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Comedy, Poems and Puppets at the Lower East Side Arts Festival

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The Lower East Side returns to its swinging 1960's roots on Friday by hosting its 16th annual festival of music, poetry, puppets and dance. More than 100 artists will show work at the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts, which runs through Sunday and will be held on 10th St. between First and Second Avenues. The festival is organized by the Off-Off-Broadway group Theater for the New City.

The Lower East Side street poet (and criminal defense lawyer) Paul L. Mills (pictured below in the center), who is also known as Poez, performed during the festival in the 1980's. Street poet-cum-criminal defense lawyer Paul L. Mills (a.k.a. Poez) performs on the steps of Lincoln Center in the 1980's. (Photo by Lisa Bradley)

Click the audio below to hear words from Poez about the festival. (Photo by Lisa Bradley).

This year, musician David Amram will play at the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts to honor the advice of his friend Dizzy Gillespie.

Amram knew the trumpet legend when he was in his 20s. On Gillespie's 70th birthday, Amram said Gillespie told him to "put something back into the pot." Amram took those words to heart.

"Our job, being older, is to put something back into the pot," he said. "So that may be some 20-year-old would get that instrument out of the closet that they were told not to play because it was hopeless, or get that play that they hadn't finished or that painting that they wanted to do and feel that they can do it." 

Click the audio link below to hear more from Amram, pictured below at right with beat poet Jack Kerouac and friend Dodyh Muller in 1959. (Photo by John Cohen)

From left: Jack Kerouac, Dodyh Muller and David Amram in 1959

Theater writer Martin Denton said the Theater for the New City is "a longstanding and important institution in the history of theater in New York," and that the group's Lower East Side Festival of the Arts carries with it an air of vaudeville.

"If you don't like this act, you'll like the next act," Denton said. Click the audio link below to hear more of what Denton had to say about the festival.

Artists pose at the Astor Place subway station at a previous Lower East Side Festival of the Arts.