Read about NYC's best theatre and dance productions and watch video interviews with innovative artists
With in-person theatre out of commission for the foreseeable future, many companies and performers from Broadway and beyond have been showcasing their work online. This weekend, June 13 to 14, many of the selections center Black artists in support of the ongoing protests against systemic racism, or LGBTQ artists in honor of Pride Month. All performances are available for free or at very low cost.
The Wiz Live!
The Shows Must Go On! screens The Wiz Live!, one of the best live TV musicals of recent years. Charlie Smalls and William F. Brown's all-Black reinvention of The Wizard of Oz won seven 1975 Tony Awards, including best musical. NBC's 2015 mounting features a starry cast (Ne-Yo, David Alan Grier, Mary J. Blige and Queen Latifah, to name a handful), Cirque du Soleil acrobats as the Flying Monkeys and a charming performance by teenage newcomer Shanice Williams at its center. Watch for free through Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on YouTube.
Anna Deavere Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles
In April 1992, when playwright-performer Anna Deavere Smith was about to premiere her career-making one-woman play Fires in the Mirror about the Crown Heights riots, the Los Angeles uprising broke out after the acquittal of white police officers who had beaten a Black man named Rodney King almost to death. That upheaval became the subject of Smith's next solo show Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, which ran at The Public Theater before transferring to Broadway, where she earned 1994 Tony nominations for best actress and best new play. After interviewing more than 300 people both directly and tangentially connected to the Los Angeles unrest, Smith created a collage of disparate voices and perspectives, channeling citizens who were there alongside LAPD chief Daryl Gates, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and activist and scholar Cornel West. Given Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992's timeliness, PBS is streaming its 2000 film adaptation for free on its website.
Pride Plays: one in two
Last June in honor of Pride Month, Michael Urie partnered with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater to present a festival of diverse LGBTQ play readings. This year the series goes online at Playbill.com, starting with tonight's performance of Donja R. Love's one in two, an unforgettable one-act that humanizes the stark statistics about Black men and HIV. This event reunites the cast of the play's critically acclaimed world premiere at The New Group last fall: Jamyl Dobson, Leland Fowler and Edward Mawere. Watch for free on Playbill's YouTube channel though donations to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS are encouraged.
The Wilma Theater: Kill Move Paradise
Philadelphia's Wilma Theater shares a recording of its 2018 mounting of Kill Move Paradise, James Ijames' potent play about three Black men and one Black boy who find themselves trapped in a surreal netherworld after being victims of police violence. This indelible work was inspired by the murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and so many others. To get the viewing link, make a donation of any amount to Black Lives Matter Philly.
Matrix Theatre Company: Scraps
Los Angeles' Matrix Theatre Company shares its 2019 production of Scraps, Geraldine Inoa's powerful examination of how friends and family cope when a Black loved one is murdered by police. We covered the play when it had its world premiere at The Flea two years ago, and its themes and emotions remain infuriatingly timely. Directed by Obie winner Stevie Walker-Webb, the production is available to watch for free on the theatre's YouTube channel.
HERE Arts Center: Disposable Men
Downtown culture hub HERE presents Disposable Men, playwright-performer-techie James Scruggs' searing multimedia exploration of how American culture depicts Black men as monsters. Using eight channels of video, satire and unforgettable audience interaction, this 2005 work examines many urgent issues, notably how police brutality and unequal health care are killing Black men. Watch for free on HERE's Facebook page.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: The Ailey Spirit Virtual Benefit
Earlier this week, the invaluable Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater presented an online gala featuring performances by its main troupe, including the iconic Revelations and the world premiere of Robert Battle's Variation, as well as appearances by the emerging stars of Ailey II and students from The Ailey School and the AileyCamp. In addition, the dancers and special guests such as Tony winners Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom, Jr. speak to this moment of unrest and the need to reiterate that Black Lives—and Black Artists—Matter. Watch for free on Alvin Ailey's YouTube channel.
Classical Theatre of Harlem: The Bacchae
The Classical Theatre of Harlem, one of NYC's premiere Black companies, usually mounts a free production in Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park during the summer. Since that's not possible this year, the troupe is sharing a recording of its 2018 take on The Bacchae, which turns Euripides' play into an raucous, glitter-encrusted, rock-'n'-roll party... until that tragic ending of course. You can stream the production anytime through June 26 for $10 on Vimeo.
