Where To Get Your Theater Fix Online, Old Favorites and New Experiments

The threat of COVID-19 has shut down theaters across the world, but it’s not killing theater – which is increasingly going online.

There are two types of online theater now – the ongoing online sites that offer video-capture recordings of shows that were on stage, many on Broadway, but also  Off-Broadway, and international performances. This includes sites/podcasts offering audio plays.

The second type are newly created livestreaming events that are in response to the current situation, and from which may emerge exciting new forms of theater. These are more or less divided into

new platforms

new series

Netathons

individual shows

immersive theater for the age of self-distancing

Also, check out my essay on HowlRound on the new pandemic theatre aesthetic

This post is periodically updated. Look for the latest monthly calendar of openings for specific shows.

Regular Online Streaming Sites

Several of the ongoing services – Marquee, the Metropolitan Opera and On The Boards — are offering free access for the month, in response to the crisis.

Theater-focused online streaming sites:

BroadwayHD

BroadwayHD offers some 300 productions, from the recent acclaimed Broadway revival of Carousel* to the original Sweeney Todd.  In celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 72nd, the service has put together a “playlist” this month featuring such titles as Gypsy, Putting It Together, Cats, Phantom Of The Opera, and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. A subscription costs $8.99 per month after a seven-day free trial

Broadway on Demand, launched on May 17, 2020. “Currently free to all Basic Subscribers,” there will be “paid events” (including forthcoming streaming of the Broadway musicals “Allegiance” and “Bandstand”) and a paid subscription for “premium content.”  There is a daily live schedule, which features such new programs as a daily ballet class with Tyler Peck and incorporates some theater-oriented shows that already exist, such as Stars in the House, and The Producer’s Perspective interviews. There are some glitches yet to be worked out as of this writing, such as requiring that you sign up having read the terms of use, but when you click on the link to “terms of use,” it says “page not found.”

Digital Theatre

Digital Theatre focuses on British productions, from Shakespeare to West End versions of Broadway shows. Subscriptions cost £9.99 a month, but you can rent a specific production for £7.99 and up

Marquee TV

Marquee offers dance, opera and theater from around the world, including productions of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Subscriptions normally cost $8.99 a month, but Marquee is offering 30 days for free.

The Metropolitan Opera

The Met is offering a different opera every day for free, each starting at 7:30 p.m. and staying up for 20 hours.  During this period of shutdown and social distancing, they are offering it for free. The Met offers a weekly guide to the operas they are streaming.

National Theatre At Home

This is not actually a “regular online streaming site.” It has been created to address the current crisis. Starting April 2nd, and every Thursday thereafter, the British theater will stream FOR FREE on its YouTube channel a production from its NT Live collection, recordings of their stage productions that are such high quality that they are normally presented in cinemas worldwide. The first production online April 2 (and for seven days after that) is “One Man, Two Guv’nors,” the slapstick comedy with a Tony winning performance by James Corden.

OnTheBoards.TV

On The Boards is a decade-old website that began in their Seattle-based theater and now offers some 60 performances by such avant-garde artists as Young Jean Lee, from their own theater, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, the Fusebox Festival in Austin,  and Performance Space 122 in New York. On The Boards is offering its show for free through the end of April!
Theater CloseUp

Free in the NY area. “a unique collaboration” between Channel 13 WNET and the large community of non-profit Off-Broadway theaters. The plays are up only for a limited time. Currently: Uncle Vanya with Jay O. Sanders; School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play; Buried Child; Incident at Vichy; Old Hats; and all three plays in The Gabriels series.

Audio Play Sites/Podcasts

Playing on Air

Playing on Air has been offering short, original radio plays on its website (also on iTunes and on radio stations) since 2012, all still available on its site. Its new season, starts Sunday, April 5, with a new short play every Sunday for ten weeks  (schedule) by such  playwrights as Dominique Morisseau, Doug Wright and Rajiv Joseph, performed by John Lithgow, Marisa Tomei, Ngozi Anyanwu, Tony Shalhoub, Michael C. Hall, etc.

Soundstage

Soundstage, launched April 9, is an original play podcast from Playwrights Horizons that is offering world premieres every two weeks by playwrights including Robert O’Hara, Heather Christian, Lucas Hnath and Jeremy O. Harris.
First up, “Prime” by Heather Christian (My review.).

LA Theatre Works
LATW, founded in 1974, embraced audio recording in the 1990s, and now offers radio plays online via Soundcloud for free. (Past shows are available via free subscription to LA Theatre Works podcast) Recent and forthcoming titles include “The Sisters Rosensweig” by Wendy Wasserstein, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, JoBeth Williams and Caroline Aaron.  “Park Your Car in Harvard Yard,” by Israel Horovitz starring Judith Ivey and Jason Robards (!); “Lost in Yonkers”; “The Importance of Being Earnest”; “The Graduate.”

