Curtain rises on Queens’ fall season of theater

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Things are confusing enough without having to turn the clock back this weekend, but I guess we have to. The extra hour gives me more of a chance to savor my Halloween trick-or-treat haul, while adding on another pound or two and watching lots of thin and healthy people run the NYC marathon.

But let me return to the local theater scene to see what’s happening.

Long Island City, the hottest neighborhood in Queens, gives our borough the best chance to be a cultural hub. In Brooklyn, Fort Greene is thriving – its latest addition is Theatre for a New Audience, which now has a permanent home after more than 30 years of renting in various churches and schools. Even Manhattan, the center of our theater universe, has plans for more Off-Broadway spaces early next year with three theaters from 99 to 249 seats on Eighth Avenue near 39th Street.

One of the leaders of the LIC renaissance is The Chain Theatre run by the inventive and energetic duo of Rich Ferriaoli and Kirk Gostowski. (I profiled that enterprise in last January’s column for those who want to check out the archives.) Coming this month is the fourth annual Harvest Festival, produced by Variations Theatre Group, 10 days of performances of 20 short pieces. Before that the Chain was home to an original play titled “Pirira,” and in August it had its first Annual Film Festival.

Just north of LIC is the award-winning Astoria Performing Arts Center, working out of the Good Shepard United Methodist Church on Crescent Street. For three weeks starting on Nov. 7, it presents the world premiere of “The Cottage,” by Sandy Rustin, described as a “rollicking farce” about sex and betrayal.

The rest of Queens, with rare exceptions, offers more traditional theater, that is, plays and musicals you know and may have seen before. A good example is the popular and community-minded Theatre by the Bay, at the Bay Terrace Jewish Center, with two classic musicals this season – “Guys and Dolls” opens Nov. 2, and in the spring, “Anything Goes.” Larry Bloom, the guiding force of this group, recently displayed his playwrighting credentials with a staged reading of his drama “Resistance” set in 1946 Palestine.

Douglaston Community Theatre keeps on going as the oldest theater company in Queens, more than 60 years worth, and now presents a late change in plans with the comedy/drama “Daughters,” by John Morgan Evans. Over on Union Turnpike at the Grace Lutheran Church, the Parkside Players are rushing the season with “A Christmas Carol.”

Saint Luke’s Church in Forest Hills is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and since 1971 has been home to The Gingerbread Players. Also opening Nov. 2 is “Love’s Labour’s Lost” by a man with a way with words, William Shakespeare, along with original music by local resident William Ryden. The troupe offers an annual variety of musical concerts, readings, vocal and instrumental recitals, plus two major theatrical productions. In the fall it’s a classic, and in the spring usually a “family-oriented” musical. All this for a ticket donation of $12, and gingerbread available at intermission.

Once again I welcome comments and suggestions from you theater people and groups out there.

Contact Ron Hellman at RBHOFC@gmail.com.

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