The storied Players Club townhouse on New York City’s Gramercy Park was the setting for the recent annual Theater for the New City (TNC) gala. Titled Love N’ Courage, the occasion was the 16th such event for the pioneering Off-Off-Broadway theater.

Among the guests were Manhattan Borough President Gale E. Brewer, Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, and various playwrights and performers including TNC’s Artistic Director Crystal Field. This year’s gala honored two distinguished individuals who have made significant contributions to the quality of life and culture of New York’s Lower East Side. This year’s guests of honor included longtime TNC supporter and friend Gerald Rupp. Also honored was Louis Mofsie, Founding Director of Thunderbird American Indian Dancers, as well as a founding member of the American Indian Community House.

As per tradition, this year’s gala featured a diverse, dynamic program including such downtown theater artists as Rod Rodgers Dance Company, Glitter Kitty Productions, Phoebe Legere, James Rado, and Thunderbird American Indian Dancers. Under Mofsie’s direction, Thunderbird has performed at many major New York museums and he has choreographed work that has been presented at Lincoln Center and La MaMa, among other theaters.

Gerald Rupp, Chairman of the Eccola Foundation and creator of the Vidda Foundation was instrumental in securing the necessary funding for an accessible elevator at TNC.

According to Crystal Field, “His donation came at a crucial juncture when a change order demanded funding over and above the original estimate. Gerald Rupp came through for TNC in a big way! This elevator gives disabled and frail elderly patrons and artists access to our lower level theater.”

The hosts of the evening were theater artists, Phoebe Legere and Matt Morillo. Legere is a veteran of New York’s downtown theater scene and has had several plays produced at TNC. She is currently at work on a new play and is dedicated to political theater. She expressed concern about the changing face of New York due to gentrification, declaring “The New York we love is vanishing.” A sentiment which seems to sum up an evening celebrating the resilience of the arts in general, a veteran institution such as TNC in particular which is currently celebrating their 46th year.

Councilwoman Carlina Rivera was also in attendance and she expressed her commitment to the arts on the Lower East Side, the neighborhood where she grew up and which she remains dedicated to supporting. She spoke enthusiastically about the value of art in the community, stating that “Theater is directly linked to artist activism.” She also expressed her enthusiasm for a local arts commission and the importance of grant funding supporting emerging playwrights. Rivera mentioned plans for continued arts funding in the future that will ensure safe, state of the art facilities and that she is committed to programs which are funded with public money.

Gerald Rupp at TNC Love N’ Courage Gala. Photo by Ben Hider.

Also presented was Kim Grier-Martinez, Artistic Director of Rod Rodgers Dance Company. The company has been a fixture at TNC’s annual Lower East Side (LES) festival for several years, where they have frequently premiered new works. Like TNC, Rod Rodgers is committed to social justice and to enriching the LES with culture and diversity. Not only does the company perform many pieces from their repertory but they also are committed to presenting new works.

The evening was a festive occasion with a well-dressed crowd enjoying dinner and acclaimed entertainment.

Theater for the New City is located at 155 1st Avenue, New York City.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.