By Bill Hirschman
True, nothing but nothing can remotely match the experience of being in a room with 25 to 2,500 people creating a transient community whose interaction is essential to artists’ creation of the joy called live theater.
But in these times when such gatherings can be irresponsible, if not deadly, we need the healing, instructive, uplifting and just plain diverting gifts that theater can provide. As well as just a good time.
Fortunately, we have the Internet. The amount of comedy, drama, music and even theatrical instruction available is staggering if you know where to look for it. What follows is a fraction of what’s available, most of it for free. And the list grows daily.
Some of it is freshly made by A-list theater artists crooning solos into their laptop in their bedroom; some are full productions both old and new. Some are panel discussions by theater artists discussing how they created some of the best known works in the canon.
Most of this is produced outside this region, but several South Florida companies are brainstorming how to livestream productions, hold cyber-town hall panels and continue what might be considered training. Already on Facebook, local artists are posting heartfelt solos from their living room or wry parodies. (Check out Jeni and Jim Hacker’s Ain’t Misbehavin’)
NEW MATERIAL BELOW
The National Theatre, which was a pioneer in filming and streaming in this past decade or so with National Theatre Live, has created the National Theatre At Home program for free via YouTube, and students and teachers have access to The National Theatre Collection at home, delivered in partnership with Bloomsbury Publishing. From Thursday April 2, a number of productions previously screened in moviehouses will be available via the National Theatre’s YouTube channel.
The first production to be broadcast will be Richard Bean‘s One Man Two Guvnors featuring a Tony Award-winning performance from James Corden. Each production will screen every Thursday at 7 PM GMT/2 PM Eastern, then remain available for seven days. Additionally, the series will include Q&As with cast and creative teams, post-screening talkbacks, and more.
Already announced productions include Sally Cookson’s adaptation of Jane Eyre (April 9), Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Treasure Island (April 16), and Tamsin Greig in Twelfth Night (April 23). Additional titles will be announced at a later date.
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One of our favorite theater-oriented series of all time, Canada’s Slings and Arrows – a truly hilarious, moving and insightful series providing an insider’s look at the creation of theater art by following a bizarre cast of artists in a thinly-disguised version of the Shakespeare festival in Stratford. Is it now binge-able on AcornTV (free 30 day trial available with code FREE30). Trust me, theater folks, this is the best.
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New York City Center is posting daily highlights on its Facebook page “nycitycenter” from its musical theatre vault, including selections from Encores!, Encores! Off-Center, and Gala productions. It launched the series March 22 with two songs from the Encores! production of Sondheim and James Goldman’s Follies: Tony winner Donna Murphy singing “Could I Leave You?” and Tony winner Victoria Clark singing “Losing My Mind.” Also offered: Sutton Foster and Murphy in Anyone Can Whistle, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Colin Donnell, Celia Keenan-Bolger, and Betsy Wolfe in Merrily We Roll Along, and Melissa Errico in Do I Hear a Waltz? Continuing the Sondheim celebration, the series now presents Tony winner Patti LuPone singing from the 2007 City Center Encores! Summer Stars production of Gypsy, which also featured Laura Benanti and Boyd Gaines and would subsequently transfer to Broadway, winning Tony Awards for all three actors. Arthur Laurents directed the production of the musical he wrote with Sondheim and Jule Styne.
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Red Bull Theater will reunite the cast of its 2015 production of John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore—online—March 30 for a free live stream of the Jacobean drama. Red Bull’s artistic director Jesse Berger will helm the online reading of ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore at 7:30 PM ET at redbulltheater.com/live, on Facebook, and on Vimeo.
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Several library systems, including the Broward County library and the New York City library have a seemingly bottomless array of offerings for free. Notable for movies for anyone nationwide with a public library card or university ID is Kanopy, a streaming service “for quality, thoughtful entertainment. Find movies, documentaries, foreign films, classic cinema, independent films and educational videos that inspire, enrich and entertain… that can be enjoyed on your TV, mobile phone, tablets and online. For more information go to https://tinyurl.com/t3h7q2a
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The work available on YouTube is absolutely stunning. All you have to do is put search terms in and you will be amazed that your favorite show or a scene from it is available for free – often the full production. Seriously. Among the offerings are complete recordings of most Tony Awards programs going back to 1967.
