Streaming Theatre

Started by scenicdesign71, May 07, 2020, 12:27 am

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May 07, 2020, 12:27 am Last Edit: May 07, 2020, 10:12 pm by scenicdesign71
Hey, it only took me seven weeks of quarantine to grasp the obvious: there should be a thread for this!

Most of these are free (though donations, often to COVID-related charities, are encouraged), a few are not:

Take Me To The World is still up on YouTube:
Broadway's Best:
NT At Home:
Nightly Metropolitan Opera Streams:
Lincoln Center Theatre on BroadwayHD:
Playwrights Horizons "Soundstage" podcasts:
Red Bull Theater, play readings and "podversations":
The Wooster Group archives (through May 15):

...and the one that currently has me most excited:
Fun Home, taped in 2017 at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater (May 12-24):

Some of these were taken from a recent New York Times article, which includes more upcoming streaming theatre that I haven't copied here.  Also, TDF maintains its own list (though you have to be a member to see it) of streaming shows, usually not free but cheap.

Many of the above are ongoing series(es?) of streaming events (so check the links for new titles each week), but there are also sometimes individual one-off shows (like Fun Home) apparently benefitting the producing theatre company.

Some streaming plays and musicals have already stayed up for quite awhile (like Take Me To The World), others will remain streamable for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and still others are strictly "live" one-night-only events (like the "Broadway's Best" series).

And while some of these are full productions taped before the pandemic began, others are Zoom-style readings -- often with starry casts -- made for the current moment and either honest-to-god LIVE-live-streamed (with whatever technical glitches may arise) or recorded and edited to sidestep such glitches.

Given a few more months -- at the optimistic minimum -- in which to develop this format while real theatre is off the boards, I suspect we'll start seeing more and more experimentation, which has me deeply curious.  (Last month's marvelous Buyer & Cellar, though sadly no longer viewable, represented one modest but highly successful step in that direction).  But in the meantime, there's a silver lining of sorts in simply getting to see this much "streaming theatre" of all kinds, much of it free or pay-what-you-can, and in many cases of very high quality indeed.

Check the links for further info, and if you see something coming up, add it to this thread!  Share your thoughts about streaming performances you've seen (or are looking forward to seeing, or hope to see) here too.


May 13, 2020, 01:19 pm #1 Last Edit: May 14, 2020, 03:54 pm by scenicdesign71
I've only caught two of Seth Rudetsky's "Plays in the House" series, but looking back over their lineup so far, I regret not having tuned in Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm and will try to remember to do so more often going forward.

Charles Busch's The Confession of Lily Dare, with the entire original cast, was delightful just now -- my mom actually saw it at the Cherry Lane earlier this year, and now I wish I had too.

The series is an offshoot of Rudetsky's "Stars in the House" podcast and web series, and the PITH readings can be viewed on the same YouTube channel -- but catch them when they air, because they're live-live and they don't stay up for long afterward.


More from Lincoln Center -- next month they'll be streaming Carousel (NY Philharmonic, with Kelli O'Hara and Nathan Gunn), The Nance (Nathan Lane, Cady Huffman) and Act One (Tony Shalhoub, Andrea Martin, Santino Fontana):


May 15, 2020, 04:31 am #3 Last Edit: Jun 14, 2020, 12:52 am by scenicdesign71
Bill Irwin has created a silly-sweet and melancholy socially-distanced ten-minute cyberplaylet called In-Zoom under the auspices of the Old Globe.  Click, watch, you'll like!

I was a bit confounded by Significant Other last night.  It was everything and more (less?) that I had made-a-point-of-avoiding-both-its-Roundabout-runs-under-the-assumption-that it would be.  And it was proof, both positive and negative, of what works in the Zoom-reading format and what doesn't: the script's strengths and weakness were thrown into high relief, with the talented but uneven cast making the most of the former and largely stymied by the latter.  A few high-contrast, blink-and-you-miss-them monochrome renderings of Mark Wendland's original set, splashed across the screen at intermission, provided the merest suggestion of how the physical production may have picked up some of the script's considerable slack.

And still... while SO came off (imho) hands-down worse than any show I've yet seen translated into this format (despite the laboriously cute editing and annotative title cards), in some vague way I actually feel for its gaga admirers, as well as its sniffy detractors, in the sharply-divided comments accompanying its original NYT reviews.

