Who: The Seeing Place Theater
What: Livestreamed benefit readings and panel discussions
Where: The Seeing Place Theater Zoom
When: Saturday, October 31, and Sunday, November 1, $10-$50, 7:00 (available on YouTube November 3-7)
Why: The Seeing Place Theater continues its “Ripple for Change” series with two live, virtual readings of the pseudonymous Jane Martin’s 1994 Pulitzer Prize finalist, Keely and Du, a powerful work about a pregnant rape victim and an antiabortion activist. The drama premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in March 1993 and continues to be popular, given the subject matter, especially as the Supreme Court becomes more conservative and Roe v Wade and other aspects of health care are in danger. The reading is directed by Brandon Walker and Erin Cronican and features Cronican as Keely, Audrey Heffernan Meyer as Du, Walker as Walter, and Olivia Hanna Hardin as the guard; it will be performed live October 31 and November 1 at 7:00, in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, with proceeds benefiting the Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of Saint Louis; it will be available for viewing on YouTube November 3-7.
“Rather than tell audiences what to think, this play poses deep questions to get to the heart of the debate over who governs women’s bodies,” Cronican said in a statement. “It asks us to reflect on an individual’s rights, a community’s responsibilities, and the difference between one person’s expectations and another’s reality.” Each performance will be followed by “Action Steps for Protecting Women’s Choices,” a panel discussion with Dr. Colleen McNicholas, an OB-GYN who became Planned Parenthood’s first-ever chief medical officer in July 2019. “I don’t want to get comfortable talking to you,” Keely tells Du at one point. Unfortunately, it’s part of a conversation that is not going away any time soon.
Who: Tim Curry, Wilmer Valderrama, Lance Bass, Rosario Dawson, Jason George, Nell Campbell, Seth Green, Jason Alexander, David Arquette, the Dresden Dolls, Miss Peppermint, Eiza Gonzalez, Josh Gad, Ben Barnes, Jenna Ushkowitz, Rachel Bloom, Karen Olivo, Marissa Jaret Winkour, Madison Uphoff, Kalen Chase, Rumer Willis
What: Livestreamed Halloween political fundraiser
Where: WisDems Zoom
When: Saturday, October 31, suggested donation $31, 10:00
Why: America is in danger of going through a perilous time warp if the current administration gets another four years in office, further setting back gains that have been made over decades toward freedom and equality for all. With that in mind, the Wisconsin Democratic Party has been on a fierce and furious drive to flip the swing state blue on election day with virtual cast reunions of Happy Days, The Princess Bride, Veep, and Superbad that have each raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. Next up is a celebration of the 1975 midnight cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a film that celebrates individuality and daring to be different. We might not be able to touch-a, touch-a, touch-a, touch one another, but we can reach out and come together online, and joining in the fun on Halloween night will be Dr. Frank N. Furter himself, Tim Curry, along with Wilmer Valderrama, Lance Bass, Rosario Dawson, Jason George, Nell Campbell, Seth Green, Jason Alexander, and David Arquette, with musical performances by the Dresden Dolls, Miss Peppermint, Eiza Gonzalez, reunion champ Josh Gad, Ben Barnes, Jenna Ushkowitz, Rachel Bloom, Karen Olivo, Marissa Jaret Winkour, Madison Uphoff, Kalen Chase, and Rumer Willis. The suggested donation is $31 for the one-time-only live event, but you can give any amount to watch the festivities and submit your own question, so as far as change goes, don’t just dream it, be it.
Who: Norm Lewis, Lindsay Nicole Chambers, Siho Ellsmore, Chris Renfro, Dick Terhune, Stuart Williams, John Stimac
What: Virtual, immersive audio presentation of Dracula
Where: Resounding Live
When: Friday, October 20, and Saturday, October 31, $20, 8:00
Why: Because of the pandemic lockdown, theater creators have been looking at innovative ways to bring storytelling into people’s homes. One method that is making a comeback is the radio play. On October 30, Keen Company is performing Orson Welles’s iconic 1938 War of the Worlds radio script. Welles’s legacy also plays a part in Resounding’s audio production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, inspired by Welles’s 1938 radio adaptation and utilizing cutting-edge proprietary technology that promises “to create a live 360-degree soundscape of howls, bats, screams, creaky floors, slamming doors, and everything that goes bump in the night.” Tony nominee Norm Lewis dons the cape as the bloodsucking count, with Lindsay Nicole Chambers as Mina Murray, Siho Ellsmore as Lucy Westenra, Chris Renfro as Jonathan Harker, Dick Terhune as Prof. Van Helsing, Stuart Williams as Dr. Seward, and John Stimac as Renfield, all performing live from wherever they’re sheltering in place.