Some of what follows are sites I’ve visited over the years, some are from Today Tix and TDF, but much of this is being “borrowed” almost verbatim from my friend and fellow theater critic Lou Harry in Indianapolis who is keeping up on this better than I could. Check out his regularly updated article on the subject: https://tinyurl.com/wgsrv7h
Two Facebook groups I am a member of have an unbelievable collection of clips, often of rare and classic performances broadcast on television on variety and interview shows. Try “Broadway by Broadway” and “Forgotten Broadway.”
One of my personal favorites sites for two decades now is https://americantheatrewing.org/working-in-the-theatre/ — literally hundreds of discussions by theater professionals delving into every crevice of theater production from acting to makeup to design, as well as actors, playwrights, directors and producers in behind-the-scenes panels dissecting the creation of so many iconic works they have been involved in. Trust me, you will not believe the array that stretches back 41 years.
The Theatre Development Fund (TDF) is daily updating a list of concerts and the like being livestreamed that day or in the next few days. some will be archived, but others are as live and ephemeral as something you see in a venue. Check out https://tinyurl.com/vxm6axp.
The Broadway World website is posting performers singing a solo number from their home in Living Room Concerts, among them Carolee Carmello singing numbers from Hello, Dolly! Go to https://www.broadwayworld.com/topic/LIVING-ROOM-CONCERTS.
Stars in the Home is wry and witty Sirius XM host Seth Rudetsky and his husband and producer James Wesley interviewing Broadway stars and hosting their at-home musical performances. The archived programs to support the Actors’ Fund also provide includes a look inside the homes of the stars as well so you can see what they keep on their walls and whether they are rotten housekeepers. Check out Kelli O’Hara, Lindsay Mendez and Marc Shaiman. youtube.com/user/actorsfundorg.
@Theatre Without Theater on Instagram daily posts everything from songs from productions that were cancelled too soon to full productions. Among them Margo Seibert performing “I Give Away Children” from Unknown Soldier, which ended its run early at Playwrights Horizons.
92Y is offering many of their Broadway-focused talks including To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway in Conversation, Come From Away: A Broadway 2nd-Anniversary Celebration, and Dear Evan Hansen: A Conversation with Andrew Barth Feldman and Stacey Mindich.
The Metropolitan Opera will stream different operas from its Live in HD series each night at 7:30 p.m. EST. The operas will be live on the Met Opera homepage for 20 hours (through 3:30 p.m. EST). www.metopera.org.
La MaMa: famed downtown haven LaMaMa is finding ways to stream productions by partnering with CultureHub and HowlRound Theatre Commons. Visit http://lamama.org/ to find out when shows will be streaming.
The Complete Works of Shakespeare: Actor and director Robert Myles launched an initiative to stream the complete works of Shakespeare in the order they were written. A score of actors perform the works from their separate living rooms. First up? Two Gentleman of Verona https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOAHj4ANGKw
IGTV: is a new app from Instagram that provides various theater-related offerings. For instance, Hampstead Theatre’s I And You, Lauren Gunderson’s play about two students studying Walt Whitman, starring Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams. Watch from March 23-29 on Hampstead Theatre’s IGTV @hampstead-theatre.
Great Performances: With a PBS membership (which you should have anyway), you can see Denielle Brooks in the delightful Public Theatre / Central Park Much Ado About Nothing, Laura Benanti in She Loves Me, Kelli O’Hara in The King and I and more.
Goodman Theatre 2666: Strap yourself in as one of the country’s leading regional theater offers its epic adaptation of Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666. It’s structured into five acts, each staged in its own unique style. https://www.goodmantheatre.org/2666/
Tubitv.Com: This free streaming service (with commercials) has the 1981 Pippin with Ben Vereen. It also has the 2018 film version of Hello Again and a batch of documentaries on The Fantasticks, Hamilton, and more.
SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES (but several with temporary free service)
BroadwayHD, a pay streaming service since 2015, costs $8.99 a month, but currently is offering a free seven-day trial – so you can cancel after a week. It offers both previously released and televised performances such as Cats, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, plus filmed performances such as Kinky Boots – nearly 300 titles. It has put together a playlist of works of female theater-makers including an all-female Shakespeare Trilogy, along with Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, A Night with Janis Joplin, Ann, and Driving Miss Daisy. A second playlist celebrates Stephen Sondheim who turns 90 and Andrew Lloyd Webber who turns 72 this weekend with Gypsy, Putting It Together, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Cats, Phantom Of The Opera, and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Go to https://www.broadwayhd.com/. Also Red, Indecent, the BBC complete Shakespeare from the 1970s/80sm Pipeline, and Buried Child with Amy Madigan and Ed Harris.
Amazon Prime: Has a surprising menu, again, with some shows discovered with a bit of searching, including made-for-TV obscurities such as 1955’s One Touch of Venus, Arsenic and Old Lace with Tony Randall and Boris Karloff, 1956’s Bloomer Girl with Barbara Cook, and virtually filmed on stage Top Banana with Phil Silvers. You can also catch 1986’s Barnum, starring a pre-Phantom Michael Crawford, Del Shores’ Southern Baptist Sissies and James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury in the stage production of Driving Miss Daisy.
Netflix: Check out Springsteen on Broadway, John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons, Steve Martin and Martin Short:’ An Evening You Will Forget For the Rest of Your Lives, and the Broadway production of Shrek.
MARQUEETV is another subscription service, this one is focused more on opera and dance. However, theater buffs can find plenty of treasures. Recent additions include the 2018 Julius Caesar from the Donmer Warehouse and a load of Classic Spring Theatre’s Company’s Oscar Wilde productions including A Woman of No Importance. The RSC and Globe Shakespeare productions alone are worth the price. MarqueeTV is offering free 30 days of streaming when signing up.
Digital Theatre: For £9.99 a month, the British streamer offers Zoe Wanamaker and David Suchet in All My Sons, the Regent’s Park production of Into the Woods, the revival of Funny Girl with Sheridan Smith, Tricycle Theatre’s True West, and Royal Shakespeare Theatre productions of Twelfth Night, Macbeth and a post-apocalyptic Troilus and Cressida.
Disney+: Tucked away in the midst of all of the animated characters and the snippets of relived high school musicals on “Encores” are the real-life actors in Broadway’s Newsies (not to be confused with the film version, which is also available through the mouse.)
Hulu: Here are the 2013 Broadway Romeo and Juliet with Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad along with Jesus Christ Superstar Live.
HBO: The Pee Wee Herman Show on Broadway and Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill would make for a very interesting double feature. Searching will find you a score more.
Ontheboards.Tv: For a decade now, this Seattle-based group hasn’t just presented, but produced original video of stagework including experimental pieces from around the world. For example: Songs at the End of the World features a Dutch-Flemish group of actors/musicians exploring “dreams, choices and possibilities” in a musical piece set in Antarctica. A free trial is offered through April. https://www.ontheboards.tv/
Cennarium.Com: International presenter/producer, Cennarium offers shows from the stages of Brazil, Italy, Spain, Argentina, and more. The philosophy: The vast majority of the populations around the world do not have access to performing arts. Cennarium takes the greatest performing arts spectacles and performances from the world’s main cultural capitals and makes them available to anyone, anytime, anywhere. It’s offering a free 10-day trial. https://www.cennarium.com/
Globeplayer: There’s an abundance of Shakespeare available here a la carte. Take a look at the Globe to Globe lineup, which includes a Korean production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a Macedonian Henry VI, Part 3, and a Love’s Labour’s Lost in British sign language. https://globeplayer.tv/
National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene kicks off its Folksbiene LIVE!: An Online Celebration of Yiddish Culture this week. Performances and events will be streamed on Folksbiene’s Facebook page for FREE. Find the schedule at facebook.com/folksbiene.
The Tank has launched CyberTank, a weekly, virtual, multidisciplinary arts gathering that is publicly shared. Live-streams are done on Twitch and you can find more info on The Tank’s website.
Dave Malloy, the Tony-nominated creator of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, just posted a full-length recording of the 2015 mounting of his musical Ghost Quartet online. Watch it for FREE on his YouTube channel.