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5 Offbeat Shows to See During This August Without a Fringe Festival

No Fringe? No problem!

Jake Austin Robertson stars in Torn Out Theater's production of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, directed by Pitr Strait, at Prospect Park.
(© Marjolaine Gallet)

Fans of new and daring theater look forward to August, when the New York International Fringe Festival hosts hundreds of scrappy young artists for a three-week downtown extravaganza. But after 20 summers of producing FringeNYC, the Present Company has declared a hiatus for 2017 (the company plans to unveil a whole new vision for the Fringe at a gala event on August 20).

Fear not, fringers: This is New York, where we have innovative offerings year-round. We don't exclusively need a Fringe Festival to enjoy the fringe benefits of living in the theater capital of the world. With that in mind, here are five innovative shows playing this month that deserve your consideration:

John L. Payne and Jake Austin Robertson star in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, directed by Pitr Strait, at Prospect Park.
(© Marjolaine Gallet)

1. Naked Hamlet (August 10-13)
It could be argued that, far from being insane, the protagonist Prince of Denmark in William Shakespeare's Hamlet is the only person in the play who clearly sees what is happening (or is willing to say it out loud). Torn Out Theater (which previously staged an all-female, nude production of Shakespeare's The Tempest) exposes the honesty in Shakespeare's play with this all-male, nude staging of Hamlet in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Yes, that's right: Jake Austin Robertson will play one of the most difficult roles in the Shakespeare canon completely naked. The production aims to use this timeless tragedy to reexamine our assumptions and anxieties around the nude male form. Knowing that, the final duel between Hamlet and Laertes promises to be thrilling on multiple levels.

Mouna R'miki and Shayan Sobhian star in Irene Kapustina's Lost and Guided at Under St. Marks.
(© Andrei Remenchuk)

2. Lost and Guided (August 3-27)
Writer-director Irene Kapustina based this original play on her interviews with Syrian refugees living in the United States. It tells the story of four young Syrians whose lives are radically changed by the civil war in their country, forcing them to forge new lives in a new land. As more refugees arrive in Europe and North America (with Syrians singled out for extra scrutiny by our politicians), this is a play that directly responds to the important issues of today.

3. Lucky: Atlas Circus Company (August 1-16)
This ironically titled attraction is about a city dweller who can't stop falling on his face…quite literally. Those who attempt to walk around the city streets glued to their iPhones know just how dangerous the urban jungle can be. This is the third full-length production from Atlas Circus Company, which seeks to incorporate classic circus form and slapstick into a meaningful story. You can catch the show at Dixon Place, which hosts some of the most innovative new work being presented in New York.

The cast of Jason Jung's Panic! appears at the Secret Theatre as part of the 2017 UNfringed Festival.
(© Michael Blase)

4. Panic! (August 10-30)
a. Those distressed by the alarmingly high level of palace intrigue in Washington can take solace in Jason Jung's new play, set in Elizabethan England. It tells the story of a special performance of Shakespeare's Richard II, commissioned by the Earl of Essex, but with the usually censored lines about royal abdication left in. This was right before Essex attempted to lead a rebellion against the Queen. Jung's play deals with the power of art and the ubiquity of censorship, a practice that Americans, even with our first amendment, still haven't fully shaken.

Justin Rodriguez, Michael-David Gordon, Danielle Hauser, and Breanna Bartenieff star in Crystal Field's Checks and Balances or Bottoms Up!
(© Jonathan Slaff)

5. Checks and Balances or Bottoms Up! (August 5-September 17)
Theater for the New City's beloved Street Theater Company tours New York's parks, playgrounds, and streets this August with an original musical by writer-director Crystal Field about the power of community activism. Following the amazing journey of one Gotham schoolgirl, this show features a giant Statue of Liberty puppet, a fake news ballet, and a thinly veiled pumpkin head of state. It's going to be crazy and you won't want to miss it. The Street Theater Company has presented a brand new work every summer since 1976, all completely for free and on a street corner near you.