Category Archives: Off Broadway

Times Square NYC

Hurdles for Broadway to Bounce Back 

Have you ever heard the old adage, “The show must go on?” In the theater world this means that regardless of what happens, the performance will forge ahead. 

Often this phrase refers to continuing the show even if issues persist that could ruin a production such as: an actor forgetting their lines, lost props, lighting difficulties, audio issues, acts of nature, or any number of problems that can pop up in the middle of a performance. In most instances this phrase is a sign of the grit, determination, and positive attitude embraced by the theater community. Unfortunately, even the strength of the theater can not compete against a global pandemic. 

Chicago Musical

The Current State of Broadway 

Due to COVID-19, the 41 houses of Broadway in New York City shuttered their doors and the house lights have gone dark. Nearly two dozen New York City shows have been halted. Across the nation, similar news can be reported in major theaters and community productions. 

Not much stops theater productions from forging ahead, except for maybe a fast spreading virus that thrives in closed environments. As of mid-March most theaters across the country shut down live performances. Initially, Broadway theaters had hoped to open by April 12, 2020 only to push that date back due to the fact that New York City was the epicenter of the virus at the time. The new date was then June 7 of this year. That date has come and gone wth no opening occurring. The latest date being floated is currently September 6, 2020. 

This new Labor Day schedule has even the most optimistic of theatergoers questioning the reality of the date for opening. It’s not that patrons are not anxious to get back to their favorite form of entertainment. In fact, an industry survey conducted by Shugoll Research in early April revealed that 41 percent of NYC theatergoers are eager to return to the theaters when they are reopened. While that number may seem high there are some substantial issues that will potentially delay or stop altogether the reopening process for the “Great White Way.” 

Hamilton sign

Major Hurdles to Opening 

If theaters across the nation hope to open this year, before a vaccine is viable, there are a couple of major issues that will need to be addressed. 

Theaters are historically areas deemed to be close quarters. Chairs are lined up in close proximity in order for as many patrons to see the performance as possible. Orchestras that provide the live music are generally at the front of the theater in an orchestra pit. Actors and stage hands generally are huddled along the cramped wings of the theater until their cue is given to enter the stage. 

These conditions are not ideal for preventing the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, social distancing is a huge problem in most theater venues. 

Owners of some of the largest theaters across America are facing issues of how to keep both actors/stage hands as well as patrons socially distant during a performance. The answer may lie in spacing out the audience, creating larger prep spaces behind the curtain, and decreasing the number of performances weekly to allow for sanitation between shows. All of these solutions are costly and take quite a bit of effort. 

Another major issue that theaters are facing is one of demographics. Nearly 16% of theatergoers are over the age of 65. This is the highest risk category for the transmission and serious illness for the virus. The percentage climbs even higher if we remove tourists from the equation according to a report in MarketWatch online. 

Stay tuned as we anxiously await guidance from federal and state officials as to how our beloved theaters will tackle these issues and how we, as patrons can help. Visit our Facebook page to see more of how you can get involved. 

 

sorry we're closed sign

How We Can Help the Theater Industry 

As of March of this year, most theaters across the country closed their doors. The social distancing guidelines put forth by most state governments required that gatherings of more than just a few people would be banned. This was a devastating, but necessary blow for the theater industry in every state. 

In order to bounce back once the threat of transmission has been lowered, our favorite community theaters, summer theaters, and major metropolitan theaters will need our help. You may be wondering how you can help from the safety of your home? There are a few ways that you can get involved that can help financially and emotionally support this once thriving entertainment industry. 

open guitar case

Donate to a Fund 

One of the easiest ways that theater lovers can help support the industry from the comfort of their homes is by donating to programs specifically designed to support the industry. According to Broadway.com, the Actors Fund may be a good choice. The Actors Fund may sound like it’s just for actors, but it’s actually for anyone who works in entertainment. Its resources include mental health counseling, emergency financial assistance, and primary medical care. The tax-deductible donation will go towards helping people in the industry get back on their feet and be able to get healthcare that they may need at this time. 

Look for similar entertainment groups that help support actors and people in the industry in your region. You may be able to volunteer your time as well as make monetary contributions, depending upon the needs that your state and region has. 

Forgo Refunds 

Another way theatergoers can help is by not asking for a refund for future shows. If you had plans for this summer to see a show or two, ask for a rain check or credit so you can use the money for a show in the future instead of requesting your money back. This way you are not taking needed financial support away and you will still be able to see a show once all of this is over. 

capitol building

Contact Your State Reps 

If you have little resources and can not donate at this time, there is still some action that will only take a few minutes of your time. Call your state representative and request that those in the entertainment industry (such as those that do freelance and contract work) be eligible for medical and other relief benefits that they normally would not qualify for. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents backstage workers, has created a page that lets you send a letter to your reps telling them to provide financial relief to entertainment professionals.

 

musical production

Can You Get a Broadway Fix From Home? 

With the coronavirus keeping us all away from large gatherings like the movies, malls, and theaters, it may feel like a dismal time for thespians and musical fans. 

