Theater for a New City’s ‘The World Takes a Selfie’

Free sidewalk theater tour hits Coney and Sunset Park

Brooklyn Daily
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All of Brooklyn’s a stage, but the men and women are not payers!

Theater for a New City is embarking on its annual Summer Street Theater Tour, which will this year stage outdoors shows in Coney Island and Sunset Park on Aug. 15 and 23, respectively — no tickets necessary. The creator of the free festival said the shows give kids and parents something to do during the hot months.

“It’s a wonderful breath of fresh air in the middle of the summer,” said Theater for a New City’s artistic director Crystal Field, who started the park and pavement plays back in 1976.

This year’s show is an operetta called “Emergency!” or “The World Takes a Selfie.” The show’s title is a comment on how obsessed people have become with the practice of taking their own photographs, Field said. But the play also deals with the ubiquitous presence of technology and social media in our lives today.

“They aren’t bad things,” Field said. “But they have to be used judiciously.”

The lead character of this year’s show is an emergency medical technician who meets up with a reporter and together they travel the world. They see things such as sweatshops, a house fire, and even a pack of zombies attacking the president — but no one else seems to be paying attention.

The show features a live band, colorful costumes, puppetry, and 30 actors all taking on multiple roles. One performer said her favorite part of the curb-side concert is seeing kids’ faces as they stumble across the show.

“Kids will just be walking by and they’ll see us and get excited,” said Emily Pezzella. “They had no idea we were going to be there.”

The street-tour has 13 stops around the city during August and September, including one on the Coney Island Boardwalk. Field said hitting the streets is a good way to keep her grounded, and ready to write new material. Which is lucky, because she pens a new musical for the festival each year.

Field said she always tries to tie the plays in to contemporary issues that are affecting the communities the tour visits. In some of her earlier works, that meant opposition to the Vietnam War. Today, selfies.

“Street theater is always very relevant,” she said. “We’re on top of what’s going down.”

“The World Takes a Selfie” on the Coney Island Boardwalk [Boardwalk at W. 10th Street in Coney Island, (212) 254–1109,]. Aug. 15 at 6:30 pm. Free; Sunset Park (44th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Sunset Park). Aug. 23 at 2 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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