What is your virtual theatregoing ritual, if any? I could use some advice. Time was, I would go to a restaurant, then a show, most often with a family member or a friend; the subway was employed as transportation either way, with the occasional recourse to a cab or car service. Now my commute is from my co-op apartment kitchen to the bedroom to the living room, and back and forth; family members are never far away, and doors are shut and headphones used to shut out distractions, if needed (usually needed).
Occasionally, if a show is available on YouTube (and not too long), I can watch it via Roku on my not-very-smart TV after my kids are put to bed, which is how I saw the alternately stunning and batshit The Great Work Begins a few weeks ago (it’s apparently still available to watch: I recommend it, but also recommend this excellent piece about how and why it was made). Honestly, I am still struggling to find a time this week to catch the Playbill broadcast of the Brian Dennehy Death of a Salesman; appointment viewing like that is hard to swing in a household in which evenings are mostly reserved for mysteries via Britbox and episodes of The Great British Baking Show (apparently we Weinert-Kendts are Anglophiles—who knew?).
This week in online/virtual theatre is bigger on comedy than I might have expected, though given our current moment, most of the shows that fit that description look appropriately dark. Without further ado, separated between those you have to (or ought to) catch in real time (though some have catch-up opportunities for stragglers), and those you can stream on demand within a certain window (a lifesaver for stragglers like me).
Atlantic Theater Company is stepping up with its Fall Reunion Reading Series, virtual revisits of plays that had their world premiere productions at the New York City company. The series kicks off with Dominique Morisseau’s Skeleton Crew, featuring original cast members Jason Dirden, Wendell B. Franklin, Nikiya Mathis, and Adesola Osakulumi, plus new cast member Caroline Clay; Ruben Santiago-Hudson returns to helm the reading, which airs Thurs.-Sat., Oct. 22-24 at 7 p.m. ET, with an additional performance on Sat., Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. ET. Next is Rajiv Joseph’s Guards at the Taj, running Thurs.-Sat., Nov. 5-7. Following each weekend of performances, the company will present “Live with Atlantic: Remix,” a free creative conversation about the artistic process of each play. Lynn Nottage will interview Morisseau about Skeleton Crew on Sun., Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. ET, and Rajiv Joseph and Guards director Amy Morton will interview each other on Nov. 8. They’re free on the Atlantic YouTube channel, with a suggested donation of $25 per viewer.
Tonight you might catch a Zoom reading of Trista Baldwin’s The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge, a surreal new comedy that pits holiday cheer against a time of pandemic and protest, Thurs., Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. ET. Part of a First Look series from Lowell, Mass.’s Merrimack Repertory Theatre, it’s free but an RSVP is required, and the reading will be viewable on the site through Sun., Oct. 25. (Next in MRT’s series will be a still-untitled work by Vichet Chum on Nov. 12.)
The Russian troll farm is back—not just in the real-life election we’re just 12 days away from (!) but in a full presentation of Sarah Gancher’s Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy, in a co-production by Connecticut’s TheaterWorks Hartford and Fayetteville, Ark.’s TheatreSquared (with an assist from NYC’s Civilians), and with direction by Jared Mezzocchi and Elizabeth Williamson. Attentive readers of this column may recall that the Arkansas New Play Festival reading of Gancher’s play was available to view last month, but this new production promises “digital magic” and that “Zoom theatre has never looked like this.” You have been warned. The show is already streaming to a password-protected platform for live performances, and there are just three remaining: Thurs., Oct. 22-Sat., Oct, 24 at 7:30 p.m. ET; single-stream passes are available for $20.20. (Not to worry if you miss the broadcasts: Encore viewing will be available during an on-demand window, Oct. 24-Nov. 1.)
