La MaMa Puppet Festival Is Not The Lion King

Food for the Gods is about the killing of black men; Exodus addresses the current refugee crisis; Blind is a solo work about disability. These may not sound like typical subjects for puppet shows, but little about the La MaMa Puppet Festival fits most audiences’ preconceptions about the art form, as I explain in my article on the festival for TDF Stages, These Puppet Shows Aren’t For Kids. Below are photographs from some of the 27 puppet shows in the festival, some as short as five minutes, none longer than 75.

Click on any photograph to see it enlarged

November 2018 New York Theater Openings

Six shows are opening on Broadway in November.  And yes, one of them features a giant ape feeling unwelcome in New York City, and another marks the annual holiday stopover for a perennially touring magic act.  But in a month that includes a crucial Election Day, the shows opening in New York aren’t all about (sometimes literal) escape.  There are not many overtly political plays, although one opening this month is about Bobby Kennedy’s campaign for president. Yet several of the Broadway shows deal with serious issues, especially “American Son,” starring Kerry Washington. Even some puppet shows in La MaMa’s puppet festival this month focus on the refugee crisis and the killing of black men.  Off-Broadway, there are an abundance of plays that touch on the struggles of African-American, Asian-
American,  Native-American and/or LGBTIQ characters. Lauren Gunderson’s play “Natural Shocks,” debuting this month in a WP Theater production, was used in staged readings across the country earlier this year as a fundraiser for gun control. “All is Calm”  recalls a surreally peaceful moment during a time even more divisive than our own, during World War I (a war that ended on November 11, 1918), and there is a new production of a play that Bertolt Brecht wrote as an act of resistance in Germany during World War II.

Below is a selection of openings in November, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website for more information.

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October 2018 New York Theater Openings

Bob Dylan, Glenn Close, Daniel Radcliffe, and Gloria Steinem are all on a New York stage one way or another in October, always a good month for theater.

This year’s October is likely the busiest ever, thanks to the addition of the hundred shows in the New York International Fringe Festival, which for the first time has been moved from August to October.

Three shows are opening on Broadway in October: Elaine May returns to Broadway in a star-studded revival of Kenneth Lonergan’s “The Waverly Gallery”; Daniel Radcliffe, Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale star in “Lifespan of a Fact,” a true story that starts with one of our society’s unheralded heroes – a fact checker. Jez Butterworth’s “The Ferryman” is one of the several plays that month about a stranger who visits…and turns everything
upside down.

Off-Broadway’s promising shows include a re-imagined “Oklahoma”; an evening of Beckett performed by Bill Irwin; and a new Bob Dylan musical with a book by Conor McPherson. Glenn Close stars as Joan of Arc’s mother. Christine Lahti portrays Gloria Steinem.

Off-Off Broadway, filmmaker Todd Solondz makes his theatrical debut, and two plays by Samuel D. Hunter are joined together into a dinner theater, New York style.

Below is a selection of openings in October, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website.
Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Black or BlueOff Off Broadway: Green. Theater festival: Orange

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Off Broadway Fall 2018 Preview Guide

Off-Broadway in the Fall promises a new musical with book by Conor McPherson and music by Bob Dylan (“Girl from the North Country”); Glenn Close  as Joan of Arc’s mother (“Mother of the Maid”); Christine Lahti as Gloria Steinem (“Gloria: A Life”); a shadow cast of deaf actors signing in ASL while another cast is speaking in English (“I Was Most Alive With You”); real-life siblings Tyne Daly and Tim Daly as bickering siblings, on stage together in New York for the first time. (“Downstairs”)

There are new plays by Madeleine George, Donja R.Love, Craig Lucas, Martyna Majok, Theresa Rebeck, Heidi Schreck, Jen Silverman, Tom Stoppard, Sharr White; two old plays and a new musical by Lynn Nottage; a marathon production complete with dinner of two of Samuel D. Hunter’s Idaho plays; revivals of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma” and Sondheim’s “Merrily We Roll Along.” There is a re-creation of a refugee camp, plays about Korean, Sikh and Arab immigrants to the U.S., American slaves, African porters.

How to sort it all out?

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September 2018 New York Theater Openings: Women Center Stage, plus snooker

Sarah Bernhardt returns to Broadway, in the person of Janet McTeer, in a new play by Theresa Rebeck about the actress’s pursuit in 1899 of the role of Hamlet.

