July 22, 2015

Summertime is Theater Festival Time

Summer was once a slow time in the New York theater world but the number of summer theater festivals has been rising so fast that even the most avid theatergoer would have a hard time keeping up. But the shows in these festivals—cheeky offerings from up-and-coming theater makers, avant-garde productions from abroad and lots of outdoor Shakespeare—tend to be different from those that fill the city’s stages during the rest of the year. Plus the ticket prices are usually far cheaper. So it’s worth sampling a few. Below are 10(+) festivals, some of them already underway, that you might want to check out:

Now in its 68th year, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe that takes over the Scottish capital every August is the granddaddy of theater festivals, drawing more than 3,000 shows from countries around the world. For the past few years, the American shows heading to Edinburgh do a final run-through at the 59e59 Theaters. There are 17 of them this year and although the performances began on July 11, you can still catch a few before this pre-festival ends on July 25, including Trans Scripts, a piece about gender and identity as seen through the eyes of transgender women.

Welcoming artists from around the globe, this celebration of LGBTQ culture features performances that include full-scale musicals, 10-minute plays, stand-up routines and what’s billed as an “erotic cabaret.” All the performances, which began July 13 and run through July 26, are at The WILD Project in the East Village. One of the world premieres still playing is Rachel, a musical about Rachel Carson, the author of “The Silent Spring,” that combines environmentalism, feminism and the loving relationship between Carson and her Maine neighbor Dorothy Freeman.

As regular readers know, I have a love-hate relationship with our local Fringe festival. I hate the fact that there are SO many shows to choose from and yet I inevitably end up loving at least one of them. There will be around 200 shows in this year’s festival, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 14 and run through Aug. 30 at venues all around the East Village. I’m still sorting through info about the various productions but I already have my eye on one or two.
For more information: http://fringenyc.org/

The tickets for this month-long extravaganza of music, dance and theater that began July 6 and runs through Aug. 2  ain’t cheap. But the productions at various venues around the city are all world-class and audaciously ambitious, including a reimagining of the absurdist classic Ubu Roi by the innovative British company Cheek by Jowl and the Ninagawa Company’s adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s surreal novel “Kafka on the Shore,” which will be performed in Japanese with English supertitles.

Celebrating its sweet 16th year, this festival, which runs through Aug. 2. at the Davenport Theatre, specializes in small-scale productions. So the play is truly the thing for the more than two dozen in this year's lineup, which includes classic plays, comedies, solo shows, two bills of short plays and several political dramas ranging from a look back at the Black Panthers in the 1970s to a consideration of what it means to be gay in current-day Iran.
For more information: http://www.midtownfestival.org/index.html

Currently running through July 27, NYMF, as it’s familiarly known, prides itself on being the largest musical theater festival in the country and a nurturing incubator where Altar Boyz, Next to Normal and title of show got their start. Twenty full productions were on the slate for this year in musical genres ranging from gospel to rock opera and dealing with subjects from superheroes to Olympic figure skaters. Those last two have finished but still on view are a musical about being stuck in a subway car and another about finding love in a trailer park.
For more information: http://www.nymf.org/

The renowned publisher and licensor of plays is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its showcase for fledgling playwrights. Some 1,500 plays were submitted and 30 have been chosen for full productions that will be mounted at Classic State Company’s theater from Aug. 4 through Aug. 9.  A panel of established playwrights and other theater professionals will choose six of those semifinalists to be published and licensed by Samuel French. It’s a chance to be present at the creation of a career in the making.
For more information: http://oob.samuelfrench.com/

Seeing this annual festival of new American short plays, which began on July 17 and runs through July 29, has become a summer tradition for my husband K and me (in fact, we’re going tonight). Each year offers two series, composed of three plays each and the playwrights are a changing mix of well-known names and newcomers, although Neil LaBute is pretty much a constant. The works vary in type and quality but there’s always at least one that makes a visit to the 59e59 Theaters worth the trip.

Over 60 plays will debut between July 13 and Sept. 24 in this festival of never-before-seen plays at the Hudson Guild Theater. Each production gets at least three performances and at the end, two playwrights, two actors and a director also get to take home cash prizes. But in an environment in which it’s tough for newbie playwrights to get more than a reading, all the shows, ranging from musicals to solo turns, are actually winners.

Since it started in 1954 on the campus of Williams College, this venerable summer camp for the New York theater world has offered a mix of classic plays and new works performed by everyone from Nathan Lane to Gwyneth Paltrow. Still to come this year are Paradise Blue, Dominique Morriseau’s new play with Blair Underwood as a jazz trumpeter at a crossroads in his life; Unknown Soldier, a musical created by Daniel Goldstein and composed by Michael Friedman; and a new production of Eugene O’Neill’s classic A Moon for the Misbegotten, starring the husband-and-wife team of Will Swenson and Audra McDonald.
For more information: http://wtfestival.org/

Even people who profess not to care about Shakespeare seem to get a kick out of seeing the Bard in the outdoors and there are lots of opportunities to do that—and to do it for free:

Shakespeare in the Park
Cymbeline, the second of the Public Theater’s free productions at The Delacorte Theater in Central Park, starts on Thursday and runs through Aug. 23, with a top-of-the-line cast lead by Lily Rabe, Hamish Linklater, Raúl Esparza and Kate Burton under the direction of Daniel Sullivan.

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot
Fans had worried when the Drilling Company was evicted last year from the Municipal Parking Lot near Ludlow and Broome Streets, where it had given free performances of Shakespeare for 20 years but the company has found not one but two new homes. The first is in the parking lot behind the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center at 114 Norfolk Street, where its production of As You Like It ends on July 26 and a Latino version of Macbeth begins on July 30. Its second venue is in Bryant Park, where an updated version of Rome and Juliet (Mercutio is a woman) is playing on weekends through Aug. 2. 

Manhattan Shakespeare Project
This young and racially diverse all-female ensemble has been performing The Taming of the Shrew at public parks all over the city since June 3. The run ends this weekend with performances at Morningside Park in Manhattan and Sunset Park in Brooklyn.
For more information: http://manhattanshakes.org/2015-taming-of-the-shrew/       

Uptown Shakespeare in the Park
The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production of The Tempest, starring the fierce Ron Cephas Jones as Prospero, will finish up its three-week run this weekend at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park, between 120th and 125th Streets, off Madison Avenue.

1 comment:

McCallum Theatre said...

Summer festivals are always fun. Even when you don't think you'll be interested in something, there is usually that one thing that stands out that makes it fun. Even if it's just the food they serve at most of them! Thanks for reminding me I need to get out and go!