Fests without rest
By the river, atop the roof, on the stage and in church — all summer long
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | Anyone can slap together a few thematically similar events, put out a press release and tell the world they’ve got a festival. Plenty have — but you won’t find any of those lazy posers in this roundup. Everything here is solid.
RIVER TO RIVER Through July 14: This month-long, mostly outdoor (and completely free) annual event offers music, theater, art and family activities — all taking place at 28 iconic and unexpected sites throughout Lower Manhattan. Open rehearsals and studio visits allow visitors a glimpse into the ways in which a painting, sculpture or song is created. On Thurs., July 11, 12:30-1:30pm, Brooklyn’s Hungry March Band brass ensemble fills One New York Plaza with its pulsating sounds (dancing encouraged — they’ll be doing it, too). Weekdays from 8am-6pm, through July 14, the “Fluid: Construct” exhibit at One Liberty Plaza features the work of four NYC-based artists who examine the city’s relationship with water. For a complete schedule, visit rivertorivernyc.com.
THE WASHINGTON SQUARE MUSIC FESTIVAL The city’s second-oldest free, outdoor classical music series wears its low budget — and its fondness for eclectic, experimental programming — as a well-earned badge of honor. Music Director Lutz Rath peppers his description of the upcoming 55th season with words like “unusual,” “rarely performed” and “odd” — but that doesn’t mean purists will be disappointed or alienated. Among the selections of contemporary avant-garde pieces and jazz or world-based improvisation, you’ll find a solid roster of pre-20th century classical works. July 9’s opener features “The Judgment of Paris” — a Baroque opera by British composer John Eccles, followed by a performance of “Concerto in D Major,” for three trumpets, two oboes and strings, by German baroque composer George Telemann. On July 16, toy piano virtuoso Margaret Leng Tan coaxes a mighty sound from her tiny instrument, as she performs two U.S. premieres, along with works by John Cage, Phyllis Chen and Jed Distler. July 23’s installment celebrates 2013 as the 200th anniversary of the births of famed composers Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner — and on July 30, an ensemble led by African-born composer/singer/guitarist Nepo Soteri spans the globe by blending funk, R&B and world jazz sensibilities.
Free Tues., July 9, 16, 23, 30 8pm in Washington Square Park. Rainspace: St. Joseph’s Church (371 Sixth Ave., btw. Waverly Place & Greenwich Ave.) Info: 212-252-3621 or washingtonsquaremusicfestival.org.
CULTURE PROJECT’S WOMEN CENTER STAGE FESTIVAL The Culture Project collaborates with advocacy organizations and performing artists in order to promote dialogue and inspire action surrounding various forms of injustice (“The Exonerated” was an in-their-own-words look at the lives of six innocent death row survivors). The Project’s recently renamed Lynn Redgrave Theater is the setting for the Women Center Stage Festival — their annual laboratory for new work. The Directors’ Weekend (July 13 and 14) challenges 10 directors to create 15-minute pieces considering the media’s role in writing history, how it crafts the personas of women in power and by what means the media narrative can be shifted. Presented in partnership with the Warrior Writers (warriorwriters.org), July 15’s “Smashing the Stigma” finds female veterans taking the stage to reflect on war, trauma, rape and motherhood in the military. The documentary “Girl Rising”(July 20) tells the stories of nine extraordinary girls from nine countries — and on July 31, race, culture and gender are considered by multidisciplinary theater artist Soomi Kim, spoken word poet Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai and musician Bora Yoon, in an evening of “New Looks @ New Works.”
Through Aug. 3 (kick-off party from 7-9pm, Mon., July 8). All events at the Lynn Redgrave Theater (45 Bleecker St., btw. Mulberry & Mott Sts.). All shows $12 ($20 premium seats available with advance purchase). For info, call 866-811-4111 or visit wcs.cultureproject.org.
LA MAMA MOVES! DANCE FESTIVAL Featuring works designed to transcend politics and unify cultures, this month-long festival of emerging and seasoned chorographers (which began on June 7) is winding down — but you still have a chance to catch the NY Premiere of Irish director Luke Murphy’s “Drenched” (July 5-6 at 7:30pm & July 7 at 2:30pm). With visual splash provided by David Fischel’s multi-channel projection installation, it’s an intimate duet between Murphy and Carlye Eckert which examines the contrast between representations and realities of contemporary romance. At La Mama (74 E. Fourth St., btw. Bowery & Second Ave). For tickets and info, call 212-475-7710 or visit lamama.org.
