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New York State Plots Months-Long Festival to Revitalize Arts

New York State is plotting a massive, multi-month festival, NY PopsUp, to reintroduce live entertainment after it was put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The festival will boast more than 300 pop-up events across the state over the course of 100 days, starting February 20th and running through Labor Day, September 6th. Per a release, NY PopsUp will serve as a “pilot program” by “creating the state’s first large-scale model for how to bring live performance back safely after this prolonged Covid-related shutdown.”

The initial lineup for NY PopsUp features an array of entertainers (although only a handful of actual events have been announced so far). Among the performers are Hugh Jackman, Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Q-Tip, Patti Smith, Mandy Patinkin, Billy Porter, John Early and Kate Berlant, Rhiannon Giddens, Idina Menzel, Jerrod Carmichael, and Sutton Foster.

NY PopsUp is the result of a public/private partnership, led by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development. Interdisciplinary artist Zack Winokur led the programming team, curating the festival with a council of artistic advisors that included Jon Batiste, playwright Jeremy O. Harris, Wynton Marsalis, poet Claudia Rankine, comedian and SNL writer Julio Torres, musician and radio host Chris Thile, and theater director Whitney White.

Among the events that have been announced so far is an opening day tribute concert for healthcare workers featuring Batiste, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Ayodele Casel, and more. The performers will start at the Javits Center in Manhattan, then play additional locations around New York City throughout the day.

With Covid-19 case rates still high, the first round of NY PopsUp events will likely take place in outdoor spaces and be open for a “safe and secure ‘handful’ of audience members.” As restrictions loosen, New York plans to open a handful of multidisciplinary “flex venues,” which will host the first indoor performances since the pandemic began. “Flex venues” will not have fixed seating to allow for social distancing, while additional public health safety guidelines will be followed.

“The passionate enthusiasm of every person we asked to join us in this incentive is going to make this a labor of both love and invention,” Rudin and Rosenthal said in a statement. “We’re honored to be spearheading this campaign. Frankly, our most profound hope is that by the time NY PopsUp culminates on Labor Day, New York will be fully on the way to being reopened and revitalized and that this initiative, having served its purpose, will no longer be necessary. It’s the spark, not the fire — the fire is the complete return of all the arts, in their full glory, standing as they always have for the rich, emotional life of the city and state in which we both live.”

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