January 2023 New York Theater Openings. A Month of Theater Festivals!

Below is a calendar of selected theater opening* this month in New York, including Off-Broadway shows written and performed by Anthony Rapp and Colin Quinn, a new play about the architect Maya Lin, and one about the painful history of Vicksburg, Mississippi, as well as a free play about Ukraine by a new troupe of Ukrainian actors. But the bulk of theatrical fare this month comes from the four big January theater festivals – more than 75 productions, many of them intriguing, most of them experimental, but also usually brief and relatively inexpensive.

It’s worth sorting through the festival offerings yourself (which are too numerous, and their descriptions often too cryptic, to include in their entirety in this calendar.) To get you started, here are the four, linked to their websites, and two shows from each that I’m interested in reviewing, with the date of each show’s first performance (which is where you can find their description and direct link in the calendar below).

The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival (from January 4 to 22) 
KLII (Jan 9)
Moby Dick (Jan 12)

The Exponential Festival (from January 4 to February 8)
The Complaint Society (Jan 4)
A Jury of Our Queers (Jan 13)

Prototype Festival (from January 5 to 15)
Undine (Jan 5)
Trade/Mary Motorhead (Jan 7)

Origin 1st Irish (from January 9 to 31)
Heaven (Jan 11)
Endgame (Jan 25)

The calendar is organized chronologically by opening date*, or first performance, but we must consider the dates subject to change, because COVID-19 is ongoing and unpredictable. (In 2022, two of the four January festivals were canceled, and a third went entirely digital, because of the surge of the Omicron variant.)

Each title below is linked to a relevant website. 

Color key: Broadway: Red 🟥. Off Broadway: Blue 🟦. Off Off Broadway: Green 🟩.

Digital or Hybrid Theater: Yellow 🟨 Theater festival: Orange 🟧. Immersive: Silver ⬜️ .

Puppetry: Brown 🟫 Opera: Purple🟪

 



January 4, 2023

🟧 Under the Radar Festival (UTR) begins
Through January 22: “19 Days at 6 venues featuring over 36 artists from 9 countries.” (27 shows by my count.)

🟧Are we not drawn onward to new erA (UTR at BAM)
Like its title, the show unfolds like a palindrome (the same backwards and forwards)

🟧A Thousand Ways Part Three: An Assembly (UTR at NYPL)
The theater duo who call themselves 600 Highwaymen corral an audience of 16 strangers to construct a unique and intimate theatrical event. Using a shared script, an evocative story of perseverance comes into focus.

🟧The Exponential Festival begins
Through February 8: 19 shows in five Brooklyn venues plus YouTube

🟧The Complaint Society by Barnett Cohen (Exponential at The Brick)
In this hour-long piece, four performers deliver fast-paced combinations of monologues, asides, and soliloquies interspersed with highly-stylized choreographed movement

January 5, 2023

🟧🟪Prototype Festival begins
Through January 15. Eight operas or musical theater in five venues plus online.

🟧🟪In Our Daughter’s Eyes (Prototype at Baruch PAC)
Told through the perspective of a new father, 

🟧🟪🟨Undine (Prototype Online)
A mermaid addicted to plastic disrupts the thoroughly boring lives of a burnt-out female plumber and her neighbour, a lonely philosopher. Streaming on demand Jan 5 – 15th Live Screening followed by Artist conversation January 9th at 6pm

 🟧The Indigo Room (UTR at La MaMa)
An “immersive ritualistic theater and installation work” by Timothy White Eagle and The Violet Triangle.

January 6, 2023

🟧🟪MƆɹNIŊ [MORNING//MOURNING] (Prototype at Here)
An experimental opera inhabits a world in which all humans have disappeared from Earth, forest grow back and new species evolve. 

January 7, 2023

 

🟧🟪Trade/Mary Motorhead (Prototype at Abrons Arts Center)
A double bill by Irish composer Emma O’Halloran. 1. a rent boy and his closeted client in working-class Dublin, both trapped within their own lives. 2. convicted murderer who invites us to hear her secret history.

