Over the past summer, I met a kid who is born and bred in Ithaca in my lab. Ah well, I guess making fun of one’s hometown isn’t exactly the best way to start a conversation. He spent half an hour trying to convince me how incredible the art scene in this tiny little town is, and I finally paid my first visit to the Hangar Theatre last week. It was more than impressive — I cried, just saying.
Alas, I wonder how many awesome productions I missed my freshmen year. Luckily, I got a second chance. Here is a must-see list at some great local performances.
In Cornell’s own Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, three daring fall productions await.
Starting Sept. 21 in Kiplinger Theatre, Beth Milles brings to us Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, a parable about kindness, value and the difficulty of assigning justice in chaotic times.
In the Black Box theater, the venomous and savage comedy Bad Jews is opening on Nov. 2. Playwright Joshua Harmon twists the classic Jewish family comedy in crucial ways, setting the stage in a parent-bought Upper West Side apartment with three cousins fighting over religion, morality and of course a family heirloom.
Again playing with a time-honored formula, in Syrian playwright Mamduh Adwan’s Hamlet Wakes Up Late, Hamlet becomes a narcissistic prince who is blissfully unaware of the rise of a brutal plutocratic dictatorship. While tackling the past and present of Syria, this biting political satire also seems incredibly timely for contemporary America. Catch this audacious re-imagination of Shakespeare starting Nov. 10 in the Flex.
Off campus, Kitchen Theatre Company is ready to offer a nice mix of seriousness and laughter. Lydia R. Diamond’s controversial and fiercely funny Smart People features four “smart” people in D.C. out to save the world from a Western, “racist” mindset — while unaware of their own cultural biases. Go see four “smart” people make a mess of their own lives while trying to comprehend race, identity and human emotions right now.
Brahman/i: A One Hijra Stand-Up Comedy Show is layered conversation of Indian-American cultural identity just happens to take the form of a stand-up comedy routine. Kitchen will be transformed into a comedy club from Oct. 8 to Oct. 29.
If you have not yet been to an immersive theatre, here comes your chance: Every Brilliant Thing by Duncan MacMillan, which opens on Nov. 11 at the Kitchen Theater, shares with its audience members an intimate tale about the lengths we would go for those we love.
Hangar Theatre takes the immersive experience even a step further. On the weekend of Sept. 15, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, based on Charles Dickens’ final and unfinished novel, will be left for audiences to solve. Drood won five 1986 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score. And yes, it is a musical!
Speaking of Dickens, what is Christmas without A Christmas Carol? Directed by playwright and Cornell visiting professor Aoise Stratford, the timeless tale of hope and redemption runs from Dec. 10 to Christmas Eve. In addition, a series of concerts and the multimedia extravaganza Frank Sinatra Tribute: It Was a Very Good Year fill up the Hangar calendar from mid-October till the end of November.
Last but definitely not the least, the newly renovated Cherry Artspace is opening on Sept. 13 with Mayor Svante Myrick. But even before that, the Cherry is bring back the sold-out ‘headphone play’ — an immersive theater experience where one wears a pair of headphones to hear a story while walking around — from last year, Storm Country, for three final weekends. Co-written by PMA faculty Nick Salvato and Aoise Stratford, the production is inspired by a 1909 Ithaca-based novel called Tess of the Storm Country and aims to immerse the audience in a world of narration, music and ambient sounds as they travel among the ghosts of the historic West End.
The 75-minute walking tour of about a mile will begin at Lookout Point and culminate at the Cherry Artspace. Stratford points out the “transitory nature of Ithaca” as one of the play’s themes in a previous interview. In fact, the Storm Country corner of Ithaca is undergoing significant changes and the production will technically no longer work after this fall. No matter what you’re up to this coming weekend (Sept. 9-10), don’t miss the last chance to see our beloved town through new ears.
What happens next is What Happens Next, a world premiere multimedia play by Ithaca-based Romanian playwright Saviana Stanescu, which explores the relationship between two women with constantly shifting identities. The opening production will run from Sept. 14 to Sept. 23.
This is a truly great line-up for not only loyal theatre-goers but also people just looking to explore the local art scene. Don’t be me last year, I’m begging you.
Ruby Que is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].