Off Broadway, like Broadway, is in transition. It’s also returning with a flourish. It also (unlike Broadway) has already opened!
The Lucille Lortel Foundation announced today it has purchased the Cherry Lane Theater for $11 million from Angelina Fiordellisi, who bought it in 1996. A 19th century tobacco warehouse and box factory in Greenwich Village that the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay helped turn into a theater way back in 1924, it was one of the earliest homes of the Off Broadway movement, introducing Beckett, Albee and Amiri Baraka to New Yorkers in the 1950s and early 1960s.
At the same that Classic Stage Company, which launched Off-Broadway in 1967, announced its 2021-2022 season (Including long-delayed revival of Sondheim’s “Assassins”),John Doyle, its artistic director since 2016, also said he would step down next summer.
CSC is just one of the many Off-Broadway theaters that have scheduled new seasons.
Vineyard not only has a new slate of plays at its Union Square Off-Broadway theater, including “sandblasted” by Charly Evon Simpson in a co-production with WP Theater, which also announced its 2021-22 season.. Two of its previous, avant-garde plays, “Is This A Room” and “Dana H” are moving to Broadway’s Lyceum in the fall, to be shown in repertory – upping the number of shows with specific opening/reopening dates in the Broadway 2021-2022 season to 45.
See my Off-Broadway 2021-2022 Season Preview Guide for newly added information on the seasons of Playwrights Horizons, which includes specific dates and a newly announced world premiere by Will Arbery (best known for Heroes of the Fourth Turning); and of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, which will be presenting two of their three plays in its season both on stage and online.
Unlike Broadway, Off-Broadway is already open, as my reviews below make clear. And there is evidence, and philanthropic support, for Off Broadway to continue with its immersion in digital theater past the pandemic — including from immersive theater companies. (see the Week in Theater News below)
The Week in Theater Reviews
Red Bull Short New Play Festival
The seven new plays presented this year in Red Bull’s annual festival are odd hybrids that mimic the past, reflect our strange present, and suggest the future, perhaps inadvertently posing the question: Will Zoom, and Zoom theater, outlast the pandemic?
East to Edinburgh Festival:
this one-hour solo play about the 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia is less enlightening than it could have been
This 21st century American retelling of three Biblical stories is more than just clever. The hour-long play is something of a revelation, in more ways than one
a 45-minute show that intersperses a play written and performed by Conor Kelly O’Brien with a concert of related songs composed and performed by Daniel Amedee. It is ostensibly about a road trip to New Orleans that the narrator, one Matthew Riley, took with his dying father James. But the narrative isn’t so straightforward
a 35-minute comic monologue stars John Fico as an unhinged professor (think a gay academic Howard Beale) giving his last virtual lecture to his Political Philosophy 101 students about democrac
In “Endure,” a performer named Casey Howes ran through Central Park for more than an hour while we small band of theatergoers listened over earphones to an audio recording of her inner thoughts and tried to keep up with her. …dance theater and audio theater and site-specific outdoor theater, and a hike..
The Week in Theater News
That Broadway shows are all opening within a couple of months of one another is unprecedented, crucial, and unnerving – and part of the precarious landscape of the city’s culture as a whole — and the city itself.
The return of arts and entertainment is crucial to New York’s economy, and not just because it is a major industry that employed some 93,500 people before the pandemic and paid them $7.4 billion in wages, according to the state comptroller’s office. Culture is also part of the lifeblood of New York — a magnet for visitors and residents alike that will play a key role if the city is to remain vital in an era when shops are battling e-commerce, the ease of remote work has businesses rethinking the need to stay in central business districts and the exurbs are booming…… Now that it’s time to start hiring and spending again, many cultural leaders are worried: Can they thrive with fewer tourists and commuters? How much will safety protocols cost? Will the donors who stepped up during the emergency stick around for a less glamorous period of rebuilding?
Can I Go to See This Show? Must I Wear a Mask? It Depends. (NYTimes)
“The differing approaches at venues perhaps just miles apart has resulted in what some arts officials said has been head spinning confusion and a sense of whiplash.”
Jujamcyn Theaters was fined $40,000 for violating the American with Disabilities Act and has agreed to provide more wheelchair access at its five Broadway theaters as part of a settlement with the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. The Al Hirschfeld, August Wilson, Eugene O’Neill, St. James and Walter Kerr theaters will provide 44 additional wheelchair-accessible seating locations and 54 aisle transfer seating locations, and will remove approximately 200 barriers to accessibility in theater restrooms, concession counters, waiting areas and box offices.
Nine New York City theaters are among the 46 cultural nonprofit organizations selected for a new $30 million “Digital Accelator” program by Bloomberg Philanthropies that is intended to support improving the group’s digital technology Each will appoint a “Bloomberg Tech Fellow.” The list of recipients includes: the Apollo Theater, Ballet Hispánico of New York Inc, BRIC, Harlem Stage, HERE, Pregones/PRTT, St. Ann’s Warehouse, and Roundabout Theatre Company.
“Sleep No More,” the immersive, site specific version of Macbeth that launched in 2011, starting the whole trend of immersive theater in New York, will reopen at the McKittrick Hotel on October 4th. (My review from 2016.)
Third Rail Project, the innovative theater company responsible for such immersive, site-specific work as “Then She Fell” has announced a new theater piece at a new site — Zoom. “Return The Moon” August 11 – September 3
When Pass Over” begins previews on August 4, the production will require audience members to provide proof of vaccination, as does “Springsteen on Broadway,” the only other show currently running on Broadway.
Next #PrivateReels from Lincoln Center Theater archives, presented free, starting July 22: The Wolves, Sarah DeLappe’s impressive first professional play, about the teenage girls who are members of a soccer team. My review of 2016 production:
Playwright Richard Nelson will conclude his Rhinebeck Panorama cycle of plays with the world premiere of his 12thone, “What Happened?: The Michaels Abroad.” Hunter Theater Project, a professional theatre company in residence at New York City’s Hunter College, will present the new work August 28-October 8, in which the Michaels family goes on a post-pandemic trip to France to attend a student dance festival. The cast features Charlotte Bydwell, Haviland Morris, Maryann Plunkett, Jay O. Sanders, Matilda Sakamoto, Rita Wolf and Yvonne Woods. For information about Nelson’s years-long project, see my review of the 11th one in September, Incidental Moments of the Day