Jacqueline Goldfinger's "Babel" was being performed at Exile Theater when the COVID19 pandemic struck. Goldfinger has since adapted her talents to help other playwrights during this time.

Theater of the (Virtual) Mind

Philly’s theater community launches several live streaming and YouTube theatrical performances and educational workshops.

Live theater, performance art, dance and the acting-writing-movement workshops that go with it – like its live gigging musical sister – is hurting from the flow of coronavirus, and must go underground in the destructive wake of COVID19. What can ease the sting, a smidge, is that artists and administrators are finding intelligent, valuable (and fun, face it: if you must stay in, frolic and frivol is essential) and educational ways and tools to transmit the theatrical arts into viewers’ living rooms, bedrooms, an laptops.

Live from New York, as of March 24, not only can you get a week’s worth of free Broadway shows, online, from BroadwayHD in a seven-day free trial, Lincoln Center NYC just opened a portal, the pop-up Lincoln Center at Home, that offers fresh live stream content from educators and artists daily – every weekday at 10 a.m. You can check out their calendar of web events HERE.

Philly got the jump on New York City by several days by launching several of its live theater and educational workshop YouTubes and live streams from several of this city’s theatrical totems began, with other companies in the planning stages to do likewise.

Norristown’s Theatre Horizon got things together with shocking expediency and started airing home-made, new, educational, and impromptu solo shows on its two YouTube channels while paying its instructors and performers $45 for 25-45 minute long videos. 

Norristown’s Theatre Horizon.

“Being in Montgomery County, we were one of the first theaters affected by this virus,” said Nell Bang-Jensen, the Philadelphia-based theater maker and still-freshly appointed new Artistic Director of Theatre Horizon. “We had to close our doors about five hours before our actors were supposed to go on stage for a performance of The Agitators. That said, we pivoted quickly to think about how else we could serve our community at this time. From continuing to employ artists to create virtual content, to using staff hours to volunteer for Meals on Wheels in Norristown.”

So far, Horizon and its’ YouTube channels have infested itself in theatrical make-up tips and dance lessons, with more performance-oriented content to come. There’s Broadway’s Robi Hager Explores Storytelling Through Music, Actress-Makeup Artist Hanna Gaffney’s Stage Make-up Techniques, and Teaching Artist Dakota Demato Teaches Kids Choreography.

“I think social solidarity in this time of physical distancing is more important than ever,” said Nell Bang-Jensen. “Theatre Horizon’s mission since its founding has been to celebrate the power of our shared humanity. Despite the fact that we are unable to gather in person at this time, we still seek to foster connection and empathy through the arts. I hope these videos help remind people of our shared humanity and help them find meaning in these devastating times.”

Busy playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger – an artist whose sci-fi, future-forward Babel was being staged at Theater Exile when COVID19 hit – is currently running Beat-the-Plague Playwriting Workshops to be found HERE. As well as being educational, Goldfinger’s online Plague place is conversational. 

Playwright Jacqueline Goldfinger.

“My online Beat-the-Plague Playwriting Workshops are a way for playwrights to both create and connect safely during this epidemic,” she said. “It holds space for them to write, find inspiration and resources, and discuss their craft while battling the negative effects of social isolation. Playwrights share up to 20 minutes of their work and discuss it, then they get to hear work by 5 other playwrights. We also share videos and other resources that are inspiring them right now. Being able to leave the world of the Corona Virus for a while and be with artists who are actively making and thinking about a wide range of stories has been a balm for our souls, and helped us keep the light at the end of the tunnel in sight.”

The Paper Doll Ensemble’s “Marry, Marry, Quite Contrary.”

And while Philadelphia Shakespeare Company seeks ways in which to pay its players and theater-makers for their efforts, Nick Stuccio’s Fringe Fest HQ is running its Happy Hour at the Fringe on Spotify, Philly’s Paper Dolls Ensemble just released a video of its black comic take on The Bachelor, Marry, Marry, Quite Contrary, live from Plays & Players and Paige Zubel and Eleanor Safer starts its small cast, 10 minute plays live stream, Going Viral: A Facebook Live Festival.

More to come.


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