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COMEDY ON ’TAP’

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Politicians will put on tap shoes and then tap your phone lines in Theater for the New City’s new summer production, "Tap Dance," performing free in parks from Aug. 5 through Sept. 17.

Because the TNC company tours throughout the five boroughs, the hour-long production makes sure it has something for everyone.

The lyrics are witty and political; the actors perform stunts and slapstick; and there’s live music, dance and special effects.

Director Crystal Field, a TNC co-founder, has been writing these summer street theater productions in the style of "commedia dell’arte" for 30 years.

Field told GO Brooklyn she believes that free public theater is important because "it brings theater to people who generally don’t go to the theater, who are wary of theater. And this opens the door to them.

"Our show is a service because it is about things that are relevant. It is both entertaining and educating, and it improves the audience for American plays."

The "Tap Dance" message is bringing people back to their roots.

The story follows a young man who is taught to tap his way up the corporate ladder. Another man with "corporate street smarts teaches him to tap into board rooms, screw over coworkers, and manipulate trustees," Field said.

But tapping isn’t only a form of dance in this production. The government employs all kinds of "Bush administration shenanigans," said Field, like wiretaps, taps into Iraq, the Patriot Act and global warming just to name a few. In one scene, "a group of friends are planning to go out to dinner, and are surprised to hear President Bush suggest a different restaurant as he listens to their conversation."

In a world where privacy and civil rights are quickly disappearing, the young man finds he cannot follow the dance of greed, but does find a group of equally innocent friends, who are our story’s heroes.

They meet a group of Native Americans who dance to help them discover that their simpler way of life, without corrupt governments, the desire for power, and noisy Blackberries is a better way of life.

As always, TNC will have various special effects throughout the show including a smoke machine, giant puppets, trap doors, masks and the legendary "cranky," a 9-by-12-foot screen that changes the scenery throughout the performance.


The process

The hour-long production takes a yearlong creative process to come together. Field says she keeps "a little paper bag in a drawer in my kitchen, and I throw notes in there throughout the year."

About two months before TNC starts touring, the playwright retreats to a trailer in the woods with her notes and thoughts and writes the entire musical.

"For many years, I didn’t even keep a telephone with me!" she said.

As Field finishes pieces of the show, songs are sent to one of her three assistant directors, who relay the script to composer Joseph Vernon Banks, who sets it all to music.

Also during this process, the actors are attending multiple workshops on dance, improvisation, juggling, stilt walking, among other talents, and lectures about the issues the musical addresses.

Field said that in "Tap Dance" some of the actors will play the political and actually peace-loving "Raging Grannies," and one of the real life Grannies is coming to speak to the company about their liberal "Action League."


For all ages

Over the years, the 50-person TNC company has become a family. Field said they always have a variety of fresh-faced and veteran actors, this year ranging from age 10 to those well into their sixties.

And just like its cast, "Tap Dance" is for both children and adults. You may see clowns throwing white cream pies at each other, but here, they’re symbolizing the government’s whitewashing scandals.

"[Tap Dance] has a childlike quality to it on purpose," Field said. "People know when we’re coming. They expect us, and we’re always very popular with all different kinds of audiences that you find in the parks."

 


Theater for the New City will perform "Tap Dance" in Brooklyn on Aug. 13 at Von King Park (Greene Street and Marcy Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant) at 2 pm; Aug. 18 on the Coney Island Boardwalk at West 10th Street at 8 pm; and Aug. 26 at the Prospect Park Concert Grove (enter on the corner of Parkside and Ocean avenues) at 2 pm. The performances are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.theaterforthenewcity.net or call (212) 254-1109.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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