Black Lives, Black Words is an international initiative designed to provide local Black artists with a platform, and they’re bringing their “Plays for the People” virtual series to a close with two world premieres. First is Katrina D. RiChard’s Call for the Wailing Women, a modern-day take on Euripides’s The Suppliants, which will be performed and shared live Thurs., Oct. 22-Sun., Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. CDT. Valerie Curtis-Newton directs, and Gabriel Causon will supply a soundscape. Tickets run $10-16.96. Next, Nov. 19-22: Wole Oguntokun’s The Emancipation of Yankee Oluwale.
IAMA Theatre Company in Los Angeles will present a series of live-streamed readings of six full-length plays this weekend. The lineup includes Beta by Christian Durso, directed by Katie Lindsay, Thurs., Oct. 22 at 6 p.m. PT; Benjamin Benne’s In His Hands, directed by Kareem Fahmy, Fri., Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. PT; Pia Wilson’s Iseult et Tristan, directed by Susan Dalian, Sat., Oct. 24 at 12 p.m. PT; Geraldine Inoa’s #galaseason, by Melissa Coleman-Reed, Sat., Oct. 24 at 5 p.m. PT; Sofya Levitsky-Weitz’s This Party Sucks, directed by Kate Sullivan, Sun., Oct. 25 at 12 p.m. PT; and Catya McMullen’s Assholes in Gas Stations, with music by Scott Klopfenstein and direction by Jenna Worsham, Sun., Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. PT. All performances are free and will be streamed here.
Arizona’s ATM Productions, unbowed by the pandemic, will proceed with its planned fall festival by presenting four plays over Zoom: Matthew J. Wells’ Country Matters, which imagines an alternative ending for the characters of Hamlet (he and Ophelia have a child, for one), Fri., Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. MST; Jeanmarie Simpson’s Pineapple and Other Options, about depression and suicide, Sat., Oct. 24 at 2 p.m. MST; Pamela Sterling’s Louisa May Alcott: The Power of a Woman, Sat., Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. MST; and Simpson’s The Jewish Question, exploring cultural stereotypes about Jews and Judaism, Sun., Oct. 25 at 12 p.m. MST. A panel discussion on the theme of “radical inclusion” will follow on Sun., Oct. 25 at 4 p.m. MST. They’re all free but donations are encouraged; a one-stop all-access pass can be purchased for $50.
As we close in on five months since the death of George Floyd, Juneau’s Theater Alaska will present two free screenings of New Dawn Theatre’s A Breath for George, a collection of songs, interviews, and poems honoring Floyd’s life. Screenings will take place on Zoom Fri., Oct. 23 and Sat., Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. AKDT. A post-show discussion with New Dawn artistic director Austene Van will take place after both screenings. Tickets are free, but registration is required.
We love the impish, why-not notion behind Brooklyn’s Molière in the Park and can’t wait to get back outdoors with them. In the meantime, they’re co-presenting (with the French Institute Alliance Française, FIAF, and in partnership with the Prospect Park Alliance, LeFrak Center at Lakeside and Theatre for a New Audience) a live-stream of The School for Wives, in Richard Wilbur’s translation, directed by MitP’s AD, Lucie Tiberghien. One unique wrinkle: This presentation is said to “pioneer Liminal Entertainment Technologies’ innovative StreamWeaver software which pushes the online theatre medium into new domains.” The gender-transcending cast is led by Tonya Pinkins, Kaliswa Brewster, and Cristina Pitter. It will stream live Sat., Oct. 24 at 2 & 7 p.m. ET, followed by live Q&As with the cast and team (a stream of the performance will be available on the MitP’s YouTube channel through Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. ET). It’s all free but you should definitely reserve; French-speaking and hearing-impaired audiences will have the option to choose closed captions en français or in English.
