The return of the Great White Way seems far away but you don’t have to be Les Miserables about it! There’s no use in sitting alone in your room, The Sound of Music will come to you! Performers and performance spaces were forced to think outside of the black box and be innovative with sustaining entertainment. As a result, there are many wonderful experiences to be had ranging from Broadway to independent theaters and more. These experiences are as diverse as theater itself. You can be a spectator to some wonderful entertainment. You can have asynchronous interactions with your favorite stars. You can also have personal one on one interactions with the performers you admire the most. In terms of price, these experiences range from free to a few hundred dollars. The more personal and time consuming, the more money they will be. Though much of the content is free, the entertainment industry is really struggling right now along with everyone else. If there is a chance to donate to the arts if you enjoyed what you saw, kindly do. Given that there are roughly 40 active Broadway theaters, 60 active Off-Broadway theaters and a whopping 200 Off-Off Broadway theaters, this article merely scratches the surface but has enough content to prevent you from being The Lion King and lounging around your home all day.
Don’t Dream it, Stream it.
For all you streamers out there, look no further than your remote. Broadway HD is a streaming service much like Netflix and Hulu. They stream Broadway musicals and plays for a monthly charge of $8.99. You can Enjoy The King and I, Falsettos, CATS, Shakespeare and more from the comfort of your recliner. The ALW channel is releasing content under, The Shows Must go on. London’s National Theater is releasing shows to stream one week at a time. Also check out Marquee TV and Broadway on Demand.
Speaking of Shakespeare, if you are a fan of members of The Royal Shakespeare Company and Star Trek, an interesting combination, be sure to “like” Patrick Stewart’s Facebook page. He reads a sonnet a day in that intoxicating commanding British accent of his. He’s up to his 54th sonnet. Engage with his page and make it so.
Don’t come to the cabaret my friend, it will come to you
Feinstein’s/54 Below is a premier supper club known as Broadway’s living room. Situated in the heart of Manhattan it offers top shelf entertainment. Broadway notables regularly grace their stage for intimate performances in an elegant space with gourmet food and beverages. Right now, 54 Below is streaming past shows under the name 54 Below at home. Broadway’s Living Room. Subscribe to their YouTube channel, youtube.com/54 below. You can enjoy a shared cabaret experience and even chat with others during the live stream. Upcoming shows include Andy Karl and Orfeh: Legally Bound and 54 Below Sings One Direction. I’ve been there many times and it never disappoints.
On My Own
Broadway might be the heart of theater but residing within the ventricles and aorta of the heart has always been Independent theater. There are countless independent theaters in N.Y.C. who like
Eponine Afloat through Donations.
The Lambs Theater is America’s first professional theatre club founded in 1874. It’s a place of gathering for all members of the creative arts endeavors. The Lamb’s, Inc. is not afraid of the big bad wolf of a time we are having now. Thanks to its president Marc Baron, you can be privy to some amazing content in the form of interactive events, discussions and interviews.
La Mama Experimental Theatre Group is dedicated to artists and all aspects of the theater. Founded in 1961 by Ellen Stewart, it is the only original Off-Off Broadway still in operation. They are offering some interesting and diverse content. La Mama has content for adults but is also keeping kids in mind with La Mama Kids online. This week Maiko Kikuchi offered a whimsical puppet show for the little puppets. It looks like Thursdays at 4:00 are dedicated to kids’ content. You might enjoy Café La Mama-Cope-a-Pandemic, a weekly digital platform for artists with guest curators.
The Tank is an independent theater with a mission to eliminate economic barriers from the creation of new works. They serve a few thousand artists in all manner of creativity and put on over 800 performances a year. They are running Cybertank right now which is a free virtual gathering place hosting dozens of artists each week bringing online entertainment into homes. They are cleverly asking viewers to fill the tank and donate to support them and the arts. Also check out their digital series and content with the compelling name, Distant Cadaver as well as their podcasts.
Spit & Vigor has maintained their vigor with captivating online programming which they call Quarantine programming. They are a NYC based traveling theater company with the unique distinction of making their own props and costumes from recycled and donated material. They are offering radio plays and recorded live streams of shows and staged readings.
Like a full Irish breakfast, The Irish Rep has enough online content to keep your theatrical hunger satisfied. The Kraine Theater is offering twice monthly content on Facebook live dedicated to the craft of emerging artists. The Public is offering a myriad of content under Joe’s Pub Live! From the Archives. If you search online, you’re sure to find many other independent theaters offering virtual programming.
Sweet Charity Organizations Giving Back
There are many long-standing organizations in the business of directly supporting and promoting the arts, artists and theatrical endeavors. Through a wide variety of giving, these organizations sustain artists when they are in need. For the public, they make theater more accessible to all. These organizations support through funds, fundraising, workshops, educational programming and much more.
The Actors Fund is a charitable organization that addresses the unpredictability and inconsistency of the entertainment industry. They offer a wealth of assistance to members of the entertainment industry in the areas of essential needs such as housing, healthcare, senior care. They also offer support in the form of workshops, career advice and benefits to raise money for those in need. During the lockdown, The Actors Fund offers many choices of exciting daily entertainment. You can donate what you wish to see the content. They have some very interesting offerings like Viral Vignettes with original works from stars of the 70’s and 80’s like Barry Bostwick and Anson Williams. They partnered with Broadway World to present Stars in the House hosted by Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley. Stars of stage and screen perform live to support the fund every day, usually at 2pm. Check their website for schedules for the above entertainment as well as programming entitled Broadway Jackbox and The Intermission Mission.