ICE FACTORY FESTIVAL The New Ohio Theatre provides a space where Downtown companies can take risks and try out new ideas — with an eye towards nurturing their works for Off-Broadway productions, commercial runs and national and international tours. This year’s six new productions include The Mad One’s “Untitled Biopic Project” (July 10-13), a trippy meditation on 1960s folk rock culture. From July 17-20, Collaboration Town’s ensemble-driven “Help Me To Make It” follows multiple generations of contemporary families as their personal moments of everyday existence add up to lifetimes of monumental compassion, devastating betrayal and inevitable transformation.
Through Aug. 3, Wed.-Sat. at 7pm. At the New Ohio Theatre (154 Christopher St., btw. Greenwich & Washington Sts.). For tickets ($18, $15 for students/seniors), call 888-596-1027. Schedule and tickets available at newohiotheatre.org.
ST. BART’S SUMMER FESTIVAL OF SACRED MUSIC On Sundays throughout the summer, the St. Bartholomew’s Choir and the Boy and Girl Choristers present an array of mass music from the 15th century to the present (as part of the 11am service — the liturgical context for which it was composed). On July 14, the Choir is accompanied by an orchestra of period instruments, in a performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Missa Brevis in G Minor.” Free. At St. Bart’s (325 Park Ave., at 51st St.). Call 212-378-0222 or visit starts.org for a complete schedule of upcoming events.
ROOFTOP FILMS Cool breezes courtesy of the great outdoors trump multiplex air conditioning, as the 17th season of this series continues to promote the work of emerging and established independent filmmakers — with screenings on rooftops throughout the Lower East Side and Williamsburg. Two well-received documentaries from the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival deserve a look: “Bending Steel,” the story of an aspiring Coney Island strongman, unspools in that neighborhood on July 8 — and the painter-as-pugilist relationship saga “Cutie and the Boxer” shows atop Brooklyn’s Old American Can Factory on Aug. 3. Screenings are scheduled every weekend, through August. Tickets start at $13, and many screenings are free (donations welcome). For a complete schedule, visit rooftopfilms.com.
THE BRICK’S GAME PLAY FESTIVAL Over the bridge, on the edge and always worth the trip, Brooklyn’s Brick Theater excels at curating festivals whose high concepts are more than just convenient hooks (The Antidepressant Festival showcases “all aspects of questionable and medicated happiness,” while the recent sound scape fest put theater’s aural element front and center). Other annual events, like the Comic Book Theater Festival, mine the fundamental appeal of seemingly competing mediums for their live performance potential.
This year’s fifth annual Game Play Festival once again features “cutting-edge works that lie at the intersection of video gaming and performance.” Presented by The Story Gym (whose work “makes immersive experiences that encourage the audience to move and be involved”), “The Photo Album” takes a collection of photos recently found under the floorboards of a basement apartment in Brooklyn and challenges you to a scavenger hunt in which smartphones and tablets are used to scan the photos in order to discover the backstory behind the snapshots. Raised to avert her gaze, Semi Ryu’s “Targeting Eyes” explores her upbringing in Korea with a live game performance whose goal is to aim for the eyes, while in First-Person Shooter mode. Using characters from WoW, Far Cry 3, Minecraft and other games, the digital puppeteer performers in “Legendary, Maybe: 4 Machinima Theater Pieces adapted from Livy” combine ancient texts with modern technology to tell stories from Livy’s “Ab Urbe Condita.” Post-apocalyptic games like Fallout, Wasteland and Bioshock inspired Charles Battersby’s “The Cute Radioactive Couple: A Post-Apocalyptic Comedy,” in which nuclear war strikes and Ray’s fallout shelter (built for one) must also accommodate his new wife.
July 5-28, at The Brick (575 Metropolitan Avenue at Lorimer St., Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Subway: L to Lorimer, G to Metropolitan). For tickets ($15) and info, visit bricktheater.com or call 718-285-3863.
THE WEST VILLAGE CHORALE’S SUMMER SINGS SERIES Technically, this isn’t a festival — but don’t let that stop you from showing up (and piping up). Since 1972, The West Village Chorale has been providing amateur and experienced singers with the chance to perform the classical choral masterworks (a special treat for those whose regular chorus takes the summer off). Participants will have an opportunity to meet the conductor (a revolving roster culled from local choral groups) and discuss the evening’s work at intermission.
