If you’re anything like me, going to a show is one of your favorite ways to spend an evening. On the other hand, if you’re like me, you’re bored to death by most theater. Not all theater, just what we seem to get here: big aging Broadway tours and local productions of plays you’ve seen five times by directors who couldn’t stage their way out of a paper bag. Forgive my millennial hyperbole—but my theory is we’re all so used to being bored by theater that we’ve come to expect boring theater. To be fair, it’s hard to compete with network and Netflix television, and, well, I get bored at a lot of concerts, too.
But if you look beyond community theater listings and summer stock musicals (shout-out to the Mac-Haydn, my dad won’t shut up about your work! Season continues through September 3), you’ll find a wide breadth of exciting contemporary performance throughout the region, often at prices to make a New Yorker jealous:
Nestled in the Taconics, the Ancram Opera House is entering its second season. The Holler Sessions (through July 23) is a solo performance by Frank Boyd in collaboration with the TEAM (an ensemble led by director Rachel Chavkin, of The Great Comet of 1812). Boyd performs as a midwest radio DJ, the play a live broadcast, as he preaches the necessity of jazz. We’re Gonna Die (August 5 – 12) is a kind of cabaret with Young Jean Lee and her indie rock band. Lee is a playwright as experimental as she is entertaining, and here she shares personal stories and pop songs about difficult subjects that, rather than building to devastating sentimentality (The Moth this is not), will leave you feeling that, hey, life is pretty alright.
This year’s Summerscape festival at Bard College features a Dvořák opera directed by theater luminary Anne Bogart and choreographed by her longtime collaborator, Barney O’Hanlon (July 28 – August 6). But the theater highlight is a world premier by NYC experimental stalwarts The Wooster Group, A Pink Chair (in Place of a Fake Antique), continuing through July 23. The Woosters don’t shy away from a controversy and love to play with technology. Their work can be hit or miss, but I hear this piece that plays tribute to Polish director Tadeusz Kantor is beautiful, haunting, and not to be missed. After a show, visit the Spiegeltent, a cabaret venue hosted by Mx. Justin Vivian Bond. Pulitzer winning playwright Susan Lori-Parks (pictured) will perform in the tent with her band, Sula and the Noise, on July 28.
Andrew Schneider has been in Troy for a residency at EMPAC working on a new project, which will premier in the fall. In the meantime, he brings YOUARENOWHERE to EMPAC on August 10 and 11. Alternating between virtuosic bursts of energy and calm, this wickedly smart show—the script is published with redactions and the title can be read two ways—consistently surprises and prompts questions both existential and mundane: how did they do that? Schneider is a wizard with technology (he was with the Wooster Group for seven years), he hacks even his lights because off the shelf equipment doesn’t turn on and off quick enough. All this ambition and spectacle is grounded by Schneider’s warmth as a performer: there’s nothing boring, tired, or overwrought here. Don’t miss it.
If you’re more inclined towards dance, there’s something for everyone every year at Jacob’s Pillow in Lenox, Mass. This year’s contemporary highlights include French-Canadian Marie Chouinard with two contrasting works, one a tribute to Frederic Chopin, the other to poet and artist Henri Michaux, both explosive and innovative (through July 23); MacArthur “Genius” Kyle Abraham’s Dearest Home (August 2 – 6), a meditative chamber piece on love and longing with an optional score; and a collaboration between John Heginbotham and illustrator Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty, a whimsical piece of dance theater, premiering August 23-27.
Or you could go see Mamma Mia! at Capital Rep (through August 13), which I’m sure is fine–the Rep is a wonderfully intimate venue that can transform big musicals into something gentler, if you’re into that kind of thing. Or if summer means Shakespeare to you, the folks at Saratoga Shakespeare are consummate professionals, and will not let the summer heat (only the rain) keep them off the stage in Congress Park. A Midsummers Night’s Dream continues through July 29, and The Winter’s Tale runs August 1 to 5, both make for excelling picnicking. If you prefer your Shakespeare indoors, Shakespeare and Company’s season in Lenox includes the rarely produced Cymbeline. Finally, no mention of the Berkshire’s would be complete without the Williamstown Theatre Festival (through August 20), which features several new works, including a millennial tinged adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters called Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow (July 26 – August 6).