I'm of exactly the wrong age cohort to fully appreciate this play, but I can see how an effective production might strike a chord with its intended millennial audience -- and I have to give playwright Joshua Harmon a point for [spoiler alert] sidestepping the easy, unearned romcom-happy ending on which another writer might have settled (even if, in a context of paper-thin characters and sitcom dialogue, his abruptly pensive ending feels a bit unearned in its own way).  In retrospect, Brantley's comparison of Harmon's script to those of Wendy Wasserstein seems very apt (apparently it features an epigraph from Isn't It Romantic?) -- and if I personally always found Wasserstein's work bafflingly, embarrassingly overrated, perhaps it's enough to assume that it, like Significant Other, scratched some not-entirely-rational yet highly satisfying demographic itch of the sort that's usually only accessible through pop songs and, far more occasionally, schmaltzy/wry voice-of-a-generation movies.  I may not precisely understand their ability to connect with their respective fans: I'm two decades older than Harmon's core audience, and two decades younger than Wasserstein's.  But that connection is strong enough to render the question of whether they're actually any good, by conventional standards (if anything, Harmon may have a slightly better ear for dialogue than Wasserstein did, though I'd call that a low bar), more or less moot.


May 17, 2020, 11:24 pm #4 Last Edit: Jun 14, 2020, 01:09 am by scenicdesign71
I've been watching the streaming Fun Home -- two complete viewings now, one with a friend/crush whose unfamiliarity with the show gives me some useful perspective.  With nothing to compare it to except the original graphic novel (a copy of which I had recently gifted him), he found the streaming version thrilling, whereas for me... well, about a dozen live viewings of the original, off and on Broadway, have turned me into a rather tough customer for subsequent productions of this show (I did also like the touring version, but even that production shared the same creative team as both NYC versions).

The good news is that Victory Gardens has (well, had, in 2017 when this performance was filmed) a very talented cast.  The score sounds splendid -- my one and only quibble would be that the flashier sections of "Raincoat Of Love" are solidly above the lead singer's range, forcing him into a conspicuously weak falsetto just when he should sound most radiant.  But otherwise, this is a really beautifully-sung production.

The neither-good-nor-bad news is that this production's emotional temperature is markedly warmer than the original (which was already a few degrees above that of the graphic novel, probably an inevitable function of the translation from page to stage).  I don't know that that's necessarily a bad thing, but it is a distinct shift from the more emotionally-distant and inexpressive family described by Bechdel and beautifully embodied by the original cast, and for me it's taking some getting-used-to.

The less-good news is that, even granting all of the above, I'm still feeling like some of the direction here is lazy at best, or wrong-headed at worst; and the physical production is very basic indeed.  It sort of feels as though they tried to present the story simply and straightforwardly, while failing to notice that, at its core, it is neither of those things -- and can't really be made so, without to some degree blunting its complicated, delicate and prismatic essence.

Granted, this is a competently but blandly shot archival video, presumably never intended for commercial release; the sound is quite good, but the lighting, which may have looked fine in person, is barely adequate for filming purposes.  Overall, it's probably not fair to judge what may have been a wonderful live experience too severely on the basis of this recording.  But I can't entirely shake the sense that, despite a multitude of staging and design details borrowed from the original production (but assembled here without the same visual-storytelling brilliance -- a fitting complement to Bechdel's own -- that rightly won the original Tony awards for direction and lighting, and a richly-deserved nomination for set design), this comes off as a less sophisticated knockoff with a very good, but under-directed, cast.

This all probably sounds harsher than it's intended to; I really did enjoy this production -- nitpicking aside, it still brought me helplessly to tears by the end -- and I will certainly watch it through a few more times (I actually bought extra "tickets" on the VG website for expressly that purpose).  If anyone else here has seen it, I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.  I'm not usually one to get hung up on a single interpretation and be blinded to others thereafter, but in this case my admiration for the original may be clouding my judgement.


Denver's Curious Theatre Company is presenting a live reading of Black. by Lamaria Aminah on Sunday, June 14 at 6 pm MT (8 pm Eastern).

Below is the link to the reading:,AW98,3IEFSW,14XHT,1


Jun 13, 2020, 05:00 pm #6 Last Edit: Jun 30, 2020, 01:34 pm by scenicdesign71
Thanks, Kathy -- I'll be watching tomorrow!

I didn't catch the premiere of this new NYT series when it live-streamed on Thursday, but started watching it just now and thought I'd post it here:

OFFSTAGE Ep. 1 | Opening Night: Exploring Broadway As It Was, Is and Will Be

Among many other things, it includes the New York cast of Marianne Elliott's Company singing that show's title song.

I recommend watching the extended 45-minute opening conversation about race and Broadway.  I haven't seen Tina, but at some point last year I read something about Adrienne Warren's heroic struggle in the title role, which sounds like a particularly punishing Olympic event; and, having seen her in Shuffle Along, I think people should be falling over themselves to write serious new shows for her.

