Thursday, April 30, 2009

helps WNYC unveil new live performance space Sarah Jessica Parker

Performing live at a radio station used to be an exercise for masochists and contortionists.

But that's changing, and nothing illustrates the change better than the new Jerome L. Greene Performance Space that was unveiled in Hudson Square Tuesday night by WNYC (93.9 FM, 820 AM).

Guests on hand for the invitation-only opening included Sarah Jessica Parker, who joined others in reading passages about New York.

The space is designed "to let us do full performance events," says executive producer Indira Etwaroo. "Yet it's also a very intimate setting. We were trying to reimagine what performance means to a 21st-century audience."

For starters, that means recognizing that audiences today are different from those of the past. "Lifestyles are different today," Etwaroo says. "People aren't sitting around the radio like they did 50 years ago. Now we have to shape our content so we can serve today's listener."

That means not only providing unique programs at the space, but involving listeners themselves. Regular events scheduled at the space include the "GreeneWorks Commissioning Series," in which the station will invite poets, artists, musicians, writers and others to perform and create there.

Everyone is invited to "First Fridays," which start this weekend, giving listeners a chance to mingle informally with each other and with WNYC hosts.

One of the first radio theater events, set for Monday at 7 p.m. and to be broadcast live on WNYC, is a production of the acclaimed 1937 Archibald MacLeish radio drama "The Fall of the City."

Staged a year before Orson Welles' famous "War of the Worlds," "Fall of the City" starred Welles and issued an ominous warning about the contemporary rise of fascism.

Students from city high schools will make up the Greek chorus in Monday's production, narrated by "Radio Lab" host Jad Abumrad. A discussion series called "The Next New York Conversation" starts Tuesday, 7 p.m., with Cornel West.

WNYC hosts also will be doing regular shows from the new space. John Schaefer's "Soundcheck" kicks it off Wednesday, 2-3 p.m., with Terrance McKnight and David Garland coming in tomorrow night for "Evening Music," 7-11. Brian Lehrer makes his debut there Tuesday, from 10 a.m.-noon, with Leonard Lopate on Wednesday, noon-2 p.m.

"This is a place where we'll be able to experiment," says Etwaroo. "We'll try new things out. We have a very sophisticated listenership and I think they will appreciate what we'll be doing here."

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