A Year In Theatre 2020
When 2020 began, I had BIG theatre plans.
This was THE year for me - as an artist, blogger, and audience member.
Not only did I have MANY theatre trips booked, from Broadway to Toronto, but I had BIG goals to both expand on the blog, and to grow as a performer.
Well, I can’t say there haven’t been opportunities for growth and expansion, even though they came in the saddest, most unexpected of ways. There have been many learning curves this year, and I am grateful for what good has come from a year that will likely go down in history as one of the worst.
Like many of you, I had to cancel multiple shows, even getting a refund on a ticket to one of my dream Broadway shows. It definitely stung, despite knowing it was all for the best. I settled in for a year of training from home, movie musical DVDs, and ways I could create content on a theatre blog when there was this global shutdown.
Unexpectedly, this year became very busy, very quickly, in all aspects of my life.
Unexpected seems to be the word of the year, but one of the best surprises was all the ways that theatre has adapted and found a way to thrive during these unprecedented times.
And so, once again, unexpectedly, I get to share all about my Year In Theatre, and I am so glad I get to do so.
Naturally, there are differences.
Usually, I wouldn’t include pre-filmed releases to streaming platforms, such as Hamilton, but considering how the very definition of theatre has changed, I made the choice to include these productions on here as well.
Also different from last year, I had multiple opportunities to perform!
And since this is Both Sides of the Curtain, it makes sense to include them in this post.
This April, the professionally filmed version of the Broadway musical Bandstand was streamed on Playbill.com to raise funds for The Actor’s Fund.
Young musician Donny Novitski struggles to find work and peace after returning home from serving in World War ll. When he hears about a nation-wide songwriting competition, he is inspired to assemble a band of veterans. The group of vets from The Donny Nova Band, along with Julia Trojan (whose husband died in action). They band together to win the contest and to get back the life they had before. Along the way, their friendships and their music help them to begin to heal, preparing them to start anew.
The King And I
This spring, the acclaimed production of Lincoln Center’s The King and I filmed live at the London Palladium was released for free viewing on BroadwayHD benefitting The Actor’s Fund.
Set in Siam in the 1860s, The King and I tells the story of British school teacher, Anna Leonowens, who has come to teach the royal children and her tumultuous and unlikely friendship with the King.
Bombshell in Concert
This concert was made available for a free stream via People.com, showing a professionally filmed version of the sold-out 2015 concert, including a live SMASH cast reunion at intermission benefitting The Actor’s Fund.
The event included performances of songs from the hit television show SMASH by the starry cast, including Megan Hilty, Katharine McPhee, Will Chase, Christian Borle and more! SMASH originally aired on NBC and ran for two seasons. It tells the story of the creation of a musical, Bombshell (based on the life of Marilyn Monroe), from the audition room all the way to Broadway.
Known for it’s thrilling Shakespeare productions, The Stratford Festival began releasing professional recordings from previous seasons available online this April, for free, for people to view from home.
When three witches tell soldier Macbeth that he will one day be the King of Scotland, he and his wife work together to make the prophecy come true, with wicked consequences.
This July, the smash hit musical Hamilton was released on Disney+, bringing a professionally filmed version with the original cast straight to your living room.
The musical was inspired by the biography Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and tells the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton through hip-hop music, from his arrival in New York City to his death at the hands of Aaron Burr.
Take Me Back (Act. 1 Workshop)
The first act of this brand new musical by Dominic Gray and Ceola Daly was workshopped and presented on YouTube this summer in collaboration with The Grey Area and Grad Fest.
I was so excited to be invited to tune in to this new work!
This musical is focused around the question: if you could travel back in time, what would you go back for? A group of scientists have figured out time travel, and are finally ready for human trials. Three strangers are picked from thousands of applicants and begin their time travel journey; learning about the risks, deciding what they would go back for, and deciding if the risks are worth it.
The New Local: Thanksgiving Edition
Created by musical theatre artists Gabi Epstein and Jeremy Lapalme, The New Local brings dinner theatre to your own homes for 2020 by partnering with local restaurants and providing an evening of entertainment. Audiences can order in from the chosen restaurant and tune in to a delightful Zoom cabaret.
The New Local is still running with upcoming shows in 2021, you can find out more at the link below:
What The Constitution Means to Me
On October 16th, a professionally filmed version of What The Constitution Means To Me debuted on Amazon Prime Video.
