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10 Summer Theatre Festivals to See in NYC

By: Raven Snook
Date: Jun 20, 2024
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, PrideFest and the Criminal Queerness Festival; Scotland-bound offerings at 59E59's East to Edinburgh and cutting-edge performances at ANT Fest and Dream Up. 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.

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ANT Fest 2024 - begins June 10

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

Runs June 10-27.

Ars Nova is known for showcasing some of the most thrilling up-and-comers in town—remember, this is where Lin-Manuel Miranda and The Great Comet started! This year's edition of its annual ANT (All New Talent) Fest includes the provocatively titled solo show Mx. Piggy Makes an OnlyFans (June 20), the satire Homofermenters Or, The Park Slope Co-Op Play (June 25) and Third Sex (June 26), a punk song cycle inspired by Das 3. Geschlecht, a transvestite magazine published from 1930 to 1932 in Weimar Germany. 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 2024 lineup.

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Downtown Urban Arts Festival - begins June 12

Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street between Ninth and Dyer Avenues in Midtown West

Runs June 12-29. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.

While it may seem odd that this fest is taking place mostly in midtown, downtown is truly a state of mind. Founded in 2001 as the Downtown Urban Theater Festival, this annual event has evolved into a multidisciplinary showcase of plays, dance and panels by BIPOC artists. This year's highlights include Sweet Lorraine (June 21) about the friendship between Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin, One Week from Paradise (June 29) about an innocent man finally being released from prison, and SoUNdZ.SaCRoSaNCt (June 21-22), a new dance-theatre piece from Tony winner Savion Glover, which is playing at The Public Theater's Joe's Pub, the only offering actually downtown.

See the full Downtown Urban Arts Festival lineup.

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FRIGID New York: Queerly Festival - begins June 13

Under St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place between First Avenue and Avenue A in the East Village

Runs June 13-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 10th annual Queerly Festival, a grab bag of LGBTQ+ culture. Highlights include the autobiographical Asexuality! The Solo Musical (June 22-23) written by acclaimed trans artist Rebecca McGlynn about her pre-transition life; Pearl Necklace: A Gay Sexcapade (June 23), a retrospective of Jamie Brickhouse's romantic past; The Ho Must Go On (June 29 and July 1), Phillipe Andre Coquet's confessional cabaret about his life on the stage, in a cult and as an erotic masseur; and Ladies at a Gay Girls' Bar, 1938-1969 (June 24 and 29), a celebration of lesbian herstory. Tickets are sliding scale and some performances are also being live-streamed to at-home audiences.

See the full Queerly Festival lineup.

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Criminal Queerness Festival 2024 - begins June 21

Perelman Performing Arts Center, 251 Fulton Street at the intersection of Vesey and Greenwich Streets in the Financial District

Runs June 21-29.

Founded in 2019, National Queer Theater's Criminal Queerness Festival moves to PAC NYC this year with a trio of works by LGBTQ+ artists of color. Billed as the first Arab transgender play, Raphaël Amahl Khouri's She He Me (June 21-23) is a compelling portrait of three gender-nonconforming Arab folks. Achiro P. Olwoch's The Survival (June 23-27) centers on a Ugandan woman asked to be a surrogate for a gay couple. An updated version of Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko's Waafrika 123: A Queerly Scripted Tragic Rise to African Fantasia (June 28-29), previously seen at the inaugural Criminal Queerness Festival, focuses on a queer couple in Kenya who are blamed for a famine.

See the full Criminal Queerness Festival 2024 lineup.

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PrideFest 2024 - begins June 21

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

Runs June 21-30.

Indie theatre hub The Tank presents its annual PrideFest, an eclectic lineup of genre-defying queer culture. There 30 shows packed into 10 days, including yo ho. (a play about mary read & anne bonny) (June 21) about two real-life female pirates; the self-explanatory Momdy: the Non-Birthing Lesbian Mom (June 21-22); a night of gay femme comedians (June 24); the solo romp The Man of My Dreams Lives in West Hollywood (June 25 and 27) and the sketch comedy The Anti-Gay Agenda (June 26).

See the full PrideFest 2024 lineup.

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Pan Asian Repertory Theatre: NuWorks Festival 2024 - begins June 22

Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street between Ninth and Dyer Avenues in Midtown West

Runs June 22-30. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets.

One of NYC's leading Asian-American theatre companies, Pan Asian Repertory Theatre, presents this annual showcase of experimental works by AAPI artists. There are four programs featuring two shows each, including Howard Ho's Parity (June 22 and 27) about Chien-Shiung Wu, the so-called First Lady of Physics; Peach Boy (June 25 and 29), Kenjiro Lee's raucous puppet show based on a classic Japanese folk tale; azumi O E's Butoh-inspired dance piece Solitude (June 26 and 30); and the autobiographical comedy Halfanese: Two Halves of a Whole Idiot (June 26 and 30), written and performed by Cody LeRoy Wilson.

See the full NuWorks lineup.

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59E59 Theaters: East to Edinburgh - begins July 9

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

Runs July 9-28.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 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 edition consists of 16 edgy offerings, including Viviane Ford's cryptocurrency comedy New Kids on the Blockchain (July 9, 16 and 17); All These Pretty Things (July 13, 14 and 16), Australian singer-songwriter Tracey Yarad's solo confessional about her husband's affair with her teenage goddaughter; Fringe favorite Brian Dykstra's Polishing Shakespeare (July 17, 20 and 21) about being paid to translate the Bard into modern-day English; Plotters (July 20, 21 and 25), a romp about grave robbers from another Fringe vet, Brian Parks; and the historical solo Elizabeth I: In Her Own Words (July 27 and 28).

See the full East to Edinburgh lineup.

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SheNYC Arts Summer Theater Festival - begins July 30

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

Runs July 30-August 11.

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 eight new productions, including Borderland (July 31-August 1), a musical about real-life 19th-century sexologist Ida C. Craddock; Mud; or when things get messy and how we live with it (August 3-4), a play about living with bipolar disorder; and the drama Mere Waters (August 3-4) about a gynecologist working at Auschwitz.

See the full SheNYC lineup.

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FRIGID New York: Little Shakespeare Festival - begins August 1

Under St. Marks Theater, 94 St. Marks Place between First Avenue and Avenue A in the East Village

Runs August 1-17.

Zhuzh up your Shakespeare at FRIGID's fourth annual fest featuring gender-expansive takes on the Bard's canon. The seven-show lineup includes The Lark and the Nightingale about Juliet and Desdemona finding a happy ending together; Fools in the Forest about the exiled ladies of As You Like It; and the improv Shakespeare comedy As You Will .

See the full Little Shakespeare Festival lineup.

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Theater for the New City: Dream Up Festival - begins August 25

Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue between 9th and 10th Streets in the East Village

Runs August 25-September 15.

Founded by indie performance mecca Theater for the New City in 2010, this annual fest showcases work by artists from across the country. Two dozen or so productions will be performed on the venue's multiple stages. A great way to check out the breadth of programming at this downtown landmark, which feels like stepping into the East Village's funky past. Once the schedule is posted, you'll find it here.

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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.