New Yorkers battle floods and the subway in new play ‘Life on the Third Rail,’ now touring in Brooklyn

life on the third rail
In “Life on The Third Rail,” subway conductors must lead passengers to safety through flooded tunnels and trains.
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Slaff

Theatre For the New City will be touring the five boroughs later this month to debut their exciting new play “Life on the Third Rail, or A Subway Delay to the Future.”

The play is written by Crystal Field, Artistic Director of Theater and founding member of TNC, and will debut across several locations in Brooklyn between August 18 and September 10. 

Life on the Third Rail” is one of Field’s numerous collaborations with renowned composer Joseph-Vernon Banks. Together they have created several successful plays such as Liberty or Just Us: a City Park Story, No Brainer or the Solution to Parasites, SHAME! Or The Doomsday Machine, Checks and Balances, or Bottoms Up!, and Teach it Right, or Right to Teach.

life on the third rail
The show depicts New Yorkers working together to survive catastrophic flooding on the subway system. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

The show, which has an approximate one hour and 15 minute run time, tells the gripping story of an MTA train caught in an emergency flooding situation. It is in this dark, subterranean transit tunnel that those on board must rely on the quick work of their Conductor, Train Operator, and Subway Tracker in order to reach Central Station safely.

The show grapples with the concept of the earth’s sustainability, with Field ultimately attempting to depict humanity’s exploitation of the beauty and complexity of nature.

“The show confronts the question of climate change and the necessity for us to cooperate with each other,” said Field. “To make sure there is cooperation between the government and corporations to do whatever is necessary to stave off the worst effects of global warming.  It also stresses the necessity for the world to be at peace in order to address these challenges.”

Field herself feels a strong call to activism in theater,  pointing to TNC’s mission statement which states “TNC seeks to develop theater audiences and inspire future theater artists from the often-overlooked low-income minority communities of New York City by producing minority writers from around the world and by bringing the community into theater.”

To Field, TNC and theater as a whole, is a unifying force that can help to inspire positive change in the world.

Colorful costumes, smoke effects, and puppets draw the audience into the world of the play.Photo courtesy of Jonathan Slaff

“It’s really easy to just keep sitting,” said Field.  “I mean, that’s what theater does. It makes people move, and very little else does. I can tell you that theater is a great mover and shaker.”

The onstage talent is set to feature some of TNC’s best and brightest with Michael David Gordon as the Train Operator, Cheryl Gadsdon as the Conductor, and Yesenia Ortiz as the Subway Tracker.

Behind the scenes, the production team has worked hard to produce a dazzling spectacle of visuals for the show through the use of trap doors, giant puppets, smoke machines, and masks. 

Admission is free to the public. “Life on The Third Rail” debuts in Brooklyn at 5 p.m. Aug. 18 on the Coney Island Boardwalk near West 21st Street, with additional engagements in Sunset Park and Fort Greene Park on Sept. 9 and 10. Along the way, the play will hit Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island – ending its run in Tomkins Square Park on Sept. 17.