We’ll let you in on a little secret. You can get your Broadway fix from home! 

The theater arts world has been hit hard by the current world health crisis. In March of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, along with governors across the country took precautions to stop the spread of the virus by closing large gatherings like the ones we are accustomed to seeing along the famed “Great White Way”, and at movie theaters from coast-to-coast. 

broadway show

Gatherings of more than a few people have been banned and theaters have taken it a hit financially, not to mention the mental toll on theater lovers who find joy in this form of entertainment. 

Thankfully, the wonder of modern technology and the innovation of talented singers and actors has enabled many of us to enjoy the musicals and shows right from the safety of our own homes. 

The Power of Technology 

Using videoconferencing, many of our Broadway stars are entertaining patrons directly through the technologies we’ve all come to love including Zoom, Google Meet, and Skype.  For instance, on a recent John Krasinski show entitled “Some Good News,” the former “Office” actor set up a Zoom chat with a young fan named Aubrey for the show. Part way through the show he surprised her when Lin-Manuel Miranda, star of the famed Broadway show Hamilton, “crashed” the call along with a cast of characters to sing their smash hit, “Alexander Hamilton.” 

Instances of these live video chats are popping up all over the internet and surprising viewers with new and acoustic renditions of our favorite Broadway songs from musicals across all genres. 

For more viewing options through the Actors Fund on YouTube or their website

musical

Theater at Home 

If finding a Zoom conference with your favorite Broadway actors isn’t your thing, you may want to try Broadway Theater in your home. Recorded performances can be found online at BroadwayHD (a Netflix form of Broadway), Metropolitan Opera Live Streams, and some amazing one-on-one video chatting opportunities are available at Broadway Plus. Most of these options are free or at least offering free trials for those interested. 

Don’t let this brief intermission (of sorts) keep you from enjoying your favorite theater experiences. Check back with us for more updates on theater openings and opportunities. 

 

Benefits of Supporting Community Theater 

In our last blog we discussed the grand opening of the Concord Youth Theater in Concord, Massachusetts. This theater was once the home of the iconic Captain America, Chris Evans. This small community theater was where Evans got his start and began his future career in the Marvel Avengers superhero films. It reminds us of why community theater is so important and why we should follow “The Captain’s” lead and support our local community theaters. 

Supporting a community theater can take many forms. Maybe you volunteer your time with young thespians, or maybe you take your artistic talent and create works of art in the form of props, lighting, music, or scenery for an upcoming musical or play. If time is short but you still want to show your support, monetary donations are always welcome to a theater in your town or region. Here is why: 

Nurturing New Artists and Actors

The ThoughtCo, the world’s largest education resource, reports that many successful actors, directors, writers, and choreographers have launched their careers in humble, small town playhouses. Just by attending and applauding, audiences give up-and-coming stars the positive feedback they need to continue their artistic pursuits.

Just like Captain America felt safe to try out his love of acting in a community theater so could the “next big name” in Hollywood or on Broadway, being on stage can help build the confidence and self esteem of some future actor who may want to go on in the field of the entertainment industry. 

Learning Valuable Skills 

Community theater is not just about learning to act, it can help build communication skills, leadership qualities, and open hearts and minds to understanding people who are different from us. Young and old alike can learn a new skill such as lighting, musicianship, or directing and learning from an older mentor who has been around the stage crew, lighting technology and instruments their whole lives. 

Local Marketing 

Getting involved in your local theater does not always need to be altruistic in nature. Maybe your small business needs to get its name out there. Supporting a theater company is a great way to advertise your services or products. Just think about it. What are people doing while waiting for a show to begin? They are flipping through the program reading the actors bios and seeing the local companies who are supporting the show. Your business name and logo could be seen by hundreds of people in just one weekend! So next time you go to a movie, see a play, or watch a musical, ask yourself where these actors got their “break.” Chances are it was a community theater. Support your local community theater today. Check out our Facebook page where we often post about local shows and theater options.

The Importance of Introducing Children to Live Theater 

Most people who love theater think of it merely as their favorite form of entertainment. I mean, what’s not to love about escaping reality and getting pulled into the lives of the characters on the stage? But did you know that, while you are enjoying the show, you are also learning, connecting, and finding ways to relate to others? Theater, especially live theater geared towards children, can have more of an impact that just a fun afternoon out watching people recite lines, act, and playout characters. Read on to find out why theater is important for our younger learners. 

Immersion of Culture 

Through live theatre, audiences, both young and old, are immersed in stories about characters from every background imaginable. Characters who are a different race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender can teach children about what it is like in cultures around the globe, not just the small world where they live in. Imagine the positive impact that can have on a child who now has his/her eyes opened to what it is like to be someone from outside their cultural background. 

