MILWAUKEE: First Stage has announced “Through Our Lens,” a virtual performance series that will offer streaming plays, episodic performances, new play readings, and other events online. The theatre is currently refraining from planning live performances for its 2020-21 season due to ongoing concerns around the pandemic.
“As we continue to monitor CDC guidelines while also working with our performance venues and our unions to ensure the safety of both the rehearsal process and performances, we are not able to predict when we will be able to safely return to in person rehearsals and/or present to a live audience,” said First Stage artistic director Jeff Frank in a statement. “While we are not closing the door to producing plays next season, we feel we must wait until we can rehearse, produce, and present safely for all involved and in a way that is fiscally responsible.”
The virtual season will open with the seven-episode web series The Quest for Solomon’s Treasure (streaming Sept. 20-Nov. 1, 2020), written by John Maclay and developed by Maclay, Jeremy Tardy, and Jeff Frank. Directed by Tardy, the series follows a group of young people in Milwaukee as they try to solve clues in a treasure hunt to save the day.
Next up will be The Girl Who Swallowed A Cactus (In Your Home) (streaming Nov. 2-22, 2020), by Eric Coble. Sheila and her friends, in search of something interesting to explore, come across a well-dressed coyote who leads them on the adventure of a lifetime. Jeff Frank will direct.
Following will be Qui Ngyuen’s She Kills Monsters: Virtual Realms (streaming Nov. 13-22, 2020). Coltyn Giltner will direct this dramatic comedy that dives into the world of fantasy role-playing games.
The season will continue with Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona (streaming Dec. 4-13, 2020), directed by Marcella Kearns. The First Stage Young Company will present this Shakespearean tale of betrayal, love, and disguise.
The virtual season of plays will conclude with Escape from Peligro Island—A Create Your Own Adventure Play, by Finegan Kruckemeyer, which will stream live on Jan. 29, Jan. 30, Feb. 5, and Feb. 6, 2021, with recorded episodes available through Feb. 14. This interactive production allows audience members to vote on the actions of Callaway Brown, an unlikely hero who has been stranded on a deserted island.
Additionally, First Stage will offer the First Stage Young Performer Virtual Showcase (streaming Sept. 6-13, 2020), in conjunction with the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, which will allow students to share monologues, songs and poetry in a virtual showcase.
First Stage will also present a live reading of the world premiere play Apollo and the Trials of Hercules (streaming Sept. 11-13, 2020), by Joe Foust and John Maclay. Elyse Edelman and Hal Sansone will direct and the Sept. 13 reading will feature a live discussion with the playwrights and directors.
Finally, the Young Company will present scenes and monologues from Utah Shakespeare Festival’s High School Competition, streaming Oct. 10-24, 2020.
“Though we may not be able to come together physically to enjoy the magic of live theater,” added Frank in a statement, “we can still deliver the power of an interactive, shared experience by creating new work designed specifically to be shared through the emerging digital platforms.”
Founded in 1987, First Stage is the second largest theatre company in Milwaukee and it aims to create extraordinary theatre experiences for young people and families.
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