SummerStage 2022 bringing 90 free and benefit shows across NYC this summer

This summer’s series will mark the first time in more than two years that SummerStage will be presenting a full lineup of shows across the five boroughs, according to Heather Lubov, executive director of City Parks Foundation. She told Gothamist that during the pandemic’s height in 2020, SummerStage, like so many other NYC cultural institutions, mostly had to rely on streaming events and shows.

“We wanted to make sure that people still had access to culture, particularly free culture, and that artists still had ways to work and share their art,” said Lubov, who is in her seventh year at City Parks Foundation. “And I think that for a while, that was okay, it was better than nothing.

“But people have been desperate to get back together,” she said. “We’re social beings, and there’s a very visceral experience that people have when they watch a concert together, when they hear the music together, and when they react together. Online is okay, but really, music should be experienced in person when you can, and it’s just a completely different experience and, I think, one that people have really been missing.”

With the easing of some restrictions last summer, SummerStage was able to program about 40 shows — half as many as usual — in just four parks. People were seated six feet apart, and tickets had to be ordered in advance online, which is not the case for free shows this year. So it “had a very different, somewhat restrictive feel for a very good reason, obviously,” Lubov said.

“But this season, we’re back in every neighborhood park that we’ve been in,” she said. “We’re in every borough; we were not able to do that last year. And we’re building out our full venue in Central Park, which we had only used one time in 2019.”

SummerStage’s seasonal Central Park venue received a $5.5 million overhaul in 2019, which included a new stage canopy, better sight lines, VIP areas and upgraded accessibility.

The pandemic isn’t over — COVID cases are increasing throughout the city due to the prevalence of the BA.2 substrain of the omicron variant. But most cultural venues have by and large dropped all pandemic restrictions once they were no longer required by the city or state.

Lubov says SummerStage is following the city’s current COVID guidelines, so masks are “strongly recommended” but not required. Their staff is required to be vaccinated and strongly recommended to mask “all the time.”

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