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New York's SummerStage Celebrates 18th Year

New York's Central Park SummerStage 2003, with its 30 free shows, eight benefit concerts and four suggested donation concerts, has made some subtle changes. There will be 80 artists, 78 performances including dance, spoken word, world music, rock, jazz, film, DJ's and more, as well as 10 New York debuts, seven North American debuts and four premieres with artists from 23 countries.

SummerStage 2003 opens June 14 and runs about three weeks longer than in recent years, winding down August 28. Some shows will be held on Saturday and Sunday evenings rather then in mid-afternoon. While there are free and paid concerts as usual, there are more suggested donation concerts of $10 than in the past. And, unfortunately, there are no opera presentations, which have been centerpieces for the first 17 years of the festival.

The eight paid concerts are Wilco/Sonic Youth (June 26-27– first show is sold out), Elvis Costello & The Imposters (July 11), Ani DiFranco (July 16), The White Stripes (July 23–sold out), Indigo Girls (August 14), Aimee Mann/Ben Folds (August 20) and Paul Van Dyk (August 28).

The four suggested donation of $10 concerts are Chaka Khan/Indira Khan (July 5 — Indira is Khan's daughter), Sonny Rollins (August 9 — Rollins usually gives a free concert in New York during the summer, most recently outdoors at Lincoln Center) and Jimmy Cliff/Morgan Heritage (August 10). On July 27, there will be "A Tribute to Janis: A 60 Year Celebration of the Birth of Janis Joplin — Big Brother and The Holding Company and members of Kozmic Blues Band with very very special guests;" the guests will be vocalists. This is the first time that Joplin's original recording and tour bands have ever been on the same bill together.

As in past years, SummerStage has nationality days where one country's artists are featured. This year SummerStage honors Iceland (Singapore Sling/Apparat Organ Quartet/Trabant/MC: Steindor Anderson — June 28), Canada (Rufus Wainwright/Daniel Lanois/The Dears/Sarah Slean — June 29) and New Zealand (King Kapisis/Greg Johnson/Wai/Pine — July 13).

And in the Year of the Blues, SummerStage has lined up a few shows including a film presentation which is new to SummerStage; film showings in Central Park are held at different locations. There will be a June 14 sneak preview / New York debut of Martin's Scorsese's "The Blues", featuring excerpts from interpretive films directed by Scorsese, Charles Burnett, Clint Eastwood, Mike Figgs, Marc Leaven, Richard Pearce and Wim Wenders that will air this fall on PBS. Chris Thomas King will open. The next night (June 15), Johnny Winter/James Cotton Band perform in what is billed as the first time they have performed on the same night together since their days of touring with Muddy Waters in the 1970's. And on July 2, Oumou Sangare/Ramata Diakite perform blues from their native Mali.