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12 Summer Theater Festivals in New York City 2018

Summer has begun in the city, theatrically speaking, with the first of the summer theater festivals. These festivals present  shows that are cheaper (often free), more cutting-edge and more abundant than what you can see during the regular theater season.  They also present a greater challenge in choosing which of their shows to see.

In this, the seventh year I’m offering a run-down on New York’s most reliable summer theater festivals, there are two big changes.  Lincoln Center has killed its Lincoln Center Festival, and the Fringe Festival has moved to October.

Below is a list arranged more or less chronologically by the month in which the festival begins. (Several continue through the summer.) Read more of this post

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The Fire This Time Festival 2018 Review: African American Plays

Fire This Time playwrights and performers

The Fire Next Time Festival 2018 performers, playwrights, directors.

A white police officer shoots a black driver five times after pulling him over for a minor traffic violation. But things are not what they seem in “Black, White & Blue”by William Watkins, one of the six 10-minutes plays in the ninth annual Fire This Time Festival.

Watkins’ play is the most overtly political, and one of the most effective, in the evening of short plays that is the centerpiece of this year’s Fire This Time Festival, which showcases the work of early-career playwrights of African and African American descent, running through January 28, 2018.
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Pursuit of Happiness at Under the Radar: Hilarious Poke at Westerns, War Pics by Nature Theater of Oklahoma

What makes us happy? The clear if indirect answer in “Pursuit of Happiness” is a lot of laughs, since that’s what the Nature Theater of Oklahoma, a notoriously inventive downtown theater company, provides in their new theater piece. “Pursuit of Happiness” is a bizarre and hilarious hybrid of physical comedy and surreal Hollywood parody, which swings wildly from the Wild West to the Iraq War, and from wondrously slapstick to borderline offensive to surreptitiously insightful. It is running at the NYU Skirball Center only through January 14, as part of the Under the Radar Festival. Catch it if you can.

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The Hendrix Project at Under the Radar: Watching Jimi Hendrix

It’s New Year’s Eve 1969, and a dozen fans are in the balcony of the Fillmore East watching a concert by Jimi Hendrix and his electronic blues trio, Band of Gypsys, nine months before Hendrix dies. That is a summary of “The Hendrix Project,” running at BRIC through January 14, as part of the Under the Radar Festival. That is also more or less all there is to say about it. We in the audience spend an hour watching the fans in the balcony as they watch the concert.

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Acquanetta Review: 1940s Horror Film and Its Mysterious Star Turned into Opera at Prototype Festival

The Prototype Festival, which showcases what it calls contemporary opera-theater and music-theater, opened its sixth season last night with an opera called “Acquanetta,” inspired by a cult horror film of the 1940s, “Captive Wild Woman,” and by its alluring and mysterious star, who went by the stage name Acquanetta.

The most charitable thing I can say about the opera, which is running through January 14 at the Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center, is that Mikaela Bennett’s performance as Acquanetta provided some occasional sparks, and Deborah Artman’s lyrics were at times intriguing, but  “Acquanetta” was simply not for me. The least charitable thing I can say is that “Acquanetta” managed to drain the campy fun out of a story featuring a mad scientist turning an ape into a beautiful woman, and was alienating in the exact way that both opera and the avant-garde can be at their worst — self-serious, overbearing and tedious.

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Under the Radar: After Review. Andrew Schneider’s Follow Up to YOUARE NOWHERE Leaves You In The Dark

Andrew Schneider After 1

When Andrew Schneider put on his trickster theater piece entitled “YOUARENOWHERE” in 2016, it was a mind-altering experience, changing not just one’s perception of reality, but of what theater can do. Now, Schneider and his collaborators are presenting “After” as part of the Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival, and I’m afraid what it primarily alters is my perception of Andrew Schneider.

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Under the Radar: How To Be A Rock Critic Review

“How To Be A Rock Critic” is a solo play depicting a day in the life of critic Lester Bangs shortly before he died of an overdose in 1982 at the age of 33. If we are to take the title literally, the answer seems to be to have strongly unpopular opinions: James Taylor should be marked for death; the Beatles are overrated gimmick mongers, the Rolling Stones, the biggest pigs that ever lived; Dylan faked his whole career….

It was opinions like that – or more precisely, negative reviews of albums produced by  advertisers — that got Bangs fired from Rolling Stone Magazine.

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January 2018 New York Theater Openings

Just one Broadway show is opening this month,  but January is as usual one of the most robust months for theater in New York, thanks in large part to the January theater festivals.

