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The OOB Summer Preview

A peek at just a few of the things that Off-Off Broadway has to offer in the next few months.

By New York City

Hip-Hop Theatre Junction in Rhyme Deferredat the Hip Hop Theater Festival.
Hip-Hop Theatre Junction in Rhyme Deferred
at the Hip Hop Theater Festival.
The Broadway season is at its close, but the hard-working people on the fringes of the New York theater scene are gearing up for an exciting summer. This is the time of year when Off-Off Broadway really gets to shine and offer some special treats. Festivals, most notably the Fringe, give rabid theatergoers a chance to see dozens of new works in a short amount of time for a more than reasonable price. And the beautiful weather offers folks the opportunity to see theater as God surely intended--in the park. So let's take a look at some of the cool stuff coming up during the dog days of summer.

Kia Corthron's Breath, Boom, directed by Marion McClinton, is receiving its American premiere at Playwrights Horizons. Starting in the 1980s and moving on to the present day, the play follows an inner-city girl named Prix as she goes from being a gang leader to spending time in prison and coming back home again. She tries to keep a grip on her life and herself, all the while dealing with difficult relationships with her family and friends and the chaos around her.

Having trouble getting your teenager to the theater? The New York City Hip-Hop Theater Festival will storm the East Village's P.S. 122 for two weeks at the end of this month, featuring 15 different plays and performance pieces that celebrate the hip-hop generation. Writers, dancers, and performers from around the country will be participating, with works such as Nilaja Sun's Black and Blue and Danny Hoch's Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop scheduled to be presented. In conjunction with the festival, there will be a weekly Teen Outreach performance and Q&A session at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. For more information, visit the web site www.hiphop-theaterfest.com.

Also in June, Wooster Group is offering the chance to watch a theater piece in its development stages by previewing New Work, a work-in-progress based on Paul Schmidt's translation of Racine's Phedre. The piece is described as a "soap opera of windows and reflections, confessions and confrontations set in a mobile modernist landscape of aluminum tracks, sliding plexiglass panels, omnipresent monitors, and hidden cameras." The project is designed to explore the world of exhibitionism and voyeurism by bringing private moments into the spotlight. New Work will run through the month, and more performances are planned for September.

With school out, summer is the best time to take your kids to see a show, and TADA! is a great place to take them. For 16 years, TADA! has brought theater performed by kids to kids (and their families). In July and August, the young ensemble at TADA! will perform Wide-Awake Jake, a musical about a boy who can't fall asleep and so is taken by his cousin on a magical journey to find Yami of Yawn, who will teach him how he can finally get some shut-eye. The shows at TADA! are intended for kids of all ages, and adults usually have a pretty good time there, too.

LAByrinth Theater Company will present the World Premiere of a new work by John Patrick Shanley, the noted playwright (Danny and the Deep Blue Sea) and screenwriter (Moonstruck). Where's My Money? is about the battle between the sexes, focusing on two divorce lawyers and the women in their lives.

Of course, the summer isn't without its more high profile shows. The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park, free high quality performances at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, is a beloved tradition not only because the price is right, but also because the casts are invariably star-studded. This year is more astounding than ever--the cast for The Seagull, adapted by Richard Nelson and directed by Mike Nichols, is enough to give the starstruck a heart attack: John Goodman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Allison Janney, Debra Monk, Kevin Kline--shall I keep going?--Natalie Portman, Stephen Spinella, plus Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken for good measure. Speaking of good measure, Measure for Measure, featuring the talents of Billy Crudup, Joe Morton, and John Pankow, is the other production at the Delacorte this year.

But outdoor Shakespeare need not be in a park, as we learn from Free Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot. That company is presenting Richard II as the first show of its 2001 Parking Lot season. As the summer wears on, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Tempest will all be performed on the hot asphalt.

During the last couple weeks of August, the summer will come to a thrilling close with the New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC). In the span of 12 days, nearly 200 shows will play day and night in 20 theaters on Manhattan's Lower East Side. No kind of theater goes undone at the Fringe, with plays, dances, performance art, multimedia works, musicals, kids shows, and everything else imaginable being offered by artists from around the world. Though the Fringe is undoubtedly the most varied and well-known of the summer festivals, also be sure to also keep an eye out for the Midtown International Theater Festival and the Pure Pop Festival.

This is only a tiny sampling of all the theater to be seen in the New York City area this season. Keep checking The Discovery Link and TheaterMania's listings to find other great shows guaranteed to keep you entertained on those hot summer nights.


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