Audible Theater

For the past several years, it has been recording live stage shows, and turning them into audio books for sale online. Before the shutdown, it was producing its own plays at Minetta Lane Theater, recording them as well for subsequent audio books. I notice a number of these plays are currently being offered for free. (including these through April 17)

Theater Available from General Online Streaming Services

Amazon Prime

Musicals and other Broadway shows, some of them taped directly from the stage, that you can rent (for as little as $2.95) or buy (usually for $9.99) if you have a membership on Amazon Prime. (Some, such as “Carousel,” are free with Amazon Prime membership.)

 

Live from Lincoln Center: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel

Into The Woods (the movie version)

Memphis

The SpongeBob Musical: Live on Stage!

Wishful Drinking

 

Netflix

Netflix, available only by subscription, has lately made a habit of video-capturing Broadway shows on stage shortly before the end of their runs. Among the current offerings:  American Son, John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons, Oh Hello, Shrek, Springsteen on Broadway. There are also a revolving selection of movie adaptations of the original stage musicals. Currently, Hairspray, Jersey Boys, Sweeney Todd.

 

PBS Passport

PBS Passport offers access to shows past and present from the Public Broadcasting System; it requires that you become a member. ($60 annual or $5 monthly) In addition to the full library of episodes from Great Perfromances, there is also a special collection of Broadway plays on Broadway on PBS including The Sound of MusicRodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and IRedMuch Ado About Nothing and Kinky Boots.

Update!: PBS reportedly has unlocked a selection of its shows in its Live From Lincoln Center and Great Performances series, from April until the end of May. (Try some of the links above: I linked successfully to “Red,” “Present Laughter,” “The Sound of Music” — not the movie — and the Public Theater’s splendid production of “Much Ado About Nothing” starring Danielle Brooks.)

New Livestreaming


There are new offerings sprouting every day, as theaters and theater artists adjust and innovate in the new reality.

New Platforms

 

TrickleUp, a new “grass-roots subscription platform”  for $10 a month, hopes to raise money for artists in need.  Launched March 23 by a group of downtown artists and artistic directors, It promises “videos of solo performances, conversation, and other behind-the-scenes goodies,” Its catalogue so far features such fare as Taylor Mac reading scenes from “Gary”, Sarah Ruhl reading some of her poems, Mia Katigbak singing La Vie En Rose, Dominique Morisseau doing a monologue from Skeleton Crew, Suzan-Lori Parks singing “Colored All My Life,” Lucas Hnath reading material cut from his play “A Doll’s House Part 2”

Play-Perview


This “new live-streaming theater initiative” co-founded by theater producers Jeremy Wein and Mirirai Sithole promises “unique, one-time-only, live-streamed theatrical events and original series,” with proceedings going to arts organizations affected by the pandemic. The first event was “Family Friendly with the Civilians,”  On March 29: Alice Ripley reprised her solo show “The Pink Unicorn” live, $5 a ticket. (My review of The Pink Unicorn when it was in person) April 9: Martyna Majok’s “Ironbound,” live with the original cast. (My review Off-Broadway)

 

New Series

 

The 24 Hour Plays Viral Monologues

A weekly collection of original monologues presented on Tuesday nights on their Instagram page.  (My Q and A with playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, who had a play in each of the first three weeks.)

 

 

#54BelowAtHome

The cabaret club is scheduling videos from its archives, with occasional live shows on its Facebook page. (Schedule in link.)

Alvin Ailey Access

Launched with Revelations on March 23, the company will offer other dances, live and recorded, interviews  and short films.

Folksbiene Live.

On their Facebook page, the National Yiddish Theatre presented “Yiddish theater, past, present and future,” which is still available. The theater promises to do more.

 

#InComesCompany

The Broadway revival of the Stephen Sondheim/George Furth musical Company is using their Instagram account to present different cast members each night.

Intermission Mission from TodayTix

“At home performances from the Broadway community” — basically a single song each day by a different Broadway star (so far Annaleigh Ashford, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Alice Ripley) on TodayTix Instagram account in support of The Actors Fund.

Joe’s Pub Live
Free, live-streamed, and archived performances from the Public Theater’s cabaret stage via its YouTube channel.

Living Room Concerts on Broadway World

A series of one-song performances  by Broadway stars from their own homes. Since it began March 13th, there have been performances (which you can still see) by Jagged Little Pill’s Kathryn Gallagher, Dear Evan Hansen’s Andrew Barth Feldman singing from Godspell (pictured), Andy Karl and Orfeh, Carolee Carmello singing from Hello, Dolly, Hadestown’s John Krause.

 

New York City Center

Daily dives into their archives (City Center Encores! etc.)  on their Instagram channel, starting on March 22nd, with Donna Murphy singing “Could I Leave You” from Follies in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday.

