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"Emancipation" and Competitive Karaoke

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Depressed by the flood of headlines -- whether it's the Iraqi debacle or Michael Jackson's impending jail stint -- the 'royal we' finally had to yank ourselves away from Yahoo! News and plant our feet firmly back in the comforting arena of theatrical entertainment, preferably of the far-from-Broadway variety.

That usually entails the wide assortment of blackbox productions, street performers, freakish variety shows, and happenings -- basically, the dozens of individuals and fab-o little theatre companies doing whatever possible to gain attention and, more crucially, funding. So we thought we'd focus on a few of those trying to help themselves.

Here's a prime example: Anyone lucky enough to catch any of the usually sold-out performances by the Classical Theatre of Harlem -- particularly this year, when their multiple-Obie-winning show "The Blacks: A Clown Show" had an extended run at Classic Stage Company's space -- will recognize Ty Jones. Besides winning an Obie for that (as did fellow actor J. Kyle Manzay and others), Jones did an impressive turn in the company's razor-sharp follow-up as the title character in "Macbeth," and is now part of the all-star cast of "Henry IV," currently at Lincoln Center.

This Sunday night, Nov. 23rd, Jones will be helming a free staged reading of his new play. "Emancipation" explores the still-controversial life of Nat Turner, who in 1831 led the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. Though unsuccessful, the rebellion sent a ripple through the country that later helped to energize the abolitionist movement. Should make for a riveting drama.

The cast also includes Manzay, Stevie Ray Dallimore, Lucus Caleb Rooney, Kat Foster, Kate Forbes and many more. Tickets are free, but reservations are required; call 212-650-7100. The evening starts at 7:30 pm at Aaron Davis Hall at City College of New York, 135th St. and Convent Ave. Visit www.aarondavishall.org for directions.

On Monday and Tuesday, Boomerang Theatre Company will be finishing up its First Flight Reading Series. Folks may recognize Boomerang from their productions of "Love's Labor's Lost" in the city parks last summer. Both readings are free and take place at 7 pm at CenterStage/NY (48 W. 21st St., 4th floor, NYC). Monday night will showcase Francis Kuzler's "Giant-n-Variation," directed by Cailin Heffernan, while on Tuesday it'll be Ed Musto's "Genevieve," directed by Rachel Wood. For more info, visit www.boomerangtheatre.org or call 212-501-4069.

Lastly, a quick plug goes out to Naked Angels, whose weekly open reading series Tuesdays @ 9 changed venues recently. Folks who haven't gone in a while (yep, that's us) should go to the Soho Playhouse next time (15 Vandam St., NYC). As always, check their website for more info: www.nakedangels.com/tuesday.asp.

On the money-money front, three great little companies are having fundraisers this weekend, starting with tonight's -- I kid you not -- "Competitive Karaoke/Performance Art." Sponsored by Theatreflective (who did that Mass.-ocentric show at the Belt a few months ago, "Massholia"), proceeds will go toward their annual three-night Gawk Festival in January, which showcases an eclectic variety of New York-area performers. CKPA takes place at the San Marcos Bar & Restaurant (12 St. Marks Place, NYC), and has all the earmarks of great, cheap fun -- it's only $10 to get in, with vocal warmups at 7 pm and hardcore competition beginning at 8 pm. (Maybe G. Paltrow will even show up to recreate her Huey Lewis "duet." Ok, maybe not.) For more info on the company, visit www.theatreflective.org.

For something a little more "lit'rary," the illustrious Studio 42 -- whose recent productions include "Nothing of Origins" and Clay McLeod Chapman's "Redbird" as well as the Starving Artists Ball -- will be hosting a one-nighter with Rob Grace's audaciously un-Shakespearean "The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark." Self-described as a "theatrical Guernica for Generation Y," the tragicomic show with a cast of 25 is definitely intended to get a rise out of somebody. But it's the $10 admission and free beer that brings us in. Show starts at 10:30 pm. For more info, visit www.studio-42.org.

Finally, the non-profit group Fractured Atlas is holding a benefit party at 7 pm on Saturday night at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 West 18th St., NYC). A diverse group of visual and performing artists will be showcased, including the film "Behind the Glass" by Gabriel Rhodes; "Punch and Judy Remix," a larger-than-life puppet show directed by bouffonist Max Dana; poetry by Mustafa Shakir; selections by the Opera Company of Astoria; and much more. Tickets are $20. For more info or to purchase tickets, call 917-606-0857 or visit www.fracturedatlas.org/benefit.

If you're looking for something to finish off the night after Fractured Atlas, we always like to plug our favorite twice-monthly comic cabaret, the Deep Dish Cabaret. (Not that other comic cabarets aren't beautiful. We love all comic cabarets. We just got hooked.) Starting around 10:30 pm and rockin' till 2 am, the DDC offers an amazing variety of offbeat comics, musicians, performers, and gads of utter strangeness. One thing: If you go this Saturday, Nov. 22 (at 675 Hudson, buzzer 3N, near the corner of 14th and 9th), be sure to walk up to Texas rocker Butcher Slim, give him your best "Deliverance" smile and say, "The Geek sent me." For more info, visit www.ghentmag.com/site/deepdish.html.

A final shout-out goes to the Collective Unconscious (145 Ludlow St., NYC; www.weird.org), who were set to close at the end of this month but have received a reprieve that may keep it open till July of next year. Though not the most comfy spot, it's one of NYC's best performer breeding grounds, and we hope you'll pop down there from time to time and see where all the crisp new air is coming from. TG

Note: If your company is planning any fundraisers, readings or strange happenings, let us know! Send an email to backstage@backstage.com and put "Theatre Geek" in the subject line. Thanks!

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