New Forms of Theater: Netathon, Zoom, VR Immersive, Ghost? Updated Awards Calendar. #Stageworthy News of the Week

The theater awards will go on, with some…adjustments.
Here is the new calendar (updating my guide to New York Theater Awards 2020):

April 29: New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, which announced their awards on April 21, will air its awards ceremony on Stars in the House at 8pm. with presenters Jeremy O. Harris, Brian Stokes Mitchell, John Mulaney, Heidi Schreck and Michael Shannon
April 30: The Gratitude Awards, a pre-recorded digital fundraiser supplementing the New York Drama League’s usual annual awards, will air on its Facebook page at 7:30PM ET. Its nominations were announced April 23rd.
May 3: The Lortel Awards, which announced its nominations April 14, will announce its winners in an online ceremony on its website, with host Mario Cantone, and presenters including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Jagged Little Pill’s Lauren Patten, Dear Evan Hansen’s Jordan Fisher, Jelani Alladin, Rachel Dratch, Jackie Hoffman, Orfeh, Andy Karl, Tatiana Maslany, Debra Messing, Nyambi Nyambi, Phillipa Soo, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Pope, Condola Rashad, Krysta Rodriguez, choreographer Sonya Tayeh, Marisa Tomei, Michael Urie and Alison Pill.
May 4: The Pulitzer Prizes (including the one for Drama) will be announced online
May 11: The 70th annual Outer Critics Circle Awards will announce its honorees, rather than nominees — up to five in each of its twenty-seven categories
May 19: Off Broadway Alliance Awards, whose nominations were announced April 28, will announce winners at 11 a.m. via Facebook, with a reception planned for sometime in the Fall.
May 31: The 65th annual Drama Desk Awards, whose nominations were announced last week, will announce its winners on NY1 TV program On Stage at 7:30 p.m.

The Tonys, Obies and Theatre World Awards have not yet announced rescheduled dates.

Joel Grey (upper right) celebrating his 88th birthday on Stars in the House, via Zoom.

“Our analogue art form has gone digital,” actor and director Joel Grey wrote in an essay this week: “Play readings over Zoom, musical performances via Instagram Live and the proliferation of new podcasts. Theater people are nothing if not resourceful when it comes to reaching an audience.”
But he adds: “Our ability to connect with audiences and one another through technology is useful, but I miss the real thing.”
As theater buildings remain shuttered, will this resourceful reaching out become “the real thing?”
Will the theater we’re seeing now nourish audiences and artists alike, supplying a satisfying kind of art and entertainment?
Or will they be only an interim strategy to keep audiences and artists busy, and raise money, mostly for charity?
There’s much talk about “new forms” of theater emerging, or at least many articles about it. Are they distinctly different in form, or just in name?
Netathon Theater: I just made that name up, in homage to the old variety show telethons. These are all marathons, with a large number of celebrate theater artists getting together (albeit in individual isolation) to put on a (lengthy) show. Almost all of these shows are free, but they exist as fundraisers for a charitable cause.

The 24 Hour Plays’ Viral Monologues, which have become a weekly series, still give the feel of a netathon, although their charitable cause is the 24 Hour Plays company itself. The monologues, written by established theater artists, are more easily labeled theater than some of the other large-scale group efforts. Many netathons are certainly theater adjacent. Among the most satisfying was the “Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration” on Sunday.

Zoom Theater (so described in article in the New York Times of forthcoming Apple Family play)
Coming tomorrow on YouTube Live and at the Public Theater’s website, audiences can watch a new Apple play, live: “What Do We Need to Talk About?: Conversations on Zoom.”
Stars in the House offers two weekly matinees, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, that have presented the original casts of old plays performing live on Zoom.

A caveat about the Zoom platform

Zoom Theater, however, might become the generic label for plays that are presented live online even if they use a different platform than Zoom.  Examples are the recent productions of Lips Together Teeth Apart (my review) and last week’s Buyer & Cellar (my review.)

Immersive theater meets VR gaming. (in L.A. Times):
“The Under Presents” (from Tender Claws) shows one potential way forward, a future where the worlds of home technology and theater coalesce to build not just fresh experiences but carve out new business models.

Web Series scripted by ten playwrights (in N.Y. Times)

“Homebound,” a free weekly web series of 10-minute shorts from Round House Theater, in Bethesda, Md. is about isolating in the nation’s capital during the coronavirus shutdown — the company’s attempt to give structure and meaning to the worries, what-ifs and whipsaw mood changes of the strange new present.

Ghost Theater” (in the Washington Post)

“No audience is being invited to Friday’s opening of Sophocles’ “The Women of Trachis” on the campus of Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College. No actors will be on hand, either — or, for that matter, designers, technicians or box-office staff. Not even the director, Michal Zadara.
Yet the show will go on. A show that no one will ever see.
The performance is scheduled to begin promptly at 8 p.m. “No one will be admitted. No one will be onstage,” reads a news release for the production. “Don’t call for reservations. No live streaming.”

Broadway Alphabet series continues

Rest in Peace

René Buch, 94, lawyer, journalist, editor, painter…and theater maker — co-founder and artistic director of Repertorio Espanol.

Director Jose Zayas: “René carved a path where there was none. He inspired generations of Latinx artists to learn from their heritage while finding a path forward. I will always admire his dedication to spareness, his scholarship, his puckishness, his trust in the audience’s imagination, and his belief that theatre is a space for introspection and adventure.”

from Caridad Svich’s tribute

Shirley Knight, 83, star of stage & screen, 5x Broadway veteran, best-known for Oscar-nominated roles in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs and Sweet Bird of Youth (pictured, w/ Paul Newman)

Bernard Gersten, 97, successful longtime theater executive first at
The Public Theater (where he persuaded Joseph Papp to produce “A Chorus Line”) then at Lincoln Center Theater. Theater has four elements: a building, artists, money and an audience. “How you mix them, how you adjust them, how you administer them is the secret of success or failure.”

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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