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10 Summer Theatre Festivals in NYC

By: Raven Snook
Date: Jun 15, 2023

Catch new plays, queer celebrations and avant-garde experiments at low ticket prices

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During the summer, NYC's Off-Off Broadway scene is all about innovative and inexpensive theatre festivals. Catch LGBTQ shows at Queerly and PrideFest; international offerings at 59E59's Brits Off Broadway and cutting-edge performances at the New Ohio's final Ice Factory. At these events, ambitions are high while prices are low. In fact, TDF members can snag $11 tickets to some offerings, so you can afford to take a chance. Not a TDF member? Consider joining our Go Off-Off and Beyond program, which gives you access to discount tickets to indie theatre for a one-time fee of five bucks.

In terms of COVID-19 safety protocols, masks are optional and proof of vaccination is not required unless otherwise noted. While we are trying to keep this article up to date, be sure to double-check the protocols before purchasing tickets so you arrive prepared.

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The Chain Theatre: Summer One Act Festival

The Chain Theatre, 312 West 36th between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in Midtown West

Runs June 8-25.

Enjoy a smorgasbord of shorts at the Chain's annual fest, which features more than 40 different brief diversions by emerging writers, including comedies, dramas and even mini-musicals. Select performances will also be live-streamed to at-home audiences.

See the full Summer One Act Festival lineup.

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ANT Fest 2023

Ars Nova, 511 West 54th Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues in Midtown West

Runs June 12-24.

Ars Nova is known for showcasing some of the most thrilling up-and-comers in town (remember, this is where Lin-Manuel Miranda started!). This year's edition of its annual ANT Fest includes a new comedy in American Sign Language, the anything-goes SHOWGASM. variety hour and the intriguingly titled Hartwell Church of God: The Musical - The Search for the Next Divine Pastor. Best of all, tickets are pay-what-you-wish starting at just $5. Can't go in person? Ars Nova also offers a live-streaming platform for $15 a month.

See the full ANT Fest 2023 lineup.

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FRIGID New York: Queerly Festival

The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street between Bowery and Second Avenue in the East Village

Runs June 15-July 3. At press time, several Queerly shows were available. Log in and search for Queerly.

Put on your lavender-colored glasses for FRIGID New York's ninth annual Queerly Festival, a grab bag of LGBTQ culture. Highlights include a bio-play about Anna May Wong, queer comedy and lots of shows about drag (Becoming Austin Nation: From Crack to PhD - One Drag Queen's Story, The Real Black Swann: Confessions of America's First Black Drag Queen, Drag Story Hour). Tickets are sliding scale and most performances are also being live-streamed to at-home audiences.

See the full Queerly Festival lineup.

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PrideFest 2023

The Tank, 312 West 36th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues in Midtown West

Runs June 16-25. At press time, several PrideFest shows were available. Log in and search for PrideFest.

Proof of vaccination and masks are required.

Indie theatre hub The Tank presents its annual PrideFest, an eclectic ten-day lineup of genre-defying queer culture. Promising productions include Are You There, Rihanna? It's Me, Kyle, which replaces religious platitudes with pop divas; the Hell-set The Gospel of Joan (Crawford) and ERATO, a celebration of leather culture through Baroque music. Select performances will also be live-streamed to at-home audiences.

See the full PrideFest 2023 lineup.

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The Brick: ?!:New Works 2023

The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue near Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Runs June 19-24 and August 15-26.

Proof of vaccination and masks are required.

In June and August, Brooklyn's experimental theatre mecca The Brick presents evenings jam-packed with genre-defying shorts from up-and-coming indie artists. Prepare to be amazed, enlightened and mystified.

See the full ?!:New Works 2023 lineup.

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New Ohio Theatre: Ice Factory

New Ohio Theatre, 154 Christopher Street between Greenwich and Washington Streets in the West Village

Runs June 28-August 12.

Attention avant-garde theatre lovers: After three decades, the New Ohio Theatre is closing, which means this is the final Ice Factory ever. This Obie-winning fest is all about emerging artists taking risks, with NYC companies invited to present their latest works in progress over four days. The subjects are timely and the offerings diverse, and the second performance of each show will also be available to live-stream at home, with a recording available through the last day of the festival. Highlights include Zebra 2.0, a sci-fi rom-com about the relationship between an undocumented woman and an AI tool; the ghost story folk musical here i fall up; and Ultra Left Violence, a politically charged missive from New Ohio's founder Robert Lyons and his frequent collaborator, director Daniel Irizarry.

See the full Ice Factory lineup.

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Brits Off Broadway

59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues in Midtown East

Runs through July 2.

Since 2004, this annual showcase of UK productions has given Americans a taste of what's playing across the pond. This year's edition began in April and only three of the nine shows are still running, but all sound like winners. Foxes explores the Black gay experience in London’s Caribbean community; Cassie and the Lights centers on three sisters in foster care; and Invisible is a dark comedy about an underemployed actor who gets into drug dealing. As of press time, all three plays are available to TDF members.

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Dixon Place: HOT! Festival

Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street between Rivington and Delancey Streets on the Lower East Side

Runs July 6-24.

June may be Pride Month but the celebration continues in July at Dixon Place's annual favorite, the oldest queer culture fest in NYC (since 1992!). Theatre, dance, music, readings, puppetry and comedy are all on tap as dozens of LGBTQ+ artists take over the venue's multiple stages. Highlights include beloved performance artist Marga Gomez in Swimming with Lesbians; Tim Cusack's solo comedy I'm Not Mike White; the outre Club Dada/Kabaret Kaput featuring Robert I Rubinsky and the legendary Ellen Foley (Night Court and Meat Loaf's singing partner on "Paradise by the Dashboard Light"); queer comedians of color in Glory W(hole) and HOT Dance!

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59E59 Theaters: East to Edinburgh

59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street between Madison and Park Avenues in Midtown East

Runs July 11-30.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, aka the largest performance festival in the world, takes place in August. But the month before, 59E59 Theaters' East to Edinburgh series gives NYC audiences a sneak peek at some of the homegrown shows heading to Scotland. This year's offerings include Fringe vet Brian Parks' Shortlist, a dark comedy about two writers vying for a coveted literary prize; JJ Pyle's solo show How to Find a Husband in 37 Years or Longer and soap opera star Dorothy Lyman's autobiographical one-woman play Violet and Me.

See the full East to Edinburgh lineup.

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SheNYC Arts Summer Theater Festival

The Connelly Theater, 220 East Fourth Street between Avenues A and B in the East Village

Runs July 25-August 6.

Despite its binary title, SheNYC has expanded its mission to showcase work by all gender-marginalized creators, essentially anyone who doesn't identify as a cisgender man. This edition features five new plays and three new musicals, including 0874: A Filipino-American Love Story inspired by the creator's grandparents' courtship; Chasing Grace, a meta-musical about embracing one's past and First Sight: A Queer Indonesian Love Story. Live-streaming options will also be available.

See the full SheNYC lineup.

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Top image: Becoming Austin Nation: From Crack to PhD: A Drag Queen's Story, which is part of FRIGID New York's Queerly Festival. Photo by Francis Gacad.

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Raven Snook is the Editor of TDF Stages. Follow her on Facebook at @Raven.Snook. Follow TDF on Facebook at @TDFNYC.