But if you can't wait for the Company number, it begins just after the 47-minute mark (or you can see it separately here).  The few Sondheim songs I've heard Katrina Lenk sing, in recent months, had been leaving me a bit worried that, as much as I've admired her work in Indecent and The Band's Visit, she might not be an ideal interpreter for Sondheim.  But in this rendition of the opening number -- very flashily edited, with Lenk's eyelines alone quite a feat of technical virtuosity -- she is genuinely radiant, even in a context where her role is largely reactive.

The traditional (male) Bobby tends to coast through this number on a much cooler kind of charisma, but I can picture Lenk's highly expressive performance setting up the story in a different and very interesting way.  On the evidence of this clip, her Bobbie isn't a cipher; she's someone whose joy in her social circle is perfectly sincere, captivating to watch, and understandably exhausting.  Her social "on" setting looks like a lot more work than that of any male Bobby I've ever seen, which casts the character in a new and sympathetic light from square one -- as an active protagonist rather than just the still center around which her friends all swirl (literally, here, in what may be the most animated Zoom-ography I've yet seen in one of these at-home things).


Jun 19, 2020, 11:00 pm #7 Last Edit: Jun 19, 2020, 11:13 pm by scenicdesign71
I'm kicking myself for not having posted this a couple days ago when I watched it (or a few days before that, when I heard about it) -- but it has now stayed on YouTube for seven hours past its ostensible expiration date, so perhaps it'll continue to remain up at least long enough for someone else to enjoy it:

It's Gogol's The Government Inspector, in a reunion Zoom reading featuring the cast of the 2017 Red Bull Theater production, which I was lucky enough to see after it transferred to New World Stages.  Its delightful cast features Michael Urie, Mary Testa and Arnie Burton, among others -- all in tip-top comedic form.


Jun 22, 2020, 01:19 pm #8 Last Edit: Jun 23, 2020, 01:38 am by scenicdesign71
Tonight I'm watching a Zoom reading of a new play, A Distinct Society, by my friend Kareem -- a gifted playwright as well as an amazing director -- which is being sponsored by Oregon Contemporary Theatre.  It starts at 8pm EST / 5pm PST.

I read this play last fall and was immediately excited by it; if and when it someday gets a full production, I'm hoping I might get the opportunity to design it.  I don't call Kareem "gifted" lightly -- I think he's a rare talent, and I've only grown more and more convinced of that over the five years I've known him.

A Distinct Society has had at least two (normal, pre-pandemic, live-in-person) readings to date -- most recently here in NYC this past February, but I was unfortunately unable to rejigger my schedule in order to attend.  (My mom did see it, though, and she loved it).  So I'm very excited to finally get to hear the play out loud tonight.

You can also read the script, along with some of Kareem's other work (and that of dozens of other playwrights besides) on the New Play Exchange.  It does require membership, which costs ten bucks a year -- about the price of a single hard-copy playscript on Amazon or wherever.

A quiet library that straddles the border of the U.S. and Canada becomes an unlikely crucible for five people from around the world.  When an Iranian family, separated from one another by the "Muslim ban," use the library as a meeting place, the head librarian, a U.S. border patrol officer, and a local teenager have to choose between breaking the law and saving themselves.  OCT calls A Distinct Society "both intimate and expansive ... a prismatic character study of people yearning for connection in a context of corrosive nationalism."


"This American Life" on NPR did a segment about that library back in 2018.  It is one of my favorite stories.
I no longer long for the old view!


Jun 26, 2020, 06:41 pm #10 Last Edit: Jun 26, 2020, 09:13 pm by scenicdesign71
Thanks for that link, Tom!  Very interesting to watch right after the reading -- I assume Kareem probably saw it at some point when he was researching.

I just finished watching The Men From The Boys, Mart Crowley's 2002 sequel to The Boys In The Band, directed by Zachary Quinto as a Zoom reading for Playbill's 2020 Pride Plays series.  It was enjoyable, though I couldn't always keep all the characters and their relationships straight -- never mind the new ones involving three younger men -- despite having seen TBITB on Broadway just two years ago.  (One of these days I'll get around to watching the 1970 movie version, perhaps in preparation for seeing the upcoming Netflix remake -- produced by Ryan Murphy, and directed by Joe Mantello with his entire cast from the excellent B'way revival -- sometime later this year).

