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The Festival Blog

Come see New Haven from a different perspective on our Boat Tours! Join the New Haven Parks, Recreation and Trees Outdoor Adventure Program on scenic canoe and kayak tours of Lighthouse Point Park and the Mill River.

This installation by artist and costume designer Machine Dazzle was inspired by Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: The 1990s, which was commissioned by the International Festival of Arts & Ideas and premiered at the Festival on June 12 and 13, 2015. Taylor and Machine are frequent collaborators, and Machine is the costume designer for Taylor’s 24-decade series.

Ragamala Dance Company with Rudresh Mahanthappa and Song of the Jasmine is a new work that spans cultures and traditions, combining the beauty of bharatanatyam—a classical dance from south India—with a musical soundscape that brings together jazz and Carnatic music.
A quintet led by celebrated saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa performs live on stage with the dancers, featuring soloist Aparna Ramaswamy.

Cry You One is an outdoor processional performance with music, dances, and stories from the heart of south Louisiana's disappearing wetlands. Conceived by the New Orleans-based companies Mondo Bizarro and ArtSpot Productions, the piece celebrates the people and cultures of south Louisiana while turning clear eyes toward the crisis of our vanishing waterways.

At the Festival, Cry You One will be sited at the Regional Water Authority’s Maltby Lakes, with an experience specially crafted for this unique landscape.

Join us for a fun-filled, FREE day of performances and activities for all ages on the New Haven Green featuring family friendly music from Dan Zanes and Moona Luna!

Join us for a fun-filled, FREE day of performances and activities for all ages on the New Haven Green!

To celebrate Festival 20, the Festival has commissioned The 1990s from award-winning performance artist Taylor Mac. Mac performs as a bedazzled creature, accompanied by a live band, to present a performative ritual featuring music popular in the 1990s, the Festival’s founding decade.

Our crew has been busy this week getting everything ready! The fun starts this weekend!


The Festival's headline concerts on the New Haven Green—the big shows on Saturday and Sunday evenings (and this year, one on Friday!)—are among the most visible and exciting parts of each year's Festival. And, they are complete FREE and open to everyone to enjoy.

There are a number of ways that you can attend and have a great time. Here are a few tips and tricks from our veteran Festival attendees.

Just show up!

The easiest thing to do is to just show up! The headline concerts (as well as all activity on the Green) occur on the "lower" part of the Green between Temple and Church Streets, are completely free to everyone, and do not require a ticket. You are welcome to swing by and grab any available spot to enjoy the concert.

To sit up close, get there early

If you'd like to sit right at the front of the stage, get there as early as you can. While the concert is free, spots up front are first-come, first-served. (For our most popular concerts, some attendees have been known to arrive early in the afternoon!)

You do not need premium passes to sit right at the front of the stage: the right-hand side of the stage is open access without reservations. If you'd like, premium passes may be purchased to guarantee an up-front spot on the left, with access to a hospitality lounge (see below).

Otherwise, there is plenty of space all over the Green offering a great view and great sound. There is no need to show up early unless you'd like one of those spots up front!

Please be courteous of your neighbors

As many as 10,000 to 15,000 visitors join us on the Green for the headline concerts, and the Green is a public park with open access.

Please be courteous of your neighbors: if you'd like to be up dancing or would like to talk through the concert, great! But if you are seated in an area where people seem to be enjoying the concert quietly and listening intently, please be courteous and move to an area where others are doing what you are (and vice versa). The Green is a big place and there is space for everyone!

There are no formal restrictions about smoking, however we do ask that you please go to the outer pathways of the Green to smoke, out of courtesy to other audience members.

Keep the pathways open and clear

For safety reasons, the pathways on the Green must be kept clear and moving: please no standing, sitting, or congregating on the pathways. (Also, standing on the pathways often blocks the view of other audience members, so again, please be courteous!) Standing is not allowed along the barricades surrounding the premium seating area.

Food and Food Trucks

You are welcome to bring your own picnic to be enjoyed on the Green. Food trucks and vendors are also available along the Temple Street side of the Green. Click here for a list of food trucks and vendors.


Street parking in the vicinity of the Green fills up quickly and can be very hard to find, especially on headline concert evenings. We recommend that you use one of the Festival's designated garages, which are only $5 with a Festival parking coupon (cheaper than finding street parking on Saturday nights, and easier too!). The garages are located only one block away from the Green, on well-lighted and populated streets.

Park at the Temple Street Garage, 1 Temple Street or the Crown Street Garage, 213 Crown Street, and download a Festival parking coupon to bring with you.

