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: May 18, 2020, 09:11 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 irrational 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 self-selecting audience, 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: May 20, 2020, 03:30 pm 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 his perusal of the graphic novel, which I recently gave him, he found the streaming version thrilling, whereas for me... well, 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: 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 (alas, 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.