There are a few definitive signs of autumn in Western New York:
Elaborate displays of gourds appear in the Wegmans produce section. Tim Hortons starts selling pumpkin spice everything. And the theater scene goes absolutely crazy.
For evidence of the annual frenzy -- laid out in our new interactive theater listings -- look no further than the Theatre District on Sept. 16. That's when thousands of revelers will flood the streets in their tuxedos and evening gowns for the 35th annual Curtain Up! festival.
For veterans and newbies alike, here are five things to know about the official opening of Buffalo's theater season:
1) It unfolds in three acts:
Think of it as an Oscar Wilde play with a Buffalo tinge. Act I features dinner -- either on the stage of Shea's Performing Arts Center or at the restaurant of your choice. (I'm partial to the Chippewa Mighty Taco.)
Act II starts at the stroke of 8 p.m. in any of 15 local theaters producing shows ranging from Greenday's "American Idiot" to Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth." Act III is the party, which features an outdoor festival on Main Street with musical performances, food and drinks, and stretches well into the evening.
2) The American Theatre Wing is filming the event:
For a documentary project whose purpose is not yet clear, producers and videographers from the American Theatre Wing -- which produces the annual Tony Awards -- will be in town Friday to capture the street party.
Here's a statement from Theatre Wing CEO and President Heather Hitchens, formerly of the New York State Council on the Arts:
"Curtain Up is a singularly unique event where an entire community comes together to celebrate the opening of the theater season, signifying the importance of live theater to the City of Buffalo's cultural, social, and economic fabric. I was proud to first learn about Curtain Up when I was the Executive Director of the New York State Council on the Arts, and am thrilled to document it as a model for the national theater community."
3) Tickets are likely still available for some productions. Here's a list of shows, theaters and numbers to call for availability:
Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley (852-2600)
“Dear Lydia,” Sept. 15 to Oct. 8
American Repertory Theatre of Western New York, Sportsmen’s Tavern, 330 Amherst St. (634-1102)
“American Idiot,” Sept. 8 to Oct. 1
Brazen-Faced Varlets, Main Street Cabaret, 1 Curtain Up Alley
“6 x 8,” Sept. 15 to Oct. 2
Buffalo Laboratory Theatre, Shea’s 710 Theatre, 710 Main St. (847-1410)
“Wonder of the World,” Sept. 15 to Oct. 2
Buffalo United Artists, Alleyway Theatre, 1 Curtain Up Alley (886-9239)
“The Submission,” with Ujima Theatre, Sept. 15 to Oct. 2
Irish Classical Theatre Company, Andrews Theatre, 625 Main St. (853-4282)
“Sweet Bird of Youth,” Sept. 16 to Oct. 9
Kavinoky Theatre, 320 Porter Ave. (829-7668)
“Don’t Talk to the Actors,” Sept. 9 to Oct. 2
Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Ave. (683-1776)
“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Sept. 9 to 25
MusicalFare Theatre, 4380 Main St., Amherst (839-8540)
“Gypsy,” Sept. 7 to Oct. 9
New Phoenix Theatre, 95 Johnson Park (853-1334)
“Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” Sept. 16 to Oct. 8
O’Connell and Company, Shea’s Smith Theatre, 658 Main St. (848-0800)
“Gentlemen Prefer Divas,” Sept. 16 to 18
Red Thread Theatre, Jim Bush Studios, 44 17th St. (445-4653)
“Louisiana Bacchae,” Sept. 16 to Oct. 8
Road Less Traveled Productions, Road Less Traveled Theatre, 500 Pearl St. (629-3069)
“Dinner with Friends,” Sept. 9 to Oct. 2
Subversive Theatre Collective, Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave. (408-0499)
“Urinetown: The Musical,” Sept. 8 to Oct. 15
4) Parking will be tight in the Theatre District. Here's the lay of the land, from our 2015 Buffalo parking guide:
The district contains perhaps the city’s highest concentration of surface lots and garages, which means a spot will rarely be too difficult to find. But it may cost you. Before you head downtown, decide what kind of parker you are: a free-space hunter or a high-roller.
For the free-space hunter, sidestep the congested east side of the district and snag a street spot on Delaware Avenue between Tupper and West Chippewa streets, then hoof it and laugh at the $15 parking signs. Because people still aren't used to driving on Main Street between Goodell Street and Chippewa Street, that’s always worth a shot as well.
For the high-rollers, defined here as anyone who would pay any amount to park in downtown Buffalo, you can drop anywhere from $2 in the Augspurger Parking Ramp (362 Pearl St.) after 5 p.m. to $20 or more for the lots closest to Shea’s.
Check out parkopedia.com for a list of lots and rates in the vicinity of the theater district, keeping in mind that prices will probably be higher during big events.
5) If you're curious about where Western New York's theaters are located, this map will help:
E-mail Colin Dabkowski at email@example.com.