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General Theatre

Indoor Theatre Can Now Return to New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday that New Jersey’s indoor performance venues, including music clubs and theatres, can reopen at reduced capacity starting Friday, Sept. 4. This executive order also includes movie theaters.

Venues are allowed to open at a capacity of either 25 percent or 150, whichever is less. Everyone, staff and guests, must wear masks and comply with social distancing. Food and drink can be served. However, this is only for ticketed performances – no standing room or general admission shows allowed.

While this is good news for smaller music venues and clubs, it will be more difficult for larger venues. Even more concerning is what it means for New Jersey’s large theatres – like State Theatre New Jersey, Paper Mill Playhouse and Mayo Performing Arts Center. Some of these institutions have lost millions in the past six months. Now, they are allowed to open at a fraction of their capacity, with (likely) no live shows lined up anyway.

And it may not even be financially realistic for them to open at such a reduced capacity. For a theatre like State Theatre that can sit 1850 people, operating at such a small number is likely impossible. If the capacity number includes employees and audience members, then the amount of tickets they could sell would be next to nothing, not to mention the profit would be essentially nonexistent.

While we likely will not see any big theatres here in New Jersey opening up at these limits, it still gives me hope for the future that live theatre will be able to make its safe return eventually. These theatres have done so much since March to try to stay afloat, canceling and rescheduling shows and shifting to digital programming.

Although theatres legally can reopen now, they probably will not for financial reasons. However, I may be surprised. Perhaps some of these venues have a smaller theatre or a black box theatre where they can put on more intimate shows and be able to function. Or maybe they will continue with the digital programming and wait until they can reopen in full, or at least with a larger capacity. Whatever happens, I am eager for theatre to return.

In the meantime, please contact your representatives and urge them to help the live events industry. The link I have attached allows you to easily fill out a form to send a letter. If you are financially able to, please consider making a donation to the NJ Arts and Culture Recovery Fund. It is the least we can do to help our beloved industry survive.

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What Will Broadway Look Like When it Returns?

Indoor Theatre Returns: Equity Approves Productions at Three Theatres

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General Theatre, Theatre Adjacent, Theatre Online

Earn Rewards While Answering Theatre Trivia

Last night, I got an email from Audience Rewards about earning and redeeming points while Broadway is still shut down. If you’re not familiar with Audience Rewards, by the way, it’s a great service where you can earn points by purchasing tickets to shows that you can redeem for merchandise or experiences. I highly recommend it. Anyway, this email said I could answer theatre trivia and earn ShowPoints. I love trivia and my brain for whatever reason contains a lot of useless knowledge, so obviously I was interested.

I checked it out and quickly became obsessed. If you love trivia, this will be so much fun for you. Some of the questions were super easy, but there were a few challenging ones too. Plus, there are 12 categories and nearly 60 pages of questions, so there’s tons of variety if you need more.

Now, don’t expect to earn thousands of points doing this. The questions generally range between two and four points for a correct answer. This is not much considering when you buy a ticket, one dollar equals two points. I earned about 50 points just doing this last night. But it’s still a fun way to earn some extra ShowPoints while actually buying tickets is out of the question.

If you like theatre trivia, you should definitely check out Audience Rewards – especially if you don’t have an existing account. Usually, you can redeem your points for merchandise or cool theatre experiences, but while Broadway is closed, you can still redeem points for interesting things. There’s always shirts and cast albums you can get, and they are even doing a virtual wine tasting experience with Mean Girls star Kate Rockwell. Or, save up your points to redeem them for something really cool when Broadway returns. If you know the name of the main flying monkey in Wicked or if you know what state Lynn Nottage’s Sweat takes place in, you’ll have a great time.

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General Theatre

Indoor Theatre Returns: Equity Approves Productions at Three Theatres

For the first time since March, Actors’ Equity has agreed to allow three different theatres here in the United States to put on indoor productions.

This is the first time since theatres were shut down that an indoor production has been approved. All three theatres are small nonprofits in New England, where the first outdoor productions were recently approved as well.

Music Theater of Connecticut will be performing a one-man show, and Northern Stage in Vermont will be performing a one-woman show. However, in another first, the third theatre, Weathervane Theater in New Hampshire, will be producing three shows in repertory, including a seven-person version of Little Shop of Horrors. According to the New York Times, the show is still trying to figure out how to stage parts of the show like the dental exam and of course interactions with Audrey II, but will be limiting contact between actors – meaning no kiss between Seymour and Audrey.

