Outstanding Ensemble Emphasizes Creative Freedom & Pay it Forward in its ‘Artistic Homeplace’
To be, or not to be: that is the question.
Or, to be at the Phoenix Festival: Live Arts in Nyack: that is the real question. The answer? Yes. Be there!
After a two-year postponement due to the pandemic, the first annual Phoenix Festival will take place in Nyack on weekends from September 16 through October 16, showcasing carefully selected theater productions meant to resonate with current times, engage audiences and lift spirits.
The Festival is produced and presented by the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble. All performances will be held outdoors at the Marydell Faith & Life Center in Upper Nyack and the Edward Hopper House Museum & Study Center in the heart of Nyack village.
Headlining the program are three classic plays: The Skin of Our Teeth, an “epic,” humorous tale celebrating the “triumph of the human spirit,” The Importance of Being Earnest, acclaimed by many as the “funniest play ever written in the English language” and Chekhov’s rarely performed gem The Harmfulness of Tobacco.
“All three plays are family-friendly, high-spirited–and just plain hilarious,” said Craig Smith, Executive Director of the Phoenix ensemble and the Festival.
Another comedy favorite on the program is Love’s Labour’s Lost to be performed by the Children’s Shakespeare Theatre company–a Rockland County-based troupe of kids aged 8 to 18 who have bravely and masterfully delivered the Bard’s plays for 23 consecutive seasons.
Festival-related pop-up events will include film screenings, jazz performances, art exhibits and more. Tickets are now on sale at 833-681-4800 and NyackArtsFestival.com. Discounts are available using the code “WEST.”
Nyack Is the Stage
All live theater performances will be presented in the afternoon to allow Festival-goers time to enjoy Nyack village. Covering just a little over one walkable square mile, Nyack packs in an amazing array of first-class restaurants, one-of-a-kind shops, lively night spots, hiking, biking and river recreation opportunities–plus access to the Governor Mario Cuomo bridge pathway offering majestic vistas of the Hudson River.
For visitors interested in combining art and entertainment with an exploration of Hudson Valley culture and history, the Festival team has created a special program for this event–entitled Nyack Digital Dreaming-AR Adventures–an exciting multimedia, family-and phone-friendly introduction to the village and its lore and legends, incorporating walking tour narratives, documentary video, and augmented reality.
The Phoenix Rises – and Uplifts
“During the pandemic, we saw how hard everyone was struggling to keep going,” Phoenix Ensemble Artistic Director Elise Stone said. “We’ve always believed that performing arts uplift everyone. The Festival offers something we all need after the challenges of the past couple of years.”
Stone and Smith know the territory. Both are long-time actors and theater-makers who met, married and worked together for years in repertory theaters in New York City. They together founded the Phoenix Theatre Ensemble in 2004–today an internationally recognized leader in the world of creative contemporary theater and winner of multiple awards for excellence in theater arts.
The ensemble prides itself not only in the work they do, which is primarily classical theater (more than just Shakespeare), but also in the creative freedom they give to their actors, directors, designers, writers and others on the team. If one of their costume designers has an idea for a show, they’re all ears.
“At Phoenix, everyone has a voice,” said Smith. ”That’s what makes this Festival a special experience for our audiences.”
Festival ‘How To’: Build the Community Foundation
After moving to Nyack in 2018, Smith and Stone saw the potential for getting the community involved in theater arts, but also for the ensemble to get involved with the community itself–one of their core values.
They started by producing benefits and shows for organizations such as the Nyack Library and the Rockland Holocaust Museum & Center for Tolerance and Education. The idea of a festival soon came to mind.
Over the past few years, Smith and Stone have built an infrastructure to support the new Festival by reaching out to local government and collaborating with civic organizations such as VisitNyack.org, the Nyack Chamber of Commerce and Nyack Village, and listening to merchants and businesses on how the Festival could work for everyone.
As part of Festival due diligence, for example, Phoenix commissioned a study conducted by Brockport Research Institute, polling 2,000 tri-state arts enthusiasts and Rockland residents. The results point toward high Festival attendance, as well as significant financial benefits–upwards of half a million dollars in net revenue to local businesses.
Come One, Come All
The Festival is very much for everyone, Stone and Smith emphasize. Both believe that the arts should be accessible to all with no obstacles, whether financial or geographic. The Festival includes a “pay it forward” program to provide tickets to families who can’t afford the full price. A special program for public school students is also part of the plan.
Geography should also pose no barriers. “Whether you’re coming from Westchester or Rockland or Jersey, a first-class professional theater experience is available right on your doorstep,” Stone said. And as she wants to remind those in Westchester, “We’re right across the bridge!”
So, to be at the festival or not to be at the festival … is that even a question?
For details and ticket purchases, visit NyackArtsFestival.com or call 833-681-4800. Discount tickets available with the code “WEST.”
Visit nyackartsfestival.com/become-a-sponsor to learn more about becoming a sponsor for the event. For further information regarding family discounts and student programs, contact Craig Smith at Craig@PhoenixTheatreEnsemble.org or 917-717-1617.