BUFFALO - Sept. 19 will be this year's Curtain Up! celebration, an event in which all of Buffalo's performing theaters are encouraged to have something on their stages. The purpose is to call the attention of Western New York to the size and variety of the Buffalo theater community, and to encourage people to turn off the TV and invest some time in the inspiration and excitement of live theater.
Let me tell you which companies are participating in Curtain Up! this year, and something about the busy seasons which they have scheduled. Please note, very few Buffalo theaters run all through the week, so expect performances within date ranges to be weekends only or perhaps Thursday through Sunday.
Alleyway Theatre: The Alleyway will perform the play ''Rabbit Hole'' by David Lindsay-Abaire, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for Best Play. Their production will open Sept. 11 and play through Sept. 27. Releases say the play straddles the line between comedy and tragedy and deals with a family at rock bottom.
Shea's Performing Arts Center, in the downtown Buffalo Theater District, will play host to the opening events of Buffalo's Curtain Up! Weekend.
Other Alleyway productions will include ''Tromping on Sacred Ground,'' about Victorian England's attempts to ignore or stifle the effects of Charles Darwin's writing. It will play Nov. 6 to 22. Dickens' ''A Christmas Carol'' will be performed Dec. 11 to 21. ''On the Way to Heaven'' by Carolyn Nelson will run Feb. 5 to 21. It deals with a Midwestern who gets more than she bargains for when she seeks help at church.
''Buffalo Quickies'' features series of short plays, grouped into full evenings of theater. See them March 26 through April 11. Lovers of corny musicals will get a kick out of "Hell Hole Honeys,'' about an earnest young journalist who is thrown into prison for refusing to reveal a source. See it April 23 through May 9.
Buy an individual ticket for $25, which doesn't apply to the Christmas special. Students can buy a ticket for $13. The company performs in its own theater on Curtain Up Alley, between Shea's and Studio Arena in the theater district. Contact them at www.alleyway.com or 852-2600, ext. 0.
Alt Theatre: The Alt Theatre opened in October 2007. They're kicking off their season with ''Lit401: A School Shooting in One Act,'' by Drew Derel and Gordon Tashjian. We have experienced a number of situations in which one or more deranged gunmen have entered classrooms and fired upon unarmed students and teachers, usually losing their own lives in the process. This play seeks to examine the thinking of the gunman and students in the Virginia Tech shootings. It runs Sept. 12 to Oct. 4.
Other productions are: Nov. 7 to 14, Buffalo Contemporary Dance Company performs in celebration of their 10th anniversary; Dec. 5 to 13, ''The Stripteasers,'' an evening of theatre burlesque; Jan. 16 to 24, ''My Sister in This House,'' a dramatization of the true case in Le Mans, France, in which two housemaids murdered their employers and took over their lifestyle; Jan. 30 to Feb. 14, ''Fando and Liz,'' a fantasy play in which a troubled giant and his paraplegic girlfriend set off on a road trip; Feb. 6 to 14, ''Water Bodies,'' a combination of original dance and music, celebrating the many bodies of water in the Buffalo area.
Tickets are $20 for the general public and $15 for students. Alt Theatre performs at 255 Great Arrow Ave., just off Elmwood Avenue.
Irish Classical: Buffalo's Irish Classical Theatre Company offers an international season, including two productions from Ireland, and one each from England, Norway, the United States and France. The Curtain Up! production will be ''Star Quality,'' by Noel Coward, featuring a hard look at backstage talent and treachery. It opens Sept. 12 and continues through Oct. 12.
A barbershop quartet in rural Ireland hide betrayal and guilt behind their harmonies in the play ''The Cavalcaders'' by Billy Roche. It will play Oct. 24 to Nov. 23. If you enjoyed ''Ah, Wilderness'' at Chautauqua last year, your chance to catch a different point of view on it, by Irish-American Eugene O'Neill, is Jan. 16 to Feb. 15. Catherine Eaton portrays the title role in ''Hedda Gabler,'' by Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. It will play March 6 to April 5. What would a Moliere play be, without hypocrisy, in competition with true love? See ''The Learned Ladies,'' April 24 through May 24. The season will end with ''Fadiographs,'' an adaptation by the company's artistic director, Vincent O'Neill, of yet another segment of James Joyce's ''Finnegan's Wake.'' See it June 5 to 28.
