NYC theater scene sizzles in summer…
By: Isa Goldberg
During the summer, the theater scene in New York City is a swarm of theater festivals all of them promising Dionysian abandon and many conjuring classical themes as conceived by emerging artists. Audiences will have their choice of everything from the “Clubbed Thumb”(Clubbed Thumb.org) to “Planet Connections” (planetconnectionsfestivity.com), both of which return this year along with the “Ice Factory” turning up the heat while SPF (Short Play Festival) takes a hiatus.
Here’s a look at some of the festivals and their offerings:
The New York International Fringe Festival (fringenyc.org)
Billed as the largest multi-arts festival in North America. From August 13th – 29th, The Fringe will present almost 200 different productions by theater troupes and dance companies at venues throughout lower Manhattan. Just to give you a hint about how their festivities have taken off, they began 14 years ago with the tiniest of budgets. Last year they had 75,000 attendees, making it New York Ctiy’s fifth largest cultural event.
Highlights of the upcoming season include “MacChin: The Lamentable Tragedie of Jay Leno,” billed as the Bard’s “Scottish play with a late night TV twist,” an appearance by Norway’s controversial Muslim comedienne Shabana Rehman, and a revival of The Five Lesbian Brothers’ hit production “The Secretaries” about a cabal of murderous office workers.
Midtown International Theater Festival (midtownfestival.org)
Still on the frontline of producing edgy theater, John Chatterton’s MITF is in its eleventh season. Running from July 12th – August 1st, the festival’s highlights include “Most Likely To: The Senior Superlative Musical,” a hilarious spoof of TV’s “Glee” performed by students from Syosset’s Long Island High School for the Arts, and a host of productions that sound simply outrageous such as “Until We Find Each Other” in which three psychic cousins wrestle with angels, sex, family and who knows what else.
Here’s an opportunity to see theater in New York City’s parks for free: June 11th – August 27th . Now in its 25th season, these productions have expanded beyond Central Park to include performances in all five boroughs. Their focus is to present socially relevant theater that speaks to our shared history and culture with plays like “The Etymology of Bird” that delves into the diverse fabric of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
The Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot (drillingcompany.org)
If the company’s name tells us anything about the noise level at the municipal parking lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets where they perform, then it’s only fitting that they begin their season with "Love’s Labours Lost." (How could romance ever succeed in an environment like that?) That production, running from July 8th to 24th, will be followed by "Julius Caesar" from July 17th to August 14th. Parking in New York City being a potent metaphor for the battle for supremacy makes this also site specific.
It’s the juiciest LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) festival and it returns for its 8th year with newly expanded programming that includes film among its offerings of plays, performance art, erotic cabaret, poetry and dance. Performances take place from July 10th to 31st throughout venues in lower Manhattan; the theater segment, the festival’s centerpiece, will be staged at the historic Cherry Lane Theater. As is their wont, the Fruitees will partake of such offbeat productions as “Cyma’s Story.” Written and performed by Barbara Kahn, this one-woman show portrays the life of a Jewish Lesbian pioneer in the wild, wild West. Kahn’s conjuring of a lesbian pioneer may not be a first, but it certainly casts a new perspective on one of America’s most popular romances.
Ice Factory (SohoThinkTank.org)
They call themselves the “coolest” summer festival in New York, a promise on which they often deliver. Opening on July 7th, the Ice Factory 2010 will present six premieres in six weeks before it wraps up on August 14th. Performances take place at The Ohio Theatre, one of Soho’s pioneering performance spaces and a recipient of this year’s Obie Award. Sadly, its historic 29 year era will come to an end on August 31st when it closes its doors for good. The festival’s final play, Nostradomus Predicts The Death Of Soho, will be the last ever production at the venerable downtown venue.
Planet Connections (planetconnectionsfestivity.com)
Where ingenuity is key, the production I caught, “Are You There, Zeus? It’s Me, Electra.” cloaks Greek tragedy in new garb: snazzy sneakers round out colorful tunics. In Aliza Shane’s new one-act, Electra – an adorable Sierra Marcks, portrays the sixteen-year-old grunge rock devotee who finds herself in the grips of her murderous mother, portrayed as an ugly drag queen. (Cas Marino’s Clytemnestra makes F. Murray Abraham look like a pretty face.) And with her newbie king, all wrapped in gold like the FTD logo – it’s enough to drive Electra nuts. How would you feel if your mother killed your father and married a younger man?
Imagine all of that in a season that’s just begun!