September brings some exciting shows and festivals to the theatres of NYC. The New York Musical Theatre Festival (nymf.org) runs from September 15 to October 5, and makes new musicals accessible to both patrons and artists who might not normally have the funding. Their fifth season has 25 full productions, including Bedbugs, a campy rock musical about bedbugs mutated into killer hair metal rock gods; Play it Cool, about gay life in the Hollywood jazz scene of 1953; and She Can’t Believe She Said That, the story of Kathie Lee Gifford in the words of a South Park writer. The festival also has a dance series, featuring Sophia’s Fall, a new twist on the creation myth, and Ward 9, a “tragicomedy” about famous mad geniuses set to an all-Beethoven score, as well as plenty of other series, concerts and special events in 14 Manhattan venues from the East Village to Midtown. The NYMF was the launching point for the new Broadway hit, ironically called [title of show].
Several of the successes from this summer’s FringeNYC Festival are back in the FringeNYC Encore Series. Two of the highlights are one-woman shows playing at the SoHo Playhouse: See How Beautiful I Am: The Return of Jackie Susann, about the Valley of the Dolls author, which earned its star, Debora Weston, the FringeNYC’s Outstanding Actor Award; and That Dorothy Parker, written by and starring the highly-acclaimed Carol Lempert. See fringenyc-encores.com for details.
In other Off-Off-Broadway encores, world renowned performance artist Karen Finley is reviving her piece, Make Love, at the Cutting Room in honor of the seventh anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. This show makes use of a plethora of Liza Minnelli impersonators as a metaphor for the strength of New York City; she gets up and dances again, even after a hip replacement. Make Love originally premiered in 2003, and was extended five times before it went on the road, became a required viewing for NYU and Columbia University Performance Studies students and made fans out of an extensive list of celebrities. Karen Finley also has an impressive list of grants, awards and honors, and made headlines after suing the NEA for withdrawal of grants on the grounds of indecency.
If you’re looking for something rebellious and political (but without the drag component), catch the new musical Fela! at 37 Arts, which tells the story of Fela Kuti, the Nigerian son of an important anti-colonial feminist and a prominent teacher, who created the Afrobeat sound and used it to voice his views on human rights. Through an innovative combination of concert, dance and musical theatre, the show tells the tale of Fela’s controversial life as an artist, musician and political activist who was arrested over 200 times in his lifetime. The Brooklyn-based band Antibalas, who have traveled the world introducing Afrobeat to a new generation, provide the soundtrack, and Bill T. Jones of Spring Awakening fame choreographs and directs.
For those of you who can never get enough Off-Broadway productions, or perhaps would like to get some culture while saving some cash, there’s 20at20, the theatre community’s spin on restaurant week’s idea. For two weeks you can see 20 different shows for $20 each! They’ll even send you a voucher for dinner-for-two if you send in ticket stubs from seven shows. Included in the lineup is the previously mentioned Fela!, as well as Stomp, Taboos, and the Gazillion Bubble Show. See 20at20.com for details.