Theater in the Time of COVID: Where to Safely Enjoy Performances This Season

Chris Smith | Out of ChicagoThe Rialto Theater, located in Joliet, Illinois, hosted online organ concerts in May of 2020.

COVID-19 is changing the face of the entertainment industry and theater is no exception. Theaters all over the world were forced to close their doors this season as packing crowds of people into an enclosed space is among the least of COVID-friendly activities. Even though dressing up and going out to marvel at a musical or enjoy a play may not be an option at this time, many theater companies are bringing their productions to a virtual platform for audiences to attend from the comfort of their home. 

For those who have been longing for their theater fix, The Phoenix has compiled a list of shows at local, national and international theatres that are currently playing online through recorded performances that can be safely enjoyed with the click of a button. 

“Run the Beast Down” — Strawdog Theatre Company 

“Run the Beast Down” is playwright Titas Haldar’s dark story about a man who lost everything good in his life and is forced to set out on a journey to fight capitalism and “the Beast” that now haunts him. The Strawdog Theatre Company — located near Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood — is bringing this play to its audience in the form of an online film, recorded as a series of single shots. 

Tickets for the production are pay-what-you-can — a $5 minimum donation is recommended — and can be purchased on the company’s website. The show will run through Oct. 25 and 50 percent of proceeds will go to the Lakeview Pantry, one of Chicago’s largest food pantries which provides groceries, social services and mental wellness resources to those who need it.  

“We’re Gonna Die” — Theatre Y

Theatre Y is presenting a re-imagined film version of playwright Young Jean Lee’s “We’re Gonna Die,” recreated particularly for the physical and social isolation the world has experienced this year. From composition to design to rehearsals, a team of 12 artists worked on this production entirely remotely from their own homes, according to the theater’s website

As a traditional theatrical performance, the film is shown virtually Friday through Sunday at 7 p.m. and will run though Oct. 25. Tickets to the show are free but must be reserved in advance on Theatre Y’s website

“45 Plays for America’s First Ladies” — The Neo-Futurist Theater

A 100-minute production dedicated to the first ladies of the United States, this show is based on a past production of Chicago’s Neo-Futurist Theater, “43 Plays for 43 Presidents.” This time, the show will focus on teaching American history from the women who took on the role of first lady — from Martha Washington to Melania Trump — showing how, oftentimes, their contributions to U.S. history have gone unrecognized. 

This show will run virtually Oct. 8 through Nov. 2 with live-streamed performances on Oct. 8, 9 and 11. Tickets to the live-streamed shows are on sale now for $15 on the theater’s website, and ticket sales for the following shows will begin on Oct. 13. 

Courtesy of The Neo-Futurist Theater The hour-long play delves into the United States’ 50 First Ladies.

Met Opera On Demand 

New York’s Metropolitan Opera is offering a series of Nightly Met Opera Streams, with a different presentation of the company’s live recorded shows from the past 14 years available for free each day. Every day at 7:30 p.m. ET, a new show is released for streaming on the Met’s website and is available for free for 23 hours, until 6:30 p.m. ET the following day. The full schedule of shows is available online and though streaming is free, donations are welcome. 

The Met also has an on demand streaming service with a wide variety of performances recorded over many years, from “Faust” to “Don Giovanni” to “The Magic Flute” and others. These performances can be purchased for rent or can be accessed with an on demand subscription for $14.99/month or $149.99/year. 

Shakespeare’s Globe 

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London is currently streaming its 2019 production of “Romeo and Juliet” on its YouTube channel for free. This show will be available to watch until February 2021. 

The Globe also has its own online streaming service, GlobePlayer, through which anyone is able to purchase or rent live, recorded performances. Available shows include favorites such as “Hamlet,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “King Lear” and more. Prices for renting or purchasing each play vary. 

Musicals and Broadway

For those craving a musical performance, BroadwayHD is the streaming service to go to. Broadway classics like “Kinky Boots,” “Cats,” “The King and I” and many more are available to Broadway lovers for a subscription of $8.99/month or $99.99/year, with a 7-day free trial. 

Other streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime also have classic musicals available as films or live performances for those with a subscription. “Hamilton” and “Newsies” are available now on Disney+, “Sweeney Todd” and “Shrek the Musical” can be seen on Netflix, and “Fiddler on the Roof” and “King Lear” can be found on Amazon Prime.

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