TheaterWorks Throwing Pop-Up Musical Block Party

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TheaterWorks views itself as a cultural steward of the capital, helping to unify those who live and work downtown. Hartford can be a destination in Connecticut, staff members of the downtown theater company say, which is why they are putting the city on display with a pop-up block party at the end of July.

“We call it a block party because it’s as much about the neighborhood as it is about us,” TheaterWorks producing associate Taneisha Duggan says. “We understand this neighborhood is as great as the sum of its parts.”

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The free summer musical festival is called District Night and features a variety of live performances from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 28. The pop-up will be situated in a lot adjacent to the theater company at 233 Pearl St. Paella and other Spanish cuisine will be available from the Goodwin Hotel’s Porrón & Piña. Bin228 will offer Italian food, all complemented by handcrafted cocktails from Conspiracy.

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“We’re trying to find that hybrid between it feeling democratic and for everyone, but also something that’s distinctly urban and of a capital city,” Duggan says. “We’re working to find something that is neighborhood-based and feels special.”

This is TheaterWorks’ third District Night, and Michael McKiernan, who handles the theater’s audience services and marketing, expects to double last year’s turnout of 200 attendees.

“We’ve got a lot of artists who are really on the cusp of making a name for themselves,” McKiernan says.

The musical lineup for District night includes Tang Sauce, DJ Connie Carmona, Chad Browne-Springer with Constanza Segovia, Keepers of the Vibe, Klokwize, Tekowa Lakica and Trey Moore.

Dwayne Keith, the manager and drummer of Keepers of the Vibe, says District Night will allow the funk and hip-hop band to reconnect with its roots.

“We’re based out of Hartford, but we’ve been traveling,” Keith says. “We’re trying to give back to the community that we grew up in.”

TheaterWorks — at its post for about 30 years — has witnessed Hartford transform from a commuter city into a vibrant spot for young professionals to settle. When actors and artists first moved onto the block, Duggan says, it was vacant.

The Goodwin Hotel was shuttered. New apartment complexes wouldn’t come for decades.

“There’s a palpable shift in energy, and we’re thrilled to be part of it and help it along,” says Freddie McInerney, the director of marketing and communications at TheaterWorks. “We’re in it for the long time. I’m just interested in seeing the roots go a little deeper.”

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Recent developments are giving people more reason to venture into Hartford, such a the summer Art on the Streets program on Pratt Street, the opening of a new beer garden and patio at Spectra Wired Cafe at Constitution Plaza, the new LimeBike bike share program, and the Hartford Line, a train connecting Springfield to New Haven.

Also, the same weekend as District Night, the Early Bird Social Club and Hartford Prints are co-hosting a dance party on Pratt Street on July 27 from 5 to 8 p.m.

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“This is where you want to be — you want to be in Hartford,” Duggan says. “You want to be downtown.”

District Night, a free summer pop-up party and music festival, is Saturday, July 28, from 4 to 7:30 p.m., in the parking lot across from TheaterWorks at 233 Pearl St., featuring food from area vendors and live music by local artists. It is sponsored in partnership with the Bank of America, Hartford BID, iQuilt Plan, Greater Hartford Arts Council and YUPntwk.

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