Winter Theater Festivals in New York City 2015

Winter theater festivals in New York: COIL, Under the Radar, American Realness, Frigid Festival
Winter theater festivals in New York: COIL, Under the Radar, American Realness, Frigid Festival

January is the month for theater festivals in New York — more than at any time other than the summer –

The reason these festivals have blossomed over the past decade is the presence of the thousands of attendees from throughout the nation at the annual convention of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

If many of the productions are more reliably classified as performance art, the ticket prices are also much cheaper than most traditional theater.

Below are selections from seven festivals, all but one of them exclusively in January.


Performance Space 122

January 2 – January 17

Twitter feed: @PS122

Five of the 13 offerings are explicitly (although not always exclusively) labeled theater.



Jan 2 – 10

Vineyard Theater (108 E 15th St)

On a hallucinatory road trip from the Badlands to Graceland, the spirits of Elvis Presley and Theodore Roosevelt battle over the soul of Ann, a painfully shy meat-processing plant worker, and what kind of man or woman Ann should become.


RoosevElvis was originally at the Bushwick Starr, where it got raves.


Sorry Robot

Jan 6 – 17
New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher St)

Robots long to feel the same things that their human masters feel in this first play by performance artist Mike Iveson, set in a shady Florida hotel in the near future.

Catch Coil

January 10th only
The Invisible Dog Art Center (51 Bergen St., Brooklyn)

Catch is a performance art showcase, where you see pieces of works in progress.



January 8 – 17

The Invisible Dog Art Center (51 Bergen St., Brooklyn)

A multimedia theater piece that “experiments with the virtues of sensory overload.”


The Blind Date Project

January 7 – 17

Parkside Lounge (317 E Houston St.)

An improvised theater piece involving Australian actress Bojana Novakovic playing a character waiting at a karaoke bar for her date — a different performer every night.


Under the Radar

January 7 – January 18

Public Theater

Twitter: @UTRFestival

Now celebrating its 11th anniversary, the Under the Radar Festival this year offers 20 works from seven countries (Argentina, Brazil, Iran, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S.)  Almost half of these fall under a new festival within the festival. In partnership with LaMaMa ETC, Under the Radar is launching the Incoming Series, work-in-process presentations from the Devised Theater Working Group.

Here is a dizzying video collage of what’s in store:


Taylor Mac 1910s Kevin Yatarola

 A 24-Decade History of Popular Music: 1900-1950s

January 13 – 25

New York Live Arts (219 W 19th Street)

An ambitious project by the protean performance artist and playwright etc. Taylor Mac.  “Eventually, this work will become a 24-hour spectacle covering the last 240 years of popular music in America.” It’s currently in two parts, with separate admission.


A (radically condensed and expanded) Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

January 7 – 16
Public Theater

Daniel Fish creates a piece based on the works of the late novelist Daniel Foster Wallace. “Tennis balls fly as four actors wrestle with the relentless rush of words streaming from their headphones.”



O Jardim

January 7 – 11

LaMaMa Ellen Stewart

On a stage filled with moving boxes, stories from three generations of the same family unfold simultaneously.  Created by Brazil’s Companhia Hiato, founded by director and playwright Leonardo Moreira, the show is in Portuguese with English subtitles.



January 16 – 18

Public Theater

A glimpse at life in Iran told by Iranian theater artist Amir Reza Koohestani creates a fictionalized reunion of the actors from his international hit of decade ago, Dance on Glasses. Performed in Farsi with English supertitles.



January 8 only

LaMaMa Club

One of the eight shows in the new “Incoming” series, this evening of “poetry and politics” is created by DarkMatter,  a trans south asian art and activist collaboration comprised of Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon.

Circus Now

January 8 to 10, 2015

Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Place, part of New York University)

Twitter: @CircusNowUSA

A new festival this year, whose motto is: “3 nights. 6 countries. 9 companies. Over 50 artists. All pushing the boundaries of circus as an art.”


Special Effects

January 8 to 10, 2015

Adrienne Truscott
Adrienne Truscott

The Wild Project

195 E. 3rd Street, between Avenues A & B).


The second year of this festival features, among other works, “Gray Spaces,” an evening of (unnamed) new works described as “existing between the black box of experimental theatre and the white rooms of the art museum” and “Asking for It” by Adriane Truscott, “one-half of the infamous Wau Wau Sisters, dressed only from the waist up and the ankles down, undresses and dresses down the rules and rhetoric about rape, comedy and the awkward laughs in between.”


Prototype Festival

January 8 – 17, 2015

Twitter: @Prototypefest

Billing itself as the “premiere festival of opera-theatre and music-theatre,” the Prototype Festival, now in its third year, will feature seven works.


Kansas City Choir Boy

January 8 – 17

HERE (145 6th Avenue)

Rock singer Courtney Love stars with Todd Almond in Almond’s two lovers in small town America who separate.

The Scarlet Ibis

Set in rural North Carolina a century ago, the show’s singers, puppetry, and multimedia stagecraft tell the story of a  disabled boy whose older brother pushes him to be “normal.” It is written by composer Stefan Weisman and librettist David Cote, who is Time Out New York theater critic.



Abrons Arts Center

466 Grand Street
January 8 – 18

Twitter: @AmericanRealnes

Some 20 works, primarily dance, although theater is certainly an accent in some of these works.

There is one exclusively theatrical piece:

Whitney Biennial

The Mother and Other Plays

January 15 – 18

An art collective called My Barbarian responds to Brecht’s 1932 play The Mother with masks made of old Soviet newspapers, musical numbers, improvised content, audience participation, and interruptions with scenes from their repertoire, “including Counterpiblicity (2014), a performance based on MTV’s The Real World: San Francisco (1994)”




The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Avenue and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A)
Dandy Darkly's Pussy Panic, at Frigid 2015
Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic, at Frigid 2015

February 18 – March 8

Twitter: @FrigidNewYork

“2 Theaters, 3 Weeks, 19 Days, 30 independent theater companies and over 150 performances.” Titles for the ninth annual Fringe Festival include Dandy Darkly’s Pussy Panic!, Hey ‘90s Kids, You’re Old, and I Was a Sixth Grade Bigfoot. (Yes, the origins of this festival are Fringe.)  In addition, “the artists are chosen by lottery, and 100% of ticket sales are returned to artists.”

Author: New York Theater

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

Leave a Reply