January 9, 2023

 

🟧KLII (URT at Chelsea Factory)
Kaneza Schaal “exorcizes the ghost” of the 19th century villain King Leopold of Belgium, drawing on writing by Mark Twain and  Patrice Lumumba, independence leader of the Republic of the Congo

January 10, 2023

🟧Our Country (URT at Public)
an intimate portrait of a complex sibling relationship. Inspired by Sophocles’ Antigone, artist Annie Saunders sets off on an autobiographical journey using recreations of recorded conversations with her outlaw brother.

🟧seven methods of killing kylie jenner (URT at Public)
“explores cultural appropriation, queerness, friendship, and the ownership of Black bodies online and IRL.

January 11, 2023

🟧Origin 1st Irish begins productions (Opening ceremony Jan 9)
Through January 31. “20 new plays, productions and special events in venues across New York.” (Most of the plays are single-date readings.

🟧Heaven (1st Irish at 59e59)
This new play by Eugene O’Brien produced by the acclaimed Irish company Fishamble is set in County Offaly, Ireland during the weekend of a local wedding, when guests Mairead and Mal are struggling to keep their marriage together

🟦Mothermotherland A.R.T./New York Theatres

An original devised theater performance developed over 5 months by Ukrainian and American artists based on an autobiographical short story written in 1924 by Ukrainian writer  Mykola Khyvylovy, about a local official who must decide whether or not to sentence his mother to death in the name of the ideals of the Commune. Offered for free to the public by Slovo. Theater Group, which was founded in April of 2022 “to fight against oppression of Ukrainian culture by promoting Ukrainian culture abroad.”

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 🟧Your Sexts are Shit: Older Better Letters (UTR at Public)

Rachel Mars’ meditation on modern sexts (sex texting) and unearthed sex and love letters dating back centuries.

🟧⬜️Protec/Attac (UTR at Chelsea Factory)

An interview with a woman who has given herself fully into misery, which gradually morphs into a series of strange games that require audience participation.

January 12, 2023

 🟧🟫Moby Dick (UTR at NYU Skirball)
An adaptation by the terrific European puppet theater company Plexus Polaire featuring seven actors, 50 puppets, and “a whale-sized whale.”

 🟧Otto Frank (UTR at Public Theater)
Roger Guenveur Smith and Marc Anthony Thompson have devised a new work inspired by Otto Frank, the father of diarist Anne Frank.

🟧Queens of Sheba
Turned away from a nightclub for being “too Black,” four women take to the stage with their own explosive true stories

🟧Bigmouth Strikes Again: The Smiths Show (UTR at Joe’s Pub)
Cabaret artist Salty Brine “ventures into the dark and disturbed as he twists Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein around The Smiths’ post-punk, indie classic The Queen is Dead. “

🟧King Gilgamesh & the Man of the Wild (UTR at La MaMa)
A present-day story of friendship interweaves with the ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, along the way tracing Ahmed Moneka’s real life journey from an actor-refugee in a new country to an acclaimed musician 

🟧 LatinXoxo (UTR at Joe’s Pub)
Migguel Anggelo’s personal story of breaking from Latin lover cliches, in a collage of theater, queer comedy, physical movement, and song selections.

🟧🟪 Note to a Friend (Prototype at Japan Society)
An opera abou our fascination with death, love, family and suicide.

🟧Marchita (Prototype at HERE)
“A ritual of melodies that burst from tradition, loss, and love” from Silvana Estrada, a “rising star of the international folk music scene.”

 

 

🟦The Vicksburg Project (Harlem Stage)
From Mabou Mines: The experiences of women and gender-expansive people in Vicksburg, Mississippi, a small city pivotal to the painful history of our country.

January 13

🟦To Protect Serve and Understand (Irondale)

The free culminating public performances of a ten-week workshop between seven police officers and seven community members who come together to break bread, play, sing and have difficult conversations. This is the tenth season of this workshop and performance, which began in 2015 after the death of Eric Garner at the hands of police.

🟧A Jury of Our Queers (Exponential at Target Margin)
Bombshell broad Mae West and rising Broadway starlet Helen Menken are arrested in 1926 for artistic obscenity and summoned to a metatheatrical courtroom. Their charges: serving face, serving legacy, and serving queer community.

