20 Summer Theater Festivals in New York City 2013

Summer theater festivals in New York City 2013
Summer theater festivals in New York City 2013

This summer there will  be two plays involving John Malkovich at two different theater festivals, one in which he stars, the other directs — proof enough, if proof was needed, that summer may be the off-season for Broadway, but it is a vibrant time for theater in New York — and not just because of the best-known annual events: Shakespeare in the Park, the Lincoln Center Festival, and the New York International Fringe Festival.

This summer, there will be a new musical based on Thoreau’s “Walden Pond” and another on Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labor’s Lost”; a revival of “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”; a documentary play where ten young women talk about their personal experience with gun violence.  Those who seek out theater in the summer– and there are many, judging from the popularity of my post about theater in New York last summer — discover that there may be more shows between Memorial Day and Labor Day than during the regular theater season.

They tend toward the experimental, international and/or campy. Not all of it is worth seeing. But there is no such guarantee during the regular season either. Summer shows tend to be less expensive; many are free.

Below is a list of 20 summer theater festivals in New York City, arranged in rough chronological order by starting date,  with links to websites and a list of Twitter feeds of the festivals themselves or the theaters presenting them. Some of the festivals are still putting their schedule together.


Uptown Series

 May 22- August 10

Erica Lipez’s “The Tutors” (May 22-June 16), directed by Thomas Kail (In The Heights)

“Murder For Two” (July 10-Aug. 10), with a book and music by Joe Kinosian and book and lyrics by Kellen Blair. Scott Schwartz directs.

(212) 246-4422, @2STNYC 


May 23 – June 16

1. Moonlight and Love Songs

2. The Loves of Mr. Lincoln

3. A revival of Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde


Clubbed Thumb’s Summer Works

May 24 through June 29

1. Baby Screams Miracle…”a freak storm knocks down all the trees in town and a prodigal daughter is taught a new way to pray. But the weird weather’s not over yet.” May 24-June 2, 2013

2. Phoebe in Winter…”the Creedy brothers trickle home from the war but knock knock! There’s someone at the door looking for payback and your place at the table.” June 7 – 16

3. La Brea..”two Masshole siblings, amid a Hollywood vortex of strip malls and scientologists, square off over how to live like a grown-up.” June 20-29 
(212) 352-3101 @ClubbedThumb


The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park

 May 28 – August 18th

The Comedy of Errors with Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”) and Hamish Linklater, 90 minutes with no intermission, May 28 – June 30

A new musical based on “Love’s Labor’s Lost”  with a book adapted by Alex Timbers and songs by Michael Friedman (the team behind “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), also 90 minutes with no intermission July 23-August 18th.


Planet Connections Theater Festivity

May 29-June 23

9mm-America-1-204x300A socially-conscious theater festival with each full production partnering with a relevant charity. “9mm America,” 10 young women’s experience with gun violence, benefits Moms Demand Action “for gun sense in America.”   “Walden,” a musical based on Thoreau’s book, benefits The Union of Concerned Citizens “citizens and scientists for environmental solutions.”

(866) 811-4111 @PCTFNYC

Cherry Orchard Theater Festival

May 30th to June 9th

The Giacomo Variations — as in Giacomo Casanova — stars John Malkovich as the master seducer during his twilight years. Also on the festival bill is a stage adaptation of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Enemies, A Love Story” by Israel’s Gesher Theater.



Ant Fest

 June 3-29

The “All New Talent” festival at Ars Nova features some two dozen new works, one a day. Titles include “William Shakespeare’s Mom” and “The Imaginary Menagerie.” Tickets are generally no more than $15.

(212) 352-3101, @arsnova

Brick Theater

June 7 to July 28

The Brick Theater is actually presenting two festivals this summer, Soundscape, June 7 to 29, about theatrical sound design, and, once again, the Game Play Festival, July 5 to July 28,“cutting-edge works that lie at the intersection of video gaming and performance.”


In Scena Italian Theater Festival

June 10-20

soloAnnaBilled as the first Italian theater festival in all five boroughs, this first-ever festival will present five full productions, including “Solo Anna,” a one-woman show about the Italian film actress Anna Magnani (the first non-American to win an Oscar), which promise to be in both Italian and English, and then staged readings in English.

River to River Festival

June 15 to July 14

The downtown Manhattan arts festival this year promises 150 events in 30 days at 28 sites — only a few of which typically can be classified as theater (so I’m not counting this as a theater festival) but more can be called performance art. @RtoRFestival

Ice Factory Festival

June 26 to August 3

redwedthmbNew Ohio Theater.  This year, the 20th anniversary season of the festival, the New Ohio Theater presents a half dozen new works of theater, including Red Wednesday, described as following  “three generations of weddings, wars and discotheques in this multimedia ballad that follows the struggles and dreams of a family born into revolution,” written by the grand niece of the man who was  Iran’s Foreign Minister during the 1979 hostage crisis. @newohiotheatre


Hot Festival

Starts July 1

NYC celebration of queer culture. @HotFestNYC

Lincoln Center Festival

July 6 to 28

The festival this year offers five works of theater, including:

Monkey: Journey to the West,” is a rock-inflected musical based on an old Chinese folk tale about a monk on a sacred journey from China to India. July  6-28

Les Liaisons Dangereuses, directed by John Malkovich, July 9–14

(212) 721-6500, @LincolnCenter

New York Musical Theatre Festival

nymusicaltheatrefestivalJuly 8 to 29

On its tenth anniversary, the festival that premiered some 300 works, including “Next to Normal” and “title of show,” will present 30 full productions


East to Edinburgh Festival

July 9-28

A preview of American productions that will be presented at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, at 59E59 Theaters. Some dozen offerings this year include “Miserable Lesbians,” a musical parody of Les Miz.

(212) 279-4200 @59E59

Fresh Fruit Festival

July 8 to 21

celebrates LGBT culture.

Midtown International Theater Festival

July 15-August 4


IATI Theater’s Performing Arts Marathon

July 17 to August 11



New York International Fringe Festival 

August 9-25

The best-known of the summer theater festivals now in its 17th year, noted for launching such hits as “Urinetown” and such stars as Mindy Kaling, and for the cheeky titles of many of the offerings, the Fringe offers about 200 shows in theaters all over downtown – and all mercifully air conditioned. The Fringe Festival’s website is the best for figuring out what to see in advance. @FringeNYC 

The Riant Theater’s Strawberry One-Act Festival

August 14-25


Dream up Festival

 Aug. 18-Sept. 8

Presents some 20 experimental theater and dance shows at Theater for the New City. @tncinnyc 



Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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