Worldwide icon-chevron-right North America icon-chevron-right United States icon-chevron-right New York State icon-chevron-right New York icon-chevron-right Best of the fests: The top festivals in NYC this week (May 30–June 5, 2013)

Best of the fests: The top festivals in NYC this week (May 30–June 5, 2013)

Immerse yourself in science, music, poetry and art events at a festival in NYC this week (May 30–June 5, 2013).

 (Photograph: Greg Kessler)
Photograph: Greg KesslerWorld Science Festival
New York Ukulele Festival
 (Photograph: Roe Carroll)
Photograph: Roe CarrollHOWL! Festival
 (Photograph: Melissa Sinclair)
Photograph: Melissa SinclairTerri Chiao and Adam Frezza at Bushwick Open Studios
 (Photograph: Melissa Sinclair)
Photograph: Melissa SinclairKaz Ooka at Bushwick Open Studios
By Nina Stoller-Lindsey |

There’s a festival this week for nearly every mood and fancy—and it doesn’t hurt that many of them include free things to do. Here are our top picks.

Things to do, Talks and lectures

If it’s time to get over your fear of physics and chemistry: World Science Festival

Even if you weren’t jazzed about the subject in high school, the WSF’s 2013 lineup of industry innovators (such as the man who codiscovered the structure of DNA, James Watson) and household names (Emmy Award–winning M*A*S*H star Alan Alda, for instance) will get even staunch right-brainers enthused about science. The fest consists of around 50 discussions and demonstrations, covering topics that range from insect courtship to the biotechnology of beer—because who doesn’t like to learn about sex and booze? Don’t miss “Ending the Epidemic: Science Advances on AIDS” (Fri 31 10–11:30am; $15–$30), a discussion on new breakthroughs in attacking the virus, followed by a sneak preview of the New-York Historical Society’s new exhibit, “AIDS in New York: The First Five Years”; and “The Scientific Kitchen,” a three-part series that explains the chemistry behind baking a pie (Fri 31 7–9pm; $40), the crystal networks that make up ice cream (Sat 1 at 3pm; $40) and the microbiology behind so-stinky-it’s-good fromage (Sat 1 at 7pm; $40).

Things to do, Classes and workshops

If you can’t afford the airfare to Hawaii: New York Ukulele Festival

This four-day series of performances and workshops is all about appreciating the diminutive, island-originated instrument played by everyone from Elvis to Adam Sandler. The tenth annual fest opens with a screening of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, a 1926 German animated fairy tale, accompanied by a new, Arabian Nights–inspired score by Canadian group Small World Project. Spend Friday and Saturday perusing instruments for purchase and swaying your hips to live sets by Grammy nominee Raiatea Helm, a traditional Hawaiian singer-ukulelist who performed at the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Ball, and Victoria Vox, a singer-songwriter who takes the teensy guitar into pop and electronic territories. Before you unleash your cover of Amanda Palmer’s “Ukulele Anthem” on the world, perfect your plucking skills under the supervision of a master strummer such as Roy Sakuma, who cofounded the world’s largest ukulele festival in the Aloha State. Hula dancing is highly encouraged at Sunday’s outdoor brunch and luau. 

HOWL! Festival
Photograph: Roe Carroll
Theater, Musicals

If you’re drawn to the downtown arts scene: Howl! Festival

Taking its inspiration from longtime East Village resident Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem “Howl,” this gala brings together 340 local artists, poets and performers to celebrate the neighborhood’s countercultural history. The revelry begins on Friday as local bard and activist Bob Holman leads a reading of the namesake verse with a chorus of downtown wordsmiths. Get a taste of ball culture when Men in Skirts—a fierce ensemble of singers, voguers, fire jugglers, ballet dancers and drag artists—perform on Saturday, parodying everything from house music to the House of Representatives. On Sunday, the Low Life 7: Bowery Bombshells variety show asserts that imitation (with a heavy dose of creative license) is the most entertaining form of flattery during a song-, dance- and striptease-filled tribute to legendary local ladies—they include bawdy Brooklyn-born stage and film actor Mae West (who got her start in the neighborhood’s vaudeville halls), East 13th Street resident and activist Emma Goldman, and former St. Mark’s Poetry Project fixture Patti Smith. Watch a public work evolve throughout the weekend as 140 artists each contribute a piece to “Art Around the Park,” an 8' x 900' canvas encircling Tompkins Square Park (Ave A between 7th and 10th Sts). 

Bushwick Open Studios
Photograph: Melissa Sinclair
Things to do, Classes and workshops

If you’re a nosy neighbor: Bushwick Open Studios

Stick your beak into someone else’s workshop and don’t be shy: The goal of this three-day affair is to inspire casual tête-á-têtes between local artists and residents. Now in its seventh year, BOS stretches across more than three square miles in Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Ridgewood, giving visitors behind-the-scenes access to the work spaces of more than 500 painters, sculptors, multidisciplinary designers, performance artists and more. A series of free public events is also planned: Brooklyn Fire Proof (119 Ingraham St at Porter Ave, Bushwick, Brooklyn) will host site-specific performances curated by activist arts group Hybrid Theatre Works (Sat 1 6–9pm), as well as a 12-hour concert featuring Brian Chase of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Greg Saunier of Deerhoof and Erika Sprung of Au Revoir Simone (Sun 2 2pm–2am).