Supporting Theater and the Arts, Virtually
Written by Lynn Nichols
Upcoming online events hosted by theaters and stage companies
Cleveland is home to a rich culture and a vibrant live theater scene. The city is well-known for the companies and tours hosted by Playhouse Square, the second-largest theater complex in the country (second only to Lincoln Center on Broadway). But as professionals, students and theatergoers are painfully aware, the ongoing pandemic has placed live theater on pause. Before March 2020, patrons in Playhouse Square’s intimate Hanna Theatre nearly always found themselves elbow-to-elbow with a stranger, while performances at the historic Connor Palace would easily sell out all 2,800 seats. With safety in mind, Playhouse Square venues remain dark today. In-person performances with social distancing and mask precautions are scheduled starting in June, with plans for the return of the Broadway series in fall 2021.
We can look forward to the return of the atmosphere and experience that only comes from live performances, and do our part to make that return as soon as possible by practicing social distancing and wearing masks. But even as most curtains remain down, the show must go on through virtual productions which audiences can attend from home. Not only does this make it possible for us to appreciate something close to live theater, but the shift to online programming makes theater more affordable to wider audiences and more accessible to disabled patrons, whose accommodations in a physical venue are often limited. Below are seven virtual programs to enjoy this spring, from organizations in Cleveland and across the country.
“BARS,” Playhouse Square and Baldwin Wallace University (April 9–11)
The 14th annual collaboration between Playhouse Square and the Baldwin Wallace Music Theatre program will be “BARS” — which stands for Beatboxing, Acting, Rapping, Singing. Student performers will improvise comedy and musical acts which blend classic and modern styles, creating a unique virtual experience for audiences every night of the show. Tickets start at $20 for performances Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 5 and 8:30 p.m., and Sunday at 7 p.m. For further details and to purchase tickets, visit the Playhouse Square website at playhousesquare.org/events/detail/bars.
“National Geographic Live: Women and Migration,” Playhouse Square (April 13)
As part of the Nat Geo Live series of documentary and speaking events, “Women and Migration” will showcase content and conversations exploring the gendered experience of migration. The program will feature discussion by photographers Danielle Villasana, Miora Rajaonary and Saiyna Bashir, as well as photo editor Jennifer Samuel, who have all worked to document stories of women’s migration around the world. “Women and Migration” will stream at 7 p.m. on April 13, with tickets available at $20. For more information, visit playhousesquare.org/events/detail/women-and-migration.
“The Moors,” Cleveland State University (April 15–17)
The CSU Department of Theatre & Dance will produce “The Moors,” the contemporary play by Jen Silverman. As the director, Professor Toby Vera Bercovici spoke on the script’s feminist content, including the strong women integral to the story in its focus on morality and personal agency. The filming and style will “both take advantage of our new magics (green screens, live video editing) and also subvert them by exposing the reality underneath,” Bercovici said. The show was choreographed by performance artist Annelise Nielsen. “The Moors” runs from Thursday, April 15 through Saturday, April 17. For further details, visit class.csuohio.edu/theatre-dance/moors.
“She Kills Monsters,” Baldwin Wallace University (April 29–May 3)
Professor Keira McDonald will direct the Baldwin Wallace Theatre production of “She Kills Monsters,” a play which explores grief, identity and self-discovery through the protagonist’s experience playing Dungeons & Dragons. The playwright, Qui Nguyen, is also known for his work as a screenwriter for Disney’s “Raya and the Last Dragon.” The original Off-Off-Broadway production was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award in 2012 for the portrayal of lesbian identity, and also received recognition for its innovative costume and sound design. A recorded performance of “She Kills Monsters” will stream at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, and 7:30 p.m. Monday. For more information, visit bw.edu/events/2021/04-29-theatre-she-kills-monsters.
“Prometheus Bound,” The Tank (March 24–April 11)
New York City-based nonprofit The Tank has been recognized by The New York Times for expressive, experimental performances. This spring, The Tank produces “Prometheus Bound,” adapted by Howard Rubenstein from Aeschylus’ Greek tragedy and directed by Ran Xia. Brenda Crawley stars as Prometheus as part of a diverse cast in a play which critiques themes of injustice and power. “Prometheus Bound” runs from March 24 through April 11 with performances Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets are available starting at $25 for showtimes at 8 p.m. weekdays, 8 and 10 p.m. on Saturdays, and 5 and 8 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit The Tank at thetanknyc.org/prometheusbound.
“Tell The Story: Celebrating Stephen Sondheim & John Weidman’s ‘Assassins,’” Classic Stage Company (April 15)
Classic Stage Company is among the many Off-Broadway theaters that had to cancel long-anticipated in-person shows because of COVID-19. In April 2020, CSC had planned to produce “Assassins,” the Tony Award-winning musical with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. This event will commemorate “Assassins” and all the creatives involved in its thirty-year life on stage with a selection of performances and conversations, including a conversation between Sondheim and John Weidman, the show creators. The free event will also include appearances by André de Shields, Audra McDonald, George Takei and many more. “Tell the Story” will stream at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 15. For the full list of participants and to register, visit classicstage.org/tellthestory.
BlkFrsTv and Live @ Blackfriars, American Shakespeare Center (on demand and April 25)
William Shakespeare’s birthday is celebrated around the world on April 23 every year. The streaming events hosted by the American Shakespeare Center, based in Virginia, offer a great opportunity to celebrate his work. The organization offers recordings of productions staged in the Blackfriars Playhouse through an on-demand video program called BlkFrsTv, which has been praised by The Wall Street Journal. Plays streaming through BlkFrsTv include “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Othello'' and “Twelfth Night.” Week-long video access is available at $15 per individual play, with access to multi-play bundles starting at $25. The ASC will also stream a live acoustic music showcase for free on April 25 at 7:30 p.m. For more information on upcoming events and the ASC, visit americanshakespearecenter.com.