Every year for the past decade, I’ve written a preview guide to the dozen or so annual summer theater festivals in New York. Most have been canceled this year, at least one (New York Musical Festival) permanently. But several have been reimagined.
The She NYC Arts festival begins Wednesday, New Ohio Theater’s Ice Factory Festival is offering a full “digital lineup” that begins Friday. Dixon Place’s Hot Festival continues online through August 1. The River to River Festival, created in the aftermath of 9/11 and normally a raft of outdoor performances in the Financial District, is this year reimagined as Four Voices — basically four art installations. The Corkscrew Festival, while postponing its live shows until next summer, announced “Corkscrew 4.0, a curated collection of virtual experiences,” although it’s not clear when these begin.
And — silver lining? — some of the summer theater festivals that would have ended their runs by now are still available online, including Theater for the New City’s Lower East Side Festival of the Arts. Last week, the Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park offered “Richard II” as a four-episode radio drama; it’s now available as a podcast on its website.
It’s worth noting that New York is not alone. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival,the granddaddy of all modern summer theater festivals, is going online
The Week in Reviews
Historically, “Amadeus” is baloney. Theatrically, it’s a feast. Musically, the National Theatre’s 2016 production of Peter Shaffer’s 1979 play — a recording of which is being streamed online through July 23 — arguably shares something of the same fate as Mozart’s supposed rival Salieri. This “Amadeus” suffers from comparison with the 1984 film directed by Milos Forman, which won eight Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Sound. Perhaps most to the point, the soundtrack of the film Amadeus won the Grammy Award for best classical album in 1985….
Still, under the direction of Michael Longhurst, this “Amadeus” has much to recommend it…
Well that was astonishing. Thank you @Play_PerView, @willarbery, @DanyaTaymor @JebKreager Julia McDermott Michele Pawk, Zoë Winters, John Zdrojeski for#HeroesoftheFourthTurning pic.twitter.com/WMglUsLYxH
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) July 19, 2020
So there is Lin-Manuel Miranda, ten years before “Hamilton,” three years before even “In The Heights,” galloping across the street to join his fellow members of Freestyle Love Supreme, a hip-hop improv group, who have just frightened a little girl in a purple coat by spontaneously rapping about her at a bus stop in Greenwich Village….Two observations about that first scene, filmed way back in 2005, of “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme,” a new 80-minute documentary that’s now on Hulu:
First, there is something frightening about the talent of this group, who make up rhymes in a rap rhythm on the spot…What this documentary offers is the opportunity to revisit something familiar.
In “Good As New,” a funny and pointed 25-minute play that MCC streamed live online, Julianne Moore as Jan is arguing with her daughter Maggie (Kaitlyn Dever) on Maggie’s 16th birthday, while the teenager drives her mother home after plastic surgery. Maggie is “disgusted” at what her mother has done to her face.
“I have no respect for any woman that would allow….”
“Who’s left for you to respect?” Jan interrupts, “This knocks out…” and she lists famous women who have had plastic surgery – Betty Ford, Mary Tyler Moore, Elizabeth Taylor.
Homebound Project 4 Review: Promises with Tommy Dorfman, Cherry Jones, Judith Light, Marquise Vilson…
Tommy Dorfman, in sexy black corset and purple wig, exclaims “I’m a Queen…I’m hot,” does an interpretive dance on the bed, puts on lipstick as if host of a makeup show, plays a tambourine, and curses out someone named Tim – perhaps a jilting lover? Then the telephone rings – it’s Tim, his boss. He takes off his purple wig and changes to his on-the-job voice.
“Assets,” a six–minute play by Diana Oh directed by Lena Dunham, is the funniest of the 11 new monologues in the fourth starry edition of Homebound Project, an online anthology series of original work, whose aim is to raise money for No Kid Hungry, and whose theme for the fourth edition is “promise.” The plays interpret this in various ways.
Before it even opened on Broadway in 1954, the producers of the musical “Peter Pan” had struck a deal with NBC to present it live on television, after its Broadway run, with its cast intact, including the star Mary Martin. It was such a success – 65 million people watched it; one critic marveled at the merging of “the advantages of live theater and live television” – that it was repeated live the following year.
Some six decades later, NBC presented a new “Peter Pan Live!,” created just for broadcast, this time marketed on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where viewers commented in real time during the broadcast, largely with snark, helping to coin the term “hate-watching.” The show was viewed (hatefully or not) by 9.2 million viewers. The lead, Allison Williams, has never performed on Broadway.
But the comparison is not meant as nostalgia for the good old days. “Peter Pan Live!” may have gotten fewer viewers, but it was broadcast in the same decade as a rash of popular television series like “Glee” that were labeled TV musicals.