What The Constitution Means To Me is based on Schreck’s own experiences as a Constitutional debater, and throughout the show she alternates between her fifteen year old self and present day. Throughout the show, she discusses this founding document, specifically the 9th and 14th amendment, and reflects on how the Constitution has affected generations of women, using examples from her own family. Schreck presents the idea that the Constitution does not protect all Americans, and engages in a debate with a local high school debater before turning the question to the audience:
Should the U.S. Constitution be abolished?
This fall, Fane Productions in collaboration with Lambert Jackson Productions and Crazy Coqs Productions presented a virtual production of First Date: The Musical! .
Set up by friends on a blind date, total opposites Casey and Aaron find themselves stuck in a classically awkward first date situation. Luckily they have a group of friends and strangers to help them through the evening, and to decide: will they see each other again, or will the night be chalked up to another horrible first date?
A Hunger Artist
I was so thrilled to receive a message from CVIVArts, inviting me to view and review their debut production of an absurdist take on Franz Kafka’s A Hunger Artist. Unfortunately, the touring shows were cancelled due to COVID-19, but the company has released a filmed version live on YouTube!
It follows the story of an Artist, a professional faster, who will publicly lock himself in a cage to fast in front of large crowds. He works with a business manager, but always puts the integrity of his art form first. The cage is always guarded, and he only emerges to eat every forty days at the insistence of the manager. As he continues to lose interest from his spectators, the Artist leaves the manager and joins the circus as a sideshow attraction. There, without the protection of the manager, he exceeds his fasting limits, starving to death still without an audience.
shAme (Developmental Reading)
This November, ArtLab and ShowTown Productions presented invitation-only virtual readings for their developmental lab of Mark Governor’s shAme, based off of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
This new musical follows a storyline similar to that of the novel originally published in the 1850s. Set in Puritain Boston in the 1640s, it follows Hester Prynne, a woman who has had a child with a man who is not her husband. Forced to wear a red A on her chest, she is ostracized from society and works to find a new start for herself and her child.
Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens
On December 1st, 2020, World AIDS Day, Broadway On Demand presented a virtual presentation of Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens. The show had two free streamings, and while anyone could tune in to the exciting live event, audience members were encouraged to make a donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Premiering in 1989 at the height of the AIDS pandemic in the United States, this musical is a tribute to, as well as a celebration of the many lives lost to AIDS.
The show is presented as a series of songs and monologues. The touching words are from characters who passed away from AIDS, while the songs are from loved ones grieving their loss.
The Second Annual Lapepstein Chrismukkah Variety Show
Gabi Epstein and Jeremy Lapalme presented their second Chrismukkah Variety Show.
This delightful evening has become a tradition for these local artists as they share their favourite Hanukkah and Christmas tunes and traditions.
You can find more about Gabi and Jeremy at the link below and join them for a delightful evening of virtual dinner theatre:
Songs for Scrubs
Organizing and performing in a cabaret has always been something I wanted to do, but I never thought it was something I would do during a global pandemic.
In May, I was really struggling with the feeling of needing to help, but didn’t know how I could. Eventually, I arranged a concert benefiting The Front Line Fund, featuring a group of my talented friends. We went live on Facebook on June 6th, and it was a wonderful experience, which I wrote more about below.
The Mad Ones Lab
This fall, Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, the team behind The Mad Ones (previously: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Samantha Brown) launched The Mad Ones Lab. This virtual experience invited artists from all over the world to create their own digital version of a fifteen minute scene from the musical. Participants were provided with all the materials they needed to make their scene, as well as the opportunity to participate in multiple masterclasses and talkbacks with other industry professionals.
All videos submitted through the lab were compiled and filed into The Mad Ones Engine, which generates randomized versions of the musical featuring videos from different groups of performers!
It was a wonderful way to spend my October, working on an incredible project with one of my best friends!
Sleeping Beauty: Every Rose Has A Thorne
Results Entertainment presented its first virtual pantomime this winter and I was so thrilled to join the incredible cast!
I had never performed in a pantomime, let alone in a digital medium, and I had so much fun playing a lot of different ensemble characters and digging through my closet for costumes!
Of course, I wanted to talk about the amazing experience and documented it here!
Holidays at Home
This December, I organized a second digital cabaret with my friend Katie Thurston.
Holidays At Home went live on YouTube on the 19th, and we were so thrilled to stream some holiday joy from our homes to yours, while featuring so many of our talented friends!
It was such a wonderful way to close out the year!
Wishing you all a safe and happy New Year, full of health and happiness.
May 2021 be good to all of you!
Thank you for following along and supporting me for another year.