Two more major festivals open this week, then there’s a bit of a lull before the Fringe arrives to take over in mid-August. It’s been an incredibly festival-packed summer, but Gothamist hopes that rather than getting worn out by it all, you’ve been building up endurance so you can go to many of the 1300+ performances in this ninth Fringe.

2005_07_arts_stilllife.gif One interesting set of options for your last round of festival “training” comes in the form of the American Living Room Festival, which was founded in 1989 and has featured performers who have gone on to forge a very solid place for themselves in the city’s theater scene, including some who are on bigger stages right now like Paul Boocock and Basil Twist (well, he’s behind the stage, but you see the point). This year, 300 artists in a variety of disciplines have produced works based on the theme of “the ‘carousel of progress’ in America.” The festival runs for a month, with most pieces on for only a few days; the first show is Steven Gridley’s Still Life With Runner, which expands from the wandering thoughts of a man competing in a race. Later this week is Saudade, a production of the international/multilingual company The South Wing; the show incorporates three narratives that examine what happens when people try to sever ties with their homeland. That's just the beginning -- and did we mention that the seating is on comfy couches (hence the “living room”)?

2005_07_arts_mitf.jpg More Fringe warm-up fare is to be found in the 6th annual Midtown International Theatre Festival, which will present over 40 shows over the next three weeks (wisely getting out of the way before the Fringe steamrolls into town). The MITF is on 3 stages, with each hosting its respective performances throughout the festival, which is nice because you don’t have to worry so much about being around in an exact window of time to catch something. The shows’ topics span an enormous spectrum, not surprisingly; opening today at the Workshop Jewel Box is Shakespeare is Dead, a love story about starving artists in Hell’s Kitchen; or at the Where Eagles Dare theater you can see Rob Lok’s Revolutionary Chickens, a puppetry-circus extravaganza that deals with his family’s escape from the Chairman Mao’s cultural revolution; and on the Workshop’s main stage you can see Peace Now, in which “now” is technically 1970, when students at Northeastern Univ. were protesting the Vietnam War, though it’s probably safe to say that there will be some pointed parallels with modern times.

Finally, Gothamist somehow neglected to note two festivals of lesbian/gay performances that have been showing, so in case the above offerings aren’t enough for you or don’t appeal to you, perhaps you should check these out. Hot!, at Dixon Place, is in its fourteenth year; it began at the end of June and runs until the end of August, with dance, music, theatre, and so on by artists like Holly Hughes, Carmelita Tropicana, Greg Walloch, and the hilarious Murray Hill. Then there’s the Fresh Fruit Festival, another multiform showcase; it’s in its third year of bringing together performers from around the country and with wildly different artistic backgrounds. This week there’s Fruit A La Mode, an evening of LGBT poetry, and two plays: Barbara Kahn’s Pen Pals, which is set in a future America that’s even more dominated by the Christian right, and Nanna Mwaluko’s Waafrika, about lesbians struggling to survive in Kenya.

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but Gothamist will say it anyway: don’t feel overwhelmed by the crazy number of shows all these festivals involve – pick a few and go enjoy!

Details: The American Living Room Festival is at HERE, 145 6th Ave., from 7/20-8/21. All performances begin at 8:30pm; see the HERE website for more information on each show.
The Midtown International Theatre Festival runs until August 7. See the website for more show descriptions, addresses, a calendar and links for ticket purchases.
Hot! is at Dixon Place (258 Bowery) and the Marquee (356 Bowery) through August 29. See the website for more thorough scheduling information.
Fresh Fruit is at several downtown venues through July 31. The website has a calendar and link to tickets.