The theatres will operate at a socially distanced fraction of their normal capacity, though Music Theater of Connecticut will be also selling online tickets to make up the difference. The Weathervane shows will also feature no brass or wind instruments due to virus-spreading fears, and though it will require masks for moving about the theatre, no masks are required while in seats.

Throughout the country, many nonunion theatres have put on shows with nonunion actors, but this marks the first union-approved indoor productions. Actors’ Equity has been understandably hesitant to approve shows, but the New England area having a low number of cases is why these theatres will be the first allowed to return.

Before this, the only approved indoor show was Diana on Broadway, which will not even have an audience. Actors’ Equity also recently similarly approved a show for streaming at East Lynne Theater Company in New Jersey. And in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Black theatre company Front Porch Arts Collective has been approved to stage a series of cabaret performances outside the Central Square Theater.

I have conflicting feelings about this. On one hand, theatre workers need to work, and this definitely represents a positive turn in all the darkness of this pandemic. On the other hand…I still worry that things are not safe. It would take just one carrier to infect everyone else, and we would have another massive outbreak on our hands. I would like to remain cautiously optimistic, though I do wish there was another way (meaning, government financial support) and while I do understand the desire to get back to “normal,” you certainly will not catch me sitting inside a theatre until a vaccine is safe and available.

I don’t know. I miss theatre. I’m just worried about things going wrong, and having to wait even longer for live theatre to return. What do you think? Are you in support of indoor theatre being allowed or against it? Share your thoughts below. I am interesting in hearing both sides!

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What Will Broadway Look Like When it Returns?

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Broadway

What Will Broadway Look Like When it Returns?

We don’t know when Broadway will return right now. When it does return, hopefully some time in 2021, we know that it will be a completely different landscape than how we left it back in March when it was first shut down indefinitely. So for today, let’s speculate about what Broadway will look like when it returns.

What shows will return?

The first question is, of course, what shows that were already playing on Broadway will be able to return when it reopens. I think it’s safe to assume that the big commercial successes will be the ones absolutely reopening – I don’t think that Wicked or Hamilton will be going anywhere. I would almost guarantee these shows will return. The big Disney shows will probably make it too. The Lion King is such a tourist favorite that I’m sure it will make its way back. But also, RIP Frozen.

And some shows will not be returning, like Frozen, as I mentioned above. As the shutdown continues, I am sure we will be seeing more shows announcing that, unfortunately, they will not come back.

What shows will open?

Some shows that did not get a chance to start performances have already announced their intentions of opening in 2021, such as the revivals of 1776 and Caroline, Or Change, as well as the new musical Flying Over Sunset.

The Minutes, which was able to play a few preview performances, will also be coming back to officially open, and hopefully other shows like Six will be able to return as well.

We have no idea as of yet what kinds of new shows will be able to open. There are certainly plenty of shows that have announced wanting to open with no further details, but other than that, we will have to wait and see what producers will be wanting to fund. Which brings us to our next question…

What will the industry look like?

However, there is an even bigger question of what shows will actually be able to make it to Broadway in the aftermath of this pandemic. Broadway is a billion dollar industry, and a lot of that is foreign tourist dollars. When Broadway is back up and running, producers will naturally want to ensure that they can return to making money, even though the industry as a whole will likely not financially recover for years.

I worry about the implication of this. I worry that producers will only want to “play it safe” so to speak for a while. Meaning, they will rely only on shows that they think can be commercial hits. It will be easier to fund a stage adaptation of a movie or another biographical musical than a wholly original work. Broadway has never been too kind to smaller and more experimental original shows (better suited for Off-Broadway) but we may not get to see anything like that for a long time.

Producers will likely try anything to get people in seats. Even when Broadway does reopen, tourism as a whole will probably be down. I think we will see a lot of stunt casting in order to draw audiences. I have heard rumors that producers are considering everything from cutting ticket prices to limiting seats. I do not think anyone really knows what to do yet, and that is the scary part. We have no idea what actually will happen.

We are going to see a complete reset of the theatre industry. Some theatres where shows have closed may stand empty for months, if not seasons. We have no idea what audiences will actually want to see when it can reopen, or if they will want to come back at all. There will likely be strict social distancing rules enforced, from wearing a mask during a show to sitting in every other seat.

The only thing we know for sure is that we have no clue what to expect. However, I will leave you with one final thought. Theatre has survived literally everything that has been thrown at it throughout history. One pandemic will not change that.

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Broadway, Broadway At Home, Theatre Online

The Tony Awards Are Going Digital

The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing recently announced that the 2020 Tony Awards ceremony will be going ahead in the fall – but digitally.