January 14, 2023

🟩Soledad (Theater for the New City)
American Indian Artists Inc. (AMERINDA) — the only Native American multi-arts organization of its kind in the U.S. –presents this play by Carolyn Dunn about socially awkward high school senior whodiscovers that her father,  was a prize-winning pow wow singer vows to learn his songs.

January 18, 2023

🟩Not About Me (Theater for the New City)
Eduardo Machado has written and directs a memory play that takes audiences on a haunting journey through the mind of a playwright during Covid-19 lockdown

January 19, 2023

 

🟧The Fire This Time Festival begins. Through January 29. 

The festival of emerging African and African American playwrights (This is where “Ain’t No Mo” began.) It  primarily features a 10-minute play program, which this year includes work by seven playwrights: Cris Eli Black, Phillip Gregory Burke, Zachariah Ezer, Steve Harper, Ki, Goldie E Patrick

🟧Field of Mars (UTR at NYU Skirball)
A play written and directed by Richard Maxwell that starts in a chain restaurant in North Carolina featuring Adam and Eve, and go far afield, involving the Lord and Satan, as “the animal instincts of coupling and destruction move through generations.”

January 22, 2023

Andrea Frierson

Maya Ying Lin in front of Vietnam Memorial. she designed

🟦Memorial (Pan Asian Rep at A.R.T./ New York Theaters)

 A new play by Livian Yeh about Maya Lin, who as a 21-year-old architect was forced to defend herself to veterans and the United States Congress when her “untraditional” memorial design was selected to commemorate Vietnam veterans on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Two different actresses, Angel Lin and Nancy Ma, will portray the architect.

January 23, 2023

 

🟦Colin Quinn: Small Talk (Lortel Theater)
Another comic riff from the Saturday Night Live alumnus. “Quinn has been chatting it up with friends, family, municipal employees and counter people for his whole life and now he can teach you how to stop sucking the energy out of the room.”

January 25, 2023

🟦Anthony Rapp’s Without You (New World Stages)
A new musical, backed by a five piece rock band, based on Rapp’s memoir about the early years of the musical “Rent” opening 27 years to the day of Rent‘s first public performance.

🟧Endgame (1st Irish at Irish Rep)
Samuel Beckett’s play starring John Douglas Thompson and Bill Irwin. 

January 26, 2023

🟧Circus Trick (Exponential at Brick Aux)
A clown stages a rebellion against the commodification of entertainment 

January 28, 2023

🟧Hunger (1st Irish at Irish Arts Center)
Bohdan Boychuk’s play delves into Stalin’s famine-genocide (Holodomor) that lasted from 1932-1933 and resulted in the death of over four million Ukrainians, and the ensuing erasure of their culture.

*Opening Night

Since there are no Broadway shows opening in January, and most of this month’s shows are part of theater festivals, the concept of “opening night” is even more meaningless this month than usual. On Broadway, and frequently Off-Broadway, opening night is usually not the same as the first performance. There is usually a preview period, where the creative team tries out the show before an audience (although in New York, the ticket prices are the same), and opening night is when 1. the show is “frozen” (no more changes), and 2. the reviews are published/posted/broadcast; professional reviews are forbidden, indeed, from being published before then in what’s called an embargo. But theater festival offerings and Off-Off Broadway shows often have no preview period or official opening night; they just start. It can be hard to find the date of the opening night; productions rarely state it clearly on their websites. But for Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, I organize this calendar by opening night (when it exists and when I can find it) rather than first performance, as a way to support 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.

What Is 🟥Broadway, 🟦Off-Broadway, 🟦Off-Off Broadway?

Off-Broadway theaters, by definition, have anywhere from 100 to 499 seats. If a theater has more seats than that, it’s a Broadway house. If it has fewer, it’s Off-Off Broadway. (There is a more sophisticated definition, having to do with contracts, and more elaborate distinctions, having to do with ticket prices, number and location of theaters, length of runs, willingness to take artistic risks, etc.)
(Several performing arts venues in New York City, such as The Shed, Little Island and NYU Skirball, technically exist outside these classifications; I list them as Off-Broadway, even though they have more than 500 seats.)

What is Immersive Theater? 
The six elements that define immersive theater at its best

 

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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