Help save a living art form
This bizarre moment in history has brought us a unique opportunity to stream theatre performances, for a limited time, from all over the country, even the world.
Every non-profit and commercial theatre has had to close their doors. Some of these theatres, possibly many, won’t survive this pandemic. Do you want to be a hero from your sofa? To help save a living art form? Check out one, or many, of these performances that theatre companies recorded as COVID-19 began to creep through our populace.
Do you have to pay for this entertainment? Yes, for most of it, though many theatres offer pay-what-you-can options, and some of it is free. But remember: some artist is barely scraping by on the fraction they receive of the money you spend on an evening’s entertainment. This is like over-tipping your delivery person: if you can afford to do it right now, you should. It’s a safe way to help people in crisis.
Let’s start with the events that are closing or only happening this weekend. If you’re looking to benefit COVID Relief or you’re looking to do something Passover-related this Saturday, April 11th, you can check out a free, live-streamed reading of Jennifer Maisel’s The Last Seder with much of the original Off-Broadway cast. Donations will benefit the Jewish Board’s Covid fund.
Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA has a production of the comedy Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes that closes April 12th. The world premiere of Love by Kate Cortesi at Marin Theatre Company also streams until April 12th. As does Native Gardens by Karen Zacarias at Portland Stage, though if you miss that, you can catch Karen’s play Destiny of Desire at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Rochester, New York’s Geva Theatre’s productions of Cry It Out and the musical Once both stop streaming on April 15th.
If you like your theatre with music, there are two new plays, Arizona Theatre Company’s The Legend of Georgia McBride! by Matthew Lopez and American Mariachi by José Cruz Gonzalez from Dallas Theatre Center, that you may enjoy. (Apologies if I’m misspelling your name, José, but it doesn’t appear on the website. Indeed I had to dig for so many authors’ names that it was shameful. Theatre, do better.) The company describes The Legend of Georgia McBride as a “great escape” during these difficult times, and American Mariachi is about an all-femme Mariachi band trying to break the macho gender stereotypes of the 1970s.
Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau at Central Square Theater in Cambridge, Mass comes highly recommended, as does Dolls House 2 by Lucas Hnath at Florida Rep. Baltimore Center Stage is streaming Where We Stand by Donnetta Lavinia Grays, and House of Joy is streaming from San Diego Rep. I’d tell you who wrote it, but the website doesn’t want me to know. (American Theatre magazine told me it’s written by Madhuri Shekar.) Bloomington Playwrights Project in Indiana is making a menu of past performances available to view for donors.
These productions are streaming from all over the country, except New York City. I have not yet discovered what that’s about, but I assure you it has something to do with unions, workers’ rights, and money. The Public Theatre in NY has created PLAY AT HOME, plays you can download for free and perform at home! All family friendly.
If you’ve always wanted to check out Chicago’s legendary theatre scene, there are several productions available: There’s the highly acclaimed production of Kill Move Paradise by James Ijames at Timeline Theatre Company, the delightful comedy School Girls: Or, the African Mean Girls Play by Jocelyn Bioh at the Goodman Theatre, a retelling of Richard III as a high schooler with cerebral palsy in Teenage Dick by Mike Lew at Theatre Wit, and The Neo-Futurists have launched a digital version of their weekly show, The Infinite Wrench.
If you’re looking to entertain your children with something other than cartoons that make you want to drive a spike through your brain there’s Alliance Theatre’s Theatre for Young Audience Productions of “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed” and “In Granny’s Garden.”
And if you’re really hard up for cash there is even free theatre. There’s Kirsten Brandt’s Coded from City Lights Theater Company in San Jose, CA. Trinity Street Players in Austin has short plays available on YouTube. The series is called Performing in PJs: Making Art In the Time of Coronavirus and includes plays by Lia Romeo, Franky Gonzalez, Alex Rubin, & Heidi Kraay.
And, hey, I mentioned theatre from around the world, right? Someone recommended Britain’s Orange Tree Theatre’s Amsterdam by Maya Arad Yasur to me, and I’ve heard that Comedie-Francaise presents a play every day at 1:30 CST. The National Theatre in London is also streaming shows in rotation.
Is seeing theatre on your TV the same as being there? No. But it’s also not that different from watching stand-up comedy when we’re not there, and we stream that all the time. So, until we can all sit in a room together and share a theatrical performance that will never happen again exactly the same way, let’s do the next best thing, and check out these captured experiences from the safety of our homes. Be well, and be curious.
(Featured photo from Kill Move Paradise, at Chicago’s Timeline Theater).