In “Broadway in the Box: Television’s Lasting Love Affair with the Musical” (Oxford University Press, 336 pages), author Kelly Kessler, a professor at DePaul University, attempts to chronicle these two eras and everything in-between
Thanks @NYPL_Theatre‘s @DougReside for presiding over the library’s first virtual theater book club just now. We discussed James Shapiro’s Shakespeare in a Divided America (@penguinpress) For those who missed it, my review of this fascinating book: https://t.co/QYFI3aeju3
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) July 17, 2020
The Week in Theater News
New York City reaches Phase 4 in reopening today — “there are no more phases,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said. “We are all in the final phase of reopening. And that’s great.” — but that doesn’t include theaters….or movie theaters, museums, indoor dining, gyms, or malls. (New York City’s Phase 4, Explained)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art did announce it will reopen August 29, masks required and six-foot distancing
Interesting contrast with the 1918 pandemic
‘Gotham Refuses to Get Scared’: In 1918, NYC Theaters Stayed Open
Instead of closing theaters, health commission Royal Copeland staggered their curtain times, assigning each to a group. The Hippodrome, for example, started at 8 p.m., the Winter Garden at 8:15, the Lyric at 8:30, the Booth at 8:45 and the Belasco at 9.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign over using his song, “Memory,” at political rallies — an action that Betty Buckley had been urging for a while.
Excellent news!! Thanks to you guys!! Hippetyhaw!! : )Andrew Lloyd Webber Sends Cease-and-Desist to Trump Campaign For Using ‘Memory’ at Rallies https://t.co/OXYslqTPcM
— Betty Buckley (@BettyBuckley) July 13, 2020
Black Theater United will hold a Virtual Town Hall, “Our Voices. Our Votes. Our Time.” with Stacey Abrams, Dr. Jeanine Abrams Mclean, moderated by Viola Davis, July 24 at 7 p.m.
Hamilton Star Mandy Gonzalez has written a YA novel, to be published in 2021, which features the ghost of Ethel Merman “Fearless” follows a group of teen performers who must confront the spirit of the Broadway legend.
Playwrights Horizons 2021 season, which will be the company’s 50th and Adam Greenfield’s first as artistic director, includes:
Aleshea Harris’s “What to Send Up When It Goes Down,” a ritual-as-play that honors Black lives lost to racialized violence
Sylvia Khoury’s “Selling Kabul,” an Afghanistan-set thriller that examines the human cost of immigration policy
Dave Harris’s “Tambo & Bones,” described as a “hip-hop triptych” about two characters trapped in a minstrel show
and Sanaz Toossi’s dramatic comedy “Wish You Were Here,” which follows best friends who grapple with cultural upheaval amid the Iranian Revolution.
In place of what most theatergoers have come to regard as a “season,” the New York Theatre Workshop — the birthplace of “Rent,” among other landmarks — is offering what you might call a 2020-21 un-season. A programmatic embodiment of the possible, fueled by the percolating brains of more than two dozen playwrights, directors, actors and performance artists.
These artistic “instigators” have each been given an initial $2,500 by the Workshop to develop a project over the coming months — and many of the artists will allow audiences to follow along as they build them. For $10 to $125 a month, members gain entree to the instigators’ evolving work, with no guarantee that anything resembling a full stage production will result.
An unforgettable moment, one year ago this evening. Broadway Blackout! Can you imagine the party we’re going to have when we’re back at the Walter Kerr? #BroadwayWillBeBack #SpringWillComeAgain https://t.co/i2PR04GH9X
— Hadestown (@hadestown) July 14, 2020
(What does it say that we’re nostalgic for a blackout?)
Rest in Peace
Phyllis Somerville, 76, Broadway veteran who was last on Broadway in “To Kill A Mockingbird.”
David Rosenberg, 90, director and theater critic
Bill Timms, 62, talent agent
RIP, John Lewis, 80, civil rights leader, Congressman.
55 years after he led famous march in Selma, he found “very moving” the many marchers for #BlackLivesMatter who took to the streets “to speak up, to speak out, to get into what I call ‘good trouble'”https://t.co/GzecOgTYyt pic.twitter.com/X7aCH6ZbqU
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) July 18, 2020
This is the man that taught us all how to get into some #GoodTrouble. One of my heroes. A true legend. Thank you for teaching us how to fight for liberty & justice for all mankind. This photo was taken at the @HRC Dinner in DC 2016 right before the world blew up. RIP #JohnLewis pic.twitter.com/8BPFqCb5eA
— Billy Porter (@theebillyporter) July 18, 2020
— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) July 18, 2020