When the R&B singer Emily King and the soul group Durand Jones & the Indications open the newly minted Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage festival in Central Park in June, they will be kicking off a new era in more ways than one.
First, the physical: SummerStage’s main venue has undergone a $5.5 million renovation, with a new stage, canopy, new LED screens, sound system, lighting and improvements away from the stage for both general audience members (raised bleacher seating) and those in the V.I.P. area (a new balcony).
Good news for musicians: SummerStage has also built new dressing rooms.
“It started with the need to replace the canopy on our stage,” the City Parks Foundation’s executive director, Heather Lubov, said in a phone interview.
“As we thought about it, we really thought the venue needed a refresh over all,” she said.
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Along with these changes comes a change to the way the festival approached booking: SummerStage signed on with the global initiative Keychange, which asks festivals to pledge to a 50-50 gender balance in their programming.
“We always go into a season looking to book a very diverse set of artists,” Lubov said. But, she added, “This is the first year that we’ve hit 50-50.”
The full lineup includes more than 100 performances, most of them free, in 18 parks across the city.
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In addition to King and Durand Jones & the Indications, the main Central Park space will host the R&B singer Corinne Bailey Rae; the New Orleans bounce musician Big Freedia; the jazz musicians Jack DeJohnette and Ravi Coltrane; the indie rock acts Japanese Breakfast and Alvvays; a Latin Grammy Awards-related event and many more, in addition to previously announced benefit shows from George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Kurt Vile, the B-52s and others. Merce Cunningham’s centennial will be recognized, and events will commemorate the 50th anniversaries of the Harlem Cultural Festival and the Stonewall Riots.
A full lineup is available at cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage.