It’s not quite true that theatres have completely shut down all operations during the coronavirus pandemic. But what activity there is seems to fall into roughly three categories: Drive-in or pop-up theatre, from Virginia’s Barter Theater to Boulder, Colo.’s Boulder Arts Outdoors (we’ve even heard of a drive-in-style gatherings to view screenings of filmed performances of Chicago’s Hell in a Handbag Productions); low-capacity proscenium stagings that fall roughly in the category of “public health experiments,” like Berkshire Theatre Group’s current Godspell and Virginia’s American Shakespeare Center repertory; and, of course, virtual “theatre” captured with cameras and beamed into our homes.
The latter is certainly the most active—and shall we say, safest—genre of pandemic performance, and it has inspired a certain amount of innovation from companies large and small. This week’s listings range from offerings presented by LORT theatres to resolutely indie efforts, some of which, like the Corkscrew Festival, push the envelope of what performance-via-screen can be. Click on!
New York’s Irish Repertory Theatre continues its 2020 Digital Summer Season series with Love, Noël: The Songs and Letters of Noël Coward, a duo-play devised by Barry Day, directed by Charlotte Moore, and starring acclaimed cabaret performers Steve Ross and KT Sullivan. This newly staged production was filmed on location at the Players Theatre, with cast and crew adhering to all safety protocols, but it will be viewable online only at specific performance times (all times EST): Tues., Aug. 11, 7 p.m.; Wed., Aug. 12, 3 p.m. & 8 p.m.; Thurs., Aug. 13, 7 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 14, 8 p.m.; and Sat., Aug. 15, 3 p.m. Suggested donation is $25, and can be obtained here.
James Jackson Jr., who starred in Michael R. Jackson’s Pulizer-winning musical A Strange Loop, headlines a new four-character queer song cycle, Different Stars: A Reckoning with Time, Trauma and Circumstance, written by Karl Saint Lucy, and premiering on Sat., Aug. 15 at 7:00 p.m. EST on YouTube Live. Proceeds from funds raised during the show, which explores queer intimacy gone awry during the pandemic lockdown, will go to QORDS, a music-centered camp for queer and transgender youth in the American South. Appearing along with Jackson are Victoria Huston-Elem, Danielle Buonaiuto, and the composer himself, under the direction of Raquel Cion.
Jonesing for some courtroom drama? The verdict is in on Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. EDT, as New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre partners with San Francisco Bay Area-based SCOTUS Theatre to present 2020 Blockbuster Season Recap, comprising readings of, and panel discussions about, three of the 2020’s Supreme Court most dramatic and consequential recent decisions: June Medical Services v. Russo, which protected abortion rights in Louisiana; Bostock v. Clayton County, which ruled in favor of LGBTQ labor protections; and McGirt v. Oklahoma, which officially ceded most of eastern Oklahoma to its Indigenous nations. SCOTUS Theatre is billed as “a collection of actors, lawyers, and scholars who bring the world of the Supreme Court to audiences.” The evening’s panelists include ACLU executive director Abdi Soltani, Rewire News senior editor Imani Gandy, University of Michigan assistant professor of law Leah Litman, and Northeastern University professor of law and computer science Ari Waldman. Pay-what-you-wish tickets can be found here.
Masa, the maize dough of nixtamalized corn that forms the basis of tortillas, pupusa, and tamales, is also the theme of a “live online fiesta” offered by Costa Mesa, Calif.’s South Coast Repertory, Mon., Aug. 17 at 5:30 p.m. PT. Four short pieces directed and curated by Juliette Carrillo include Luis Alfaro’s The Gardens of Aztlan (An Acto Hecho A Mano); “El Maiz,” a scene from Lisa Loomer’s Café Vida; a scene from Amilcar Jauregui’s Tejuiino; and The Path to Divadom, or How To Make Fat-free Tamales in G minor, by the late Diane Rodriguez. SCR is teaming up with Second Harvest Food Bank to help those who do not have sufficient access to nutritious food during the COVID-19 pandemic; though the Masa program is free to view, donations are encouraged and reservations are required.
Corkscrew Theater Festival is a fairly young new-play fest—this year is just the fourth iteration of this indie Off-Off-Broadway effort—but this year, for Corkscrew 4.0, they’ve upped their game with interactive online experiences based on plays they planned to produce at this summer’s festival. So now through Aug. 23, you can sample the puzzlement of Bloom Bloom Pow, a darkly comic, biodegradable choose-your-own-adventure through the depths of the world’s bodies of water, from the team of Genevieve Simon, Katherine Wilkinson, and Sun Hee Kil; The Ortiz Twins Are Coming Home, Andrew Siañez-De La O’s mixed-media composition, based on the opening scene from his Mexican fantasy epic, with artwork by Maria Feuereisen and music by Benjamin Velez; Waters_of_Oblivion.exe, an interactive, audiovisual journey through a bureaucratic underworld, devised by Cinthia Chen, Tina-Hanaé Miller, Maya Simone Z., and Elizabeth Sun; and Serena Berman’s Yankees, a faux-Facebook group for an Italian “study abroad” program. The fest will also be presenting one “live” event: a party in a Google Sheet on Wed., August 19 at 7 p.m. EST, hosted by Ruth Tang, author of the play about goats and the economy, Future Wife; like all of Corkscrew 4.0 it’s free, but in this case reservations are requested. Organized by playwright Haleh Roshan, Corkscrew has committed to full productions of these plays in August 2021, public health conditions permitting.
Don’t let the name fool you: The Bengsons’ new The Keep Going Song is not just a single song but a full show, offered via Actors’ Theatre of Louisville and streaming to ticketholders Aug. 14-Oct. 8. This indie folk duo and married couple, Abigail and Shaun Bengson, whose shows include Hundred Days and The Lucky Ones, have created the new show to “explore living fully even in moments of fear, choosing to love fiercely, and cultivating joy as a form of personal activism.” Tickets range $15-100 and can be ordered here.
Beginning today, just in time for the fall school season (at many places in the U.S., though not all—my kids aren’t set to begin for another month), San Antonio’s Magik Theatre will share a filmed capture of its popular adaptation of Dragons Love Tacos, which is best for kids aged 3-10. Recorded in June, when the theatre was still open with a limited capacity, the stream is viewable in 48-hour rental periods priced between $15 and $40.
Points for a clever name go to Indianapolis Shakespeare Company, which virtually gathered the cast and creative team of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which has been postponed to June 2021, for a short online offering called A Midzoomer Night’s Dream. Released on Aug. 15 and running through Sept. 12, it can be viewed on the Indy Shakes Facebook page or at www.indyshakes.com/virtual.
Finally, kicking off on Sat., Aug. 15 at 5 p.m. CDT is the ninth year of the St. Lou Fringe, a fringe festival of St. Louis arts and performance, this year going virtual. The first event is a socially distanced concert performed by Alerica Anderson and Company from an outdoor driveway of an undisclosed location. This year’s offerings include explorations of issues around Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, trans rights, and even the making of an opera about a St. Louis poet. The fest, which runs through Sun., Aug. 23, has a complete calendar here.
Support American Theatre: a just and thriving theatre ecology begins with information for all. This Giving Season, please join us in this mission by making a donation to our publisher, Theatre Communications Group. When you support American Theatre magazine and TCG, you support a long legacy of quality nonprofit arts journalism. Click here to make your fully tax-deductible donation today!