Thomas Kriegsmann has been steeped in the progressive arts scene of New York City since he was a wee lad, hanging out in his family’s Times Square photography studio, where his father shot the likes of Ray Charles, Sammy Davis Jr., Eartha Kitt, and Pearl Bailey. Black performers came to the Kriegsmann Studio for head shots at a time when most white photographers wouldn’t have anything to do with them, so Thomas learned early on that art can and should be actively engaged with politics and social progress. In between photo sessions, Thomas caught Broadway shows with his grandmother (but not before a preshow meal at Sardi’s) and checked out the goods at the Met and FAO Schwarz. From his earliest days, he was immersed in both fine and commercial art and theater.
Today, he uses his keen cultural sensibility and commitment to social responsibility to support risk-taking performance art. As president and founder of ArKtype, a management and production company, he has collaborated with a veritable who’s who of revered artists, theater companies, and dance troupes: Mikhail Baryshnikov (maybe you’ve heard of him?); Julie Taymor (the genius behind Broadway’s The Lion King); the classical theater company Bedlam; Ars Nova; documentarian Sam Green; Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir; and countless others. Previously, he was the program director at New York Live Arts. “Theater is a church of sorts,” he says of his mission. “You bring your whole body, mind, and spirit to it and work it all out with the powers that be, with the reflection of life that’s in front of you. My hope for any performance is it will rise to a level of transformation for everyone in the room.”
When he’s not producing or curating award-winning work, he and his wife (the taste-making director of Joe’s Pub, Shanta Thake) can be found treating their kids to the urban pleasures he enjoyed as a young New Yorker. “Places like Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, and Lincoln Center will always be the dream-makers for me, and I love bringing my kids there,” he says. But more than the landmarks, Thomas loves New York for “the diversity of its people, the communities that shape around every idea and movement, the deep cultural histories in every neighborhood, and the constant transformation happening around you.” Thankfully, he helps us keep up.
Thomas Kriegsmann’s Best of New York City
Theater venue New York Theater Workshop
Dance performance Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Theater festival Under the Radar Festival
Performance for out-of-towners Bridget Everett & The Tender Moments
Rainy-day activity Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg
Pre- or postshow drinks Great Jones Cafe
Sushi Sake Bar Decibel