The New York Times: Offstage: Opening Night
On Thursday, The New York Times launched its new online series Offstage, featuring prerecorded performances of songs and scenes from the truncated theatre season, including the cast of Company singing the show's opening number and Tony winner Mary-Louise Parker delivering a monologue from The Sound Inside. But the most powerful part of the evening was an emotional and truth-filled conversation about racism on Broadway and beyond with Tina stars Adrienne Warren and Daniel J. Watts, Celia Rose Gooding from Jagged Little Pill and A Soldier's Play director Kenny Leon, moderated by the Times' Wesley Morris. If you missed this inaugural episode, you can watch it for free on The Times' YouTube channel.
The Metropolitan Opera's At-Home Gala
Back in late April, the Metropolitan Opera presented an online gala featuring more than 40 stars singing from their homes around the globe. The event was so popular, it almost crashed the Met's site! Today, the opera house is re-airing that special, which includes performances by Angel Blue, Renée Fleming, Sonya Yoncheva and Michael Volle. Watch for free until Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET on the Metropolitan Opera's website.
National Theatre: The Madness of George III
London's National Theatre presents The Nottingham Playhouse's 2018 revival of The Madness of George III, Alan Bennett's fictionalized examination of the U.K.'s King George III, whose battle with mental illness plunged his court into disarray. Mark Gatiss, of Doctor Who and Sherlock fame, delivers a tour-de-force performance in the title role. Watch for free through Thursday, June 18 at 2 p.m. ET on the National Theatre's YouTube channel.
Stratford Festival: Hamlet
Ontario's venerable Stratford Festival continues its Shakespeare on Film series with Hamlet, directed by the fest's artistic director Antoni Cimolino and starring Canadian stage vet Jonathan Goad as the tragic Danish prince. Watch for free on the festival's YouTube channel. While you're there, be sure to check out Black Like Me: Behind the Stratford Festival Curtain, an illuminating conversation with a panel of Black resident artists about the racism they've experienced in the classical theatre world.
Martha Graham Dance Company: Lamentation
The Martha Graham Dance Company celebrates the choreographer's groundbreaking 1930 solo Lamentation with a program that examines how the work still resonates in modern dance today. Selections include a 1943 film featuring Martha Graham improvising on the piece's themes; Lament from Acts of Light, created by Graham in 1981 and starring Christine Dakin; and riffs on the solo by choreographers Bulareyaung Pagarlava and Michelle Dorrance. Watch for free on the dance company's YouTube channel.
Drama of Works: Water and Rent Party
Brooklyn-based Drama of Works presents a pair of insightful short plays for young audiences by celebrated African-American playwright Amina Henry that examine the impact of racism and poverty in an age-appropriate way. Water tackles the water crisis in Ethiopia, while Rent Party takes place in Harlem in the '20s, as a family throws a shindig in order to raise money to pay their bills. Both are available on the company's website: watch Water here and Rent Party here.
Dance to the Music Live
On Saturday at noon ET, two-time Tony nominee and Fame star Debbie Allen throws a 12-hour virtual dance-a-thon that aims to raise spirits as well as funds for various charities. Performances, classes and conversations are all on tap, and participants include Misty Copeland, Billy Porter, Savion Glover, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Anika Noni Rose, Bebe Neuwirth, Sergio Trujillo, Raven-Symoné, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dolly Parton, Mia Michaels, Tiler Peck and Allen's sister Phylicia Rashad. Watch for free on Allen's Instagram Live.
Patrick Page in Macbeth
On Saturday at 2 p.m. ET, Stars in the House continues its popular live play reading series with Macbeth, starring Hadestown Tony nominee Patrick Page as the title general who's whipped into a power-hungry frenzy by three weird sisters and his aspirational wife, played by Brief Encounter Tony nominee Hannah Yelland. Page's Hadestown costar André De Shields hosts the event, which also features Classical Theatre of Harlem's Ty Jones as Macduff. Watch for free on YouTube though donations to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund are encouraged.
