Last week’s question—what is theatre, after all?—resonates through this week’s offerings as well, with benefits and online theatre games jostling for attention with reunion play readings and archival videos.
Also lingering from last week: more celebrations of the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment, which officially gave women the vote in the U.S. (but functionally granted it only to white women). And what better week for counter-programming than the nightly political infomercials for our racist president and his regime?
The Nineteenth Amendment centennial celebration culminates nationwide with this Wednesday’s Women’s Equality Day, and to mark that date TheatreWorks Silicon Valley and the Woman’s Club of Palo Alto will present excerpts and songs from Perfect 36, a new musical about the amendment’s passage, with lyrics and book by Laura Harrington, music by Mel Marvin, and direction by Mac Pirkle. The title refers to the 36-state majority needed to ratify the amendment, with Tennessee’s vote sealing the deal. Hosted by TheatreWorks’s artistic associate and new-works director Giovanna Sardelli, the event will be viewable here on Wed., Aug. 26, at 5:30 p.m. PDT; it’s free of charge but donations are encouraged.
Also scheduled for Women’s Equality Day is Women in Theatre: A Centennial Celebration, to air on Playbill.com on Wed., Aug. 26 at 8 p.m. ET. Hosted by What the Constitution Means to Me’s Heidi Schreck and Oklahoma!’s Rebecca Naomi Jones, the concert will feature performances by Sara Bareilles, Andréa Burns, Heather Christian, Ann Harada, Nikki M. James, Beth Malone, Jessie Mueller, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and Saycon Sengbloh, among others. It’s free but online donations will go to Broadway Advocacy Coalition’s Artivism Fellowship. Melissa Crespo directs.
Have a virtual meal with a literal monster mom in Feast, Megan Gogerty’s solo play, in which Jennifer Joplin stars as the mother of Grendel, nemesis of Beowulf, come to life to survey wreckage of the 21st century. Know Theatre of Cincinatti is offering it at specific times Wed.-Sat., Aug. 26-Sept. 19 at 8 p.m. EDT, with matinees on Sun., Aug. 30, Sept. 6, Sept. 13, and Sept. 20 at 3 p.m. EDT. Prices range $5-20 (with free rush tickets on offer as available one hour before showtime).
Houston’s Catastrophic Theatre dips into its back catalog to offer a streaming performance of its 2018 world premiere production of Chana Porter’s Leap and the Net Will Appear, a theatrical adventure about one woman’s time-hopping search for love and authenticity. The show can be viewed for free via Houston Cinema Arts Society through Sept. 3. In conjunction with this offering, Catastrophic and HCAS will host a live talkback with playwright Porter and director Tara Ahmadinejad, Wed., Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. CDT and a live virtual concert with the show’s composer, Andrew Lynch, Sat., Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. CDT.
Pittsburgh’s Quantum Theatre, known for site-specific productions, has announced three new productions that will be performed virtually and live-streamed. The first is Nick Payne’s two-character drama Constellations, directed by Sam Turich and enacted by three real-life couples, playing different versions of the same two characters. Performances will be viewable via Crowdcast every night from Thurs., Aug. 27 through Sun., Aug. 30; tickets are free but reservations are required and donations encouraged. Later productions in this mode will include Mike Bartlett’s Wild and Cary Churchill’s Far Away.
In another case of real-life couples casting, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s production of Steven Dietz’s The Nina Variations features five theatre couples, each taking on a handful of Dietz’s 42 variations on the final scene of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. Filmed in BETC’s rehearsal space by a socially distanced crew, the playlets are streaming through Sun., Aug. 30; tickets are $25-$45 (or free with BETC membership).
The New Group will reunite most of the acclaimed cast of the New Group’s 2013 production of Beth Henley’s dark family drama The Jacksonian for a benefit reading, Thurs., Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. EST, with on-demand viewing available through Sun., Aug. 30 at 11:59 p.m. EST. These include Ed Harris, Bill Pullman, and Amy Madigan, with Carol Kane stepping into the role played by the late Glenne Headly. Tickets range $10-$25, with 10 percent of proceeds going to Race Forward.
Another acclaimed production gets a timely revival when the original director, Shirley Jo Finney, and cast of the Fountain Theatre’s award-bedecked 2010 staging of Ifa Bayeza’s The Ballad of Emmett Till reunites for a live-streamed reading of the play on Fri., Aug. 28, at 4 p.m. PT, a date which marks the 65th anniversary of Till’s murder by racist whites defending the honor of a white woman he allegedly whistled at (she fabricated the story, as she later confessed), and the 57th anniversary of the historic Civil Rights March on Washington. Tickets are $20.