San Francisco’s the Breath Project, an initiative formed to address racial injustice against Black people, has announced the lineup for its inaugural “The Breath Project Virtual Festival.” Produced in partnership with Alabama Shakespeare Festival, plus 23 other companies across the country, the festival will feature 24 performances lasting 8 minutes and 47 seconds, in memory of George Floyd. The festival selections were culled from a pool of 65 submissions and include Say Hello Stewart, Mhir Agrawal / Gamal Chasten; 3 Story Walk Up, Aldo Billingslea; Perspectives, Alumni Theater Company; Just Breathe, Ananya Dance Theatre; Waiting for Death, James Brunt; Don’t Be Afraid, Giovanny Camarena; The Cycle, the Char’Actors; Breath, Tyharra Cozier; Views of Color in 8:46, Henri Franklin; Oh, Maria, Yetta Gottesman; Acting While Black, Ilasiea Gray; Nice to Meet You, David Guster; Black Quarantine Date, Candice Handy; Breonna’s Prayer, Harvey; The Ballad of Jacob Blake, Gabrielle Jackson; 8:46, Angela G. King; The Act of Ownership, Bruce Lemo Jr.; Transcending Isolation: Hope, Anthony Sky Ng-Thow-Hing; inhala–exhale, El Colectivo de Dramaturgos de Puerto Rico; Choosing Sides, Josh Richardson; The Ballad of the Dying Body or The Breath to Say, Derek J. Snow; Glow | Eternal, Jessica Gabrielle Thomas; Pulse, Bil Wright; and I Just Don’t Know, David Zayas/Gamal Chasten. In addition, Alabama State University students and faculty submitted four works for the project that will be included in the archives, including Who Will Speak for Justice?, Just Breathe, We Still Breathe, and Stature. The festival will be presented on Sat., Oct. 24 at 2 & 5 p .m. PT, and on Sun., Oct. 25 at 5 p.m. PT. Tickets are free.
Broadway On Demand and the Denver Actors Fund are partnering to present a radio play production of Waiting for Obama, by John Moore, about a Colorado family convinced that Barack Obama is coming for their guns. The recorded production will stream on Broadway On Demand’s website on Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. ET, with pay-per-view tickets available for $9.95. (Beginning on Sun., Oct. 25, 48-hour rentals will be available for $9.95 as well.)
Baruch Porras Hernandez’s Love in the Time of Piñatas will be presented as a virtual staged reading as part of Portland Center Stage’s PCS Remix: Play Reading series. Hernandez also stars in this story of his journey as a queer Latino boy growing up in Toluca, Mexico, and immigrating to California. The live event promises a mix of poetry, stand-up comedy, and go-go dancing. It streams Sat., Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. PT, with tickets on a sliding scale starting at $5.
A Totally Disrespectful Evening of Short Plays by Joy Behar, featuring five short works, will be presented virtually Sun., Oct. 25 at 8 p.m. ET to benefit Guild Hall in the Hamptons, the Bridgehampton Childcare & Recreational Center, and Jon Bon Jovi Soul Kitchen/JBJ Soul Foundation. The evening’s starry cast includes Lorraine Bracco, Susie Essman, Rachel Dratch, Dylan McDermott, Bob Balaban, Robert Klein, Brenda Vaccaro, Chris Bauer, Steven Weber, and of course Behar herself. John Gould Rubin will direct the short plays, which include God & Bernadette, Get Me Teresa Caputo, Pearl Has a Visitor, Greasing the Squeak, and a solo piece from Behar called I Started Slow. Tickets for the event, which will be streamed to a private YouTube link, are $75 per household.
As part of its SigSpace virtual programming, New York City’s Signature Theatre will present a free virtual reading of The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead, by Suzan-Lori Parks, that reunites members of the original cast under the direction of Lileana Blain-Cruz. The play, previously produced during Signature’s 2016-17 season, uses poetry, historical fiction, and biblical references to challenge archetypes of Black life. The reading will be broadcast live Tues., Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. ET, followed by a talkback featuring Parks, Blain-Cruz, and the cast. It’s free to view but you should register here. (The reading will also be available on demand, without the talkback, through Oct. 31 at 6 p.m.)
