It is no surprise that Erika Elliott, the executive artistic director at SummerStage, celebrates New York through music.
“A favorite moment is looking out midperformance to see if the audience is enjoying something that started out as an idea,” said Ms. Elliott, 49, who moved to New York from California in 1996 and joined SummerStage in 2004. “There’s this cathartic, exciting and energetic feeling in an all-green public space when the audience and the artist and the stage all come together.”
The music festival, run by the City Parks Foundation, started in 1986. This summer there are nearly 80 SummerStage shows in 13 parks across the city. The season, which started on June 3 with a performance by the band Hippo Campus in Central Park, ends Oct. 2 in Coney Island with the Yeshiva Boys Choir. In between are some standout superstars: Grandmaster Flash in Crotona Park; Tanya Tucker in Central Park; and Grand Wizzard Theodore and Monie Love, who are part of the festival’s 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop celebration.
Ms. Elliott lives in Mott Haven in the Bronx with her boyfriend, Estarlin Trejo, 35, an aide at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; her son, Ethan, 15; two senior cats, Maestro and Sammy; and a goldendoodle, Ellie.
WAKE NATURALLY I don’t use an alarm in the summer because I’m so tired. I try to wake up naturally at 9-ish a.m. I check email to see if there are fires to put out, and social media to check the response of what I posted from the shows the night before. Then I take Ellie, who is only 5 months, out for a quick walk. We’re trying to get her house-trained.
PLANNING THE DAY By 11:30, the humans are up and I make eggs on Thomas’ English Muffins. I’ll have an English muffin with butter and Cheddar. I’m a Costco shopper, so it’s bulk and not artisanal. I start thinking about what time talent is supposed to be on site, do I need to go to a sound check, what’s the outline of the day and what’s the weather forecast — we are a rain or shine venue unless it’s lightning.
NAILS OR CAFE CHAT I have three hours before I need to be at a venue. If I’m doing something for myself, I do a gel manicure and pedicure every two weeks at Romies Nails in Murray Hill. I debate in my head about a different color but always land on red. It’s a classic. If not, Estarlin and I will get coffee at Chocobar Cortes. We both get iced coffees and croquetas de jamón Serrano, which is my favorite. We catch up with each other. It’s an aspirational conversation about planning a hike at Pelham Bay Park or Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
PRE-SHOW Back home, I shower and dress — jeans and a black shirt and these great Nike shoes called React Phantom, where you don’t have to wear socks, you just slide them on. I have three pairs and I’m about to get another. It’s a functional outfit; we’re outdoors and in a park.
I drive to Yura, because they make good chicken sandwiches with a chive mayo, and Greek salads. Then I drive to a venue. I’m usually at Central Park first, because that’s the hub for the festival and where we have a show almost every day. Plus, our production offices are there. I get there an hour before the show starts and check in with the production manager, look for my team and programming staff, and see if the artists are here and in their rooms. If they are, I say hello to them and their team. Then I sit in the production office and eat what I bought at Yura.
THE NIGHT BEGINS Doors open at 5 p.m. A D.J. or house music is playing through the sound system so guests always hear something when they walk in. Welcoming or opening remarks start at 5:50; the show starts at 6. I’m at stage right in the photo pit because it’s private. I get into my own zone, watch the show and take video and photos to post on Instagram in real time. It’s my way of documenting the show for myself, but also promoting it.
Usually we have three performers: an opener, a first act and a second one. I try to stay until the second act starts. I often hit two shows, sometimes three, each in different boroughs. I get into my car, which is parked behind the venue, and then it’s off to the next location.
NEXT STOP I’m at the second venue by 8 p.m. I connect with the production or operations manager and see how things are going. I check in on talent and their team. I go up onto the stage and look at the performance from the rear to see the audience. Choosing an artist you believe in is not always easy; booking can be a difficult process. But when you see how many people are enjoying themselves at the show, it’s validating. I take more photos and videos to document the experience and to share. I stay in the V.I.P. pit, which is where friends and co-workers are, until the show ends.
BACK IN THE CAR If I don’t need to hang with the artists, I’ll head home because I’m really tired. I’m in the car by 9:30ish. I might call a girlfriend because I have a captive 30 minutes to talk to someone. I’ll call Ethan to see what he wants to eat as I stop for post-show food. Usually it’s chicken and steak tacos from Taco Veloz VIP or pizza from Bronx Slice, both in my hood.
COUCH TIME Ethan and I sit on the couch and watch TV. Right now we’re watching “Pennyworth,” which is Batman’s butler’s prequel.I try to stay awake to see Estarlin, who comes home around midnight. I don’t always make it — I’m burnt. If I do, we’ll watch something on Netflix. By 1:30 a.m. he stays up watching TV; I’m off to bed and I’m out.
Sunday Routine readers can follow Erika Elliott on Instagram at @erikaelliottnyc.