Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Theater: The Year of Streaming (with a small handful of live theater at the top)

The closest I've come to Times Square since
March 12th. Photo by Zelda Knapp.
I don't need to tell anyone reading this what a terrible year this has been. The devastation has been global, has impacted everyone, and isn't over yet. We're all still hurting. The theater community's wound has been manifold: loss of employment for performers, designers, musicians, stage crew, house staff, box office staff. Loss of an all-too-fragile scaffolding support structure reliant on our ability to gather in large groups for one communal experience, night after night after night. Performance and rehearsal venues, long staples of the Off-Off community, have closed their doors for good. Shows have shuttered permanently while others wait in the wings (so to speak) for their cue to return. And we've lost prematurely far too many artists in the industry, artists whose loss in a vacuum is already devastating, but whose accumulation is too heavy to bear (I know, not all on this list were from COVID, before anyone chimes in with a correction). 

Raise a glass for Terrence McNally, Mark Blum, Adam Schlesinger, William Wolf, Brian Dennehy, Shirley Knight, Peter Hunt, Bernard Gersten, Larry Kramer, Nick Cordero, Brent Carver, Howell Binkley, Herbert Kretzmer, Israel Horowitz, Ann Reinking, Rebecca Luker. For UCB, for Shetler Studios, for the Secret Theatre, for Simple Studios, for the Creek and the Cave. For Frozen and for Then She Fell.

Raise a glass for the fact that we still don't know when theater can safely return in the States, and what will be left of us when it does. (Also randomly, they never got around to having the Tony Awards, even though they released the nominations in October. The Obies, Drama Desks, Lortel, and Antonyo awards were either aired online or released as a list.)

So this is my year-end post, where I list the top shows I saw this year. What do I even write about? I saw 24 shows before the shutdown on March 12th. And then since then I've seen 173 streaming theater pieces (a mixture of archive recordings, formerly recorded broadcasts, quarantine bubble productions with no audience, zoom readings, and hybrid forms of theater and film) (also I have 3-4 items left on my to-watch list for this year). Some of it has been decidedly not good. Some of it has been wonderful, poignant and uplifting. None of it is the real thing, and I still ache at the memory of kinetic energy passing between an enthusiastic audience and a vibrant production. But it's been something. I keep thinking of AJ's speech in The American President:

People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.

Replace leadership with live theater and that's where I've landed. I've drunk some sand this year. But. It hasn't all been sand. And too much of my nature is geared toward finding a glimmer of gratitude within my grief. So I've made a list of what was special this year: a smaller one for the live theater, and the rest for what I watched online. You can expect my usual cheats to get in more than just a paltry "Top Ten." It's 2020, the worst year in many of our lives, and I want to remember as much joy as I can.

Godspeed, my loves. We'll be together again.

Monday, December 28, 2020

Weekly Margin 2020, W52: Meet Me In St. Louis, A Very Very Chance Holiday Cabaret, Cox and Box, A Christmas Carol (x2)

Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched

Theater Developments

Beloved Broadway soprano Rebecca Luker passed away from ALS, at the age of 59.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Weekly Margin 2020, W51: Heroes of the Fourth Turning, Coast of Utopia, Two Monsters of Nature, The Prom, A Christmas Carol (x2), One Night Only, Looking A Lot Like Christmas

Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched

Theater Developments

Theater legend Ann Reinking passed away.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Monday, December 7, 2020

Weekly Margin 2020, W49: Plaguey Hill, Christmas Spectacular, The Walter Project, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk, Estella Scrooge, This Wonderful Life

Streaming Theater Related Content I Watched

Theater Developments

In a stunningly ill-advised move following this year's earlier self-advocacy organization by its many unpaid artists, New York theater company The Flea has fired all of its artists.