For a glimpse of tomorrow’s talent today, check out TheaterMania and AudienceView’s expanded Young Playwrights Contest festival, with readings produced, directed, and performed entirely by students from winning and placing one-act plays solicited from high school students since May. On Fri., Aug. 28 at 2 p.m. ET, Katherine Budinger’s first-place play Perfectly Gilded Pineapples kicks off the program, followed by a number of honorable mentions; on Sat., Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. ET is a program of honorable mentions led by Andrew Noah’s Mafia Mixup; later, on Sat., Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. ET, Maya Doyle’s runner-up play When They Came From Above leads off, and finally, on Sun., Aug. 30 at 2 p.m. ET, Sophia Baldassari’s runner-up play Winter of ’99 anchors a four-play program. They’ll all be here for free.
Stretching the definition of theatre but qualifying in our book (because why not?) is Arizona-based Bridge Initiative: Women in Theatre’s new Quaran-Teams, an hour-long event featuring theatre artists “teams,” accompanied by a trivia-type game with prizes for the audience. They’ve scheduled two live streams on Fri., Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. MST and Sat., Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. MST, with content available to view through midnight Monday, August 31st on Facebook. The event will feature artists from both the Grand Canyon State and the national theatre scene, with winners receiving gift bags with T-shirts, fabric masks, and more.
On Sat., Aug. 29 at 8 p.m. ET, Fantasy Theatre Factory at Miami’s Sandrell Rivers Theater will host its third annual, and first virtual, Sandrell Rivers Day, a celebration of its theatre’s late founder, an arts mover in South Florida who was bestowed the honorary title of traditional African Chief by a Nigerian king. The lineup includes the bestowal of the Sandrell Rivers Humanitarian Award to Dr. Larry R. Handfield, Esq., of the Handfield Firm. Hosted by singer and entertainer Brenda Alford, the free event will include performances by jazz saxophonist Melton Mustafa Jr., dancer Randolph Ward, magician Billy Byron, aerialist Luckner “Lucky” Bruno, and more, and will be viewable on Facebook and YouTube.
Kimberly Faye Greenberg’s solo show bringing back to life the ’20s musical theatre superstar Fanny Brice, Fabulous Fanny, has been streamlined from a live performance at the Nelson Hall Theatre in Cheshire, Conn., and she’s offering two-hour streaming windows for $9.99 at the following times: Sun., Aug. 30 at 3 p.m. EST, Fri., Sept. 4 at 9 p.m. EST, Sat., and Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. EST.
Women at war are the focus of Soldiergirls, a new two-person show billed as a “lesbian musical sex comedy,” which will get a benefit concert via Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, Mon., Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. ET. With book and lyrics by Em Weinstein and music by Emily Johnson-Erday, Soldiergirls uses real letters and a collage of found and original text to look at love, liberation, and lesbianism in the Women’s Army Corps during World War IIl, and features a stellar cast of Broadway talents (Jenn Colella, Lilli Cooper, Chilina Kennedy, Ezra Menas, and more). It’s free but reservations are encouraged and donations accepted to raise money for SPART*A (Service Members, Partners, Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All).
Finally, Colorado’s Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities continues its Amplify series of music, spoken word, and conversation. After the first three episodes, which featured the voices of Black men, the next collection features the unique perspective of Black women, with each episode showcasing five women performing a selection of their choice. The first new episode is already up, featuring Colette Brown, Jasmine Jackson, Latifah Johnson, Marisa Hebert, and Stephanie Hancock, and the next ones will roll out in the coming weeks.
Creative credits for production photos: The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza, directed by Shirley Jo Finney, scenic design: Scott Siedman, lighting design: Kathi O’Donohue, costume design: Naila Aladdin-Sanders, sound design: David B. Marling. Leap and the Net Will Appear, written by Chana Porter, with music by Andrew Lynch, director: Tara Ahmadinejad, scenic design: Ryan McGettigan, costume design: Macy Lyne, lighting design: Hudson Davis, sound design: Tim Thomson, prop design: Tina Montgomery. The Jacksonian by Beth Henley, directed by Robert Falls, scenic design: Walt Spangler, costume design: Ana Kuzmanic, lighting design: Daniel Ionazzi, sound design: Richard Woodbury.
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