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A Festival Summer

Date: Jul 20, 2007


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Summer in New York is a season of street fairs, outdoor concerts--and theatre festivals. From international imports to Off-Off-Broadway experiments, there's something for every theatregoer, and every price range. The festival season has already begun, so here's a quick guide to three that are worth your attention.

Lincoln Center Festival

This extraordinary international festival of the arts bring hundreds of dance, opera, music and theater performances to New York from places as farflung as Chile, Mongolia and France. The festival runs through July 29, and about half of the major theatre events--Robert Wilson's staging of Les Fables de la Fontaine with La Comedie-Francaise, the Contemporary Legend Theatre of Taiwan's productions of two indigenous operas as well as King Lear-have already taken place.

This weekend (July 17-22) features Kabuki master Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII and his company Heisei Nakamura-za performing two linchpins of their repertoire, Renjishi and the rollicking sex farce Hokaibo. And Latin American and Spanish theatre is making a splash, with no fewer than four companies bringing work to the festival. Through this weekend, Mexico's Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes presents De Monstruos y Prodigios: La Historia de los Castrati, which tells the story of some very talented young men for whom there are no small parts, and next weekend (July 26-28), Spain's Centro Dramatico Nacional brings Divinas Palabras, a little-seen work by Ramon del Valle-Inclan, the early 20th century playwright whose work anticipated Beckett, Ionesco Arrabal.

Also next weekend, dance fans won't want to miss the Ballet National Marseille's production of Metapolis II, a multidisciplinary evening featuring dance and stage architecture. Running this weekend and next (July 22-29) is a staged version of Claudio Monteverdi's Fourth Book of Madrigals, performing by the British vocal ensemble I Fagiolini with its singers and actors scattered among the audience. For Chinese opera aficionados, there's Shen Wei's Second Visit to the Empress, a Ming-era tale (July 24-29).

Finally, in an historic import, performers from Mongolia will make their North American debut not only performing a concert (July 23-28) but also their national epic, the eight-hour Secret History of the Mongols (in two parts, July 22 and 29).

Audiences who enter the global swirl of the Lincoln Center Festival may feel they've traveled the world without once having their passport stamped. For more information on tickets and events, go here.

Summer Play Festival
Also already underway, and offering a glimpse of talent closer to home, is the fourth annual Summer Play Festival at Theatre Row. Founded by Broadway producer Arielle Tepper (Frost/Nixon, Spamalot, A Raisin in the Sun), the SPF offers playwrights a chance to get their work in front of eager audiences for a mere $10 a seat. Here's a rundown of what's playing through the remainder of the festival (which runs through Aug. 5).

Now through July 22: Cory Hinkle's Cipher looks at two clerks processing the thoughts of suspected terrorists. The Gabriels, by Van Badham, examines a fraught Easter family reunion. In Half of Plenty, by Lisa Dillman, a suburban dream neighborhood turns dark as conformity is enforced. Anna Ziegler's Novel depicts a widowed writer's reawakening at a literary conference.
July 24-29: Alice in War, by Steven Bogart, finds a young woman discovering hope in the midst of combat. Bixby Elliot's Blueprint depicts the relationship, professional and otherwise, between a master architect and his protégé. Minor Gods, by Charles Forbes, puts a scientist and a rentboy together to mull the human potential to play god. Ruth McKee's The Nightshade Family examines the unbreakable bonds between a brother and sister.
July 31-Aug. 5: Devil Land, by Desi Moreno-Penson, is billed as modern-day fairy tale about kidnappers who face dire consequences for their actions. Carson Kreitzer's Flesh and the Desert gives a kaleidoscopic portrait of Las Vegas, past and present. Missing Celia Rose, by Ian August, is a post-Civil War look at a small town still haunted by the legacy of slavery. Ellen Melaver's Not Waving takes six lost souls to the beach for some sun and soul-searching--not a bad approximation of the audience's experience at this summer festival.

New York Fringe Festival
Off-Off-Broadway's most ambitious annual institution, the irrepressible Fringe comes roaring back Aug. 10-26 with more than 200 shows at 16 different venues and ticket prices that make it as easy for audiences to experiment with shows as it is for the theatremakers themselves.

There are too many shows to list here, but the gang's all here. Pariticipating venues include the Soho Playhouse, the Cherry Lane Theatre, the Lucille Lortel Theatre, The New School for Drama, The Players Theatre, NYU Skirball, The Independent Theatre, The Gene Frankel Theatre, Theatres at 45 Bleecker Street, The Connelly Theatre and the CSV Cultural and Educational Center.

Though Fringe Fest tickets are already too inexpensive for TDF to offer them at a discount, you can find a wealth of other Off-Off-Broadway options here, and let the festivities continue.