“I’ve been thinking for the better part of a decade about how to leverage the internet to increase audience and participation in the theater in America and the world,” Resounding creative director Steve Wargo said in a statement. “My initial ideas were to re-create the style and substance of the broadcasts that Orson Welles and his Mercury Theatre performed live on the radio in the late ’30s. Time passed, other projects came and went, then the pandemic hit, and this idea became front and center. We have an amazing team and now we have some fancy patent-pending new technology on our hands, something potentially revolutionary. And what better way to launch that with the great Norm Lewis as Dracula for Halloween.” In addition, New York City bartender Jena Ellenwood has curated cocktails to accompany the fifty-five-minute show; the audience is also encouraged to dress up for the event and post images to a virtual photo booth on Pinterest to form a unique community. Next up for Resounding are an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island November 27-28 and the world premiere of The Fantastical Tale of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King December 18-19.
Who: James Monroe Iglehart, Rafael Casal, Adrienne Warren, James Monroe Iglehart, Danny Burstein, Nik Walker, Lesli Margherita, Rob McClure, Kathryn Allison, Jenni Barber, Erin Elizabeth Clemons, Fergie L. Philippe, Jawan M. Jackson, Brian Gonzales
What: Livestreamed benefit concert
Where: the Actors Fund Vimeo channel
When: Saturday, October 31, $4.99, 7:00
Why: “Year after year, it’s the same routine / And I grow so weary of the sound of screams / And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King / Have grown so tired of the same old thing,” Skeleton Jack sings in Tim Burton’s 1993 animated classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas. In this horrific 2020, everyone will be lamenting the holiday, with no parade in the Village, no club parties and in-person costume contests, no bobbing for apples, and no trick-or-treating; the city is destined to be a lonely place on October 31. But there’s a lot happening online, including a benefit concert featuring Broadway stars performing Danny Elfman’s music from Nightmare. The all-star cast includes Rafael Casal as Jack, Adrienne Warren as Sally, James Monroe Iglehart as Oogie Boogie, Danny Burstein as Santa, Nik Walker as Lock, Leslie Margherita as Shock, and Rob McClure as Barrel, joined by Kathryn Allison, Jenni Barber, Erin Elizabeth Clemons, Fergie L. Philippe, Jawan M. Jackson, and Brian Gonzales. Tickets are only $4.99, with proceeds going to the Actors Fund and the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
Who: Tarik Davis, Micah Sherman, Paul(i) Reese, Mark Stetson, Steve Capps, Greg Kotis, Suni Reyes, Kristin Stokes, Priya Patel, Don P. Hooper, Kelly Aucoin
What: Virtual one-act horror play
Where: The Tank online
When: Saturday, October 31, $10-$125, 7:00
Why: Actor, filmmaker, comedian, and improv teacher Tarik Davis grew up on a diet of sci-fi and horror films on VCR in the 1980s and ’90s, resulting in, among other things, his making the award-winning 2017 short Page One, about danger on a movie set involving a Black actor whose character gets killed on the first page of the script and a white man playing a uniformed police officer. Davis has now returned to the horror genre with Host Invite, a work-in-progress he will be presenting on Halloween night through the Tank’s online portal. “The people who make theater with or without an actual theater are stronger than this damn virus will ever be,” Davis, who appeared on Broadway in Freestyle Love Supreme, noted on Facebook. “Artists are stronger than the forces of racism, fascism, unregulated capitalism, homophobia, transphobia, constitutional originalism. If ever there was a moment to make theater it’s THIS moment.”
The cast and crew for Host Invite includes director Micah Sherman, tech designer Paul(i) Reese, Mark Stetson, Steve Capps, Greg Kotis, Suni Reyes, Kristin Stokes, Priya Patel, Page One director Don P. Hooper, and Kelly Aucoin of Billions and The Americans. Part of the Tank Artists-in-Residence Program, the sixty-minute virtual play deals with a Zoom call and a whistleblower from the multinational conglomerate Tangle. “I had an overwhelming urge to figure out a way to get all the wonderful people who made my debut on Broadway such a dream paid,” Davis continued. “Art is work, work deserves compensation. ‘I’ll write a play for Zoom,’ I thought. And now here we are.” Tickets are pay-what-you-can-can, from $10 to $125.
Who: Sara LaFlamme, Sara LeMesh, Michael Parham, Rachelle Pike, Gretchen Pille, Mary Rice, Thomas Walters, Shane Brown, Geddy Warner, Shanelle Valerie Woods, the Curiosity Cabinet
What: Live virtual two-part performances
Where: City Lyric Opera Zoom
When: Thursday - Sunday, October 29 - November 15, viewing $12, live audience with toolkit $24, 8:00
Why: In Die Dreigroschenoper, or The Threepenny Opera, one of composer Kurt Weill’s goals in his collaboration with Bertolt Brecht was to bring opera, primarily an art form enjoyed through the centuries by the wealthy, snobbish elite and royalty, to the common people, making the story and music accessible and the production affordable. During the pandemic, technological online innovation has accomplished just that organically, with such shows as White Snake Projects’ excellent Alice in the Pandemic, which sent the protagonist, an ER nurse, down the rabbit hole in search of her coronavirus-infected mother, journeying through an animated video-game-like dark and empty wonderland, with the singers performing live (October 23-27, free); Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s version of Beethoven’s Egmont, with the masked, socially distanced musicians playing in a New Jersey bandshell, accompanied by narrator Liev Schreiber and soprano Karen Slack (October 17-22, $15); Here Arts Center’s Zoom opera for all decisions will be made by consensus, a short work broadcast live on Facebook and Zoom about a Zoom meeting (April 24-26, free); and On Site Opera’s To My Distant Love, an adaptation of Beethoven’s six-song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte, delivered via email and cell phone (June - August, $40). Meanwhile, the Met, which will be closed through at least next summer, has been streaming more than 150 video and audio recordings of performances dating back to the 1950s (initially free, now $4.99 each or $14.99 monthly).
