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Originals in the Works

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It's hard to pinpoint why summer is the time for new play festivals and not, say, the wintertime, when people naturally gravitate to the warmth of the indoors. But when it's summertime in New York the playin' is easy, and there are plenty of plays to see, whether in full productions, workshop productions, or bare-bones readings. At least this much is for sure: Many of autumn's hits-to-be will first come to view over the next few weeks, so anyone keen to keep their ear to the ground will have much to listen for.

Once Upon a Midnight Queery

The sixth annual Queer@HERE festival, which runs at the HERE Arts Center (145 Ave. of the Americas) from June 17-30, is held annually during National Gay Pride Month and celebrates gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons.

This year's festival is curated by an expert group, including HERE Executive Director Kristin Marting; puppeteer extraordinaire Basil Twist; Heather de Michelle, artistic director of On the Verge; and Peter Petralia, HERE's director of development and artistic director of yet another company, proto-type. This year's festival is also a partnership with Heritage of Pride, the official organizer of New York's gay pride celebrations; it is the first theatre component so sanctioned.

On this year's slate is the New York City premiere of San Francisco cabaret diva Veronica Klaus, performances by downtown burlesque star Tigger, and a host of new plays and performance pieces. Among the highlights: "A Brief HIStory of the Body," Jeremy Kucholtz's "biodance" about physical identity; "Touchscape," James Scruggs' solo theatre piece with video; 'Lesbian Pulp-O-Rama!," created by The Sassmasters and inspired by the Sapphic pulp fiction of the 1960s; and "A Pair of Hands: Deaf Gay Monologues" by Raymond Luczak.

For tickets or additional information, call (212) 647-0202 or visit www.here.org.

Tenement-al Journey

The Immigrants' Theatre project and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum jointly present an annual reading series each summer. This year "American Dreams: Plays About NY & The Immigrant Experience" runs Thursday evenings at 8 pm from June 6-Aug. 1 at the Tenement Theatre, 97 Orchard St.

This is the fourth summer the two organizations have solicited, read through, and presented works "about the American intercultural and immigrant experience," including "areas of the American multicultural immigrant experience that have not yet been seen in the theatre, such as intra-Caribbean perspectives, Arab-American identity, Jewish feminist irony, Korean business ethos, and Latino nostalgia for the homeland." The purpose of the reading series is to serve as a training ground for future full productions as well as a way for other companies interested in this kind of work to check out new drama on the horizon.

Plays include "Snow/Snapper-dazzled" by Pat Kaufman, which posits America's complicated racial history against the expanse of the American plains; "How I Wore Out My 50 Pairs of Silk Stockings" by Ella Veres, about a journalist traveling back to Budapest; and "Queen Latina" by Mixed Company, a "zany game show" involving Latin women.

For reservations and info, call (212) 431-0233, ext. 440.

Working With What Works

For three weeks, The Working Theatre will present a "Spring Festival of Workshop Productions" that focuses on the everyday stories of "working men and women," as the theatre company's name would no doubt suggest. The difference between this festival and some of the others this year is that the company specifically commissioned these new works, in this case to tackle "the prickly issues of intolerance, racism, and greed."

In "Reconstruction," for example, Herman Daniel Farrell III constructs the story of a young black woman who finds herself in a psychiatric hospital, her memory lost. As her doctors--one black, one white--help her reconstruct her memory from fragments, they begin to question their own assumption about race and identity. The second play in the series, "The 7th of October" by Linda Faigao-Hall, focuses on a gay steelworker who comes out to his coworkers at a Manhattan construction site and the shop steward who shocks the crew by openly supporting him. Finally, for "Abundance," Marty Pottenger spent two years traversing the country, interviewing working people from all over the socioeconomic spectrum about the issues he was commissioned, like the other playwrights, to write about. What he came up with is a multi-voice piece that, in the spirit of such plays as "The Laramie Project," brings forth the dramatic voice of everyday people in an original and moving way.

The workshop productions will be presented from June 5-23 at 7 pm on weekdays and at 2 pm on Saturdays at The Access Theatre, 380 Broadway (at White Street). More information and tickets can be obtained by calling (212) 539-5675.

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