Nonstop theater, a costume competition and ballroom dancing will bewitch the East Village in Theater for the New City’s 41st annual Village Halloween Costume Ball on Monday, October 31 at TNC, 155 First Avenue. This unique festival continues as a grand coming-together for real witches, everyday New Yorkers and artists alike. An explosive fall tradition, the event is held annually on the actual night of Halloween and celebrates artistic creation and fertilization.
The one-night fiesta takes over all four of TNC’s theater spaces, plus its lobby and the block of East Tenth Street between First and Second Avenues. Customarily over 1,500 wildly-clad celebrants gather for dancing, dining, showing off costumes and viewing acts from the cutting-edge of Cabaret and Theater. Admission is $20; costume or formal wear is required. Once inside, everything is free except food and drink, which are graveyard dirt-cheap.
Big-Band Dance orchestras take over the large Johnson Theater. These will include Art Lillard’s Heavenly Big Band and Maquina Mono (The Monkey Machine). The Johnson Theater will also have aerial dance by Constellation Moving Company.
With its Witches’ Cauldron, the event can justifiably claim to have downtown’s most sensational Halloween cafe with a variety of American and international delicacies available at peoples’ prices. Holiday dishes are contributed by neighboring East Village restaurants, some with celebrity chefs. You can gobble couscous from a coffin lid beginning at 7:30 pm while enjoying spine-tingling performances by performance artists, songwriters, poets and variety artists including Evan Laurence, Arthur Abrams, Norman Savitt, Richard West, Ellen Steier and Dawoud Kringle (sitar), Azam Kalavant, Ariah, Arthur Abrams, Edith Lettner, Sarah Lilly, Norman Savitt and Ellen Steier. The space is designed by Susan Hemley and Desiree Conston with lighting design by Alexander Bartenieff.
Outside, there are R&B and Dixieland bands, fire eaters, jugglers, storyweavers and stilt dancers, all free to the public and a gift from TNC to its neighborhood. Inside, there is theater all evening. Appearing will be Daily the Great, Star 69, Joe Bendik, George Bellici and Jennifer Blowdryer. Emcee is Mary Tierney.
The House of Horrors in the theater’s lower level will be an exploration of possession and descent into madness, designed and run by David Zen Mansley, in which revelers will be put through a maze and duly horrified. At the Champagne Bar, libations will be served by vampires who will awaken periodically for the task.
Since its beginning in 1977, TNC’s Halloween extravaganza has been a point of origin for many of the City’s most original entertainers. Six full-length plays have grown out of playlets written for the fest and it is probable that the theatrical movement in Performance Art began there. It has been a launching pad for such formative artists as Paul Zaloom, Alice Farley, Bloolips, The Red Mole, Penny Arcade, Basil Twist and Alien Comic Tom Murrin. Each year, many acts, skits, sketches, and skadoodles go on to become the basis of larger theater works. It is also interesting to note that TNC originated the Village Halloween Parade as part of its annual Halloween Ball. The procession wound its way through the Village from TNC’s second home at the corner of Jane and West Streets to Washington Square Park. Now the Village Halloween Costume Ball takes up every available inch (both floors) of TNC’s multi-theater complex at 155 First Avenue (the former First Avenue Retail Market building) and adjoining outdoor spaces.
Doors open at 7:30 PM and indoor entertainment begins at 8:00 PM. There will be two continuously-running cabarets. Outdoor entertainment, free to the public, will start at 4:00 PM. Outdoor entertainment is capped by “The Red and Black Masque,” an annual Medieval ritual show written by Arthur Sainer, scored by David Tice and directed by Crystal Field which is performed by torchlight.
Scattered through the event will be stilt dancers, jugglers, fire-eaters, Vaudeville playlets, Burlesque and Hellsouls including Fran McGee, Jeffrey Archer, Oedipus on the Beach, Peter Dizzoza, Joga and Larraine Goodman and her mad tappers. The lobby will be divided into rooms featuring rooms for Astrology/Numerology readings. Phyllis Yampolsky will throw the I-Ching. Videos are by Terry Ferreri. Emcee is Juston Rodriguez.
The entire facility will be elaborately rendered for Halloween, featuring intricate and massive environments by leading theatrical scenarists, sculptors, and artists including Donald L. Brooks, Lytza Colon, Mark Marcante, David Zen Mansley, Ian Gordon, Bruce Kraemer and Desiree Conston. Costume design is by Susan Hemley. The audience will pass through walls decorated by 17 muralists.
The performers’ list, in formation as of this writing, also includes: Phoebe Legere, Penny Arcade, Bina Sharif, Vic Ruggiero, Evan Lawrence, Richard West, Alessandra Belloni, Von Duvois Dance Collective, Lissa Moira’s Scream Contest, Rhonda Hansome, Wise Guise, Loretta Auditorium, Kitsch, Danielle Aziza, Evae Packer, Joe Bendick, Lei Zhou, Bob Honeyer, Dawoud Kringle, Richard Weber, Carol Tandava Belly Dance, Michael and Venus Vazquez, Ben Harburg and Friends, Eve Packer, John Grimaldi (NY Lyric Circus), Stan Baker, Jiggers Is King, Dr. Sue, Margo Lee Sherman, Norman Savitt with Susan Mitchell, The Wycherly Sisters, Georgio Handman, Elizabeth Ruf, The Amazing Amy (contortionist), Natasha Velez, Lucy Livingston, David Slone’s “Le Squeezebox Cabaret,” and TNC Street Theater Company performing excerpts from “Checks and Balances or Bottoms Up!” by Crystal Field and Joseph Vernon Banks.
The annual costume judging begins at midnight with the “Monsters and Miracles Costume Parade,” as all revelers are invited to march past a panel of celebrity judges including David Willinger, Phoebe Legere, Bina Sharif, Miguel Maldonado, Robert Heide, Andrea Fulton, John Jiler, Tom Attea, Eduardo Machado, John Gilman, Misha Shulman, Rome Neal and Lorcan Otway. Winners will receive one-year passes to TNC and a bottle of Moet and Chandon champagne. Attendees will be judged in such categories as “Most Anti-Oxidant,” “Most Covfefe,” “Most Rocket-Manned,” “Most Trumped-Up,” “Most Globally-Warmed,” “Most Sniffling,” Most Tweaked, “Most Tweetful,” “Most User-Friendly,” “Most Organic,” “Most Insured,” and “Most Insignificant.” Celebrity judges will include Phoebe Legere, Bina Sharif, Chino Garcia, Andrea Fulton, David Willinger, Misha Shulman, Miguel Maldonado, John Gilman, Robert Heide, Sabura Rashid, Ramiro Sandoval, Tom Attea and John Jiler.
Theater for the New City is located at 155 First Avenue, at the corner of East Tenth Street. Reservations are strongly recommended. The TNC box office number is (212) 254-1109.