The ceremony, originally set for June 7 of this year, was postponed indefinitely March 25.

“Though unprecedented events cut the 2019–2020 Broadway season short, it was a year full of extraordinary work that deserves to be recognized,” Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin and American Theatre Wing President Heather Hitchens said in a joint statement. “We are thrilled not only to have found a way to properly celebrate our artists’ incredible achievements this season, but also to be able to uplift the entire theatre community and show the world what makes our Broadway family so special at this difficult time. The show must go on, no matter what—and it will.”

Only shows that opened by February 19 will be eligible. Though West Side Story and Girl From the North Country had opened by the time the Broadway shutdown started, but the Tony voters were not all able to see them, so they will not be eligible this time around. They will, however, be eligible for next year’s awards. 16 shows that were supposed to open this past season had not done so yet by shutdown, and half of them had not even played a single preview, according to Playbill.

According to the New York Times, the administrators had actually considered combining both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons for one big televised ceremony next year, but ultimately decided that would be unfair to the shows that opened in 2019.

The administrators and rule-makers will be meeting this week to discuss the categories. For many categories there are few eligible competitors. For example, The Lightning Thief is technically the only show eligible for original score. They may decide to eliminate the category completely, or require that a certain percentage of voters support the nominee, even though it is the only one. The same goes for other categories facing similar issues.

They hope to have the ceremony in late October, but further details remain to be seen. Will it be fully digital? Or will it be socially distanced in person? What will the performances be like?

Let’s speculate for fun. What do we all think the awards show will be like this year? All I hope for is a way to celebrate our beloved community.

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NBC is Reportedly Planning a Big Broadway Special

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Broadway, Broadway At Home

NBC is Reportedly Planning a Big Broadway Special

Prepare to see a primetime Broadway special on NBC in October, according to Page Six. The network is apparently planning to “revitalize” Broadway with a special starring casts from Broadway shows.

Page Six reports that NBC has invited every Broadway show to perform, but the issue is trying to get casts together when actors have spread all over the country. Also, some producers are hesitant to spend money. Still, Page Six says a number of shows are confirmed, but some are unable to participate.

Now, the big question here is: is is true? Page Six is literally a gossip column, so not the most credible source. The fact that there are no named sources in the article plus NBC’s lack of a comment does concern me. But…I want it to be true! I want to see Broadway on my TV! NBC has had a connection with Broadway for years, and it seems like something that would be great for the network.

Operating under the assumption that this story is accurate, who will we see perform? I assume most of the big shows will be able to do it – the ones who are guaranteed to return when Broadway reopens, like Wicked and Hamilton. I, obviously, hope to see a performance from Hadestown, and it would be nice to see performances from the newer shows that never got their chance before Broadway was shut down, but I am unsure of the likelihood of that occurring.

Whatever happens, I hope this is real and I hope we get to see this on TV when October comes. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we miss Broadway, and I certainly would be happy with whatever we get. But let’s speculate and have some fun! Who do you think will perform? How will it go about being done? Let me know your thoughts!

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Broadway At Home, Theatre Online

Is BroadwayHD Worth It? A Review

If you’re like me, you’re always looking for new ways to consume theatre. That’s where BroadwayHD comes in. I’ve spoken about it before on this blog, but if you need a refresher, BroadwayHD is a streaming service that hosts tons of professionally filmed live theatre performances as well as some films and documentaries. But if you are like me, then you also are hesitant to spend your money without being sure its worth it. I tested out a BroadwayHD subscription to see if it was worth it.

The Price

For me, affordability is huge. First of all, BroadwayHD offers a free trial for a week, which is a great way to test the waters and see if you want to commit to a paid subscription. BroadwayHD costs $8.99 a month, which makes it comparable to Netflix, Hulu and Disney+. Say you watch a couple of shows a month. Compared to Broadway ticket prices, you’re definitely saving tons of money.

BroadwayHD only started in 2015, which means in terms of streaming services its still in its infancy. Add onto that the fact that producers in the past have been largely hesitant to allow filming of their shows means there’s really not that much theatrical content like this out there. So, while I do like the affordable price of the service…the content on it is a little lacking. But only you can decide if the content makes the price worth it for you, so check it out before you choose.