Live from Covent Garden featuring The Royal Opera and The Royal Ballet
On Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET, London's Royal Opera House welcomes artists back to its stage for the first time since mid-March to kick off its series of live-streamed shows, which will be performed to an empty auditorium. This inaugural event features a concert of works by Benjamin Britten and George Frideric Handel, as well as a world-premiere piece by Royal Ballet resident choreographer Wayne McGregor starring Francesca Hayward and Cesar Corrales. Watch for free on the venue's YouTube channel.
Drama Desk Awards
On Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, celebrate the truncated theatre season at the 65th annual Drama Desk Awards. Recorded weeks ago and originally set to air on May 31, the ceremony was postponed due to the Black Lives Matter protests. Unlike the Tonys, which only recognize Broadway productions, the Drama Desk considers all New York City theatre: Broadway, Off Broadway and Off-Off. The nominees were revealed back in April, and tonight the winners will be announced by a starry list of presenters, including Tituss Burgess, James Corden, Kristin Chenoweth, Alan Cumming, Santino Fontana, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jane Krakowski, Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald. Watch for free on the Drama Desk's website or on NY1 if you have Spectrum Cable.
Stars in the House Presents Oz
On Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, Stars in the House continues its reading series for young audiences with Don Zolidis' Oz, a bittersweet take on L. Frank Baum's classic as an adolescent reeling from the death of her sister seemingly awakens in the Land of Oz, only it's less than magical. The event stars Broadway vet Brittney Johnson (Wicked, Motown the Musical) and is followed by a Q&A with the playwright and performers. Watch for free on YouTube though donations to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund are encouraged.
We Are Here: A Celebration of Resilience, Resistance and Hope
On Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust partners with other cultural institutions to present a concert commemorating the 77th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, a world-changing event that resonates in this current moment of resistance against racism. Guests scheduled to appear or perform include opera star Renée Fleming, Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Joel, Tony winner Lea Salonga, Tony nominee Lauren Ambrose and the hilarious Jackie Hoffman. Watch for free online.
Bang on a Can Marathon
On Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, attention avant-garde music lovers: the annual Bang on a Can Marathon goes online, with six hours of cutting-edge, category-defying works from artists located around the globe. Watch for free online.
ABCirque at The Muse
On Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, The Muse in Brooklyn hosts an online revue featuring some of NYC's best variety performers. Amazing mentalist and magician Eric Walton hosts and the lineup includes aerialists Eliana Wenick and Shayna Golub, contortionist Tori Kubick and Paris the Hip Hop Juggler. Watch for free on The Muse's YouTube channel though donations are encouraged.
Rodelinda at the Met
On Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET, the Metropolitan Opera shares Handel's Rodelinda, starring Renée Fleming, Stephanie Blythe, Andreas Scholl, Iestyn Davies, Joseph Kaiser and Shenyang, conducted by Harry Bicket. Filmed for the company's Live in HD series in 2011, it's available to watch for free for 23 hours after the start time on the Metropolitan Opera's website. You can still stream yesterday's Met gala until 6:30 p.m. ET today.
The Seth Concert Series: Jeremy Jordan
On Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, apparently, hosting a twice daily talk show online and a Sirius XM Satellite Radio series isn't enough for the multitalented Seth Rudetsky. Well-known for his skills as a pianist, musical director and interviewer, he's hosted a series of intimate live concerts with Broadway stars for the past decade. This summer he brings the show online, and tonight's headliner is Newsies Tony nominee Jeremy Jordan. Even though he's become a TV star (Supergirl), Jordan has never abandoned his first love: the stage. He appeared in Waitress last year and was scheduled to play Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors this spring until the pandemic shut all shows down. Rudetsky is a master at inspiring celebrities to open up, so expect lots of songs as well as stories and maybe even a peek at Jordan's adorable toddler with wife Ashley Spencer. Tickets are $25.
Everett Quinton in Der Ring Gott Farblonjet
On Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, in honor of Pride Month, Everett Quinton, the longtime life and stage partner of the late Charles Ludlam, headlines a live reading of one of their most celebrated collaborations, Der Ring Gott Farblonjet, a four-part parody of Wagner's "Ring" cycle, which premiered in 1977 at The Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Tonight's installment is titled The Dyke Bikers at Helgeland, which gives you a good idea of Ludlam's signature low-highbrow humor. Watch for free on St. John's Lutheran Church's Facebook page.
Top image: Leland Fowler and Edward Mawere in one in two. Photo by Monique Carboni.