January NYC Experimental Theater Festival Roundup

If New York theater in December is for tourists, then January is for us diehards.

Once the throngs of vacationing families hungry for the latest spectacle depart the Big Apple after the ball drops, the true spectacle begins: an annual, city-wide, month-long celebration of experimental theater!

Anchored by the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival, in addition to other fests and one-off productions all around the city, this January bonanza is dedicated to exploring the progressive future of an art-form unfairly maligned as overly-traditional (at least by those who equate theater with nothing more than Broadway, which also wrongly implies that the Great White Way never houses creative fare). It might be cold outside, but these black boxes — and other, even more unconventional spaces transformed into theatrical playing grounds for the occasion — radiate with a trailblazing heat.

These artistic ventures don’t strive to be the best theater you’ve ever seen; they strive to be unlike any theater you’ve ever seen, which usually leads to — at least for people like me — some of the highlights of any given season. They truly redefine and, more importantly, EXPAND my conception of what theater can be, and even what I constitute as theater in the first place. All the norms you associate with the medium are usually based on merely tradition alone; the way things have always been isn’t necessarily the best they can be, or even the only way they can be.

Here’s how I’d rank everything I’ve attended so far:

  1. [50/50] old school animation
  2. Chambre Noire
  3. The Cold Record
  4. Is This a Room
  5. INK
  6. Frankenstein
  7. As Far As My Fingertips Take Me
  8. HEAR WORD! Naija Woman Talk True
  9. Pollock
  10. Minor Character
  11. Grey Rock
  12. WEIGHTLESS

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