The Catalog

There are a lot of great shows on BroadwayHD. You can find classics like Death of a Salesman or the original Pippin. Or you can go more modern with the film adaptation of The Last Five Years, which is a personal favorite. There is also a lot of PBS’s Great Performances, so if you wanted to watch The King and I with Kelli O’Hara or Audra McDonald in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, you can go right ahead. There’s an extensive vintage category and an extensive Shakespeare category, so there is some variety.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, the catalog is a little lacking, though you can’t really compare the small operation of BroadwayHD to other multi-million dollar streaming services. Still, if you’re a musical fan, you may be a little disappointed in the musical category compared to the Shakespeare category. A lot of the content is from London, so I assume that they have different rules when it comes to filming performances than Broadway. And in my research it appears that there were other shows on there that were removed for whatever reason, specifically some Sondheim shows, which again is disappointing. Overall I like the content on the service, but I do hope they add more.

What I Would Like To See

This is purely my opinion on what I think BroadwayHD should add. I would like to see, of course, more musicals. I know that there is probably a reason why there is not too much and I am sure that it all has to do with money, but I hope they add more musicals. In my research, it appears it once had Company with Raul Esparza and the original Into the Woods, but I did not see them on the service, and having those two alone would make it worth it for me. So I would like to see more of that. Going off of that, I would like to see the service add more exclusive content. A lot of the catalog you can find other places so I think exclusive content would make it more of a must-subscribe. This is obviously a little harder to pull off, but I would really like to see more recent content. Shakespeare is great, but having shows like Kinky Boots and Falsettos set BroadwayHD apart from the rest. More of that, please!

Is it Worth It?

So, after all of that, the question remains: is BroadwayHD worth it? Yes, I think so. While there is certainly room to grow and I have made my issues clear, I really like the idea of having a one-stop shop for theatrical content. I’ll keep my subscription because I’m interested to see how it continues to grow and I do hope they continue to add new, exciting content. There is so much potential here and I can’t wait to see what happens. Check it out for yourself. The free trial means you have nothing to lose.

But, honestly, I’ll keep my subscription as long as they keep Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on there. It’s my guilty pleasure.

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Broadway, Broadway At Home, Theatre Online

Broadway Shows I Want to See Streaming

It seems like all we talk about these days is streaming. But without live theatre, streaming is all we have. And with the immense success of Hamilton on Disney+, all the streaming services are wanting to get in on streaming Broadway shows.

After the recent news about Diana the musical being filmed for Netflix, Filmed On Stage also revealed that the streaming service is eyeing even more shows to add. The rumored shows include Mrs. Doubtfire, Tina and Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations.

Of course, as more streaming services grow interested in adding theatrical content to their platform, I have my own list of what I would like to see. Here are a few of them – and let me know what you would like to see in the comments!

1. Beetlejuice

A victim of COVID-19 closures, this show grew a massive online following due to its popularity on TikTok. While there are still rumors about it potentially moving theatres, even if it doesn’t reopen a professionally filmed version of Beetlejuice would probably be incredibly successful. The show’s fandom stretches farther than those in the NYC area, and it being closed along with the uncertainty of a tour means that the common argument of losing ticket sales may not be valid here. And since it’s produced by Warner Bros., it would be a perfect fit on HBO Max. It’s a fun show with wide appeal, which makes it perfect for streaming.

2. Waitress

Although this one did close a while ago on Broadway, I would still love it if the cast reunited to record the show onstage so it could be streamed. You could even have Sara Bareilles herself star in it, or maybe the London cast which also was a victim to COVID-19. The Sara Bareilles connection would also make it a great fit for Apple TV+, which being relatively new to the streaming game means this could be its big chance to break into the theatre streaming wars.

3. Hadestown

Netflix, are you listening? I would give so much money to have a filmed version of Hadestown. I honestly believe that with the right marketing, it could be as big as Hamilton. It’s such an incredible show, and any streaming platform would be lucky to get their hands on it. Plus, the performances of the original cast are so amazing that they deserve to be immortalized. Please, if nothing else, we need to be able to stream Hadestown.

4. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

This one is a commercial success (though, if you are a Harry Potter fan like I am, you may have your own opinions about the content of the play) and though I’m sure Warner Bros. are saving this one for a film when the Fantastic Beasts series runs out, it would be great to have the stage production to watch whenever. I’ve heard such wonderful things about the staging and it would be so nice to to see this play without having to pay the exorbitant Broadway prices. Plus, it just makes sense from a commercial standpoint – it appeals to the non-theatre fans as well.

What do you think? What shows would you love to be able to stream? Let me know below!

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Diana on Broadway Comes to Netflix: Theatre Streaming Wars Continue

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Broadway, Broadway At Home, Theatre Online

Diana on Broadway Comes to Netflix: Theatre Streaming Wars Continue

Netflix has thrown its hat into the musical streaming wars with a totally new move. The streaming service announced that the new musical about Princess Diana, Diana, will premiere on Netflix before its opening on Broadway.

