Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is feeling the financial strain of coronavirus

Shakespeare's Globe — a reconstruction of the original Globe Theatre opened by William Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain's Men in 1599 — has issued a plea for donations in the face of its pending insolvency and closure.

We hope to open the doors to our wooden O as soon as possible but in this unprecedented time for theatre, and as a charity that receives no annual government subsidy, we are in desperate need of donations to help us to continue to strive in the future.

[…]

We remain one of the most affordable and accessible theatres in the UK, despite many pressures, managing to retain our £5 Groundling ticket and over 50% of tickets in the Globe Theatre at £25 or less. Without your support, we will be unable to continue this work.

The BBC expanded on this, with some more quotes from a representative of the theatre:

In evidence to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, the theatre said: "Without emergency funding and the continuation of the coronavirus job retention scheme, we will spend down our reserves and become insolvent.

"This has been financially devastating and could even be terminal."

The original Globe Theatre also endured a plague, as well as some fires, and financial collapse. But letting such an historical monument — the place where the modern English language was essentially revolutionized — fall apart once again is a depressing indictment on our societal priorities.

Shakespeare's Globe theatre calls for urgent funds to avoid insolvency [BBC]

Image: Yair Haklai / Wikimedia Commons (CC 3.0) Read the rest

Watch a video of my prison and opioids play "Streets Like This," performed by actors who have all dealt with incarceration

In 2018, I was commissioned by Civic Ensemble of Ithaca, New York to help devise and write a new play based on their ReEntry Theatre Program — a free arts initiative for people who've experienced incarceration and/or drug rehabilitation. The program participants developed the raw material through theatre games and writing exercises, which I then took and transformed into a full-length script.

Streets Like This originally ran for 3 sold out performances in May 2018, featuring a cast of program participants, whose personal stories of addiction and incarceration inspired the script. The people involved in this show from the start have gone on to make some tremendous policy changes for social services and criminal justice reform in Tompkins County, New York, and decided to remount the show again this spring.

Then the COVID-19 outbreak happened.

But the cast and company got together one last time and filmed their production without an audience. It's streaming now for free between April 30 and May 17, 2020; and since they can't raise any money through ticket sales, they're hoping the video will bring in some donations so they can keep this program going.

Working on this play and getting to know these actors was an eye-opening and inspiring experience for me, and I know it's had a positive impact on their lives, too. I hope you'll check it out, and if you're feeling generous, throw some money their way so they can keep doing good work in changing the ways our society deals with addiction and incarceration. Read the rest

Stream this powerful theatre production about class and motherhood right now

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. Read the rest

A new play lets formerly incarcerated people tell their stories. Meanwhile, prisons are still banning books.

In January of 2018, I was hired by the Civic Ensemble of Ithaca, New York to take part in a fascinating playwriting opportunity. The company had started a ReEntry Theatre program in 2015, teaming with state social services to implement a theatre education curriculum to help people dealing with incarceration and substance abuse rehabilitation to transition back into society. In the past, the program participants had written their own monologues and brief scenes, along with learning some improv exercises. But they brought me in to work with those program participants, and all the raw material they'd produce, and turn that into a full-length play—a singular, cohesive vision that was lightly fictionalized but drawn directly from the participants' real experiences dealing with prison and addiction.

The result, Streets Like This, had its world premiere in May of 2018. But now the company is re-mounting it at the Cherry Artspace (also in Ithaca) from March 12-22, 2020.

Working on this play was a very cool experience. The program participants were all people who had seen a lot of shit, but also had some incredibly deep empathy but for what they and others like them had gone through. Many of them possessed an intuitive understanding of the complex systemic issues that drove them into the desperation — the violence, drugs, sex work, and petty crime — that landed them in prison in the first place. And having been through prison — sometimes more than once — they also had a better understanding of the ways that the system is set up to fail people just like them. Read the rest

White woman interrupted a Broadway talkback to call the playwright "racist against white people."

Jeremy O. Harris's Slave Play is meant to be provocative—certainly moreso than most other Broadway productions that transfer from Off Broadway theatres. The play itself is about a group of interracial couples who go to a kind of psychosexual couples' therapy that involves BDSM, reflecting Antebellum master-slave dynamics. During previews, the show even hosted a "Black Out," or a dedicated performance for black audiences, so they can enjoy and discuss the play without worrying about the reactions of white people around them.

As such, it's not surprising that it might make some white people (and others) uncomfortable; that is, after all, the purpose of provocative art. But it reached a head after the Friday night performance on November 29 during a post-show talkback hosted by the playwright:

Apparently, the unnamed woman missed the whole part of the play about white people taking up space and centering things around themselves. She yelled at Harris for—in her words—"being told as a single woman I'm not good enough to fucking raise [my own children]," and asked, "How the fuck am I not a fucking marginalized member of this goddamn society?" Read the rest

Theatre chains offering all Oscar-nominated films for $4 each

If you're behind on seeing the nine Oscar nominees for best film and a little short on cash, many theatre chains are offering a package to see all nine starting at $35. Even if you only see a few of them, you'll save money over regular prices. Read the rest

Derren Brown show's unepxected finale: wife pushes husband off balcony

Mentalist and conjurer Derren Brown got a hell of a shock during his Saturday night show: a woman pushed her husband off a 45' balcony "for a joke," sending him over the edge. He caught hold of a light-rig about halfway down and was pulled to safety.

Derren Brown describes man's 'terrifying' fall from theatre balcony [Press Association/The Guardian]

(via Dan Hon) Read the rest

Graham "IT Crowd" Linehan adapts The Ladykillers for stage in London

Ooh, this does look good: Graham "The IT Crowd" Linehan has done a stage adaptation of The Ladykillers, a classic Ealing comedy recently remade (with moderate success) for modern audiences. The original film is a great bit of gonzo humour, everything I love about Linehan's work:

The celebrated Ealing comedy– THE LADYKILLERS comes to life on stage this Autumn in a hilarious and thrilling new adaption by Graham Linehan (Father Ted) and directed by Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote).

Featuring a stellar cast of some of the finest stage and screen comedy actors including BAFTA winner Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It) as Professor Marcus along with James Fleet (The Vicar of Dibley), Ben Miller (The Armstrong and Miller Show), Stephen Wight (Evening Standard Outstanding Newcomer) and Olivier Award winner Clive Rowe with Marcia Warren as the sweetly innocent Mrs Wilberforce.

THE LADYKILLERS is a classic black comedy; a sweet little old lady, alone in her house, is pitted against a gang of criminal misfits who will stop at nothing…

Posing as amateur musicians, Professor Marcus and his gang rent rooms in the lopsided house of sweet but strict Mrs Wilberforce. The villains plot to involve her unwittingly in Marcus’ brilliantly conceived heist job. The police are left stumped but Mrs Wilberforce becomes wise to their ruse and Marcus concludes that there is only one way to keep the old lady quiet. With only her parrot, General Gordon, to help her, Mrs W. is alone with five desperate men.

Read the rest