The ICTC performs in the Andrews Theatre, almost directly across the street from Shea's at 625 Main St. Contact them at 853-4282 or www.irishclassicaltheatre.com.
Kaleidoscope: Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions perform in the Marie Maday Theatre on the campus of Canisius College. They start with ''Something to Hide'' by Leslie Sands, a mystery play. It will run Sept. 12 to 27.
''Searching for Eden,'' an adaptation by James Sill of Mark Twain's ''The Diaries of Adam & Eve,'' will be presented Jan. 30 to Feb. 14. ''Polish Joke,'' by David Ives, examines a young man who seeks to re-invent himself out of dismay over his Polish roots, only to learn that he is what he is. See it June 12 to 27.
Tickets are $14 for the general public and $10 for senior citizens and students. Buy them at www.Kaleidoscope Theatre Productions.com or 479-1587.
Kavinoky: The dangers of stamp collection, at least when a wildly valuable stamp is included, are pointed out by ''Maritius,'' which will play from Sept. 12 to Oct. 12. It is the work of Theresa Rebeck.
''Heroes'' by Tom Stoppard, takes place in a home for retired French war veterans. It will be performed Nov. 7 to Dec. 7. The days of the live radio play are resurrected Dec. 10 to 14, as the company performs a traditional holiday favorite - ''It's a Wonderful Life'' - in a style which has not taken place for a long while. Broadway recently had a long and successful run of a comedy by Mark Twain, which was only recently discovered. ''Is He Dead?'' has its Buffalo premiere Jan. 9 to Feb. 8. If you love the music of Cole Porter, you'll want to catch ''Hot 'n Cole'' between March 6 and April 5. Who will get credit for the invention of television, a ruthless media mogul or a self-taught Idaho fame boy? Find out in ''The Farnsworth Invention,'' which will play May 1 to 31.
Kavinoky performs in their own facility on the campus of D'Youville College at 320 Porter Ave. Contact them at 829-7668 or www.kavinokytheatre.com.
Lancaster Opera House: Like Fredonia's 1891 Opera House, the Lancaster Opera House is a Victorian jewel located in a municipal building. They do a startling season of 15 productions in the coming year, beginning with "Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'' by Andrew Lloyd Webber. See that show Sept. 12 to 28.
Oct. 10 to 19, see Tom Dudzik's examination of his childhood in mid-century Buffalo titled ''Over the Tavern.'' Avoid the snares of a man-eating plant from Oct. 24 to Nov. 2, with ''Little Shop of Horrors.'' Learn to Charleston by watching ''Crazy for You,'' Nov. 21 to Dec. 7. Compare Kavinoky's radio play with a fully staged version of ''It's a Wonderful Life,'' Dec. 12 to 21. Celebrate ''Polish Christmas,'' Dec. 27 and 28. Laugh along with Neil Simon and ''The Last of the Red Hot Lovers'' Jan. 16 to 25. Groove to the sounds of the 1950s with ''Bye, Bye, Birdie,'' Feb. 6 to 15. Search with Sherlock Holmes for ''The Hound of the Baskervilles'' Feb. 20 to March 8.
See ''Finnegan's Farewell'' March 14 to 15. ''Godspell'' examines the gospels March 27 to April 10. May 1 to 10, see ''Funny Money.'' Prepare for the opening of Chautauqua by watching ''Brigadoon" May 15 to 24. Local playwright A.R. Gurney offers ''The Dining Room,'' May 29 to June 7. The season concludes June 12 to 21 with something amusing, something confusing, ''A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum'' from Stephen Sondheim.
Contact the Lancaster Opera House at 683-1776 or www.lancopera.org.
MusicalFare: If you like smaller musicals and ones which haven't been done a hundred times, MusicalFare will hold your attention. ''Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story'' opens Sept. 10 and plays through Oct. 12. The title says it all.
The second production of the season is ''Jamestown Gals: The Music of Lucille Ball and Peggy Lee,'' and it will be presented Nov. 5 to Dec. 7. It's the work of Michael Walline. If you love piano music, you'll want to anticipate ''2 Pianos, 4 Hands,'' by Ted Dykstra and Richard Greenblatt. It's about two friends, one who goes into classics, while the other moves into popular music. See it Jan. 7 to Feb. 8. How do we extend our lives beyond our natural life span? Listen as Stephen Sondheim examines the theme in ''Sunday in the Park with George,'' March 4 to April 5. ''Bada Bing! Bada Boom!'' presents a 20-year reunion of a male singing quartet. It features music made famous by Dean Martin, Perry Como, Louis Prima and others. Catch it April 22 to May 24.
MusicalFare performs in their own theater on the campus of Daemen College at 4380 Main St. in Amherst. Contact them at www.musicalfare.com or at 839-8540.
New Phoenix: The New Phoenix Theatre specializes in small and often edgy productions. They kick off with an examination of the life and career of Dusty Springfield, featuring Loraine O'Donnell. It opens Sept. 17 and runs through Oct. 11.
Nov. 13 to Dec. 6 see ''The Seafarer" by Conor McPherson. A group of hard-drinking Irishmen gather for a game of cards on Christmas Eve and are shocked to find a stranger among them. Continuing in the Irish vein, ''The Beauty Queen of Leenane,'' by Martin McDonagh, examines a middle-aged, unmarried Irish woman battling with her mother for what might be her last opportunity for love and happiness. See it Feb. 12 to March 7. ''Blackbird,'' by David Harrower, reunites former lovers in a way which challenges our pre-conceptions. See it April 2 to 25. Even Sigmund Freud sometimes struggles with the power a childhood story can have over people's behavior. See ''Freud and the Sandman,'' May 7 to 30. In the summer, see the winner of the company's annual Eric Bentley New Play and Workshop Series, a newly created play which explores the boundaries of gender, identity and/or theatricality.
Tickets are $20 for the general public, and $15 for students, senior citizens, and artists of the theatrical industry. All Thursday performances are pay-what-you-can. The New Phoenix performs in their own small theater at 95 Johnson Park, just off Delaware Avenue. Contact them at 853-1334 or www.newphoenixtheatre.org.
O'Connell & Company: Since relatively few people take their children to theater after cocktail hour and gourmet dinner, Buffalo's excellent Theatre of Youth company usually shares their facilities with one of the other local companies.
This year, see O'Connell & Company's famed celebration of women, titled ''Diva by Diva,'' at the Theatre of Youth facility on Allen Street, just to the left of Elmwood Avenue. The show changes as different women come and go from the cast, so don't hesitate to catch it more than once. It will play every Wednesday evening at 7:30 for the foreseeable future.
The company has left their recent home in Snyder and is now performing at the historic Riviera Theatre, or at a new site in suburban Buffalo, the address of which is not on their press release. From Oct. 23 to Nov. 2, see ''The Andrews Brothers.'' Nov. 28 to Dec. 7, enjoy the company's ''Christmas Carousel,'' a salute to favorite holiday literature from George Bailey to Charlie Brown and the Grinch. The title says it all: ''4 Guys named Jose and Una Mujer Named Maria: A Celebration of Latin Song and Dance'' will be performed Jan. 22 to Feb. 15. It starts at the new venue and moves to the Riviera.
Those who have enjoyed the shows in which three actors tell all the great books of western civilization or all the plays of Shakespeare in a single romp will delight to ''The Bible (abridged.)'' See it March 12 to April 5. ''Tintypes'' tells the history of the early years of the 20th century through the music popularly performed then. See it April 23 to May 16. ''Black Pearl Sings'' is a play about a researcher for the Library of Congress in the 1930s who seeks to establish as complete a collection of spirituals as possible, and who encounters a former slave who wants to barter her knowledge for various assistances for her suffering family. The performance dates are TBA at this time.
Meanwhile, the Theatre of Youth will follow ''Diva'' with a season of their own at the Allen Street venue. See ''The Boxcar Children'' by Barbara Field, about four children who run away to avoid being separated. See it Oct. 10 to 26. That irrepressible Parisian moppet Madeline offers ''Madeline's Christmas,'' Dec. 12 to 21. ''The Secret Life of Girls'' is for children older than 12, as it explores cyber-bullying. See it Jan. 30 to Feb. 8. A Little League pitcher finds the most valuable baseball card in the world in ''Honus and Me,'' which will be performed March 13 to April 5. The season ends May 1 to 31 with ''Go, Dog, Go,'' an adaptation of the famous children's book by the same name.
Also: I'm out of space with four more companies to go. I told you there were a great many. Next week, I'll close with information about Shea's itself, Ujima, Road Less Travelled Productions, and the one you're probably most eager to hear the latest from: Studio Arena Theatre. Yep, it's still alive.
Meanwhile, mark your calendars to take advantage of as many of these as you can. Life is still a banquet!