You’d think things would slow down after the hectic holidays, but no. The Cratchits are still picking at the Christmas leftovers and the Sugar Plum Fairy has barely taken off her toe shoes, when January blows onstage full of New Year promise. This month I’m looking forward to a dance-theater festival, two one-woman plays, a twisted whodunit, and a madcap opera.

The month-long festival Bodies in Motion is already underway in the Northampton Community Arts Trust building. A co-production of A.P.E. @ Hawley and the School for Contemporary Dance and Thought (SCDT), it’s a multidisciplinary feast of performances, films, workshops, installations and exhibits featuring local and national artists. The focus is on “diverse approaches to dance as a performative art,” from modern through improvisation to hip hop, with new works premiering weekly.

This week features The Architects, a longstanding collaborative of five women artists in diverse disciplines, and a showcase with Joya Powell of New York’s Movement of the People Dance Company, joined by two teen ensembles – SCDT’s Hatchery troupe of young dancers and the Performance Project’s Holyoke-based First Generation theater group of youth from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and family histories. Info and tickets at

An adjunct to the festival is Cast, Stage, Author, a free, three-part installation and performance work by the New York-based collaborative a canary torsi, exploring issues of perception and representation. The first part, Author, described as “a participatory video installation that invites each visitor to interact with the performers through a text-based computer game,” runs at the Arts Trust Jan. 17-31.

Then the company moves to Amherst College for Cast and Stage, Jan. 31-Feb. 1. A script written by a computer for each performance, and handed to the actors on the spot, is followed by “a visual and aural fantasia that explores what an audience sees and perceives.” Call 413-542-2277 for reservations.

This weekend, Pauline Productions presents Israeli actor/author Tamir in her one-woman performance Now. It’s a reflection on the prevalence of suicide in her home country, with chilling parallels to ours. Her story, she says, is personal, “but one that simmers in the hearts of many who live in a culture of violence with a history of persecution and easy access to guns.”

The piece is “a depiction of an inner emotional landscape and the healing that comes through theater and faith … to being present in the now.” The world premiere, directed by Shakespeare & Company’s Martin Jason Asprey, plays in the Ashfield Congregational Church Jan. 10-12. Now comes with the caution that while “it is meant to bring greater awareness to difficult issues, some may find them emotionally challenging.”

Ira Levin’s mystery-thriller Deathtrap opens this week at the Majestic Theater in West Springfield, running through Feb. 16. It’s a classic rendition of the multiple-switcheroo, can’t-trust-anyone suspenser, often tongue-in-cheek but with real jolts and surprises. The setup – a famous but dried-up playwright covets a young rival’s script and plots to do him in to get it – is only the entrée to the plot’s hairpin twists. There’s also a play (called Deathtrap) within the play and plenty of theater-world jokes.

When Nilaja Sun brought her solo play Pike St. to the Academy of Music in November, I called her “the most exciting solo performer I’ve ever seen.” This week the show opens at Hartford Stage (through Feb. 2). This is an expanded physical production, with a full set, but, as she told me, “the same cast.” That is, 12 characters, all played by her.

Among these is Evelyn Vega, whose daughter Candi is severely disabled. Sharing the cramped Lower East Side apartment is Evelyn’s brother Manny, a decorated war veteran just back from Afghanistan, and her disreputable father, called Papí. It takes place in 2012, as Hurricane Sandy barreled toward Manhattan bringing devastating floods. Sun’s portrait of a family caught up in chaos is equal parts stunning technique and enormous heart. If you didn’t catch it in Northampton, head for Hartford.

Panopera, the Valley’s home-grown, artist-led opera company, follows up last winter’s Sweeney Todd with another tonsorial tale, The Barber of Seville, Jan. 24 & 26 at the Academy of Music. Sweeney is Sondheim’s grisly musical about a crazed barber plotting murder and revenge; Barber is Rossini’s classic opera-buffa about a quick-witted barbiere improvising plots to unite true lovers.

Imitating this narrative, the production, as directed by Valley theater veteran Sam Samuels, imagines “a penniless but determined opera troupe” improvising their performance from “backstage odds and ends – not unlike Figaro himself, that supreme trickster who seems to find gold in any situation.” Guest conductor Jonathan Hirsch leads a full orchestra in the performance, which is sung in Italian with supertitles.

Photo credits:
Bodies in Motion – courtesy of A.P.E.
a canary torsi – Maria Baranova
Tamir – courtesy of the artist
Pike St. -– Teresa Castracane

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