New York City’s Irish Repertory Theatre will stream a virtual production of Eugene O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet, which reunites the cast and creative from Irish Rep’s planned 2020 production, postponed due to COVID-19. Ciarán O’Reilly will direct O’Neill’s story about a debt-laden inn owner in 1828 who has to reckon with his place in the world when his daughter falls in love with a wealthy guest. Virtual performances run Tues., Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. ET; Wed., Oct. 28 at 3 & 8 p.m.; Thurs., Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. ET; Fri., Oct., 30 at 8 p.m. ET; Sat., Oct. 31 at 3 & 8 p.m. ET; and Sun., Nov. 1 at 3 p.m. ET. The show is free, with a suggested donation of $25, and reservations are required.
Actor/playwright/director/Renaissance woman Regina Taylor is popping up everywhere these days: Last week she was announced as the new playwright in residence at St. Louis Rep, and now she’s back at her Dallas alma mater, Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, unveiling a three-part theatrical project, the black album. 2020, exploring and addressing the question of what it is to be Black in 2020, which she has conceived, written, and directed with and for SMU grad and undergrad acting students, with design created by SMU design students and faculty. The first installment, the black album. 2020. resistance, debuts next week, Tues., Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. CDT and Thurs., Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. CDT. It’s free but registration is required. I’m told this is part of a “larger university partnership” with Taylor, to be announced later, so stay tuned for more details.
Married actors have an edge on the rest of their peers, because at least they can act together without elaborate testing and safety protocols. Katie MacNichol and Bruce Turk are the latest couple to take advantage of their position, with a staged-for-the-camera version of the Bernard Slade extra-marital comedy Same Time, Next Year for California’s North Coast Repertory, directed by the company’s AD, David Ellenstein. Filmed on the theatre’s mainstage (under SAG/AFTRA’s New Media Agreement, if you’re keeping score), it has a full complement of designers and crew. It’s already streaming now through Sun., Nov. 15, with individual tickets priced at $34.
Theater Grottesco, in Santa Fe, N.M., will present The King Without a Kingdom, a companion piece to 2019’s Different, through Vimeo On Demand, Thus., Oct. 22-Sun., Oct. 25. This improvisation, originally titled The Other, features a family of buffoons, each filmed from the safety of their homes, telling the story of a wealthy landlord’s son who dreams of becoming king. Tickets for the production are $10 for a 48-hour rental. Free talkbacks will be held nightly.
San Francisco’s Aurora Theatre Company will present The Flats, an audio drama co-written by Bay Area playwrights Lauren Gunderson, Cleavon Smith, and Jonathan Spector. Released in three episodes, the audio drama follows three residents of a Berkeley triplex who are thrown together when a mysterious threat incites a shelter-in-place order. Josh Costello direct. Access to the audio drama is included in the company’s membership; non-members can purchase tickets to all three episodes for $20. The episodes will be released in sequence on Fri. Oct. 23, Oct. 30, and Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. PT.
In the spirit of Halloween, Fish Creek, Wisc.’s Peninsula Players is offering a live audio production of Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue, a collaboration between the theatre and Chicago Radio Theatre. It will debut in this spot on Fri., Oct. 23 at 9 p.m. CDT, but if you miss the live broadcast it will be up on the theatre’s website through Mon., Nov. 30.
Bringing this week full circle with another Dominique Morisseau offering, her short play Jezelle the Gazelle will be released as an audio play by the theatre podcast company Playing on Air starting Sun., Oct. 25. (Browsing their catalogue, it’s quite enticing, with work by Lucas Hnath, David Ives, Ngozi Anyanwu, Rajiv Joseph, and more.) As its title suggests, this play by Morisseau—who previously had Night Vision recorded by Playing On Air, and will have another short play of hers, Third Grade, released on Dec. 6—follows a young athlete who can outrun her peers but possibly not her grief. Starring Mirirai Sithole and directed by Goldie E. Patrick, this performance was recorded at New York City’s Signature Center last November.
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