#Stageworthy News of the Week.
If Broadway won’t return until Summer 2021, as UK impresario Cameron Mackintosh predicted this week, there are still reasons for optimism.
True, theatergoers are not crazy about watching live plays on Zoom, as my Twitter poll made clear:
If you could see any for a specific play, which online theater would you prefer?
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) August 1, 2020
On the other hand, in another poll, several recent productions on Zoom were singled out for making the most of the imperfect platform , such as “Buyer & Cellar” “Heroes of the Fourth Turning,” “Significant Other“and “What Do We Need To Talk About?.” (I was partial to “Mad Forest”)
One effect of the new era is that, as New York Times critic Jesse Green observes, “the experimental, the fringe and the avant-garde, which have never depended on lavish funding or popular attention, are not only surviving in their online digs but also, at least by contrast, thriving.”
Sean Stewart goes further. Thanks to the rise of online theater, Stewart, a novelist and Augmented Reality pioneer, argued on his blog last week , theater is poised to “leap-frog movies and return as the central art form of the century” because streaming platforms make theater scalable (viewable by enough people to make it affordable), and, unlike cinema, it’s both live and interactive.
There are signs that the theater community is stepping up. Ma-Yi Theater announced the creation of a new digital studio to produce and present its own 2020–2021 digital season and also for “artists across New York struggling to create high-quality digital theater.” It’s not all screens by any means. The Alliance Theater of Atlanta, in announcing its 2020-2021 season, seemed to give a glimpse into the future of theater (the near-future anyway) — a combination of a new streaming platform, “a reimagined drive-in version of.. A Christmas Carol, staged for the first time as a live radio play” and “socially-distanced shows” Norwich Theatre in England has teamed up with a local circus and moved into a circus tent, which one author sees as a sensible solution: it’s spacious, it’s well-ventilated and there are no staircases to climb. This may take off: In the Berkshires, David Cale’s solo play “Harry Clarke,” originally scheduled for a run this month inside Barrington Stage Company’s Blatt Center, has moved to a tent on the grounds of the Polish Community Club across the street, after the state of Massachusetts informed BSC that it wasn’t ready to reopen indoor theaters after all.
And then, in a Glasgow public park, some imaginative entrepreneurs have created a theater made out of 40 used pianos, arguing “the arrangement of benches rather than having separate seats is more appropriate to social distancing.”
In the U.S. there IS some indoor theater taking place, such as a production of Othello at the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia — which created an agonizing dilemma for my colleague at DC Theatre Scene, Tim Treanor:
I myself faced down fears:
but felt much more comfortable communicating with somebody from Japan
The Week in Reviews
Book Review: American Utopia: David Byrne’s Lyrics with Maria Kalman’s Theater Curtain
The Week in Theater News
The state of arts funding is uncertain. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, providing an additional $600/week to the 20 million Americans receiving state unemployment insurance ended on July 31. The Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program ends on August 8. Both aided cultural workers and institutions.
Nominations for the 72nd annual Primetime Emmy Awards featured a host of Broadway veterans, including Billy Porter, receiving his second nomination for his performance as Pray Tell on FX’s Pose, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Leslie Odom Jr, and Jeremy Pope. Winners will be announced September 20th.
In what looks like an effort to hold onto the theater lovers who subscribed because of Hamilton, DisneyPlus is reportedly developing a film of the Broadway musical “Once OnThis Island” for the streaming service, Playwright Jocelyn Bioh (School Girls, or the African Mean Girls Play) will write the screenplay and Wanuri Kahiu will direct.
Play-PerView, which has really stepped up to this moment, has three more plays in August
Aug 1 RoosevElvis by The Team
Aug 8 Amiri Baraka’s Dutchman with Dule Hill and Jennifer Mudge
Aug 14: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz, with original cast
Happy to see that the 10th anniversary of #48hoursinharlem by
Harlem nine is going digital August 20-24 — with the same landmark plays as inspiration that they used the first year
(I covered their ninth annual festival last year)
Insurance: the forgotten obstacle in getting theatre back on stage
In a world in which a show could be shut for an indefinite period – either because a company member has tested positive for Covid-19 or because of a localised shutdown – the risk, without adequate insurance coverage, for many is simply too great.
Nominated for 2 Tonys (Choir Boy & @AintTooProud ) and now an Emmy (@Netflix‘s Hollywood.) Next up for @jrmypope: Sammy Davis Jr. in “Scandalous,” a film about Sammy’s interracial love affair w/ Kim Novak, directed by @janetmock.
(Have we lost this talent to Hollywood?) pic.twitter.com/sm95KTJsHy
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) July 31, 2020
It’s Time for a New Labor Movement in the Performing Arts. “We need to consider what it means to be human and a performing arts professional at the same time.” (e.g. no more “exceedingly long hours”) @curaffairs
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) July 30, 2020
Uk critic @eggsbened ponders the key to success for movie adaptations of stage musicals, assessing hits (Chicago, Sound of Music, mostly Sweeney Todd, etc)
& misses (Phantom, Mame, Man of La Mancha, etc.) https://t.co/VtJrXAkaDa
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) July 29, 2020
Rest in Peace
Patti Karr, 88, actress, dancer and singer in 23 Broadway shows from 1953 to 1994, as well as Off-Broadway, regional/stock productions throughout the country, film and television
RIP Alan Parker, 76, who directed 14 films, many of them movie musicals, e.g. Fame, The Commitments, Evita starring @Madonna
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) August 1, 2020
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