#PlayAtHome
Five major theaters — Baltimore Center Stage, Long Wharf, The Public Theater, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and Woolly Mammoth — have commissioned original plays, none longer than ten minutes, from dozens of playwrights, and made the scripts available to read for free.

R&H Goes Live

The series will feature Broadway stars performing stripped-down, contemporary versions Rodgers and Hammerstein tunes originally released as part of R&H Goes Pop! Each performance will be followed by a live Q&A with the performer. The series started with Jeremy Jordan and Laura Osnes on March 25.

The Shows Must Go On

A different Andrew Lloyd Webber musical launches for free every Friday for 48 hours on this new YouTube page. First up: Donny Osmond stars in the 1999 film of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”

Stars in the House via The Actors Fund

This twice daily combination performance and talk show, with hosts Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley, was launched on Monday March 16 with Kelli O’Hara, and has presented a roster of top-notch Broadway talent every day since.  It started out to be a combination of concert, talk show, and public service announcement, complete with doctors and call, but it’s evolved – and it may well be turning into a new genre.

Starting April 1, Stars in the House added a new play series,  Plays in the House — live readings of popular plays by (when possible) the original cast members, every Wednesday and Saturday matinee. The first up: Heidi Chronicles, and then The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife. The hosts promise that future plays will star Harvey Fierstein, Tony Shaloub, and Brooke Adams, among others.

 

Theatre Without Theater

An instagram account that’s been offering a nightly “theatrical broadcast,” and soliciting artists to contribute more. Among the broadcasts so far (and still available) are Emily Walton singing from “Darling Grenadine” and Margot Seibert from “Unknown Soldier,” (which I reviewed.)  both musicals that were playing Off-Broadway until all theaters were shut down.

The Show Must Go On Show

A 15-minute variety show Tuesdays at 7 p.m.

Downtown Variety

In New York, LaMama ETC, which has long experimented with livestreaming events all over the world, is  livestreaming their own productions. having launched a weekly Downtown Variety show, featuring short acts of dance, music, theater, new media, comedy, A/V performance, and stuff that doesn’t (yet) have a label.  My review of Downtown Variety # 1

Anywhere was live-streamed by HERE Arts March 18th

Here Arts Center, another downtown NYC theater,  which presented the puppet Anywhere online, offers a weekly series Here@Home on Wednesdays, and #stillHere every Friday at 1, plus an elaborate project called #COVIDEO: “A community of artists and audiences will come together to independently create ten seconds of video art. Each day, one section is created in response to the previous ten seconds. After ten days, they are strung together into one video.”

The socially distanced quartet of Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh, and Thom Sesma sing “Someone in a Tree” from Pacific Overtures, as part of Take Me To The World: A 90th Birthday Celebration

 

Netathons

I’ve started to call these Netathons, because they have the feel of the old telethons, but online. These have included
The Rosie O’Donnell Show and Take Me To The World: A 90th Birthday Celebration

These are distinct from the individual plays that, for a variety of reasons, perform live for just one night, which have included “Lips Together, Teeth Apart” and “Buyer & Cellar” 

 

full cast of “Lips Together, Teeth Apart” during a scene

 

Individual Shows

As with any theater, individual shows have limited runs. The shows I initially posted have all come to the end (except for Ghost Quartet) Check out my latest monthly calendar of openings

 

“Ghost Quartet” by Dave Malloy

A newly released recording of this 90-minute musical by the creator of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.”

 

 

 

Immersive Theater for the Age of Self Distancing

Adventures By Phone

Three LARP (live-action role play) shows via telephone by the innovative immersive theater company Sinking Ship Creations:

Girl On The Phone – You get a call from a kidnapping victim, and need to help her escape.
Frantic Recall – A chat with a psychic about a past life.
The Other Side Of The Line – Where you try to convince a friend of a friend that vaccines don’t cause autism.

Play In Your Bath

This is subtitled “An Immersive Audio Spa for Physical Distancing,” and is from This Is Not A Theater Company. You sit in your own bathtub during the play, and listen to poetry, dramatic scenes, and dancing, which you do with your fingers or toes to music by Philip Glass and Chopin. (This is all audio; no sharing of naked pictures.)

The list grows daily.

And watch out: Livestreaming (and its aesthetic) is going mainstream too.

Here’s Lin-Manuel Miranda on a homier, less snazzy version of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, playing and singing (interview starts at around 5:30; song at  around 13:10) “Dear Theodosia.” from ‘Hamilton.”

*And if you want to get a taste of Carousel for free, here is Joshua Henry (who starred in Carousel) singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” on his Instagram account –one of the countless theater artists performing spontaneously online

How about Melissa Errico on Facebook who sang “Look to the Rainbow” on St. Patrick’s Day.

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Author: New York Theater

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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