Theater Triumphs on Screen. Amid In-Person Cancellations, Digital Theater Makes A Comeback. #Stageworthy Week

Given all the cancellations and delays caused by the Omicron variant surge (see news below),  digital theater is suddenly looking good again (see reviews below.)

If the theater news this week suggests a repeat of the second quarter of 2020 – an avalanche of “Unfortunately, due to…” “postpone/delay/cancel” announcements – there are some differences. Some theaters are now ready to embrace streaming as an alternative for skittish theatergoers, or even as an outright replacement for their in-person production.

This interplay between stage and screen is, in many ways, nothing new. Three major figures in moviemaking, as actor, composer and director, each made contributions of varying significance to the theater as well (See “Rest in Peace” below). And, the 2022 Golden Globes, announced yesterday (via Twitter, not TV), honored two movies that were adapted from stage musicals. West Side Story won Best Picture, Musical or Comedy with individual awards to Rachel Zegler and Ariana DuBose as well, and Andrew Garfield won for his his performance in Tick, Tick…BOOM movie.

On the other hand, after two years of living with COVID-19 pandemic, many in the theater industry seem to be reflecting the attitude of new New York City Mayor Eric Adams,  whose inaugural speech (as I reported last week) made his priorities clear:  “New York is not closed. It is still open and alive… We will not be controlled by crisis…Enjoy a Broadway show, send your kids to school, go back to the office – these are declarations of confidence that our city is our own.”

Not every theatergoer is as confident.

The Week in Theater Reviews and Previews

Clyde’s Simulcast

Immediately after I watched the first-ever “simulcast” of a Broadway play   — the exact same live performance of Lynn Nottage’s “Clyde’s” on my computer screen that the audience was watching at the same time in person at the Hayes on Broadway – I received an email from Second Stage Theater and Assemble, the company that they had hired to do the live-streaming.

“Dear Patron,” it read, “we are very sorry for the technical issue you experienced with the Clyde’s simulcast this evening. We have worked to resolve the problem and would like to invite you to watch another performance before the show closes on January 16….”

It’s embarrassing to admit that I hadn’t until that moment realized there had been a technical issue…. putting aside the early glitch with the transmission, the experience from moment to moment of watching this play on my computer screen at home had its pluses and minuses. 

Running for My Life

“Sweetheart, I’m fine, and I’m running for my life, I cannot talk to you right now,” Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif) recalls telling her son, when he telephoned her while she was scrambling down the Capitol staircase escaping the mob on January 6, 2021.

Exactly a year after the storming of the US Capitol, Torres and 22 other female members of  Congress who were endangered on that day will become characters tonight in “Running for My Life,” a work of documentary theater that’s being given a free staged reading online 

Duck Duck Goose

“I haven’t done anything wrong,” Chris Quinn says again and again in Caitriona Daly’s play, which focuses on an accusation of rape. Chris is not the one accused. His friend Davey is, but Chris defends him…for years, at great cost to him and his family. …“Duck Duck Goose,”  which opened the 14th annual 1st Irish Theater Festival and is available through January 16, is one of the half dozen  plays from the festival that are being presented online

Book Review: The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier wasn’t expected to live long; he was born prematurely in Miami, where his parents, who were tomato farmers from the Bahamas, happened to be visiting in order to sell their produce. He was so sickly that his father bought a shoebox-sized coffin from a local undertaker.
Poitier tells us this in The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography(Harper San Francisco, 272 pages), which he wrote when he was 72 years old — twenty-two years ago.

Poitier, who died on Friday at the age of 94, wound up having “a long and complicated life, with many twists and turns,” as he tells us in the book, which he wrote in order to reexamine “how well I’ve done at measuring up to the values I myself have set.”

It is a fascinating book, perhaps more so now — clearly enough so that a group of producers (including his daughter Anika Poitier) announced just last month that a new play based on thia memoir is aiming for Broadway.  Entitled “Sidney” it is written by Charles Randolph-Wright (director of the production of “Trouble in Mind” that ends its run today), and will be directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

The Week in Theater News

Cancellations, Postponements, Delays

“Flying Over Sunset” is ending January 16, three weeks early

The opening of “Skeleton Crew” has been delayed; no new date announced.

Performances of “Paradise Square” have been pushed ahead. The first preview is now March 15, and opening date April 3rd.

The 13th Annual Fire This Time festival, which was scheduled to run Jan 17-Feb 6, will be postponed until July 2022, “due to the recent surge of the Covid-19.”  The festival showcases the work of early-career playwrights of African-American descent

The seventh annual BroadwayCon, a kind of ComicCon for theater fans, has been pushed to July due to COVID-19 concerns

The 2022 Grammy Awards indefinitely postponed over omicron variant concerns

New York City Ballet’s winter season, which had been scheduled to begin on Jan. 18, will now start on Jan. 27,

Playwrights Horizons announces one-week delay of the first preview and opening night of “Tambo and Bones” by Dave Harris. It will now run Jan 19 – Feb 2 and open February 7. The theater will also required that all audience members have received booster shots.

Broadway Unions Revolt Over Proposal to Halve Workers’ Pay During COVID ‘Pauses’ (Daily Beast)

“During COVID especially there’s less of a need of organizing as we think of it as adding jobs or external organizing, and there’s more of a need for organizing members together and mobilizing them.”  — Stefanie Frey, first-ever “Mobilization Director” of Actors Equity (Observer)

Former Actor Returns to Broadway 7 Years Later to Perform Wicked Lead amid COVID Cast Shortage (People)
Carla Stickler, now a software engineer living in Chicago, traveled to New York City to headline a Broadway performance of Wicked when the show needed someone to fill in for Elphaba

Todays Tix buys Goldstar (Variety)

Playing ‘Wit’ on Borrowed Time

Three years ago Erin Cronican was given 3-5 years to live, and now she’s starring in a production of Margaret Edson’s play about a scholar with cancer. “I think I had in my head, ‘How am I going to get through this? This play will tell me how,’

Broadway Finally Makes Progress on Racial Equity, but there’s more work to do (Marketwatch)

Lynn Nottage: Unexpected Optimist (NPR)

Rylance: “Theatre is a thousand times more enjoyable than film.”)

Rest in Peace

Sidney Poitier, 94, trailblazing leading man, first Black man to win a Best Actor Oscar. He was also a four-time Broadway veteran, most notably for “A Raisin in the Sun.” “Sidney” a play based on his memoir, is aiming for Broadway. (See my review of his memoir)

How ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ made Sidney Poitier’s Broadway legacy unforgettable (LA Times)

Peter Bogdanovich,  82, filmmaker. 
As a young man, “Mr. Bogdanovich saw up to 400 films a year, jotting down observations about each movie on notecards, while also trying his hand in theater, taking acting classes with Stella Adler as a teenager and directing an off-Broadway production of a Clifford Odets play at age 20.”

Neil Marcus, 67, playwright and actor, a pioneer of the disability culture movement, thanks to his play “Storm Reading”

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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