Free. Through Aug. 19, in the historic (and air-conditioned) Judson Memorial Church (55 Washington Square South, btw. Thompson & Sullivan Sts.). For schedule and info, visit westvillagechorale.org.
THE DIXON PLACE HOT! FESTIVAL Always sexy, occasionally sleazy and not afraid to cross the line of good taste in the name of getting a rise out of you, the flame of Dixon Place’s HOT! Festival continues to burn bright 22 years after its debut. Back then, popular sentiment hadn’t even begun to warm up to the notion of gays in the military, in the wedding chapel or at the prom. Today, polite society seems to have caught up with NYC’s premiere LGBTQ arts festival — so HOT! 2013 has raised the bar, with a dizzyingly diverse roster of over 200 button-pushing burlesque and circus acts, comedians, dancers, musicians, cabaret crooners, theatrical performers and miscellaneous troublemakers.
Through Aug. 3, at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie St., btw. Delancey & Rivington Sts.). For tickets ($10-25, $60 festival pass), schedule and reservations, visit hotfestival.org or call 212-219-0736.
THE BROOKLYN HIP-HOP FEST From July 10-13, Hip-Hop culture’s legacy as an agent of artistic progression, community building and social change is explored and celebrated through panel discussions, exhibitions, parties, an awards show and plenty of live performances. July 11’s Show & Prove Super Bowl is a showcase of up-and-coming talent vying for the chance to perform at July 13’s Final Throwdown at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 Uplands. From 12-3pm, a “good old-fashioned, pop the sprinklers, speakers in the window” block party delivers kid-friendly music, demos and workshops. From 3-8pm, EPMD, Redman, Pusha T, Dizzy Wright and Soul Understate and others perform, along with local talent including F.Stokes, Danse of BKLYN STICKUP and Justo. The festival after-party takes place 9pm-2am, at SRB Brooklyn (177 2nd Ave.). For info, visit bkhiphopfestival.com.
THE FRESH FRUIT FESTIVAL Even after 11 years on the shelf, this ultra-inclusive queer confab of theater, music and dance still passes inspection. With particular attention paid to booking the work of lesbian and transgender artists, Fresh Fruit also wrings delicious pulp from performers of all racial and many ethnic backgrounds, sexualities and gender orientations (or, as they describe it, “African-, Caribbean-, East Indian-, Hispanic-, Japanese-, Native- and even unhyphenated Americans”) — and it’s not just fruity fodder from the five boroughs. You’re just as likely to fill your shopping basket with the delights of artists from Australia, Canada, France, Mauii, Israel, the Philippines and the United Kingdom — a global rainbow of fruit flavor!
July 8-21, at The Wild Project, Nuyorican Poets Café and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art. For tickets ($10-18) and info, visit freshfruitfestival.com or call 212-352-3101.
THE MIDTOWN INTERNATIONAL THEATRE FESTIVAL (MITF) For years, John Chatterton’s OOBR (Off-Off-Broadway Review) championed local theater whose imagination, talent and ambition far exceeded its budget. Back in 2000, his print and cyber advocacy morphed into the brick and mortar world of MITF. With an emphasis on imaginative, low-tech staging, the “Festival That Cares” offers participating artists a safe environment to develop innovative theatre. They also keep it affordable, by providing free rehearsal space, storage and insurance.
July 15-Aug. 4, at four different 36th St. locations. For tickets ($15-18), call 866-811-4111 or visit midtownfestival.org.
You’re not done yet! Before summer cools down, you can also see:
• The New York Musical Theatre Festival (nymf.org, July 8-28)
• Between the Seas [Mediterranean] Festival (betweentheseas.org, July 22-28)
• The Asian American International Film Festival (July 24-Aug. 3, aaiff.org)
• The Joyce Theater’s Festival of Contemporary Ballet (Aug. 6-17, joyce.org)
• FringeNYC (Aug. 9-25, fringenyc.org)
• Battery Dance Company’s Downtown Dance Fest (Aug. 10-15, batterydance.org)
• Theater for the New City’s Dream Up Festival (Aug. 18-Sept. 8, theaterforthenewcity.net)