Theatre Development Fund’s mission is to bring the power of the performing arts to everyone. We know theater tickets, even in the nosebleed section can set one back quite a bit. Without an organization like TDF, theater would not be as accessible to people with low income or even average income who cannot fit theater into their budget. People who are differently abled also benefit from a myriad of TDF’s programs. For many years now, TDF has been offering discount tickets to a multitude of theatrical and musical events, most importantly, Broadway. They also offer accessibility programs such as autism friendly performances of shows in which they alter the sights and sounds of the production to make it more comfortable for certain audiences. Currently TDF continues to support their members, artists and a wide range of audience members both in NYC and nationally. They have extended memberships to make up for the time that their members are unable to be physically present at shows. They publish daily lists of available shows to watch online. They are assisting with the usage of ASL and closed captioning on video platforms for their deaf members. They are engaging, facilitating and partnering with individuals and organizations to continue to offer performances to the masses.
Getting to Know You
You don’t always have to wait at the stage door to meet a star. While you won’t get an autograph, with some of these offerings, you’ll get a one on one unforgettable personal experience to treasure forever.
Under normal circumstances, Broadway Fantasy Camp helps participants know what it feels like to be in a Broadway show. Imagine spending a few days in a rehearsal studio with a real Broadway director and choreographer. They’ll teach you numbers from a Broadway show with all the bells and whistles including amazing costuming. If you’re more of a fan than a performance type, they will arrange a live meeting with a star after you see their show. Belly up to the bar with a Broadway star and enjoy some cocktails and conversations. Perhaps you have an idea that is not listed as an option on their website. Providing it’s reasonable, they will attempt to curate a customized experience just for you. At the moment, they are offering a 60 minute Zoom meeting with a Broadway star of your choosing moderated by a fantasy camp host. That is a great amount of time to have stars in your eyes and on your laptop screen.
In a similar vein, Broadway Plus offers Broadway VIP Experiences. You can have a one hour music or acting lesson with a star from their impressive roster including Alex Brightman and Beth Leavel. Those range from $100-$300. They also have their own version of Cameo with a video message from a star ranging in cost from $25 to $100. How does hearing a song from a show they performed in with lyrics written especially for you! I’d be swooning for that! Like Broadway Fantasy Camp they have a one on one video chat with a star for $50-$250. They don’t specify the length of time. You can just chill and chat or get some career advice from a seasoned pro. Lastly, they offer group Zoom parties or educational experiences for one hour from $150-$500. Social events can have up to 30 people in the Zoom and educational experiences go up to 99 people. If you can get 30 of your friends to cough up $5.00 each for the $150.00 experience, I’d say you scored yourself quite a bargain and good time. Even the $500.00 experience shared among 30 friends is not so bad either. All the talent have their own specific price for each experience. To inquire about availability, pricing and scheduling, you click on Reserve Now to enter your details and you’ll get a quote.
How would you like a personal video message from one of your favorite stars? Cameo will make that happen for you. They have an impressively huge roster of famous people from stage, screen, YouTube, reality television and more. Broadway lovers will recognize Cheyenne Jackson, Telly Leung, Laura Osnes, Liz Callaway and Jeremy Jordan. You’ll find a whole host of West End stars to say ‘ello as well. From $5 to a few hundred dollars, your chosen celebrity will text and email you a personally tailored video message. Depending on the talent, you can request a happy birthday, a song or a sonnet. I have both gifted and received these little video gems and I can tell you firsthand, your heart will go pitter patter when you receive it. I got a video message from an actor named Gideon Emory. He declared that he was going to put a smile on my face if there wasn’t one already and he read me one of his original poems entitled Moon in a very theatrical manner. When he was finished reading, he said some other lovely things. Suffice to say, a huge smile appeared and remained. If you need a pick me up, you can play these messages over and over to your heart’s content. Here is a tip to get the most bang for your buck. Always look at the videos each star displays on their page. If they average 27 seconds, it might not be worth your money. If I’m going to gift a Cameo, I’ll choose someone that does at least a minute and a half.
Pivot step, walk, walk, walk
5678 Broadway might not be interactive but it’s very active. How exciting is the finale from A Chorus Line? How much more exciting would it be if you were in it? Well you can be in the comfort of your own home and you’ll burn a few calories too while you kick ball change. 5678 Broadway is a 30-minute workout program choreographed by Joseph Corella, a chorographer, dancer and dance fitness instructor. He calls his students his cast and takes them through fun authentic Broadway moves with positive energy and encouragement. The DVD/digital download features songs from Broadway hits such as Hairspray, Grease and of course, A Chorus Line. I purchased this program and had a blast doing it.
There’s No Place like Home
The perfect way to end this article is to strongly encourage you to stay home and be safe. I’ve provided you with a plethora of options to keep you entertained and to help keep the arts alive. If you need further encouragement and entertainment, look no further than Richard Skipper Celebrates.
Richard Skipper is an entertainer who loves entertainers and the entertainment industry. He is also a skilled interviewer and theatre historian among a multitude of other talents. Richard Skipper celebrates life, people and the arts. He has branded Richard Skipper Celebrates into a love letter to people who sing, dance and act. His contemporaneous #Stay Home campaign has taken off like a helium balloon. He asked his colleagues in the arts to record a PSA encouraging people to stay home during this lockdown. This man truly rallied an amazing array of talent from all walks of entertainment including yours truly to spread a vital message in this time of contagion. There are too many to count at this point and they’re all wonderful. They can be found on YouTube at Richard Skipper Celebrates.