Together these festivals offer more than 100 shows; most are experimental, often hybrids that redefine what theater is; many are difficult to describe; some run only for one or two performances

Below is a selective list of Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off Broadway and festival offerings in January, organized chronologically by opening date (or, for a festival show, the first performance), with each title linked to a relevant website. Color key: Broadway: Red. Off Broadway: Black or Blue.Off Off Broadway: Green. January theater festival*: Orange

Below that, links to the home pages of seven of the festivals.

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Broadway Flea Market Map and Schedule

Below is a map showing the location of some 50 tables at today’s 31st Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Click on it (several times) to see it enlarged.

 

The shows scheduled to have their own tables with memorabilia to sell include:AladdinAnastasiaBeautiful – The Carole King MusicalA Bronx TaleDear Evan HansenHamiltonHello, Dolly!Kinky Boots; The Lion KingMiss SaigonNatasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812NEWSical The MusicalThe Phantom of the OperaSchool of Rock – The MusicalSweeney ToddWaitress and Wicked.

Selfies with the Stars

There are also an Autograph Table and Photo Booth, both of which
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NYMF Awards for Excellence 2017

Errol and Fidel, Generation Me, and Georama were among the big winners of the 2017 New York Musical Festival Awards for Excellence. Freedom Riders won for both outstanding music and “social relevance and impact.”

The complete list below:

OUTSTANDING MUSIC
Winner: Richard Allen and Taran Gray, Freedom Riders

OUTSTANDING BOOK
Winner: Julie Soto, Generation Me

OUTSTANDING LYRICS
Winner: Matt Schatz with Additional Lyrics by Jack Herrick, Georama: An American Panorama Told on 3 Miles of Canvas

OUTSTANDING OVERALL DESIGN
Winner: Jason H. Thompson, Whitney Locher, Scott Neale, Ann Wrightson, Georama: An American Panorama Told On 3 Miles Of Canvas

OUTSTANDING MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS AND ORCHESTRATIONS
Winner: Doug Oberhamer, Errol and Fidel

OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY
Winner: Justin Boccitto, Errol and Fidel

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A LEADING ROLE
Nancy Anderson, THE FOURTH MESSENGER
Milo Manheim, GENERATION ME

Brian Charles Rooney, MISS BLANCHE TELLS IT ALLOUTSTANDING

PERFORMANCE IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Randy Blair, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS
George Psomas, ERROL AND FIDEL
Nattalyee Randall, THE GOREE ALL-GIRL STRING BAND

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE
GENERATION ME. Cast includes Addyson Bell, Jenna Bergman, Laila Drew, Ian Ferrell, Mateo Gonzales, Brett Hargrave, Celia Hottenstein, Milo Manheim, Will Meyers, Julia Nightingale, Anthony Norman, Dante Palminteri, Oscar Revelins, Anabella Ronson-Benenati, Deandre Sevon

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION
West Hyler, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS

BEST MUSICAL SPONSORED BY PLAY-BY-PLAY
GENERATION ME –Book by Julie Soto; Music by Will Finan; Lyrics by Julie Soto; Story by Julie Soto & Ryan Warren

OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE AWARDS:
Janet Aldrich, BEN, VIRGINIA, AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL)
Sydia Cedeño, ERROL AND FIDEL
Ian Ferrell, GENERATION ME
Julia Nightingale, GENERATION ME
Anabella Ronson-Benenati, GENERATION ME
PJ Griffith, GEORAMA: AN AMERICAN PANORAMA TOLD ON 3 MILES OF CANVAS
Harriet D. Foy, MOTHERFREAKINGHOOD! (MATERNAL DISCRETION ADVISED)
Tara Martinez, NIGHT TIDE
Sharon Sachs, NUMBERS NERDS
Carrie Berk, PEACE, LOVE, AND CUPCAKES
Zoe Wilson, PLAY LIKE A WINNER

SPECIAL CITATIONS:
Building a Movement Through Musical Theater: Sheryl Berk, Carrie Berk, Jill Jaysen, and Rick Hip-Flores of PEACE, LOVE, AND CUPCAKES for their partnership with NoBully.org

Theatre for Young Audiences: Matthew McElligott, Tuxbury, Brian Sheldon, and Michael Musial, BACKBEARD

Extraordinary Festival Costume Design: Kurt Alger for BEN, VIRGINIA AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL)

Social Relevance and Impact: Richard Allen and Taran Gray, FREEDOM RIDERS

Festival Achievement in Projection Design: Kevan Loney for his work on BEN, VIRGINIA AND ME (THE LIBERACE MUSICAL); GENERATION ME; NUMBERS NERDS; and THE CADAVER SYNOD

 

Check out my preview of the 14th annual New York Musical Festival