www.labtheater.org to purchase golden tickets and LABPASSES, scope out the diverse company roster, and browse photos of past snazzy, celeb LAB events.
Oh and PS: your fav hotshot stars gracing covers of all the glossies out there L-O-V-E the LAB, go figure. And your attendance, you drama queen you, at just about any show is sure to offer up some tasty www.gawker.com moments. Cheers girlies!
The Public Theatre
425 Lafayette, NYC