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La Tortue Noire: Le Grand Oeuvre (The Great Work)
Photograph: Courtesy International Puppet Fringe Festival La Tortue Noire: Le Grand Oeuvre (The Great Work)

The best summer theater festivals in NYC

Sample a smorgasbord of new works at NYMF, Ice Factory and New York City's many other summer theater festivals

By Adam Feldman

It's festival time! Broadway takes an annual summer vacation after the rush of the Tony Awards, with only a trickle of new shows until the fall, and most major Off Broadway companies catch their breaths for a few weeks, too. But theater abhors a vacuum, so festivals rush to fill it with less expensive offerings. Some are rigorously curated, like the New York Musical Festival and Ice Factory; others are aimed more at beginners. Take some time to look through their offerings; somewhere among these dozens of shows, there's bound to be something just right for you.

Summer Theater Festivals in New York City

Shakespeare in the Theater
Photos by Cory Fraiman-Lott

Shakespeare in the Theater

Theater Shakespeare

The perverse Brick boldly mounts an indoor summer Shakespeare festival, featuring eight productions in rep. Selections include riffs on Coriolanus, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Hamlet, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Othello and A Midsummer Night's Dream, plus a comedic three-play sampler called A Taste of Shakespeare.

International Puppet Fringe Festival
Photograph: Courtesy International Puppet Fringe Festival

International Puppet Fringe Festival NYC

Theater Puppet shows

Puppetry artists from Canada, France and Costa Rica join their American counterparts for the first edition of this festival, which includes performances as well as cabaret nights, film screenings and discussions.

Red Emma & The Mad Monk
Photograph: Courtesy Michael Brown

Lady Fest 2018

Theater Drama

The Tank devotes two of its theaters to stagings and readings of new work by women. The centerpiece is Alexis Roblan's Red Emma & The Mad Monk, in which a politically active 12-year-old girl gets turned on the legacy of anarchist rabble-rouser Emma Goldman; Katie Lindsay directs the official premiere of the play, which was featured in last year's ANT Fest.

Mac Wellman
Photograph: Courtesy Brooklyn College

Bring a Weasel and a Pint of Your Own Blood Festival

Theater Experimental

Erin Courtney and Mac Wellman, estimable experimentalists both, oversee this off-kilter minifest of work by playwrights in Brooklyn College's M.F.A. program. Four new plays are presented in two programs, offered in rep. 

Photograph: Courtesy Nate DuFort

Syndicated: A Festival of New Work

Theater Experimental

The Syndicate, a theater ensemble devoted to presenting work by women and LGBTQ artists, mounts a minifestival in three parts: Bluets (Aug 25–29) stars Ellenor Riley-Condit in a solo play adapted from a book by Maggie Nelson; the First Read series hosts workshops and readings of works by queer and trans artists; and the Syndicate's collectively devised Tiny Errors at the End of the Millennium (Sept 13–16) examines end-of-the-20th-century anxiety.  

Photo: Courtesy Jonathan Slaff

Dream Up Festival

Theater Drama

The ninth edition of TNC's diverse fest, curated by literary manager Michael Scott-Price, features 27 works, nearly all of them local or world premieres. Selections include the darkly comedic musical The Wrong Box, the solo docudrama Arizona Justice and new versions of August Strindberg's Creditors and Henrik Iben's Hedda Gabler.


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