This past weekend my sons had a visit from two wizards—via Zoom, of course. Brothers Tim and Tom sat in their separate boxes on my sons’ computer screen, bickering over who was a better wizard and conjuring a series of spells using little more than a mug, a spoon, some unidentified powders, and some cheesy rhyming couplets. My boys were directed to magically find balloons outside our front door, notes in their sock drawers, an ace of spades taped to the bathroom mirror, and more. I’m pretty sure my boys knew that Tim and Tom had had help from a local props master, shall we say (yours truly), but they’re at the age where they still play along with the (alleged) fictions of the Tooth Fairy and Santa because the perks are just too good.
This was The Wizards of Oakwood Drive, an interactive performance from the mind of Tom Salamon, creator of a popular series of interactive walking mysteries in New York City under the title Accomplice. It’s part of this year’s Without Walls festival, La Jolla Playhouse’s vaunted immersive-theatre lab, this year entirely digital; Wizards runs through July 26, and tickets are a reasonable $25 (parental prep work not included).
This week of virtual theatre is an especially busy one, props or otherwise. Here’s a selective sampling of offerings from all over the U.S, some appointment viewing, others on demand, depending on how you roll.
Catch Them Live
Performances aren’t the only things happening online; Zoom and Google Meet and Facebook Live are all abuzz with classes, panel discussions, live writing workshops, and every other kind of conversation you can think of. So we’ll kick off this week’s appointment viewing with the latest installment in East West Players‘ weekly East West Wednesdays. On July 22 at 5 pm, PDT, wellness guide Dr. Raja G. Bhattar will lead a reflection on art, activism, and self-care with guests including Lindsey Jordan-Powell, Sunhee Seo, Bee Vang, Ashphord Jacoway, Dekontee Tucrkile, Reena Dutt, Jenapher Zheng, Trance Thompson, Megan Rippey, Napoleon Tavale, Tom Dang, Elvira Barjau, Christopher Aguilar, and Nardeep Khurmi. You can watch on Facebook or on YouTube.
Then playwright/performer John Fisher takes us back to a pre-COVID time—a very pre-COVID time—with his solo show Growing Up: The World in 1976, in a one-time free performance hosted by San Francisco’s LGBT outpost Theatre Rhinoceros, Thursday, July 23, at 8 p.m. PST. The show, a press release says, is about “a boy with too much imagination” as he “navigates the Bicentennial, algebra, Happy Days, and the heat of a wicked summer riding his bike.” You can register to see it via Zoom here, or just go to Fisher’s Facebook Live here.
For another flashback, this one to 1969, a group of theatres—Houston’s Stages, in partnership with One Year Lease Theater Company, San Jose, Calif.’s Hammer Theater Center, and Fayettevill, Ark.’s Walton Arts Center—are joining to offer a unique audio experience, a free radio play rendition of a previously planned theatrical production, Nick Flint’s Pieces of the Moon, a “theatrical jazz riff” combining the true stories of the Apollo 11 astronauts and the artistry of performance poet Gil Scott-Heron, to coincide with the 51st anniversary of the moon landing. Directed by Ianthe Demos, the show will be broadcast at specific showtimes: daily at 7 p.m. CDT, July 20-Aug. 2, with addition performances July 22, 25, 26, 29, and Aug. 1-2 at 12 p.m. CDT, as well as July 23, 7 p.m. PDT and July 26, 3 p.m. PDT. Reservations are required and headphones recommended.
Going back still further, R&H Movie Night features a historic revival with a live viewing party of 1957’s original broadcast of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, starring Julie Andrews, on Friday, July 24 at 8 p.m. ET., on the official R&H YouTube channel. Though this black-and-white kinescope, filmed directly from a TV monitor, as was the wont in those days, will be available to stream free for 48 hours following the live viewing party, would you miss the opportunity to party like it’s 1957 and watch it simultaneously with the rest of world? Impossible!
Going back not nearly so far is another rebroadcast, this time of a popular annual event held by Shakespeare Theatre Company of Washington, D.C., which held its latest fundraising “mock trial” on June 22. For the fund-event they asked such legal eminences as Kathryn Ruemmler (of Obama’s DOJ) and white-shoe lawyer Abbe Lowell to argue a matter of force majeure in a case based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream before a distinguished panel of D.C. judges: Merrick B. Garland, Patricia A. Millett, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, and Neomi Jehangir Rao. This Virtual Mock Trial, hosted by actor Tracie Thoms, will re-air Friday, July 24 at 8 p.m. EST and Saturday, July 25 at 2 p.m. EST. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $10 for law clerks, and free for current students.
