More details are emerging following New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initial January plan to revive the Empire State's arts scene. Among the newly confirmed artists for the NY PopsUp Festival, a series of surprises performances throughout the state, are Matthew Broderick, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mandy Patinkin, Raja Feather Kelly, Gavin Creel, Larry Owens, Billy Porter, Rhiannon Giddens, Jonathan Groff, Kelli O’Hara, Danielle Brooks, Idina Menzel, Taylor Mac, Sutton Foster, and Jessie Mueller.
As previously announced, Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal are leading the festival in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development. Renée Fleming, Hugh Jackman, Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, and Wynton Marsalis were among the first stage favorites announced as part of the programming.
The hundreds of free, pop-up events that constitute NY PopsUp will make stages out of New York’s existing landscapes, including transit stations, parks, subway platforms, museums, skate parks, street corners, fire escapes, parking lots, storefronts, and upstate venues. Given the impromptu nature and surprise element of the pop-up format, not all performances will be announced in advance.
Programming for NY PopsUp is curated by the interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur, in partnership with a council of artistic advisors including choreographer Kyle Abraham, opera star Anthony Roth Costanzo, Tony-nominated Slave Play playwright Jeremy O. Harris, and Tony-winning set designer Mimi Lien. “Having artists call on other artists as a means to build this festival’s giant creative community will spur opportunities for wild, bold, and intimate collaborations that would never otherwise have been possible,” says Winokur.
The festival kicks off February 20 with members of the artists council leading a performance at the Javits Center as a tribute to healthcare workers. The performance will feature Costanzo, Jon Batiste, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Ayodele Casel, and more. Throughout the day, they will travel around NYC, meeting audiences at various locations throughout all five boroughs, including Flushing Post Office, Elmhurst Hospital, and St. Barnabas Hospital.
The next day, Garth Fagan’s dance company will lead a performance at the Magic Spell Studios at the Rochester Institute of Technology as a tribute for the staff who have made it possible for RIT to stay open and safe during the pandemic. Additional upcoming programming includes a series of performances in storefront windows, amplified out onto the street, from Gavin Creel, J’Nai Bridges, Davóne Tines, Bobbi Jene Smith, Or Schraiber, and more.
NY PopsUp serves as a pilot program to test how to bring live performance back safely after the COVID shutdown that has shuttered the entertainment industry. All performances are coordinated in step with state public health officials recommendations and will follow Department of Health COVID-19 protocols.
Over the summer, the recovery plan will tie in with the 20th annual Tribeca Film Festival and the opening of Little Island at Pier 55. Cuomo's plan also calls for the eventual reopening of multi-use indoor venues (chosen for their ability to adapt seating to handle social distancing protocols) throughout New York State. Among the venues, dubbed "Flex Venues" selected for this program are The Shed, The Apollo, Harlem Stage, La MaMa, and The Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater.