The weather outside might be just starting to feel like spring, but in the theater world there’s already a summery vibe going on. Last night the Lortel Awards kicked off the trophy-giving season; this Friday the Drama League awards go out. Then there’s the festivals; not that there aren’t festivals at other times of the year, but as the weather heats up they start crowding in thick and fast. Currently you can get a square meal of offerings from around the world, all via some well-curated festivals. To begin with, there’s Pan Asian Repertory’s Spring Festival of New Works, which has four very different plays to choose from: Lan Tran’s Elevator Sex, Kendra Ware’s Recollections: Butoh-Inspired Movement, John Quincy Lee’s ABC (American Born Chinese), and Terry Park’s 38th Parallels.
West End Theater // 263 W. 86th St. // May 3-28, see company webpage for schedule // Call 212-868-4030 for tickets
There’s actually been a fair amount of productions by and with Asian artists here recently, though that festival should provide a welcome extra ray of light on the scene. But one country whose theater we don’t see all that much of is Germany, particularly if we’re talking contemporary theater. Right now at HERE, though, a festival called Stadttheater New York is addressing that gap with a monthlong German theater experience. Slipped Disc by Ingrid Lausund -- about five office drones “waiting for their daily execution” – and The Woman Before by Roland Schimmelpfennig are the two intense-looking plays being staged, and four others will get readings (and talk-backs accompanied with beer and wine). It’s a project of German Theatre Abroad, which has put on New German Voices series at the Public in years past, so they clearly know what they’re doing.
HERE Arts Center // 145 6th Avenue // May 3-26, see the official site for schedule // Tickets via Smarttix
The History Boys is the big transfer of the season from London, but there’s so much more British theater that isn’t necessarily of Great White Way magnitude, but is still well worth seeing. The Brits Off Broadway festival has eleven of the best selections from that group; since it stretches until July, only a couple of shows are on at a time, beginning with Kay Adshead’s The Bogus Woman and Sebastian Haffner’s Defying Hitler, two one-person shows that sound like knockouts; the first has Sarah Niles playing 48 characters in the story of an African refugee who gets interrogated and locked up upon arrival in England, and in the second Rupert Wickham brings to life Haffner’s memoir of growing up in Berlin between the world wars; in London, it played as a companion piece to Michael Frayn’s Democracy, which did so well here recently. This festival is only gearing up, and we’ll have reviews for you in the coming weeks.
59E59 Theaters // 59 E. 59th St. // Today through July 2, see the official site for schedule details // Tickets via Ticket Central
If you want to keep things slightly more American, at least as far as the creative team goes, one small festival that caught our eye is the Merry Month of May festival being produced by Moonbeam.net and including four of Shakespeare’s comedies plus a “fast-paced, commedia-oid, absurdist farce” by Jason Kendall called The Dentist and late-night cabarets hosted by Donna Stearns.
Manhattan Repertory Theater // 303 W. 42nd St. // Through May 27, see schedule online for times // Tickets via Theatermania
Finally, bringing things back to where we started by connecting festivals to awards is the Vital Theatre’ Co’s Drama League Alumni Directors Fest, in which former participants in the Drama League Directors Project choose and direct their favorite projects; the first week has already passed, but the four that remain still provide a remarkable range of styles and subjects: Dearborn Heights (by Cassandra Medley, dir. Gregory Lamont Allen), The Older Gentleman (by Max Sparber, dir. Rob Urbinati), Push It (Maria Gabriele/Tom Rowan), and Tell Her That (Michael John Garcés/Moritz Von Stuelpnagel). Clearly theater people aren’t waiting for summer to summon the festival spirit, and neither should you – it would be hard to go wrong with a random selection from any of these, so take your pick and go!
McGinn/Cazale // 2162 Broadway, 4th Floor // May 4-7 // Tickets and schedule at Theatermania
Photo from The Dentist by Kat Lasky