NEW YORK CITY: January, like the god for which it’s named, can be Janus-like in its duality: Torn between post-holiday blues and the zesty promise of a new year, Manhattanites are shopped out, 10 pounds heavier, plotting revenge against in-laws and—on a more positive note—looking for fresh beginnings. Opportunely, January brings a plethora of invigorating theatre, packaged into a cluster of festivals aimed to rev up the New Year.
The greenest among these midwinter series is a new opera and music-theatre festival called PROTOTYPE, to be staged at HERE Arts Center Jan. 9–18. Headlining will be Mohammed Fairouz’s Sumeida’s Song, purportedly the first Arab-American opera to be fully produced in the States. Other cutting-edge artists on tap include the glam-opera band Timur and the Dime Museum; composer David T. Little, with Soldier Songs; multimedia mastermind Paola Prestini; and the Netherlands’s 33 1/3 Collective, with the U.S. premiere of Bluebeard, in a co-presentation with the 3LD Art & Technology Center.
If operas aren’t your style, then Under the Radar—the powerhouse festival slated Jan. 9–20 at the Public Theater—is sure to inspire. The nine-year-old UTR’s international lineup includes Australia’s Back to Back Theatre, slated to present a disarming elephant-headed god in Ganesh Versus the Third Reich; Australian solo artist Fleur Elise Noble; a very “not sexy” Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker, devised by the Belarus Free Theatre; Netherlands-based Hungarian director Edit Kaldor’s C’est Du Chinois, spoken entirely in Mandarin (warning: no subtitles); Iranian Leev Theater Group’s Hamlet, Prince of Grief, which fashions its perspective on the play using household objects and children’s toys; and Zero Cost House, a joint production by UTR veteran Toshiki Okada of Japan and Pig Iron Theatre Company of Philadelphia, based on events surrounding the disruptions and reimaginings of life in Fukushima post-tsunami and nuclear disaster (see page 66).
Meanwhile, smaller-scale but equally adept players hope to lure audiences from the chilly streets with COIL at Performance Space 122 (Jan. 3–19), Other Forces at the Incubator Arts Project (Jan. 3–20) and American Realness at Abrons Arts Center (Jan. 10–20). Red-letter artists at COIL are David Wampach/Association Achles of France, Peggy Shaw of Split Britches, and Half Straddle/Tina Satter, presenting the premiere of Seagull (Thinking of You) (see page 82). A few blocks away, John Zorn’s The Book of Heads, performed by James Moore; Nellie Tinder’s Evelyn in Concert, another slice of chamber opera; and the ironically titled Grimly Handsome will be gracing the stage at Other Forces. Choice showstoppers at American Realness include Neal Medlyn’s Wicked Clown Love, revolving around the music of Insane Clown Posse; Trajal Harrell’s all-male contemporary dance adaptation, Antigone Sr. / Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at the Judson Church; and Turbulence, a political and improvisational dance about the economy, created by Keith Hennessy.
Assuming your top New Year’s resolution is to catch more theatre—and why wouldn’t it be?—this festive January makes the perfect kickoff.