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Apollo Theater to hold inaugural Festival of Arts and Ideas


NEW YORK — The Apollo Theater‘s inaugural Festival of Arts and Ideas happens this Friday through Sunday, bringing curated conversations to the center stage.

No stranger to celebrity speakers, singers and starlets, the historic Apollo is launching a new brand of entertainment, called “At The Intersection.” The festival came from curator Ta-Nehisi Coates’s time as master artisan in residence at the theater in 2019.

“One of the things that he wanted to do was to create something that he could leave behind,” said Apollo programming director Leatrice Ellzy, “and understanding the direction that the Apollo is going in, he wanted to make sure that he contributed something to that.”

The lineup includes Harlem native Radha Blank. The writer/director is still celebrating the success of her Netflix film “The 40-Year-Old Version,” the story of an aging playwright turned aspiring rapper. Blank will be speaking on a panel Saturday about Black satirical comedy and how we find humor through generational trauma.

“It’s a way to disarm and pull people in, gets them leaning into conversations they might not otherwise have,” Blank said.

Blank compares a comedian’s work to that of a preacher.

“It’s about accessing a kind of a spiritual part of ourselves when, you know, we’re experiencing some very inhumane things,” she explained.

Hers is among a series of thought-provoking chats, film screenings and interactive performances, shining a new light on the theater’s possibilities.

“To really delve into this humanity space is really special for us,” Ellzy said, “and especially at this time when we continue our journey into being a performing arts center.”

The expansion can be seen from the street, as the new Renaissance Harlem hotel towers above the Apollo’s new annex at the Victoria Theater.

“I love that as an institution, they are reaching back while reaching forward and pulling the generations together in one place,” Blank said.

Organizers aim to hold the Festival of Arts and Ideas biennially, taking time to curate the most current conversations for the community.

To find a link to the festival’s full lineup and ticket portal, click here.

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