Bernhardt/Hamlet” is one of two shows opening on Broadway this month — the other is about snooker (which is what the British call pool) entitled “The Nap” — and one of several that put women center stage. Among these are “Intractable Woman,” about the assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya; “The True,” by Sharr White, in which Edie Falco portrays an Albany politico; “Intrusion,” a one-woman, eight-character show in which Qurrat Ann Kadwani examines how we all perpetuate rape culture. And then there’s “Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties,” a play by Jen Silverman featuring five characters named Betty, played by, among others, Lea Delaria and Ana Villafañe, late of On Your Feet; and La Femme’s revival of Tennessee Williams’ play about four women, ‘A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur’ (featuring Kristine Nielsen and Annette O’Toole.)

Also of note: “Private Peaceful,” one-man show about World War I, and  “I Was Most Alive With You,” with its all-deaf “shadow cast.”

Below is a selection of openings in September, organized chronologically by opening date. Each title is linked to a relevant website.
Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Black or Blue. Off Off Broadway: Green.
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Fall 2018 Movie Preview

Below is a list of movies opening from September to December, organized chronologically by release date.

Among the movies featuring theater veterans: Oscar Isaac  in “Operation Finale” (Sept 14) and “Life,Itself” (Sept. 21); Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek in “The Old Man and the Gun” (Sept. 28); Viola Davis in “Widows” (Nov. 16); Lucas Hedges in “Boy Erased” (Nov 2) and “Ben is Back” (Dec 2) with Julia Roberts; Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart in “The Front Runner” (Nov. 7); Lin-Manuel Miranda in “Mary Poppins Returns” (Dec. 19)

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August 2018 New York Theater Openings

Two shows are opening this month on Broadway, one a musical adaptation of a 1990 Julia Roberts movie, “Pretty Woman,” starring Andy Karl and Samantha Barks; the other, “Gettin’ The Band Back Together,” a musical comedy about a 40-year-old re-engaging in a Battle of the Bands.

Off-Broadway, there are musicals about a romance between neurotic New Yorkers, a revolution by redheads, the second man to walk on the moon, and an average teenager (portrayed by Dear Evan Hansen’s Will Roland) who swallows a supercomputer and becomes cool. The Mint is offering a rare revival of a rare flop by Lillian Hellman.  Off-Off Broadway, the Flea presents a play about the repercussions of a police shooting.

Yes, August is not the most crowded month for theater in New York, especially since the 21st New York Fringe festival has moved to October.  But a couple of other theater festivals are opening this month, and several more are still running

Below, shows with August openings arranged chronologically by opening date. Click on any title to get to its website.

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Free Outdoor Movies in NYC Summer 2018: A Schedule

You can watch a free movie outdoors in New York City every night this summer from now on — and whole movie series every weeknight except Tuesdays. The movies vary widely: current blockbusters (“Black Panther” on Coney Island) and new releases (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” on Pier 63 in Chelsea), movie musicals (“West Side Story” and “The Wizard of Oz”  in Prospect Park and “Hair” in Central Park), family fare, cult favorites, classics, art films and foreign films.. Below are the schedules for movie nights in some specific parks, piers, and plazas, as well as a beach, a battleship, and an island. Each movie series is linked to its website for more details.
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July 2018 New York Theater Openings

Two shows are opening on Broadway in July — Young Jean Lee’s “Straight White Men,” which marks the Broadway debuts of Armie Hammer and Josh Charles, among others; and “Head Over Heels,” a new musical using the music of the Go-Gos with a plot from the 16th century.

Some dozen Off-Broadway offerings this month include a new play by Tracy Letts, a new musical by Stephen Trask, the composer of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and two intriguingly edgy adaptations of difficult films —  Nazi-besotted “The Damned,” adapted by Ivo van Hove, and heroin besotted “Trainspotting,” adapted by a Scottish immersive theater company aptly named In Your Face.

Since it’s summer, there are also the summer theater festivals such as the New York Musical Festival, and such FREE theatrical concerts as the weekly Broadway in Bryant Park

The shows described below are organized chronologically by opening night, except the festivals, which are presented by their first day (most of them on July 9th.) Each title is linked to a relevant website for more information


Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Purple, blue or black. Off Off Broadway: Green. Theater festival: Orange
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LGBT Plays during June Pride NYC

To judge only from Broadway, New York theater is experiencing a Renaissance of old gay plays, with starry revivals of three landmark dramas that are now period pieces: The Boys in the Band from the 1960s, the soon-to-open Torch Song from the 1980s and Angels in America from the 1990s.

But, as I make clear in a round-up piece on TDF Stages,  Pride Month Off-Broadway and Off-Off Broadway tells a much broader story.

Click on any photograph above to see it enlarged and read the caption.

Read full article: Dramatists are exploring LGBTQ life in uncharted ways