I'm not sure how long Men/Boys will remain streamable;* I watched the Pride Plays reading of Brave Smiles: Another Lesbian Tragedy on Tuesday, the day after it premiered, because Monday night I had been busy watching Kareem's play.  (It was my first time seeing the Five Lesbian Brothers, despite having known of them since right around the time Brave Smiles premiered in 1992!).  It has since been taken down, I'm not sure when; but you can still watch Playbill's Zoom chat with the 5LB, taped last week.  In it, founding member Lisa Kron mentions how the group's catchy name has served it well over the years; it certainly stuck with me, so much so that, despite never having actually seen their work until the other day, for the past 20+ years I've always thought of Kron herself as a Lesbian Brother first if not foremost.

Playbill has also put up a listing of other streaming events this weekend, including their own two remaining Pride Plays offerings: a reading of MJ Kaufman's new play Masculinity Max tomorrow evening at 7pm, and their "Pride Spectacular" concert on Sunday at 8pm.

*(Ed.: I just noticed -- according to that listing, The Men From The Boys will be up for 72 hours, meaning through Monday evening).


Jun 28, 2020, 12:25 pm #11 Last Edit: Jun 28, 2020, 12:50 pm by scenicdesign71
Molière in the Park's Zoom staging of Tartuffe, with Raúl Esparza in the title role and Orange is the New Black's Samira Wiley as Orgon, was a hoot!  They did two readings of it yesterday, at 2pm and 7pm, and I enjoyed the first one so much that I logged back in for the second.  The recording will remain on YouTube until Wednesday afternoon.

Tonight I'll be watching The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, which I haven't seen since a year or two after its Off-B'way premiere.  And after reading a fascinating NYT piece about Lorraine Hansbury earlier this month, I'm looking forward to watching Yael Farber's NT production of Hansbury's Les Blancs, starting Thursday as part of the NT At Home series.  (In the meantime, they're running the Bridge production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which looks interesting, too).


Jun 28, 2020, 02:38 pm #12 Last Edit: Jun 30, 2020, 12:13 pm by Leighton
Quote from: scenicdesign71 on Jun 28, 2020, 12:25 pmMolière in the Park's Zoom staging of Tartuffe, with Raúl Esparza in the title role and Orange is the New Black's Samira Wiley as Orgon, was a hoot!  They did two readings of it yesterday, at 2pm and 7pm, and I enjoyed the first one so much that I logged back in for the second.  The recording will remain on YouTube until Wednesday afternoon.

Tonight I'll be watching The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me, which I haven't seen since a year or two after its Off-B'way premiere.  And after reading a fascinating NYT piece about Lorraine Hansbury earlier this month, I'm looking forward to watching Yael Farber's NT production of Hansbury's Les Blancs, starting Thursday as part of the NT At Home series.  (In the meantime, they're running the Bridge production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which looks interesting, too).

The Bridge's Dream is fab - delightfully anarchic
Self indulgence is better than no indulgence!


Jun 30, 2020, 05:11 am #13 Last Edit: Jul 05, 2020, 10:25 pm by scenicdesign71

Up on YouTube until 2pm tomorrow.

It seems as though the NYT has lately started running a lot more full-on reviews of these streaming things in their Theater section -- perhaps not coincidentally, in light of yesterday's official announcement that B'way theatres will remain shuttered until January at least.  To be sure, they've reviewed some of these things before -- going back at least as far as the Sondheim concert two months ago -- but two new top-of-the-page reviews in as many days, over the weekend (Tartuffe, and Lungs streamed live from the empty Old Vic), seemed like more than usual.

My guess is that they're settling in for the long haul and, while they'll have to remain as selective as ever amid the bumper crop of streaming theatre (which shows no sign of slowing, and indeed just keeps getting more diverse in various senses -- Tartuffe and Lungs make an instructive pairing as to the range of approaches at this particular moment), for the foreseeable future this is what they've got to cover.  With at least six more months of this to go, the Theater section certainly won't be able to subsist entirely on elegies for live theatre, nervous surveys of Broadway's economic wreckage, or even think pieces and coverage of the industry's soul-searching during the Great Pause. As appropriate as all those kinds of articles may be, they do not a Theater section make, even when leavened with frequent streaming-theatre roundup listings (and peppered with what seem like just-slightly-alarmingly more obits than usual).


Jun 30, 2020, 12:35 pm #14 Last Edit: Jul 05, 2020, 10:31 pm by scenicdesign71
Oh, there's this obscure little curiosity coming up at the end of the week, too:

I suppose it's worth buying a month's worth of access to check this out; compared to theatre tickets that could easily set you back a thousand dollars (back when theatre tickets were a thing, remember?), seven bucks for thirty days of unlimited viewing isn't too shabby a deal.

(I'm fooling no one, obviously: I'm helpless with anticipation).