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January Theatre Festivals: A Guide to What to See

By: Raven Snook
Date: Jan 06, 2023

Catch innovative and inexpensive performances at Under the Radar, The Exponential Festival, Prototype and more


January is the month when lots of Broadway shows close and Off Broadway takes an extended break. But there are still plenty of thrilling performances to see at five annual theatre festivals. Adventurous audiences can check out innovative, multimedia and experimental works at bargain-basement prices. Our guide helps you navigate the myriad offerings.

If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to see what we're selling as ticket inventory changes frequently.

The Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival

Multiple venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn

January 4-22. At press time, several Under the Radar Festival shows were available. Log in and search for Under the Radar.

Masks and/or proof of vaccination are required for some performances. Check the safety protocols for each venue on The Public Theater's website.

The Public Theater's legendary Under the Radar Festival returns in person for the first time since 2020, and it's bigger and longer than ever: 19 days of performances at six venues featuring artists from nine countries. Of the 14 full productions, we are particularly excited about Yngvild Aspeli's eye-popping adaptation of Moby Dick (January 12-14 at NYU Skirball), featuring live actors alongside 50 puppets, including a massive whale; A Thousand Ways (Part Three): An Assembly (January 4-22 at the NYPL Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library), the final installment of 600 HIGHWAYMEN's interactive triptych, which brings an intimate audience of strangers together to devise a theatrical experience; Field of Mars (January 19-29 at NYU Skirball), a time-hopping new play from groundbreaking experimental theatre auteur Richard Maxwellseven methods of killing kylie jenner (January 10-22 at The Public Theater), a dark comedy exploring Blackness, queerness and the morass of social media; Obie-winning solo artist Roger Guenveur Smith's new monologue inspired by the life of Anne Frank's father, Otto Frank (January 12-22 at The Public Theater); and Rachel Mars' tantalizingly titled Your Sexts Are Shit: Older Better Letters (January 11-15 at The Public Theater). In addition, there are eight works in progress, a symposium and eclectic performances at Joe's Pub, including Salty Brine's Bigmouth Strikes Again: The Smiths Show (January 12-20), a musical mash-up of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and The Smiths' album The Queen is Dead, and Migguel Anggelo's cabaret of self-acceptance LatinXOXO (January 12-17). Definitely peruse the entire schedule to see what piques your interest—there's a lot to choose from!

See the full Under the Radar Festival lineup.


The Exponential Festival

Multiple venues in Brooklyn

January 4-February 8

Masks and/or proof of vaccination are required for some performances. Check each theatre's individual safety protocols for more information.

Founded in 2016, The Exponential Festival is, like its home borough of Brooklyn, impressively eclectic. With 19 performances at five brick-and-mortar venues as well as on YouTube, this cornucopia of quirk has an anything-goes vibe that ranges from highbrow (Das Sofortvergnugen (The Instant Pleasure) (January 26-February 4 at Life World), a dance-theatre piece about insatiable desires and instant gratification; Presentation on colonialism (January 26-29 at Brick Aux), which covers 1.3 million years of horrifying history), to whoa-brow (the provocatively titled Mx. Piggy Makes an OnlyFans (January 19-21 at We Are Here) and (untitled human composting play) (January 19-21 at Brick Aux). If you like your weird award-winning, check out Joey Merlo's one-man meditation on camp and identity On Set with Theda Bara (February 1-8 at The Brick), which stars six-time Obie-winning indie theatre darling David Greenspan.

See the full Exponential Festival lineup.


Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival

Multiple venues in Manhattan

January 9-31

Masks and/or proof of vaccination are required for some performances. Check each theatre's individual safety protocols for more information.

Shows, screenings and special events are all on tap at the 15th annual Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival, which showcases works by contemporary Irish dramatists. Highlights include a new mounting of Samuel Beckett's Endgame (January 25-April 16 at Irish Repertory Theatre) starring Tony winner Bill Irwin and John Douglas Thompson; Frankenstein's Monster is Drunk and the Sheep Have All Jumped the Fences (January 11-28 at 59E59th Theaters), about the creature's unexpected love life; and Kim Kalish's tragicomic solo show The Funny Thing About Death (January 20-29 at The Cell Theatre), which was a hit at last summer's Edinburgh Fringe.

See the full Origin 1st Irish Theatre Festival lineup.


Prototype Festival

Multiple venues in Manhattan

January 15-15

Masks and/or proof of vaccination are required for some performances. Check each theatre's individual safety protocols for more information.

After two years of darkness due to the pandemic, Prototype celebrates its 10th anniversary with seven new operas, none of which you'd catch at the Met (yet), though two previous titles, Angel’s Bone and Prism, did snag the Pulitzer Prize for Music. The themes, music genres and short-attention-span lengths are decidedly contemporary and push the boundaries of the genre. Du Yun (one of the aforementioned Pulitzer winners) returns with In Our Daughter’s Eyes (January 5-15 at Baruch Performing Arts Center), a chamber opera about a new dad created for beloved baritone Nathan Gunn; the harrowing double bill Mary Motorhead, centering on a convicted murderer, and Trade, about a young male hustler (January 3-14 at Abrons Arts Center); [morning//mourning] (January 6-22 at HERE), chronicling the post-human evolution of Earth; and Undine (streaming online January 5-15), about a mermaid with an addiction to plastic. Madama Butterfly who?

See the full Protoype Festival lineup.


The Fire This Time Festival

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

January 16-29. If you're a TDF member, log in to your account to purchase discount tickets to The Fire This Time Festival's 10-Minute Annual Play Program.

Masks are required.

Since The Fire This Time Festival's founding in 2009, this annual event has helped launch the careers of a slew of superb Black playwrights, including Dominique Morisseau, Jocelyn Bioh, Antoinette Nwandu, Roger Q. Mason, C.A. Johnson, Charly Evon Simpson and Marcus Gardley. The fest's name is a nod to James Baldwin's seminal book The Fire Next Time, and its goal is to support the next generation of Black dramatists as they explore their ever-evolving culture. The signature event is its 10-Minute Annual Play Program featuring seven different shorts tackling more hot-button topics than your Twitter feed, including toxic Black masculinity, the dangers of slacktivism and racism in technology. Goldie E. Patrick directs the playlets, which will also be live-streamed to at-home audiences.

See the full Fire This Time Festival lineup.


Top image: Moby Dick at the Under the Radar Festival. Photo by Christophe Raynaud de Lage.

TDF Members: Go here to browse our latest discounts for theatre, dance and concerts.

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