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January 7, 2013

Theater festivals fire up a cold New York

(Continued)

“Isn’t that catfishing?” joked Kate Scelsa.

“Yes, my only problem is with public noodling,” said a smiling Iveson, before repeating the line correctly.

A dozen pieces, including the Elevator Repair Service show, are slated for the Under the Radar Festival produced by The Public Theater. Running from Wednesday-Jan. 20 at the company’s newly refurbished downtown home, the festival includes artists from seven countries, including Iran, Belarus, the Netherlands, China, Japan and Australia. This year, all the shows will be at the Public instead of scattered across the city as they were when the building was being renovated.

“We have only 12 things this year. We didn’t go crazy — though some of them do last 11 hours,” Mark Russell, the director of the annual festival, said with a laugh. “The festival is going to be pretty special this year — it’s all under one roof.”

Some of the highlights include “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich” by the Back to Back Theatre company from Australia, in which the elephant-headed god Ganesh travels through Nazi Germany to reclaim the swastika, an ancient Hindu symbol. “It’s visually beautiful, and then there are so many layers in this show,” Russell said.

The acclaimed edgy troupe Belarus Free Theatre, whose members had to sneak out of Belarus to perform “Being Harold Pinter” in America last year are back with a new piece. “The secret police are still hassling them, and we’re just crossing our fingers that they get out in one piece again,” Russell said.

Bring a comfy pillow if you plan to catch Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s “Life and Times: Episodes 1-4,” an 11-hour story of a life. Part I is a ukulele opera, but Russell isn’t worried about the sound of that scaring anyone away. “Believe me, you’ll be hooked and scream to get a ticket to the full marathon,” he said.

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