So it makes sense that City Lyric Opera (CLO), founded in 2016 by Megan Gillis and Kathleen Spencer to “provide a one-of-a-kind experience for audience members by welcoming them to the operatic art form without judgment, expectation, or financial burden,” is taking on The Threepenny Opera itself. “With the Dreigroschenoper we reach a public which either did not know us at all or thought us incapable of captivating listeners,” Weill explained way back when. “Opera was founded as an aristocratic form of art. If the framework of opera is unable to withstand the impact of the age, then this framework must be destroyed.” Weill and German playwright and librettist Brecht adapted John Gay’s 1728 The Beggar’s Opera, translated by Elisabeth Hauptmann, Brecht’s lover at the time, adding several songs based on works by fifteenth-century French poet and thief François Villon. The work, set during the Victorian era, premiered in Berlin in 1928; it was a Broadway failure in 1933, in a translation by Jerrold Krimsky and Gifford Cochran. However, Marc Blitzstein’s 1952-54 English translation became a hit and is the version we know today, and the one that will be used by CLO, which was scheduled to stage a full, in-person production this season. It has now been reimagined for the internet, being livestreamed in two back-to-back parts, Thursday to Sunday from October 29 to November 15. Tickets are $12 to watch and $24 with a live, interactive toolkit that incorporates the audience into the narrative. (Glow sticks, anyone?) The piece was developed at Here Arts Center, where director Attilio Rigotti and scenographer Anna Driftmier worked with the cast socially distanced in separate Covid performance boxes, each with its own design and lighting.
The company features baritone Justin Austin as Macheath, tenor Kameron Ghanavati as Filch/Smith/Ensemble, baritone Philip Kalmanovitch as Mr. Peachum, soprano Sara LaFlamme as Polly Peachum, soprano Sara LeMesh as Lucy Brown, baritone Michael Parham as Jackie “Tiger” Brown, mezzo-soprano Rachelle Pike as Mrs. Peachum, soprano Gretchen Pille as Dolly, mezzo-soprano Mary Rice as Bob/Berry, tenor Thomas Walters as Jake, baritone Shane Brown as Walt, tenor Geddy Warner as Matt, and mezzo-soprano Shanelle Valerie Woods as Jenny. The conductor and music director is Whitney George, leading the Curiosity Cabinet: Jared Newlen (reed I: clarinet, alto sax), Ben Solis (reed II: clarinet, alto sax), Hugh Ash (trumpet I), Clyde Dale (trumpet II), David Whitwell (trombone), Markus Kaitila (piano/celeste/harmonium), Joe Tucker (timpani, percussion), and Justin Rothberg (banjo, guitar). With its bitingly satirical view of capitalism and societal norms, The Threepenny Opera should feel right at home online in 2020, as we are all sheltering in place, in the midst of health and economic crises and a contentious presidential election where decency, humanity, wealth inequality, health care, and the social contract are on the ballot.
Who: Ronald Guttman, Dr. Stephen Petrus
What: One-man show and Q&A
Where: FIAF Vimeo
When: Through Wednesday, October 28 at 11:59 pm, free
Why: On October 1, Belgian actor Ronald Guttman took the stage at FIAF’s Tinker Auditorium and performed the solo work The Fall for an in-person audience of twenty-five, in addition to many more watching the livestream from wherever they are sheltering in place. The sixty-minute piece is an English-language adaptation by Alexis Lloyd of Albert Camus’s 1956 novel La Chute, consisting of monologues by Parisian ex-pat former lawyer Jean-Baptiste Clamence, examining the meaning of the life he has lived as he hangs out in a seedy Amsterdam dive bar in the red light district. “Pleased to make your acquaintance,” Clamence says at the beginning, speaking directly to the audience before explaining a moment later, “There’s only one thing simple about me; I don’t own anything. I used to. I used to be wealthy back in Paris.” For the next hour, he shares stories about Holland, modern man, fornication, mysterious laughter, memory, and shame, describing himself as a “judge-repentant,” walking across the stage with an elegiac look, wondering what could have been. (The show is directed by Didier Flamand.) FIAF has made the stream available for free through October 28 at midnight, including a twenty-minute Q&A with the New York-based Guttman, moderated by Dr. Stephen Petrus. Guttman has been performing The Fall in different iterations for more than twenty years, so his familiarity with the existential material makes this well worth watching before it disappears forever.