Below is a selection of theater opening in New York in August, with many of the most intriguing plays this month by and about first generation Americans.
It’s summer, so a lot of the theater is free. And it’s a year after in-person theater started reopening, but we’re still in the pandemic, so there are still alternatives including the second season of an audio drama podcast series. This month also marks the return of a Tony-winning musical (albeit Off-Broadway), and a Shakespeare musical in Central Park that feels like a party.
This day-by-day calendar is organized chronologically by opening date*, but we must consider the dates tentative, because COVID-19 is ongoing and unpredictable.
The Nosebleed (Lincoln Center Theater)
Aya Ogawa’s sly, strange and ultimately rewarding play about their fractured relationship with their long-deceased father, which I saw last year at the Japan Society (my review) and am happy that more theatergoers will get to experience it.
Camp, a New Musical (Theatre Row)
A rich summer camp takes in the less fortunate members of a nearby rival camp after it burns down.
Teacher! Teacher! or PS I Love You.” (Theater for the New City)
TNC begins its 45th original summer musical in the street outside its building at E. 10th Street & 1st Ave., before spending the next six weeks touring parks, playgrounds and closed-off streets throughout the five boroughs. Combining playfulness and politics, the play by author/director/TNC artistic director Crystal Field tells the story of two teachers and a beleaguered principal who must teach “against the background of the January 6th attempted coup, the desperate war in Ukraine, the constant threat of gun violence and the terrible mistakes of the Supreme Court. They see a growing consciousness in their students and a desire to take action..”
Mistresses: a New American Play (Theatre Row)
Writer and director Liz Linkewitz presents true (and some rumored) stories of Presidential affairs through history.
First Gen MixFest (Atlantic)
A free reading series through August 17 co-produced by playwrights Ngozi Anyanwu and Sanaz Toossi, of plays that focus (as the name makes clear) on the children of immigrants. The festival kicks off with a panel discussion with the playwrights.
Last Words of Uncle Dirt (Playwrights Horizons Soundstage)
In this first online audio play of the second season of Playwrights Horizon’s Soundstage series, an abandoned limestone statue chronicles centuries of adventures through and beyond the Chinese diaspora. Written by Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig, directed and composed by Michael Roth
First Gen MixFest: Short plays (Atlantic)
by Bleu Beckford–Burrell, Shayan Lotfi, Roger Q. Mason, and juliany taveras.
First Gen MixFest: Quality Cellular (Atlantic)
In this play by Alex Riad, an Egyptian-American teenager is forced to work in his divorced parents’ failing cell phone shop, with eye-opening results.
On That Day in Amsterdam (Primary Stages)
In this play by Clarence Coo, a refugee from the Middle East has a one-night stand with a first-generation American backpacker, and spend their last day in Amsterdam exploring the city, visiting the spirits of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Anne Frank. My article about Coo’s play (and three other plays about refugees) in 2019.
Inside/Out (Lincoln Center)
Ping Chong and company’s documentary theater piece subtitled “Voices from the Disability Community.” The show is fre, as part of Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City.
Mom on Skype (Irondale)
Set in a bomb shelter in Lviv, Ukraine, a young soldier on duty rehearses a play about the separation and disconnection of parents and children, using a cast that includes his own daughter and other children between the ages of ten and 14 (portrayed by actual teenagers from Ukraine.)
First Gen MixFest Exotic Deadly or the MSG Play (Atlantic)
In this play by Keiko Green, a Japanese American high schooler named Ami, shocked by her recent discovery that her parents manufacture MSG, meets a cool new girl from Japan named Exotic Deadly.
Patience (Second Stage)
In this play written by Johnny G. Lloyd and directed by Zhailon Livingston, a professional card player decides to make it through one final, career-defining match before he retires and settles into a new house with his husband-to-be. “Patience is a meditation on black excellence, next chapters, and playing a very long game alone.
(There’s) No Time for Comedy and Loops (Playwrights Horizons Soundstage)
Two audio plays by David Greenspan —an old radio comedy of anxiety in the modern world, and a soliloquy of lost love.
First Gen MixFest: long you long time (already) (Atlantic)
In this play by Katie Đỗ, a daughter navigates the story of her Vietnamese mother and their relationship as they together survive assimilation, love and heartbreak from 1974 to 2018.
First Gen MixFest: My Name is Beatrice (Atlantic)
A continuation of Ngozi Anyanwu The Homecoming Queen, in which we follow Kelechi’s return to America, this time with her “daughter” Beatrice.
His Chest Is Only Skeleton (Playwrights Horizons Soundstage)
Julia Izumi’s audio meditation on what it is to carry what we can and can’t control, and the crossroads of being and belonging.
Kinky Boots (Stage 42)
A revival of the Cyndi Lauper/Harvey Fierstein Tony-winning musical about a British shoemaker whose business is saved by a drag queen. The show that made Billy Porter a star.
Robot Infidèle (Little Island)
The first of three nightly performances of this new work, combining storytelling and clowning, by the Quebec City-based troupe Machine de Cirque
Dream Up Festival (Theater for the New City)
Twenty-three shows will be presented through September 18. The festival launches today with six premieres, among them: “Darkness After Night: Ukraine” about the Invasion, written and directed by Stephan Morrow, “Carson and Huston,” about a meeting between novelist and playwright Carson McCullers and film director John Huston, written by Tommy LeVrier and directed by Dale Davidson, and “Dollars to Doughnuts” by Susan Crawford, about a leftist intellectual who wins the lottery and the angst that ensues.
As You Like It (Shakespeare in the Park)
A return the Public Works production of Shakespeare’s comedy, with music by Shaina Taub, featuring a cast that mixes professionals such as Ato Blankson-Wood as Orlando and Rebecca Naomi Jones as Rosalind with a vibrant ensemble of community members from all five boroughs
The Marriage of Earth and Sky (Playwrights Horizons Soundstage)
In this audio play by Agnes Borinsky directed by Brooke O’Harra, the farmer wants the shepherd. The shepherd wants God. The playwright isn’t quite sure what she wants. A play about grief and desire and the mess that is the theater.
Once Upon A (Korean) Time (Ma-Yi at La MaMa)
Written by Daniel K. Isaac, who is better known as an actor (“The Chinese Lady” and “Billions” on Showtime), the play traces the journey of a Korean family from the wars in Korea to the riots in Los Angeles, incorporating traditional Korean fables to examine the thorny legacies of war and trauma.
*Opening night is usually not the same as the first performance on Broadway and frequently Off-Broadway. There is usually a preview period, where the creative team tries out the show before an audience, and opening night is when 1. the show is “frozen” (no more changes), and 2. the reviews are published/posted/broadcast. (Off-Off Broadway shows often have no preview period or official opening night; they just start.) I organize this calendar by opening night (when such exists), rather than first preview, as a statement in support of the continuing relevance of theater reviewing. Check out my essay: Broadway Opening Night. What It Means. How It’s Changed. 7 Facts to Clear Up The Confusion and Crystallize the Outrage.