January is the month for theater festivals in New York — more than at any time other than the summer – and the stars are out this year in them: Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson, Star Trek’s Captain William Kirk, and Rodney King (“Can we get along”)
These are characters in some of the many offerings, which tend toward the avant-garde and the international. Where else can you attend a show in a taxicab? (See “Take Me Home” in the Other Forces Festival, below.)
Many of the productions are more reliably classified as performance art, often incorporating more dance and music and….noodling around… than anything resembling traditional theater. The ticket prices are also a lot cheaper than traditional theater.
The reason for these festivals, which have arisen within the last decade to fill what was previously a fallow period, is the presence of the thousands of attendees from throughout the nation at the annual convention of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, or, as it’s known this year, APAP/NYC 2014, running from January 10th-14th.
There are several changes this year. The Public Theater’s new Festival Lounge at 425 Lafayette St. will serve as the official late-night “hub” for four of these festivals. Many of the venues are, for the first time, in Brooklyn.
Jan 9 – 12
The Wild Project
195 East 3rd Street
I put this first because it’s new this year, and it only runs for four days. It has a listed Twitter feed — @pform — but as of this writing no Tweets. My favorite of the shows, based on descriptions on this festival’s website, is Chimpanzee, in which puppeteer Nick Lehane presents an aging, isolated chimpanzee who “pieces together the fragments of her childhood raised with humans.”
Performance Space 122
Friday, Jan 3 – Sun, Jan 19
Twitter feed: @PS122
In the words of the festival organizers” full of contemporary, textured, global, local, contemplative, grounded, rigorous, and always very live performance.”
Of the offerings this year, seven are explicitly labeled theater (although sometimes “performance” or “theater, dance, performance”:
Tyson vs. Ali
With the help of “new-media stagecraft”, the boxers (both video footage and flesh-and-blood performers) spar with one another for nine rounds.
3LD Art & Technology Center
80 Greenwich Street
Steve Mellor performs show by Mac Wellman based on his short stories, A Chronicle Of The Madness Of Small Worlds.
The Chocolate Factory
5-49 49th Ave
Long Island City, Queens
An Evening with William Shatner Asterisk
Remixing video of William Shatner as Captain Kirk in Star Trek, and mixing it with live performance.
New Ohio Theatre
154 Christopher St.
House of Dance
Tina Satter’s highly stylized theatrical take on a dance competition.
Abrons Arts Center
486 Grand Street
In Okwui Okpokwasili’s “partially true” solo show, two 11-year old girls pass secret notes in the sex-saturated 1980’s.
131 E. 10th Street
The Angola Project
Solo performances by Jeremy Xido about his journey attempting to finance a film, while constructing a movie in real time from fragments of film
The Invisible Dog Art Center
51 Bergen Street
Have I No Mouth
From Dublin’s Brokentalkers theater, actual mother and son Ann Cannon and Feidlim Cannon attempt to piece together the truth in the aftermath of a family tragedy.
Baryshnikov Arts Center
450 W 37th Street
Wed, Jan 9 – Sun, Jan 20
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, which makes it the Grandaddy of New York’s January theater festivals, this year UTR offers 16 works of cutting-edge theater. Performances, unless otherwise indicated, are at the Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street.
In this piece by Brooklyn’s 600 Highwaymen theater company, 45 strangers come together for 61 minutes to show us who they are.
Argentinian Lola Arias tells the story of eleven Chileans born under Pinochet’s dictatorship who take to the stage to reconcile Chile’s troubled past. In Spanish with English supertitles.
74 E 4th Street
John Hodgman of The Daily Show with John Stewart offers what sounds like a stand-up routine – – observations on “how to dress like a young and relevant person, fax machines and other obsolete technology, marihuana and Downton Abbey” etc. etc.
Kuro Tanino (formerly a psychiatrist), offers a dreamlike world of two brothers hidden deep within Tokyo’s metropolis. In Japanese with English supertitles.
333 E 47th Street
Edgar Oliver, a regular storyteller at The Moth, tells the story of his strange childhood in Savannah, Georgia and his mother’s struggle with madness.
Andrew Ondrejcak presents the last meal prepared and consumed by the King and his concubines during the collapse of Babylon.
Toshi Reagon performs four concerts at Joe’s Pub. Sheand BIGLovely are doing one performance of The Temptation of St. Anthony and Zinnias, an opera by her mother Bernice Johnson Reagon and Robert Wilson, on Sunday, January 19.
Philippe Saire’s multimedia dance performance that “contemplates the randomness of mortality in a world of genocide, disease, epidemics, and senseless violence.”
74 East 4th Street
Valentijn Dhaenens pays tribute to “2,500 years of oration,” which I hope means making speeches. In Dutch, French, German, and English with English supertitles.
Roger Guenveur Smith, who previously presented a solo show of Black Panther Huey Newton, now presents the life of Rodney King, the man whose beating at the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department, captured on video, sparked the Los Angeles riots.
An update on Ibsen’s An Enemy of The People from Belgian theater company tg STAN. In Dutch with English supertitles
Rhodessa Jones reimagines the late Sekou Sundiata’s blessing the boats, a multimedia show telling the story of “a man wrestling with illness and mortality.”
Kate Tempest celebrates the divine in ordinary people in a performance that “blurs the lines between poetry, theater and live music” and is infused with the rhythm of hip-hop.
St. Ann’s Warehouse
29 Jay Street
Incantation and dance are used to explore the life of poet and sculptor Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, whom Dadaist Marcel Duchamp called “the future.”
A looping video of a live performance of the re-enactment of the final scene from the film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. (Warhol for the 21st Century?)
“Mary Shelley’s monster has a mate and they are pissed!”
The Freeman Space
181 Freeman Street
Jan 8 – 19
Bills itself as the “premiere festival of opera-theatre and music-theatre,” it is now in its second year. It includes seven works for this year
Influenced by traditional Hindustani and Western classical music, this opera tells the story of a woman in Pakistan who is raped and brings her attackers to justice.
55 Lexington Ave.
10 cashiers at a shopping center.
HERE Art Center
145 6th Avenue
An opera adapted from Willa Cather’s short story about a boy’s journey from Pittsburgh to New York.
HERE Art Center
145 6th Avenue
In Theotokia, the mother of God taunts and seduces a man taunted. In The War Reporter, journalist Paul Watson struggles to rid himself of nightmares.
509 Atlantic Avenue
Two fallen angels are held captive by a cunning couple hungry for wealth and fame.
74 Trinity Place
Indie pop rock band Sky-Pony presents four themed performances inspired by the FOUR HUMORS of the Classical World.
HERE Arts Center
For one performance only Elizaveta performs her fusion of opera, pop, jazz, and soul.
Jan 10 – 26
The Incubator Project
St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street
All performances are at The Incubator Project, or at 440 Studios.
Three audience members take a taxi through the streets of New York.
Performed in a taxi
Joseph Keckle mixes opera arias with storytelling.
Laryssa Husiak reenacts three interviews with tennis legend Billie Jean King.
Dave Malloy, creator of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, is behind this “philosophical musical fantasia” masquerading as “ritualistic sporting event.”
Abrons Arts Center
466 Grand Street
Jan 9 – 19
Some 20 works, primarily dance, although theater is certainly an accent in some of these works.
February 20 – March 3
30 shows! A festival of indie theater “where artists are chosen by lottery, and 100% of ticket sales are returned to artists!”