Under the Radar festival returns, smaller but still funky

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Under the Radar festival returns, smaller but still funky
In a photo provided by Under the Radar Festival shows, Tia Bannon in Jasmine Lee-Jones’s “Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner.” The experimental festival at the Public Theater will return in person with fewer shows and, for the first time, performances outside New York City. Under the Radar Festival via The New York Times.

by Sarah Bahr

NEW YORK, NY.- The Under the Radar festival, the Public Theater’s annual showcase for experimental theater, will return in person next year, Jan. 12-30. The event, now in its 18th year, will feature nearly two dozen artists, with performances held at the Public and Mabou Mines in Manhattan as well as a venue in upstate New York.

Those who have attended in past years will notice a few differences: The festival will run for three weeks instead of two and include only 15 productions at the Public — all 90 minutes or less — down from the 22 at the 2020 festival.

“I’m happy we have a smaller festival this year so we can really concentrate on these pieces and give them the attention they deserve,” Mark Russell, the festival director, said in a phone conversation, adding that he hadn’t yet determined whether the change would be permanent.

One of the pieces that Russell said he was most excited to land was Jasmine Lee-Jones’ “Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner” (Jan. 12-16, 18-23, 25-29). Staged to critical acclaim at London’s Royal Court Theater last summer, the 90-minute two-hander explores cultural appropriation, queerness, friendship and the ownership of Black bodies online and in real life.

A cultural reexamination is also what Annie Saunders and Becca Wolff have planned for the New York premiere of their hourlong show “Our Country,” a meeting of mythic and modern America set in California’s marijuana country and inspired by Sophocles’ “Antigone” (Jan. 12-16, 21-23).

A pair of solo shows also highlight the schedule: Playwright Inua Ellams (“Barber Shop Chronicles”) will perform his 90-minute, music- and poetry-filled piece “An Evening with an Immigrant,” which chronicles his journey from Nigeria to England (Jan. 18-20). Roger Guenveur Smith, an actor known for his roles in Spike Lee films, will return to the festival with his hourlong solo show “Otto Frank,” a historical account of the father of Anne Frank, who was the only immediate member of his family to survive the Holocaust (Jan. 13-16, 20-23).

Rounding out the slate is a double bill of “Mud/Drowning,” two intimate works by María Irene Fornés, a Cuban American playwright and director who died in 2018, which, following a sold-out run last year, will return to the experimental theater company Mabou Mines (Jan. 12-16, 18-23, 25-30). “Mud,” a play by Fornés, is a grim consideration of ignorance, poverty and desperation, while “Drowning,” a half-hour “pocket” opera by composer Philip Glass, is adapted from Fornés’ five-page surreal play based on a short story by Anton Chekhov.

A new initiative, “Under the Radar: On the Road,” will also bring a pair of Pascal Rambert monologues, “The Art of Theater” and “With My Own Hands,” to a venue called PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century in Chatham, New York, which sits on 100 acres of orchards, meadows and woodlands (Jan. 14-15, 22-23).

Following the Under the Radar Festival, “An Evening with an Immigrant” will also be performed at Oklahoma City Repertory Theater (Jan. 22-23) and at Stanford University (Jan. 29-30), and “Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner” will transfer to Washington, D.C., for a three-week run at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (Feb. 14-March 6).

“We’re acknowledging that small-scale work needs touring to survive and reach the widest audience,” Russell said.

The festival will also include eight works in the “Incoming!” works-in-process series and the return of concerts by artists including Migguel Anggelo, Salty Brine and Alicia Hall Moran at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan.

A full lineup is available at publictheater.org.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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