Prelude to a Fringe: July theater fests are ‘HOT!’

July 26: Johnnie Niel (L) and Joe Kolbow perform “Super Spectacular! To Opera With Love” — part of The 21st Annual HOT! Festival. Photo by Rick Kim Photography

Dixon Place, HERE help heat things up

BY TRAV S.D.  |  Hello again, intrepid summertime Downtown theatergoers! Welcome to the city that not only never sleeps, but also apparently never takes a vacation. Once the theater’s annual down time, summer now seems to be the season when shows proliferate with a vengeance — thanks largely to a number of citywide festivals. The time has long since passed when one had to wait until the New York International Fringe Festival in August. In fact, by that time, one might well be exhausted!

July 8-20: “Little West 12th Night” takes you on a site-specific tour of the Meatpacking District (part of the undergroundzero festival).

For example, the undergroundzero festival [sic], now in its fifth year, appears to be kicking into overdrive with its most compelling-sounding menu of offerings to date. Scanning the docket, I spy with my little eye “The Gospel of St. Matthew” — a collaboration between festival director Paul Bargetto (of East River Commedia) and The Living Theatre (July 5-8); “DEBT! A Series of Performative Lectures on Debt” (July 6-22); “TITANIC! A Folk Rock Opera,” revived by Tribeca Lab and Ten Directions in honor of the disaster’s centennial (July 6-27); “playgroundzero,” new play readings curated by the acclaimed playwright Saviana Stanescu (July 8-29); “Little West 12th Night,” a site-specific tour of the Chelsea Meatpacking District based on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” (July 8-30); “Disquiet,” a new play by Anna Brenner inspired by Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita” (July 11-15); “Servers,” a live play for television that describes the stranglehold technology has over our lives even as this production is being live broadcast over public access TV and the Internet (July 17-19); and “HOME/SICK,” a revival of the Assembly’s critically lauded play about the Weather Underground (July 25-29). There’s much more, but this was just what jumped out and bit me on the schnozz. The undergroundzero festival plays June 29-July 29 at four locations: the Living Theatre, the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center (CSV), and two new Brooklyn venues: Jack and Scapegrace. For all the details, see undergroundzeronyc.org.

Beginning on June 29, the HERE Summer Sublet Series plays through August 5. This self-described “hybrid-performance series” seems wonderfully well-curated, opening with HERE veteran Paul Boocock’s “Boocock: Looks-Feels-Looks.” The remaining shows all look so interesting I’m tempted to mention nearly every single one. “Losing Tom Pecinka,” for example, is by an entity called The Wooster Poop — a name not calculated to endear the company to Elizabeth LeCompte (or perhaps it is). I also like the looks of “Cthulhu’s House of Z,” in which H.P. Lovecraft’s famous sea monster hosts an “electronic dream show”; “A King of Infinite Space,” which seems to be a grunge adaptation of “Hamlet”; “Lubbock or Leave It!,” an Iranian-American woman’s story of teaching in the titular red state bastion; and an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona,” by a group called “the company should be called:.”  For more info on these and other productions in the series, see here.org.

July 1 through 31, don’t miss Dixon Place’s 21st annual HOT! The NYC Celebration of Queer Culture, featuring Theater, Dance, Music, Burlesque, and Performance Art — all calculated to make smoke come out of the ears of North Carolina clergymen! There are over three dozen shows in this month-long sextravaganza. Among them: Dan Fishback’s new musical “The Material World” (part two of his “Ian Fleishman Trilogy), which asks the musical question, “What happens when you put Madonna and Britney Spears into the same house with a family of socialist Jews from the 1920s?” (If you know the answer, please don’t tell!) Also longtime Downtown stalwart Carmelita Tropicana will be joining forces with Marga Gomez again, in “Gomez and Tropicana Do Jan Brewer.” Just what they intend to do to, or with, or on, the controversial Arizona governor is not specified — but it’s guaranteed to be high-larious. And I would be especially remiss if I didn’t announce here that on July 25, Theatre Askew will be presenting a workshop production of my own play “The Fickle Mistress,” about the amazing life of 19th-century actress Adah Isaacs Menken. Attend, attend — or you will be haunted by theater ghosts and they are the scariest kind! Information and tickets at dixonplace.org.

July 20-29: Parallel Exit’s vaudeville-influenced dance work “I Love Bob.” Photo by Ron Amato

Two dance-related shows have captured my fancy this month. July 6 and 7, Scott Lyons and Company will be presenting “The Private Life of Chickens,” a new dance-theater piece loosely based upon the fear-mongering tale of Chicken Little. According to their blurb, the piece “follows the lives of four feisty fowls as they struggle with the end of the world. Narrated by a cocky British news anchor, the chickens go to great extremes to win this battle on the sky as fear and hysteria build. With a Julia Child-inspired cooking show, a drunken dance off, a hallucinogenic trip to the underworld, the mania unfolds as the chickens battle with an unknown foe in this hysterical adventure — served sunny-side up!” Sounds like my cup of bouillon! Further, the ensemble includes Bradford Scobie — one of my favorite Downtown burlesque comedy somethings! This highly non-boring dance piece will be at Dance New Amsterdam: dnadance.org.

Also, July 20-29, Parallel Exit (a company that specializes in vaudeville-influenced dance works), will be presenting “I Love Bob.” Inspired by the films “City Lights” and “An American in Paris,” it’s the story of “two desperately lonely characters attempting to connect amid the speed and chaos of 21st-century New York.” I caught the company’s “Time Step” at the New Victory a couple of years ago, and it was an amazing mix of traditional tap dance and comedy. Expect more of the same level of quality from “I Love Bob.” It’s going to be at the Joyce Soho. Parallelexit.net for tickets and more info.

And speaking of vaudeville-influenced shows, in addition to my above-mentioned workshop in the HOT! Festival, please catch “Travesties of 2012” — my all-new, all-huge vaudeville revue extravaganza in the New York Musical Theatre Festival. The NYMF runs July 9-29, performances of my show, July 19-28. Booked at this writing: trick roper AJ Silver, ventriloquist Carla Rhodes, mentalist Rory Raven, clowns Audrey Crabtree, Jenny Lee Mitchell and Billy Dee Bedlam, comedian Bob Greenberg and many more. NYMF.org for tickets and more info.

See you next month if the creek don’t rise!