#Stageworthy News of the Week.
The Fall season has officially begun, but the theater season is shaping up as the most unusual, certainly the most uncertain, in our lifetimes. A major difference: It’ll unfold day by day…and, for the foreseeable future, it’ll do so almost entirely online.
“There’s so much I don’t know,” Adam Greenfield, the incoming artistic director of Playwrights Horizons, told Alexis Soloski in the New York Times. (There’ll Be a Theater Season. But How and Where and When?)
This week will mark six months since theater buildings were shut down. As other arts and cultural venues are already starting to reopen, the smart money is on another six months — at least — before theaters do.
“The earliest estimates for some of New York’s concert halls and theaters to resume are spring 2021; a few new productions, such as “The Music Man” with Hugh Jackman and “Plaza Suite” with Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker, have announced early spring beginnings on Broadway. Even so, those involved in the planning say privately that it could be autumn 2021 before venues reopen,” writes Peter Marks in an article in the Washington Post detailing the unexpected complexity of reopening. (New York City can’t rebound without Broadway. And Broadway’s road back is uncertain, accompanied by a depressing photograph)
Still, if the buildings are shut, theater itself has not only continued; by going online, it has expanded its reach: “Arts organizations are reporting massive increases in online audiences driven by viewers and participants who have never set foot inside their buildings,” Hannah Grannemann concludes in an Arts Journal blog, after looking at the numbers.
There is good reason to assume this will continue, and there will be a season, however unorthodox. The New York Theatre Workshop is handing over the budget to “artistic instigators” and asking the audience to follow along with their works-in-progress whatever and whenever it might be. The Alliance Theater of Atlanta announced its 2020-2021 season as a mix of drive-in theater, radio plays, shows on a new streaming platform. But however different from past years, season announcements have begun — Steppenwolf’s, the National Black Theater’s 52nd season
Meanwhile, there is enough theater opening in September to fill my monthly calendar.
The Week in Reviews
The Week in Theater News
Labor Day took on new significance for the theater community demonstrations across the country, and in Times Square, in support of relief for arts workers. (See video by cast members of “Rent” below.)
On past Labor Days, I’ve asked: Where are the American plays about unions, or workers, or even just workplaces? But now that “arts workers” have turned Labor Day into an #ArtsWorkersUnited Day of Action, the question becomes: Will COVID-19, the shutdown of theaters, and the strident new labor consciousness of the theater community change what we see on stage?
The Broadway community is rallying for a Democratic majority in this Artists for Change fundraiser with more than two dozen theater artists from Laura Benanti to Frank Wood, with performances by, among others, Freestyle Love Supreme.
The owner of the Hilton Times Square Hotel, a 478-room hotel on 42nd Street one block from the “crossroads of the world,” said it would close permanently next month
Lileana Blain-Cruz, fabulous director (of @LynnBrooklyn's Fabulation, @jackiesdrury 's Marys Seacole, @domorisseau's Pipeline, etc.) has been named resident director of @LCTheater pic.twitter.com/JDpOWLBIHb
— New York Theater (@NewYorkTheater) August 31, 2020
The 2020 Henry Hewes Design Awards are Paul Steinberg, Judgment Day (Scenic Design), Anita Yavich, Soft Power (Costumes), Isabella Byrd, Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Lighting) and Nikiya Mathis, Stew (Hair and Wigs). In two new categories, the winners are Justin Ellington, Heroes of the Fourth Turning (Sound) and Hannah Wasileski, Fires in the Mirror (Media). The Hewes committee also awarded a special citation to the design team for María Irene Fornés’ Fefu and Her Friends.
The cast of Rent Sings “Will I?” with Arts Workers for Federal Relief
“One of the Great Ones,” a song from A Bronx Tale The Musical, was part of the two-hour tribute of Nick Cordero’s life, on Broadway on Demand.
Invictus, a stirring new composition by Anthony Barfield for a 15-piece brass ensemble, is an anthem for New York City in this unique moment in time. The work pays tribute to the resilience of this city and its people, reflecting hope and the anticipation of a better future on the horizon.
The cast of the 2019 stage production “Hercules” sings “Go the Distance” as part of the 2020 National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) virtual convention,