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Summer Drama

Although Broadway openings are scant between Memorial and Labor Days, summer is a hotbed of theatrical activity—especially when it comes to alternative, multidisciplinary and experimental performances.

BY RAVEN SNOOK

Burlesque at the Beach

The series gives new meaning to showing skin at the seashore and draws some of downtown's most titillating talents to Coney Island. Curated by veteran scenesters Bambi and The Great Fredini, festival highlights include an adult take on circuses by The Bindlestiff Family; the erotic game show This or That; the dance stylings of The World Famous Pontani Sisters; and the sexy sass of Creamy Stevens and Little Brooklyn's Starshine Burlesque.
Fridays at 10 p.m., through Sept. 24 (except for June 25; additional performance June 26); Coney Island; 718-372-5159, coneyisland.com.

Queer @ HERE Festival
They're at HERE, they're queer, and you're probably used to it by now since 2004 marks the festival's eighth year. With in-your-face titles like Lesbian Pulp-O-Rama! and Bogie the Faggot: The Realm of the Unreal, subtlety is not one of the festival's virtues. But diversity is, so expect everything from heartfelt coming out dramas to campy X-rated musicals to homoerotic vaudeville revues.
June 15-26; HERE Arts Center, 145 Sixth Ave. at Spring St.; 212-647-0202, here.org.

Shakespeare in the Park: Much Ado About Nothing
Broadway up-and-comer David Esbjornson directs small-screen stars Kristen Johnston and Jimmy Smits as combative would-be lovers who match wits in this romantic comedy. And if that's not a big enough sell, Dominic Chianese from The Sopranos intones the Bard's poetry. And it's all free. You just have to get the damn ticket.
June 22-August 7; The Delacorte Theater, Central Park (use the 79th Street and Fifth Ave. entrance and follow the footpath); 212-539-8750, publictheater.org.

First Annual Summer Play Festival
Rarely does a first-time theater festival receive so much attention and lead to such high expectations. Then again, rarely does a wunderkind Broadway producer like Arielle Tepper (A Raisin in the Sun, Jumpers) launch a theater festival. Utilizing a state-of-the-art, five-theater complex on 42nd St., Tepper and her team will present 18 new works, including Noah Haidle's intriguing Kitty Kitty Kitty, the tale of a suicidal feline that is repeatedly cloned; Prozac & The Platypus, a musical about (what else?) a screwed up teen by Elise Thoron and '90s indie pop star Jill Sobule; and Sam & Lucy, a comedy from the brilliant Brooke Berman.
July 5-August 1; Theatre Row Theaters, 410 West 42nd St. near Ninth Ave.; spfnyc.com.

HOT! Festival
Some of the city's most celebrated gay and lesbian artists are taking part in the summer's other long-standing queer performance festival, HOT! Booked talent includes politically-charged comedienne Reno; famously de-funded NEA performance artist John Fleck; everyone's favorite six-foot-tall rodent Scotty the Blue Bunny; and Susana Cook starring in her own epic, 100 Years of Attitude, described as "Latin American magic realism meets global logic terrorism." Okay.
July 6-24; Dixon Place, 258 Bowery between Houston and Prince Sts., and at The Marquee, 356 Bowery at Great Jones St.; 212-219-0736, dixonplace.org.

Lincoln Center Festival
The centerpiece of this year's annual celebration of music (Elvis Costello will be there!), dance and theater is Stephen Sondheim's long-lost, 30-year old musical The Frogs, which has been extensively reworked by star Nathan Lane and director/choreographer Susan Stroman; Sondheim even agreed to write a few new tunes. Also in the lineup: The Elephant Vanishes, a multimedia theater piece adapted from three short stories by Japanese author Haruki Murakami.
July 6-25; various venues; 212-875-5766, lincolncenter.org.

Ice Factory '04
After winning an Obie for its tenth season in 2003, Soho Think Tank's annual festival returns with a lineup of new shows and works in progress from several emerging companies. Productions include Expense of Spirit by International WOW Company; The Making of Eugenie Doe by Creation Production; and Les Freres Corbusier's The Franklin Thesis, which explores whether Benjamin Franklin was an anarchist.
July 7-August 14; Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster St. between Broome and Spring Sts.; 212-966-4844, sohothinktank.org.

Midtown International Theatre Festival
For the past five years, this festival has brought an edgy, downtown sensibility to midtown. This year, the focus is on— musicals? Although the series is smaller, shorter and quieter than the New York International Fringe Festival, the producers are adding a third venue and increasing the number of shows from 24 to 40.
July 12-August 1; WorkShop Theatre, 312 West 36th St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves.; Where Eagles Dare Theatre, 347 West 36th St. between Eighth and Ninth Aves.; Midtownfestival.org.

New York International Fringe Festival
Even if you're not an off-off-Broadway regular, you've probably heard of some of the shows this eight-year-old festival has spawned such as Matt & Ben, Debbie Does Dallas and the Tony Award-winning Urinetown, The Musical! Over 200 productions will be presented all over the downtown area, and as usual the titles alone are enough to entice people (and industry bigwigs looking for the next big thing) into the seats. Confessions of a Mormon Boy; Daddy Was the Biggest Stage Mother in Texas; Die, Die, Diana: A Musical; Existentialism: The Ride; and Jonestown, The Musical. Hmmm…that last one sounds awfully familiar.
August 13-29; various venues; 212-279-4488, fringenyc.org.

Howl! Festival
Named after the late Beat poet Allen Ginsberg's famous poem, the festival may only be in its second year, but many of its participants have been a part of the the Lower East Side cultural life for decades as musicians, filmmakers, actors, authors and fabulous freaks. Last year, Lady Bunny brought her drag fest Wigstock back to its original home in Tompkins Square Park and famous hoodies from performance artist Penny Arcade to film actor Steve Buscemi to author Jonathan Ames put in appearances. 2004 boasts more venues and an expanded program.
August 18-24; various venues; 212-505-2225, howlfestival.com.

 
Published June 9, 2004
 
 
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