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Off-Broadway in the Boros holds first festival-style series

Oh, what a night!
To celebrate Broadway’s official reopening since the pandemic, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment presented the Off-Broadway in the Boros event for the first time as a five-day festival.
This year, the stage traveled to audiences across all five boroughs to connect them to theater and live performances just off the Great White Way.
“A couple of years ago, we put together a small study that showed theaters smaller than Broadway generate $1.3 billion in economic activity for the city,” said Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
“We thought bringing these performances to the boroughs would be a great way to connect people to the resources in their communities,” she added. “It’s really important to remind people of what’s so inherently unique about New York and how we have talent in every nook and cranny.”
Various acts performed throughout the five days, including the Gazillion Bubble Show, Hell’s Kitchen Happiness Krewe, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus and the cast of “TORCHED!” from Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.
Deni Yang of the Gazillion Bubble Show kicked off the Jackson Heights event in a way that was whimsical enough to make a person of any age feel like a kid again.
The Gazillion Bubble Show was started in New York in 2007 by the Yang family. Ever since, they’ve found ways to make it better.
“At first, my parents and I were traveling around in a circus act, which then developed into bubbles because we got more into the science side of things,” said Yang.
The Gazillion Bubble Show holds two Guinness world records, one for the world’s largest bubble and another for the most people put inside a bubble, which is 181.
Yang said that he was delighted to perform at the Off-Broadway in the Boros fest and see so many families and children having fun.
Folks who attended the festival had the opportunity to enjoy a preview of the musical “TORCHED!” performed by Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theater.
Writer and director Rosalba Rolón said the musical is still in development and will make its debut on December 2.
“TORCHED!” is a story about what Bronx residents went through during the infamous fires in the ‘70s, and much of the soundtrack is influenced by Latin music.
“I think the idea of Off-Broadway in the Boros is that we need to honor multilingualism, not only bilingualism,” said Rolón. “Artists have a way of communicating so that if someone doesn’t understand a word in a specific language, there is the imagery and the music so they do.”
Guests then got to sing along and tap their feet to tunes of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons and Frank Sinatra sung by Hell’s Kitchen Happiness Krewe, and were kept on the edge of their seats by the sword swallowers and contortionists of Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.
Castillo said that one of the best parts of her job is being able to see all of the different parts of the city, but it has also been a privilege to bring the performances of Off-Broadway in the Boros to places hardest hit by COVID-19.
“Arts and culture are what make the heart of New York City beat,” she said. “It’s a global parameter and what makes it the greatest city in the world.”
Regarding last week’s sudden closure of Broadway’s “Aladdin,” Castillo said that it was caused by the few cast members who were affected by the virus, combined with a lack of understudies to perform those roles at the time.
“Being in the creative community means that you come up with creative solutions every time,” she said. “From what I’ve seen across all of the creative community, they’ve been really diligent about the protocols and being safe.”

New exhibit features work of BIPOC artists

South Queens Women’s March (SQWM) held the opening night of its inaugural art exhibition “Made in Queens” last Saturday.
The exhibit is on view at King Manor Museum at 150-03 Jamaica Avenue inside Rufus King Park in Jamaica.
“We exist to connect women, girls and gender-fluid people with the tools they need to thrive,” said Aminta Kilawan-Narine, founder and director of SQWM. “This includes access to the arts.”
“Made in Queens” is SQWM’s attempt decolonize the art world. The exhibit highlights local BIPOC artists, one of the least represented groups in the art world.
“We’ve made it a point to use art as a catalyst for social and political change, and as part of healing in our work to curb gender-based violence,” added Kilawan-Narine. “What you will see in King Manor Museum is emblematic of our voice being our power. These pieces literally live out loud.”
The exhibit will feature works by Veli V, Kerry Cox, Amy Simon, Seema Shakti, Amelia Inderjeit, Farhana Akther, Movina Seepersaud, Kim David, Juliet James, Angela Miskis, Maria Liebana, Shristi Sookram, Sherese Francis and Giancarlo Vargas.
It is curated by SQWM board member Fatima Shabbir.
“Art has the ability to heal, provoke, tell stories and build communities,” said Shabbir. Through the selection and design process, I was constantly thinking about art accessibility and community representation. This is an exhibit I wanted to see growing up in Queens and one I‘ve always wanted to participate in.”
The opening night was sponsored by The Nest Restaurant and Bar, Mr. Wonton Queens, High Profile Sounds and Events, and Renee K Productions.
Artists were presented with citations from Mayor Bill de Blasio in recognition of their contributions to New York City’s cultural and arts landscape.
Made in Queens will be open to the public from May 16 through September 15 at the former home of Rufus King, a framer and signer of the United States Constitution.
“Once Rufus and Mary King’s bedroom, this room had been a cluttered storage space for decades and we look forward to welcoming more artists and other community members into the space,” said museum executive director Kelsey Brow. “The contrast of contemporary art with the nearly 250-year-old architecture brings such vibrancy to the museum and fits perfectly with our vision of using lessons from the past to shine a light on contemporary issues.”

To view the exhibit, members of the public must book a reservation at kingmanor.org.

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