August 2021 Theater Highlights: Homecoming Excitement

Michael Hill and Namir Smallwood in “Pass Over”

Below is a selective list of theater that is opening in August*, usually one of the relatively fallow months for theater, but now full of excitement…and anticipation. Although no shows are opening on Broadway this month, it seems enough that two will be running — “Springsteen on Broadway,” which started up again at the end of June, and “Pass Over,” a three-character play by Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu that won’t be officially opening until September 12 (one of THIRTEEN Broadway shows scheduled to open/reopen in September), but is beginning previews on August 4 — accompanied by a block party free to the public on 52nd Street in front of the August Wilson Theater.

Meanwhile, this month will see a vigorous mix of free public “homecoming” events (including a massive, starry concert in Central Park on August 21), festivals (including a different kind of fringe festival!), a nude production of a Greek tragedy, and other Off Broadway openings — some live in-person, some digital, some hybrid — which I list chronologically (more or less) by opening date below. As with the previous 16 makeshift months, much more will pop up at the last minute (and some may fall out) as this month progresses.

Here is Future
Theatre for One
August 5-22
In person: The innovative company that presents “microplays” featuring one performer and one audience member at a time is presenting a new collection of original works by Jaclyn Backhaus, Lydia R. Diamond, Regina Taylor, among others, at a new midtown place, Manhattan West. Tickets are free, available each Monday before that week’s performances, and (if experience is a guide) are gobbled up very quickly.

Marie Antoinette
August 5 – 9
Online: A reunion reading of SoHo Rep’s 2013 production of David Adjmi’s  Marie Antoniette starring Marin Ireland under the direction of T Rebecca Taichman . In this contemporary take on the young queen of France, Marie is a confection created by a society that values extravagance and artifice…until it doesn’t. Adjmi wrote a terrific memoir, (My review of“Lot Six.”)

Merry Wives
Shakespeare in the Park
Officially opens August 9. Through September 20.
In person: Jocelyn Bioh adapts Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” setting it among West African immigrants in modern-day Harlem. Tickets are free, available this year through digital lottery via Goldstar, although there are exceptions; the policy is explained through the link above.

Return The Moon
Third Rail Projects
August 11 – September 3
Online: The innovative theater company responsible for such immersive, site-specific work as “Then She Fell” is presenting a new interative theater piece at what for them is a new site — Zoom. A “collectively constructed” shared experience with the audience that is “one part toast, one part ritual, and one part retelling of a very old story of how the Moon was lost and found again.”

NYC Free festival
Little Island
August 11 – September 5
In person: A culmination of the statewide NY PopsUp Initiative, the festival features 160 performances over four weeks featuring 460 artists, as the poster explains. The good news is these are shows for FREE catering to a wide variety of tastes, with top-notch talent. The bad news is so much of it is already fully booked. I urge you to check out the offerings that are left. Some of the shows don’t need reservations, but you do need to reserve a time to enter the island at all if you plan to arrive after noon.

International Puppet Fringe Festival NYC
Clemente Soto Velez Cultural & Education Center
August 11 – August 31
In person and online: More than 40 puppet troupes from around the world perform at the festival, first in person (Aug 11-15) and then virtually for the rest of the month. The festival is part of the first-ever NYC Puppet Week, which includes five different puppetry exhibitions, the biggest of which are at the Museum of the City of New York (Puppets of New York) and at The Clemente (Puppets of New York: Downtown.)

Alma Baya
Untitled Theater Company #61 at A.R.T./New York
August 13-28
In person and online. Edward Einhorn’s original absurdist sci fi drama which follows Alma and Baya, two women who live on a hostile planet inside a pod designed to sustain them both. When a refugee arrives from another pod that has broken down, they’re forced to weigh compassion versus survival.  Performed at the A.R.T./New York Theater on West 53rd Street, it will also be livestreamed August 14 and 15.

Ni Mi Madre
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
August 14-September 19. Opens August 25
In person and online: Arturo Luis Soria III’s funny, heartfelt and pointed solo show about his colorful mother, Bete. (My review of Ni Mi Madre when it was at the Rave Festival in 2019.)

Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments
National Black Theatre
August 16-23
A radio play production of a collection of works created in response to the police shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and other young Black men and women over the years, directed by NBT artistic director Jonathan McCrory. The plays are: Superiority Fantasy written by Nathan James; Holes in My Identity written by Nathan Yungerberg; They Shootin! Or I Ain’t Neva Scared written by Idris Goodwin; Dead of Night… The Execution of… written by Nambi E. Kelley; Abortion written by NSangou Njikam; Walking Next to Michael Brown written by Eric Micha Holmes; How I Feel written by Dennis A. Allen II

Torn Out Theater in Prospect Park
August 19-22
In person: Poet Anne Carson’s adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone presented for free at the Music Pagoda in Prospect Park by a company that performs in the nude. There are no reservations, and seating is first come, first served. Audience members are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets to sit on. 

We Love NYC: The Homecoming Concert 
Central Park
August 21
A free concert for vaccinated New Yorkers on The Great Lawn in Central Park featuring more than two dozen celebrated performers. Just the “S” celebrities alone include Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen. “Free tickets, as well as VIP tickets for purchase, will be released to the public in batches at starting on Monday, August 2 at 10 a.m. EDT.” It’s part of Homecoming Week, “a citywide celebration, featuring live concerts at iconic venues, free movie screenings, cultural activities, public art, and more. This five-borough week of events will drive support for the mom-and-pop businesses that define our neighborhoods and kept the heart of our city beating throughout the COVID pandemic.”

*My definition of theater for the purposes of this calendar generally does not extend to variety shows, cast reunions, concerts, galas, panel discussions, documentaries, classes, or interviews — of which there are plenty, many worth checking out. My focus here is on creative storytelling in performance. (I make an occasional exception for a high-profile event — such as the We Love NYC Homecoming Concert.

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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