Just Do Art: The walk, puppet, engagement edition

Before “The Mile-Long Opera” is performed Oct. 3-7 on the High Line, a series of community engagement events will touch upon its themes. | Photo by Liz Ligon

“MILE-LONG OPERA” COMMUNITY EVENTS | It’s as ambitious as it is site-specific — but you don’t have to visit the High Line to get a taste of what it’s all about. We did, however, when our reporter Michael Rock recently walked Chelsea’s elevated park for a preview of “The Mile-Long Opera: a biography of 7o’clock.” The epic choral project, to be performed Oct. 3-7, takes place over the entire length of the High Line, and features 1,000 singers from across New York City. Rock found the minimalist work to be “hardly a traditional opera, in that it lacks traditional arias and recitatives… Rather than telling a coherent story, it contains countless short ones reflective of the challenges of life in New York City. The lyrics, particularly as sung against the backdrop of the night sky, are especially haunting and sometimes even heartbreaking.”

Leading up to October’s five free public performances (reservations required), the project recently announced a series of borough-wide community engagement events that evoke and explore various aspects of the opera’s themes and subject matter. On Aug. 30 and Sept. 16, for example, “Circle Sing Shout” takes the techniques of Ring Shout and Haitian Rara (movement, voice, rhythm, improvisation) in order to create an atmosphere of connection and openness, while cultivating a sense of confidence in one’s own body. On Sept. 9, 10, 16 and 28, “Autobiography of 7  o’clock: A Community Conversation” invites participants to share their own stories of how NYC’s rapid transformation has informed, and transformed, their own lives. The event features audio clips from some of the interviews that would ultimately become part of the “Mile-Long” project. For a complete list of events and locations, visit milelongopera.com — where you can also sign up to attend the October High Line performances.

Penny Jones & Co. Puppets are back this fall, for another season at Westbeth. | Image courtesy of Penny Jones & Co.

PENNY JONES & CO. PUPPETS | Come for the show, they told us, and stay for the sunset! On Thurs., Aug. 30 at 4pm, Pier 62 in Chelsea is the setting for a free performance by the wise, witty, and whimsical puppets from Penny Jones & Co. Puppets — an early childhood puppet theater currently celebrating 40 years of making kids laugh, learn, and think. The Aug. 30 show, “The Circus and Sebastian,” is a ballet set to the music of Kabalevsky’s symphony suite, “The Comedians.” In this tale, park attendant Sebastian pines to join the circus. He does, but is quickly fired. Despair doesn’t have long to take hold, however, when a little dog shows him how to master the art of tightrope walking — which leads to a triumphant return to the circus he loves. The free performance takes place Thurs., Aug. 30, 4pm on Pier 62 (cross at W. 22nd St.). If you miss that performance, don’t despair as Sebastian did, because there are plenty of other opportunities to see Penny Jones & Co Puppets. The troupe will be back this fall for a new season of performances at Westbeth (155 Bank St., btw. West & Washington Sts.). For more info, visit pennypuppets.org. Also visit westbeth.org.

The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership’s free Labor Day-themed walking tour shines a light on local labor conditions in the late 1800s and early 1900s. | Photo courtesy of the BID

FLATIRON WALKING TOUR | The Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership puts a new spin on its informative series of walking tours, with this Labor Day-themed installment sure to stimulate the mind while it brings you closer to your daily step goal. “Labor History & Madison Square” is a 90-minute, rain-or-shine tour that takes place at 11am on Sun., Sept. 2. No advance registration is required — just meet in front of the William Seward statue in Madison Square Park (23rd St. & Broadway). Native New Yorker Mike Kaback will be your guide, taking you on a journey through time that touches on the history of, among other things, the old Fifth Avenue Hotel on Madison Square, where an 1872 fire claimed the lives of 22 hotel employees. The tragic incident would ultimately lead to reforms in working and safety conditions. Also along the way, you’ll learn about the role Madison Square played in the first Labor Day Parade (Sept. 5, 1882), and find out about the connection between the old location of Madison Square Garden and the fight for an eight-hour workday. What we just described might seem like a bunch of spoilers, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For more info on the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership — and their other walking tours — visit flatirondistrict.nyc.


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