Bleacher Seating, Lawn Chair Rental, and Premium Seating

There are convenience options available if you'd like the Festival to worry about the details for you: Headline Concerts: bleacher seating ($10) offers a clear, raised view of the stage; lawn chair rentals ($10) can be enjoyed from any spot on the Green without the hassle of lugging a chair from home.

Or, if you really want to get up close to your favorite headliner or want the ultimate experience with Festival hospitality, get a premium pass ($125), which also comes with Festival membership for the year.

Get the scoop on the Festival

The Festival Information Center and XFinity Lounge is located on the west side of the Green. Stop by for information about other Festival events happening throughout the Festival's two weeks, or just to relax in the XFinity Lounge with WiFi access and technology.

The Festival Box Office is also open at the Information Center for ticket sales, and you can also purchase t-shirts, Festival sunglasses, and other fun Festival gear.

Have fun!

The Festival puts on this annual two-week event for YOU and for the entire region to enjoy. There are many ways to enjoy these summer evenings, and we hope you have a particularly great time at these Festival events.

2015 Headline Concerts:

(This article refers specifically to events presented by the International Festival of Arts & Ideas: see INFONewHaven for the City's Music on the Green series.)


"(The Revolution) will be feathered, jeweled, sequin, glitter, long leg, high heel, patent pumps and…won’t be masculinized.”
—from an original song by Taylor Mac

In Taylor Mac’s ambitious, ongoing series A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, he explores the popular music and social context of each decade in American history, starting with the 1770s. Each decade is represented by its concert, debuted one by one over a period of several years. When the entire cycle is complete in 2016, all 24 decades will be performed in a single marathon event.

The 1990s will premiere in New Haven at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas on June 12 and 13. Commissioned by the Festival to celebrate its founding decade, the work will feature Taylor’s unique blend of commentary, song, and, of course, fantastic costumes from collaborator Machine Dazzle.

Costumes by Machine Dazzle for A 24-decade History of Popular Music

The 1770s

The 1800s

The 1890s


Artist and theater-maker Taylor Mac talks to Deborah A. Brothers about performance, costumes, and revealing the truth to audiences

Be prepared to be amazed. In his award-winning theater and performance-art works, Taylor Mac takes us on a fantastical journey, telling us truths that we have forgotten. He comes to the theater, Taylor said in a recent conversation, to “remind the audience of the dismissed or the buried within them,” of ideas that have been forgotten.

To do this, Taylor has readapted an ancient role: he has become the modern version of a court jester, a fool. “Everyone laughs and has a good time and the king doesn’t go to war,” Taylor says, because a fool must “say what everyone knows is true.” His performance is an entry into burlesque, drag costume, art, politics, and social change.

Designer and artist Machine Dazzle is Taylor’s frequent and fabulous costume collaborator. There is a glitter-proof room at an armory where Machine Dazzle creates costumes for Taylor; in the early part of their collaborations, Taylor gave him guidelines about what the emotional goal of his performance and design might be. Now, there are no guidelines. The modern fool, according to Mac, has to be “the oddest person in the room.”

In A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, Machine Dazzle creates a costume for each decade, to illustrate a particular theme or to allow Taylor to accomplish what he needs. One of Machine’s creations frames Taylor in a flotilla of small helium-filled balloons, while his headdress is tied in sparkling blue ribbons, a cross between women’s hairstyles and a fabulous birthday present. Taylor’s face is painted in white with multiple lines of sequins, beginning a magical concoction of performer and costume.

Sometimes, their collaboration is about small details: Taylor and Machine Dazzle find a train on a skirt may be too long, or that a different color would be better for the next incarnation of a costume. Or even that a costume has to be larger in scale and silhouette because of the decade (and costume) that comes before it. Each piece contains “something to wow the audience, and to have heart and to tell the story,” says Mac.

But nothing is arbitrary. Everything is carefully researched, combining parody and joy and acid directness. For example, on the costume for The 1920s, there are PEZ candy dispensers as decorations. These dispensers were an invention in that particular decade: so while they seem out of place, these are an actual historic detail.

Taylor mostly performs in drag—as a man in woman’s clothing. This is both funny and aggressive: it allows Taylor to speak and act in ways that are not permitted in ordinary male dress. Taylor performs with transgressive freedom that permits us to laugh and then to question our laughter.

There will be feathers, glitter and sequins. There will be debris and art left for us when Taylor leaves the stage. As he and his fool confront us, he will try to make us remember the truths that we have hidden in ourselves. Taylor both allows and pushes us into laughter. And by his performance magic, hopefully, we can confront our prejudices and reveal, as Taylor says, “the dismissed and the buried” in all of us.

—by Deborah A. Brothers

Deborah A. Brothers is Costume Director and Lecturer in Theatre at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts.