BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
A glimpse of the many faces and stories behind Jackson Heights’ nightlife is taking the stage in Manhattan.
Theatre 167 will perform their piece, “I Like To Be Here: Jackson Heights Revisited, or, This Is A Mango,” as part of the Theater:Village festival throughout September in Manhattan’s West Village. The plot spans one late night out in Jackson Heights and incorporates a slew of diverse characters.
Director Ari Kreith, who has lived in Jackson Heights for about eight years, said Theatre 167 was born of the multicultural, multilingual aesthetic she absorbed in the neighborhood.
“I was really interested in expressing what it feels like to live in such an extraordinarily diverse community,” Kreith said. The name Theatre 167 refers to the number of languages spoken in Jackson Heights.
“I Like To Be Here” is a continuation of “The Jackson Heights Trilogy,” a set of earlier Theatre 167 pieces. This work will incorporate some characters originally found in the trilogy as well as new ones, although Kreith stresses that “I Like To Be Here” is a standalone piece.
Kreith listed a few of the many characters and relationships represented in the play, including a gay policeman from Long Island and the young Jackson Heights native he meets, an urban Manhattanite and his older Irish aunt and a Bangladeshi cab driver in love with an Ecuadorian bread maker.
“One of the magical things that Jackson Heights has to offer is an experience of how all of our lives are enriched by living in a diverse world,” Kreith said. “These stories came out of Jackson Heights, and yet I feel like it’s also very important that these kinds of interactions can exist anywhere in the world.”
According to playwright and Theatre 167 cofounder Jenny Bader, the writing process involved late night research in the area.
She noted that they interviewed a policeman at a diner, saw a drag show at Club Atlantis – now called Club Evolution – visited an area barbershop and ultimately drew up a map that they used to plot the movement of their characters.
“What’s exciting about ‘I Like To Be Here’ is it exposes audiences to people they might not know,” Bader said. “I think it’s saying people aren’t necessarily who you think they are – you don’t necessarily know them – but they also can be better than you think. They can be different than you think.”
“I Like To Be Here” will join three other new plays in the Theater:Village festival lineup. The goal of Theater:Village is to present an annual series of new plays based on a common theme. Entitled “E Pluribus,” this year’s festival presents pieces that celebrate diversity in America.
Performances will take place at the New Ohio Theatre. For a full schedule and tickets, visit www.NewOhioTheatre.org.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JNStrawbridge.