There are eight million stories in the naked city, as the old movie said, and this week a select few of them will be aired on the gentle oasis of greenery known as Little Island, which opened in May. From Wednesday through Sunday (July 21–July 25), NYC’s latest must-see destination will play host to its first-ever Storytelling Festival, devoting spaces throughout the park to a mostly free smorgasbord of spoken word, music, poetry and audiovisual art.
Nearly all of the events in the festival are free to anyone attending Little Island at the time; admission to the park costs nothing and is open to anyone in the morning, then moves to a system of timed-entry reservations at noon.
The festival has been curated by the delightfully inventive lads of PigPen Theatre Co., who have been blending narrative, music and homemade puppetry into engaging theatrical works since 2007, when they were freshmen at the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. We wrote about them back in 2010, when they were making their first leap from the Fringe Festival to Off Broadway; since then, they have graced New York stages many times (including two runs of The Old Man and the Moon), and now serve as artists-in-residence on the Little Island.
True to the group’s own aesthetic, the lineup for the festival is eclectic but accessible. Two installations are available throughout: Mikhail Fiksel’s Overhear, an audio experience that you access through your mobile device, and Lydia Fine and Tony Blahd’s Glimpses of Narcissus, which reflects on the tale of Greek mythology’s most famous self-obsession through series of 19th-century animation devices known as phenakistoscopes. PigPen itself is performing in two events: a 1pm concert on Saturday at the capacious open-air Amph and a smaller 6pm event on Sunday. Two to four other free shows are scheduled for each day of the festival—including a traveling lark by Bandits on the Run, interactive storytelling events with Ed Rosini and a concert of songs by Michael Thurber—and pop-up performances are possible at any given moment.
The festival’s five largest events, held at the Amph at 8pm each night, cost $65 apiece: On Wednesday and Thursday, a selection of poetry and music created by performance artists Sarah Kay, Mahogany L. Browne and Jon Sands with composer Rajna Swaminathan; on Friday and Saturday, a concert by singer-songwriter Shaina Taub and talented guests including Ato Blankson-Wood, Darius de Haas, Jo Lampert, Jose Llana and Rebecca Naomi Jones; and on Sunday, a collaboration between poet-performer Phil Kaye and the brass quartet the Westerlies. (Park attendees who do not purchase seats can, of course, watch or eavesdrop on the shows from perches outside the venue.)
Click here for a full schedule of events at the Little Island Storytelling Festival, then head out there and catch some tales.