Chances are, if you are reading this, you are an avid fan of the arts and are going through withdrawal pains, since all area theaters, concert halls, performing arts centers and movie houses have been closed by the dreaded COVID-19.
And although internet-streamed performances are a poor substitute for the live stuff, a lot of writers, actors, singers and assorted artists have been keeping busy entertaining anyone who has a laptop, iPad or smartphone, which presumably keeps them from going stir crazy too.
So pull yourself away from binge-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and take a gander at some of these largely impromptu offerings, either from South Florida area folk or more nationally known arts practitioners.
Florida Atlantic University’s Theatre Lab was one of the first companies in Palm Beach County to post an online program, reaching out to playwrights, both experienced and neophytes, with its Online Original Monologue Festival, or OOMF. Each festival has a theme – the first one was “Hope” – and to encourage entries, the Lab offers online writing workshops, like “Parts of A Story” and “Elements of A Monologue.” After a period of time for submissions, a select few monologues are read online and made available for several days.
The current festival theme is “Heroes,” a fitting topic in these Corona times, and the playlets have been expanded to two-person, three-page plays. Following a selection process and rehearsal period, the play readings are expected to be posted on Facebook by Monday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Extending the “Heroes” theme, this festival shines a spotlight on such unsung theater heroes as stage managers, designers, technicians, administrators and box office employees, with donations targeted to them. The first FAU Theatre Lab OOMF festival was viewed by more than 2,500 people, who contributed more than $4,000 directly to participating artists.
But if you are not in a position to donate, the plays are still available for your viewing pleasure. To contact Theatre Lab or for more information go to: fauf.fau.edu/theatrelab.
Palm Beach Dramaworks was about to open its production of The Light in the Piazza when the you-know-what hit the fan, just as education director Gary Cadwallader was prepping his invariably insightful “In the Wings” series talk to give audiences historical background and context on the show. Without a live audience, he has recorded an “InterACTive” talk, available for viewing at www.palmbeachdramaworks.org/program/interactive.
The same goes for Carbonell Award-winning actress Beth Dimon’s 411 on Florence Foster Jenkins, the real-life singing doyenne with more money than talent, featured in the play with music, Souvenir, set to receive an encore production in the company’s 20th anniversary season beginning – everyone cross your fingers – this fall.
In addition to some other video clips on the theater’s mission, PBD has posted a challenge to its audience to file creative feedback on how you are doing during these rocky times – in the form of a haiku. You know, 17 syllables in three unrhymed lines. You can enter three of your best to firstname.lastname@example.org, with a deadline of May 1. No prizes, except the thrill of being published on the troupe’s website.
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre was days away from opening its final show of the 2019-2020 season, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, when, well, you know. With the cast performance-ready, the Maltz got permission from Actors Equity and other pertinent unions to record and stream the show to ticket holders. The company still hopes to present the show live and onstage when things open up again, but that remains an iffy proposition.
Meanwhile, its next major disruption was to its teen training Conservatory. Live classes were called off just as the county’s public schools closed, so classes in dance, musical theater, acting and voice classes went online for the conservatory’s over 200 students. And through the cloud-based video conferencing platform Zoom, the Conservatory’s faculty has continued rehearsals for its now-postponed spring musical The Music Man, with an opening date TBA.
MNM Theater Company, which normally works out of the Kravis Center, has called on many of the performers it has featured over the years to record numbers from there favorite shows in a program it has dubbed #MNMSings. For instance, you can hear the stellar Clay Cartland singing “Shouldn’t I Be Less in Love With You?” from that perennial revue, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. And as a bonus, you can view his man cave, the site of the recording.
Other recordings in the series include Mark Kischenbaum (“I Like Him” from Man of La Mancha) and Erika Scotti (“The Ladies Who Lunch” from Company). Just go to YouTube and key in #MNMSings.
The Symphonia, Boca Raton’s chamber orchestra, is committed to posting a “Symphonia at Home” performance each week on Thursdays at 5 p.m. If they are as much fun as the duet by trumpeter Jim Hacker and his actress-singer wife Jeni, you will want to check out the group’s Facebook Live site regularly. She sings parody COVID-19 lyrics to “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” (“I’m stayin’ six feet from you.”)
And the Arts Garage, that music gem in Delray Beach, is streaming music performances “from our heARTs to your home.” (Yes, such typographical puns seem to proliferate in times of crisis. Don’t blame us.) Typical is this showcase of West Palm Beach soul musician Matt Brown (artsgarage.org/blog/from-our-hearts-to-your-homes-matt-brown).
On the national and international scene, there is the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, which tasked idled Broadway performers to sing some of the legendary songwriting duo’s iconic musical numbers in contemporary arrangements. This so-called “R & H Goes Live!” features such talents as Kyle Selig (of Mean Girls) accompanying himself on guitar, singing “The Sweetest Sounds” from No Strings, and Jeremy Jordan’s (Newsies) take on “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma!
The initial streamed performances on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s YouTube channel will be followed by a live Q&A session with the artists, after which they remain available on the site.
Andrew Lloyd Webber has a YouTube channel as well – you’re not surprised, are you? – and he is opening up his vault of recorded shows, but you have to be quick. Each Friday, he posts a full-length musical on “The Shows Must Go On” but for only 48 hours, beginning at 7 p,m. UK time or 2 p.m. ET.
The series kicked off on April 3 with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, followed by Jesus Christ Superstar over Easter weekend. Lloyd Webber would appreciate it if you would make a donation if you enjoy these musicals. No, not to himself personally, but to several designated charities, including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Details are on the site.
Britain’s National Theatre is also making its archives of plays available to those fans who are sheltering at home. Predictably, the series is called “National Theatre at Home” and it posts a production a week, each Thursday. These are the high-quality stage works that are usually streamed into theaters in the “National Theatre Live” series, but since there are no movie houses open now, the NT is streaming them on the internet.
It began with One Man, Two Guvnors, the rollicking rewrite of Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters, starring James Corden, on April 2. It was followed by Jane Eyre (4/9) and Treasure Island.
This Thursday (tomorrow), the National shares its recent acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. No word yet on what follows, but the National seems committed to continue as long as theaters are dark on both sides of the pond. Click on www.youtube.com/user/ntdiscovertheatre.
Back in the States, The Musical Theater Project, a nonprofit dedicated to celebrating that uniquely American art form, is making some movie musicals available on several streaming platforms. The series opened April 17 with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in Easter Parade, plus a live Q &A (No, not with Fred or Judy, they were not available, but with the Project’s founding director, Bill Rudman) at 7 p.m, ET. The films are streamed on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play and YouTube, and fees may apply.
On the other hand, completely free of charge are virtual tours of 12 world-famous art museums, like the British Museum, New York’s Guggenheim Museum and the National Gallery of Art in D.C., thanks to Travel & Leisure magazine. Go to: www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours.
This is hardly a complete list of streaming options for shut-ins, but it is a good start. If you have found another internet art opportunity worth sharing, write us and we will help spread the word.