Theatre companies have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus quarantine. While the communal accessibility of theatre is a large part of the artform's pedigree and appeal, professional productions are often tight for money, even in the best of times. With limited runs, and plenty of hands-on-deck required on a nightly basis, many professional theatres in America rely heavily on donations — and right now, those are drying up, too.
My wife, Bevin O'Gara, is the Producing Artistic Director for a small professional theatre, and has spent these last few weeks trying to figure out ways to salvage the company. Plenty of supposedly-helpful people call her every day and say "Why don't you just share the videos from the plays?", not realizing how that actually gets into complications regarding intellectual property rights and union policies. (Consider: actors, directors, and designers have already signed contracts promising them a certain amount of money for a certain thing; playwrights often license out their work based on a pre-determined number of performances. So who gets how much of a cut from streaming rights? Who gets to decide which performance was the best, and thus worthy of the stream? Plays don't always read as well on video, either — actors do different work on stage than on screen, and some might be concerned about their performances being captured and shared forever.)
My wife recently directed a production of Cry It Out by Molly Smith-Meltzer, a new play about motherhood and class issues that's been well-reviewed all across the country. They were about to transfer the production from Ithaca, New York up to a larger stage at the Geva Theatre in Rochester — when the first stay-at-home orders came in. Now, after a few weeks of scrambling, they've found a fair and equitable way to share the production online, in a way that will hopefully bring in some revenue for both companies involved.
Here's a synopsis, and a link to watch, if you're interested:
With little in common besides new babies and adjacent backyards, Jessie, a corporate lawyer, and Lina, a nurse, form an unlikely friendship over a series of naptime coffee breaks. But with the addition of their career oriented neighbor Adrienne, another new mom, the duo's friendship and their individual conceptions of parenthood are put to the test. A candid comedy about parenthood.
I may be biased, but it's really freakin' good (and useful for me to see, as someone who is not a mother).
Cry It Out at Geva Theatre Center [Written by Molly Smith-Meltzer / Directed by M. Bevin O'Gara]
Performing Artists and the Financial Fallout of the Coronavirus [Emily Witt / The New Yorker]
Coronavirus Impacts Local Theatres [Jared Bowen / WGBH]
Image: Dave Burbank via Kitchen Theatre Company. Used with permission.