The 11th Hour Theatre Company has been operating in Philly for what seems like a baker’s dozen worth of years as the city’s go-to boutique musical theatre company. In accordance with its media, their showcases – long forms with full casts as well as smaller cast productions – focus on “intimate, character-driven stories rather than flashy, budget-busting spectacles.” Sometimes, then, 11th Hour programs are staged and decorous like “Field Hockey Hot”, and sometimes spare and perfumed as live gigs in its Next Step Concert Series, “Lizzie: in Concert.”
Like everyone else in theater, 11th Hour is stuck not doing live shows on stage due to an ongoing pandemic with no slow in sight. That will not stop 11th Hour, however, who just started its “Quarantine Cabaret” subscription series – which, this weekend (August 8, 7:30 pm) continues with Bi Jean Ngo and David M. Raine broadcasting live from their home. Yes, these actors live together, sharing space, scene studies, and apparently a dog named Archie Beef Noodle, and a love of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
For less than $10 a show ($50 total), 11th Hours remaining five events in its Society XI Online quarantine cabaret series featuring 12 incredible artists can be purchased here.
Grayce Hoffman, Director of Communications at 11th Hour shared a Q&A with me about going viral.
A.D. Amorosi: Discuss please the plans for the 2020-2021 season shows that were scrapped, and what will happen to them going forward?
Grayce Hoffman: The plan as of now is to mount our postponed production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch in Spring 2021. In the meantime, all performance will be virtual. We were fortunate in that season selection had not yet been completed when the pandemic hit, so we had flexibility in terms of programming.
A.D. Amorosi: Am I correct – when C-19 hit, didn’t 11th Hour put up instructional and storytelling streams?
Grayce Hoffman: We had a virtual Care-aoke event that benefited the Theatre Philadelphia Emergency Fund. We wanted to offer a way for our patrons to connect in a time when we were all craving human interaction. It was an absolute blast.
A.D. Amorosi: What is the overall thrust of the new subscription series? Is it more about specific artists than it is specific shows? How did you come to this idea, and how did you come to these particular artists like Bi and David?
Grayce Hoffman: Artists are struggling during this time while live performances are on hiatus, and we wanted to prioritize giving them a platform to be creative, and most importantly, to pay them to do so. During our karaoke event, we discovered how much fun it was to watch people who were quarantined together sing duets! Harmonies and collaborations like that have proven very difficult over an online video medium. After that, we considered what performers in the city were living together and might be interested in putting on a show for our audiences.
A.D. Amorosi: Tell me about the inclusion of director, choreographers and staging personnel in this. That’s fascinating that 11th hour is giving them a voice.
Grayce Hoffman: The salons are a way for us to provide our audiences with a behind-the-scenes look while also giving a platform to designers, music directors, and choreographers who have had a harder time translating their craft to the digital world. All of these artists are so crucial to the success of a musical and yet the audience rarely gets to hear about their process and the scope of their job on a production. It’s a win-win!
A.D. Amorosi: What happens after this quarantine series? What is planned online for 11th Hour?
Grayce Hoffman: We have two events planned online for now and we are still in the process of finalizing the season. We finally have a clearer view of what producing is going to look like and how theatre is going to function for the next 6 months. What we can say now is that there will be one virtual event in the fall and then one virtual event in the winter. We will be able to announce more info very soon though!
A.D. Amorosi: What sort of physical plans, when it is decreed safe, is 11th hour making toward safety?
Grayce Hoffman: We are taking everything one step at a time with all the uncertainty in the air, but want to assure our audiences that safety is our number one priority. We will be working with our venue (Christ Church Neighborhood House) to make sure. We are assuming though that all of the productions that are able to happen in person in 2021, hopefully, will have to be some sort of socially distanced experience for both actors and audience.
A.D. Amorosi: Is it killing you not being near a stage?
Grayce Hoffman: It certainly is a big adjustment! It is very difficult, but we are just trying to find ways for our audience to connect with our artists and each other, and take things one step at a time. We know that the best thing we can all do right now is stay home, stay safe, and connect online.