Also this Friday is the beginning of a series of performances of a new digital work commissioned by Baltimore’s Single Carrot Theatre, we broke up, by local playwright DJ Hills, which imagines two internet personalities exposing the details of their recent break-up live. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with proceeds going to Baltimore Safe Haven, which provides services for transgender people in Baltimore “in survival mode.” Performances are Friday, July 24, at 8 p.m. EST; Saturday, July 25, at 9 p.m. EST; Wednesday, July 29, at 7 p.m. EST; Thursday, July 30, 7 p.m. EST; and Friday, July 31, 8 p.m. EST.
And if you’re looking for some free inspiration, you could do worse than to check out the final presentation of the Palefsky Collision Project, a program of Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre now in its 19th year, which gives area high school students a platform to tackle important social issues. Under the guidance of playwright Pearl Cleage, 20 Atlanta students have devised and a world-premiere play inspired by Kip Wilson’s novel White Rose, itself based on the true story of the student-led resistance group who challenged the Nazi regime during World War II. The students have filtered their adaptation through their own experiences of resistance to oppression—and it’s hard to think of a more timely prompt. The students’ final presentation will air on Sunday, July 25 at 2:30 EST; it’s free but reservations are required.
The mission of Jersey City’s No Peeking Theatre is to make theatre without the element of sight, but COVID-19 has forced it to innovate for a new medium. The result has been a series of online productions, and the newest is Indigenous, a group-created show billed as “an online theatrical presentation of the Native experience.” It is viewable free on Saturday, July 25, 8 p.m. EST (“doors” open at 7:30 p.m.) but donations are encouraged.
For its fifth annual Women in Theatre Festival, Project Y Theatre Company faced the dilemma every live gathering has since March: how to move it all online. Originally scheduled to go up in June at New York City’s ART/New York theatres, the first Women in Theatre Live and Online festival will finally kick off on Sunday, July 26, at 7 p.m., EST, with “All Hands on Deck,” featuring four new works by female-identified writers of the African Diaspora, including Nanã by France-Luce Benson, Ways and Means by Nikkole Salter, Bygone Fruit by Banna Desta, and They Live in You, by Sienna L. Jones, directed by Shariffa Ali. The evening, conceived by Antu Yacob, has the theme Conversation with the Ancestors, Past/Present/Future. The event is free on YouTube. More about the rest of the festival programming, including new works by Amanda Palmer and Kat Mustatea, is here.
Perchance to Stream
Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater was supposed to stage Aleshea Harris’s harrowing revenge tragedy Is God Is this season, but they’ve found another way for the age of lockdown: an audio version, directed by James Ijames, which will stream for a limited window July 23-26. Tickets are by a sliding scale donation starting at $10. I’m still kicking myself that I missed this one when it premiered at Soho Rep in 2018, but I did get the chance to read it and blew my hair back; I highly recommend this one.
For an entirely different experience and audience (recommended for ages 5 and up), Dallas Children’s Theater has unveiled its first fully virtual production, a musical of the football comedy Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, a touring production that was pulled from the road by COVID-19 but was subsequently shot on multiple cameras in DCT’s own Baker Theater in the Rosewood Center for the Performing Arts. Families may rent a performance for $10 from now through Aug. 1. (Avid fans can upgrade to the $25 package, which includes an opportunity to Zoom with playwright Joan B. Cushing on July 30 at 7 p.m.)
Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis has partnered with Missouri classical radio station Classic 107.3 to present “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air,” a series of one-acts by the town’s most famous playwright. Now available to play online and as a podcast is The Lady of Larkspur Lotion, directed by Tim Ocel, in which a long-time boardinghouse tenant, convinced that she owns a Brazillian rubber plantation, argues with her landlady. Broadway legend Ken Page narrates and noted Williams scholar Tom Mitchell offers commentary.
Another musical captured on film last year, Harrison David Rivers’s and Ted Shen’s musical Broadbend, Arkansas, is now available for viewing online for a limited time. This world premiere musical bowed in New York City last October, in a production by Transport Group Theatre Company, in association with the Public Theater, and tells the story of a Black family grappling with decades of inequality, violence, and oppression in the South. Minneapolis’s Theatre Latté Da plans to further develop the show this fall. It’s free to register and watch any time before Aug. 16.
And finally, Jeff Bezos, not to mention Jane Austen, hardly need any free promotion, but we nevertheless find it heartening to learn that TheatreWorks Silicon Valley‘s production of Paul Gordon’s Pride and Prejudice is now available on Amazon. This musical version of the popular rom-com, free to Amazon Prime members and rentable for as low as $2.99, premiered at the theatre last December, broke box office records at the theatre, and was captured by Streaming Musicals. For is it not now a truth universally acknowledged that a theatre in possession of a successful stage production must be in want of a filmed version?
Creative credit for production photo: Miss Nelson Has a Field Day, book, music & lyrics by Joan Cushing, based on the book by Harry Allard & James Marshall; direction & choreography: K. Doug Miller; music direction: Pamela McLain; scenic design: Michelle Harvey; lighting design: John Micheal Moss II; costume design: Lyle Huchton; sound design: Marco Salinas; properties design: Beck Schlabach