Diana was originally scheduled to open March 31, which was impeded by the ongoing Broadway shutdown. Its new official opening night is May 25, 2021, and it will premiere on Netflix before then.

This is a completely unprecedented move. Never before has a musical gone to streaming before it opened on Broadway.

The show will be filmed on the Longacre Theatre stage without an audience. The full original cast is expected to return. The safety protocols for filming have been Equity-approved as well, though I am curious as to how this will reflect in the film or if it will not at all.

“We speak for the entire company when we say that we couldn’t be more excited to finally be able to share our show with theater lovers everywhere,” the Diana producers said in a joint statement. “Though there is no substitute for the live theater, we are honored to be a part of the quality entertainment that Netflix provides its subscribers worldwide.”

As I have said before, even without live theatre, this is still an exciting time to be a theatre fan. This theatre streaming war just grows more and more interesting as the streaming services try to get in on that Hamilton success Disney+ snatched up. And Diana is an interesting choice. I must admit I am not familiar with the show, but to choose an unopened show that never had a real chance to gauge its success for streaming is, well, an interesting choice.

Netflix has not announced an airdate other than “early 2021,” but I am keeping my eyes on this one. I wonder if it will lead to more shows doing the same with different streaming services. Feel free to speculate in the comments. Maybe HBO Max will pick up Harry Potter and the Cursed Child…but I would just love to be able to watch Hadestown over and over. What do you think?

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Broadway, General Theatre

Socially Distanced Theatre? Berkshire Theatre Group’s Godspell

Live theatre is back? Well, sort of. Berkshire Theatre Group in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, has recently begun performances of “Godspell Under the Tent” in what is one of the first returns to live theatre in America, and one of the first Equity-approved performances as well. (The other approved performance, FYI, is also in MA – it’s Barrington Stage Company’s production of David Cale’s one-man show Harry Clark.)

The show follows strict safety guidelines from the audience to the performers. From BTG’s website:

Temperature scans will be done for patrons at their point of entry. No-contact scanning stations for tickets will be placed at point of entry, spaced at least 6 feet from the temperature scan. Free-standing hand sanitizer stations will be placed at various locations throughout the space. Patrons will be required to wear masks. One way traffic patterns will be enforced with arrows and 6 foot markers on the floor, as well as lines down the center of hallways, to and from the tent, restrooms and concessions. The restrooms will have entrance and exits that are separate and one way. Every other stall, urinal and sink will be marked not usable. A doctor/nurse will be on duty for all performances. Additional safeguards will also be in place.

Not only do they have those safeguards, the cast is distanced from each other as well on stage. Ben Brantley outlined these choices in his New York Times review.

The golden rule here takes the form of their nearly always keeping at least six feet from one another. Whenever they have to cross one another’s paths they make sure their masks (bunched around their necks) are pulled into place. When a chorus sings Schwartz’s tuneful earwig pop gospel — an activity known to let spittle fly — it does so behind the transparent panels of Randall Parsons’s beautifully utilitarian set. (Matthew E. Adelson’s patterned lighting helps keep it from looking like a doctor’s waiting room.)

Now, I love theatre, and yes, I do love Godspell – I think it was a great metaphorical choice to be one of the first returns to theatre. But I have to say…is it worth it? The audience and the performers both have to wear masks. Everyone has to be socially distanced. And though I understand they are all taking massive precautions, it still feels risky to me. The NYT review features a picture of the socially distanced audience and you can clearly see two theatre-goers wearing their masks incorrectly. Despite the safeguards, there are certainly still risks. I worry especially about the crew, who absolutely find it harder to socially distance and be safe while setting up things like the set and microphones.

Though, I have to say, in regards to it being worth it – it does appear that all performances are sold out (this may be because the distanced audience can only seat 75, however).

Overall, I guess I would have to attend the production and see how everything works myself to make an absolute judgment on this show. I do wonder if we will be seeing more Equity-approved productions similar to this. I know that the Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, NJ has been doing theatre under a tent as well. I only know this because it is local to me, so I am sure there are other theatres around the country doing the same thing.

To me, however, it just doesn’t seem worth it. There are just too many risks involved for cast, crew and audiences alike. I empathize with those out of work, but this doesn’t feel right to me. Though, with the government resisting funding the arts during this time, I can understand why artists feel the need to put on socially distanced theatre. I wish that unemployment would be extended, and that the arts would receive grants and funding to ensure that when it is time, it can return fully. But I would much rather everyone stay home and wait until we can perform theatre safely.

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