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Celebrating New Theater Though New York’s Festival Scene


“Birthday Boy”
The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (Closed)

9th annual Dream Up Festival
Running August 26th -September 16th 2018
Theater for the New City
155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street)

New York City has always been a home to live theater, especially musicals. And July and August are the months in which several festivals have taken place or are being staged that celebrate new theatrical productions. This city does a lot for workshopping new shows -- some of which become legendary hits.

While both The New York Musical Festival and The Planet Connections Theatre Festivity have finished up, they again demonstrated how such festivals nurture the creation, development, and public presentation of diverse new productions. 

So when I had a chance to see one show at this year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festivity — held on the lower east side  — I grabbed the opportunity and it was worth it. 

Titled “Birthday Boy,” it was a raw and unvarnished production with some inexperienced talent, but seeing such a show early on in its history is what make the experience all the more worthwhile when one realizes this is how big productions get started. Drawing on the playwright Jack Donahue’s personal experience, he and Brett Roelofs (featuring an original score by Roelofs), as well as director Angie Kristic, transformed a dark interlude into a musical drama.

The play documented in both song and dialogue one of those cultural tragedies shared by many —  abandonment by a substance-addicted mother in an orphanage run by the Catholic Church where those who are meant to protect turn out to be abusers. In a way, this piece was not unlike the Broadway hit “Dear Evan Hansen” — which takes a personally painful experience (teen suicide) and transforms it, not only into a narrative but into a musical entertainment experience.

Though this production was done with minimal set parameters and limited stage movements, it hints at what could come out of this touching and sometimes raw show.

But that what’s great about such festivals which present creation such as this. Usually, at this time of the year, the the big gorilla on the August scene is the three-week long New York International Fringe Festival. Though it offers much more than just musicals or theatrical productions,  it will happens this year in October rather than during the late summer as it has in the past,

So that leaves audiences with the upcoming 9th annual Dream Up Festival which takes place this August 26th to September 16th. Under the direction of Theater for the New City Artistic Director Crystal Field, the Dream Up Fest has an adventurous mix of world premieres, American premieres and New York premieres of new work dedicated to offering work by new authors and edgy, innovative performances.

The Fest presents 27 plays, of which 20 are world premieres and four are New York premieres. Contemporary controversies such as the #MeToo theme appears prominently in many of the productions. Others include a play on violence against LGBT people, two plays addressing stereotypes and race, and an investigative documentary play on corruption in Arizona. An epic musical, three movement theater works, an aerial dance work as well as a radical adaptation of Ibsen's "Hedda Gabler" and a new translation of Strindberg's acute psychological masterpiece, "Creditors" will also be presented. 

As the press release explains, “The festival does not seek out traditional scripts that are presented in a traditional way. It selects works that push new ideas to the forefront, challenge audience expectations and make us question our understanding of how art illuminates the world around us. 2018 marks the largest number of plays presented at one time by the Dream Up Festival.”

Curator/Festival Director Michael Scott-Price has directed at New York venues including Chashama, Dixon Place and Collective Unconscious. He has written and directed productions that were presented nationally as well as in Canada, Ireland and England. Currently, he is also Curator of TNC's "New City, New Blood" reading series and "Scratch Night" (works-in-progress) and is Artistic Director of an experimental theater company, Asteroid B612 Theatre Company, which made its debut in the 17th Annual HERE American Living Room Series in August 2006

Theater for the New City presents an assortment of distinct, exceptional events each year, including the Lower East Side Festival of the Arts (which celebrates the artistic and cultural diversity of TNC's Lower East Side community); an annual Village Halloween Ball and an annual summer Street Theater tour that presents a live, original musical in 13 neighborhoods in all five boroughs. Most of these are free to the public.

Dream Up Festival tickets are $12-$20 for the participating productions.

For tickets, go or call TNC box office at 212-254-1109.

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