Creativity and Imagination 

As part of the audience asked to imagine Jack’s “beanstalk” growing out of the stage floor, or that a Big Bad Wolf can actually talk, takes some stretching of the imagination. This creativity requires that the audience thinks outside the box. This can translate into the nurturing of creativity and imagination that can be a valuable asset later in life. “Theatre is the single most valuable place where kids can explore the endless possibilities of their imaginations and what they can do,” according to Danica Taylor, a writer for the Rep Theater online

School Performance and Community Service 

Research from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education by Dr. James Catterall shows that students who are exposed to the arts are more likely to be involved in community service, and are less likely to drop out of school. Studies by neuroscientists have shown that both the left and right hemispheres of the brain need to be fully stimulated in order for the brain to utilize its true potential. This means that it is just as important to immerse children in creative activities that exercise the right brain, as it is to immerse them in scientific and analytic activities for the left-brain. (Source: Taylor, Rep Theater) 

Communication 

As students become involved in theater, not merely as a passive theater-goer, they learn the skill of communication both verbally and with body language. Imagine how fun it is to learn how to speak clearly so even the person at the back of the theater can understand your message. This skill is needed in almost every career industry imaginable. 

Why does your child learn while he/she is involved in theater? For some, it may be as simple as how to be a good audience member who pays attention and is courteous. Leave us a note on our Facebook page or on our website

broadway show

Don’t Miss These Late Fall Broadway Shows

Broadway is a beautiful place all year long. But something magical begins to take place during the late fall weeks that peek into the upcoming winter. The New York City streets begin to show signs of the holidays and the hustle and bustle seem more, shall we say, jolly. That’s why it is such a special time of year to head to the Big Apple and take in a show or two. 

There are so many great shows to choose from, and choosing one or more can be difficult. Here are a few that Playbill has noted as up-and-coming shows not to miss. So gather up your fall attire, make reservations at your favorite NYC dining spot, and get ready for a few months of theater. 

The Crucible 

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, is playing at the Connelly Theatre with the first preview on November 8, 2019, and opening on November 21, 2019. Under the direction of Eric Tucker, The Crucible is a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. It is the dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem Witch Trials that took place in Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1692–93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government persecuted people accused of being communists. The cast includes Shirine Babb, Rajesh Bose, Truett Felt, Caroline Grogan, Paul Lazar, Susannah Millonzi, Arash Mokhtar, Ryan Quinn, Randolph Curtis Rand, Zuzanna Szadkowski, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, John Terry, and Eric Tucker. 

Evita 

Evita, by author Tim Rice and music by the acclaimed Andrew Lloyd Webber, begins its first review on November 13, 2019, with opening night on November 14, 2019. The musical examines the rapid and controversial ascent of Eva Perón, the First Lady of Argentina, until her untimely death at age 33. On the one-hundredth anniversary of Eva Perón’s birth, this presentation deepens your understanding of one of Argentina’s most adored and reviled figures. The director is Sammi Cannold and the cast includes Solea Pfeiffer, Maia Reficco, Enrique Acevedo, and Philip Hernandez. 

We Will Rock You

We Will Rock You opens November 14, 2019, at the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. The musical tells the tale of a group of Bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same. Musical instruments and composers are forbidden, and rock music is all but unknown. The musical is based upon the songs of British rock band Queen with a book by Ben Elton.

Do you have a show you are dying to see? Comment on our Facebook page or in the comments below. Check out our Backdrops that will help make any show come to life. 

 

Are you Planning Your HS Fall Production?

The school year may be over and the classrooms all empty, but your mind is reeling about a potential fall production at your school. You sing show tunes in the shower and choreography is never far from your mind. You show all the signs of being a drama coach or theater teacher!

Now that the stage lights are off and the props have been cleared, drama teachers are already in full swing even though most of us are spending our days at the beach. A die-hard drama fan will be plotting and planning what might work for a fall production at your school. Here are some of the questions they will be sorting through.

What Show?

The biggest question on the minds of theater teachers is what production can we do? Choosing a script is not an easy thing to do. One needs to take into account how many students there will be in the program, especially now that the seniors have flown the coop. It is also a time to evaluate what skills and talents the potential future cast may have.

Picking a musical that’s right for your program can depend on many factors, including the size of your cast, the interest of your students and, of course, availability of performance rights. In addition, you will want to consider what the school’s current budget is and the size of the venue for the production you are considering. Also, keep in mind your access to sets, props, and costumes. Weighing each of these things can help you in determining which show will be the right fit this fall.

What is Your Population of Actors?

As we mentioned previously, how many actors are in your program can help determine whether you can have a performance with a large cast, medium-sized cast, or small cast. You should also consider who are your actors not just how many. Do you have more girls than boys? Do you have a handful of serious talent or just one or two brilliant actors in your group? If you are considering a musical, what is the range of voices that you will be dealing with?

 

What is Your Budget?

Before you choose your play, consider your budget. A straight play vs. a musical is more budget friendly. Consider what costumes, scenery, and backdrops you will need. Do you need to buy the royalties to the play or will you choose one in the public domain?

 

What About the Space?

What does your theater look like? Can you handle a larger production or will you need to relocate to a community theater? Will you have access to practice times or will that impact your budget as well?

These are all great questions to consider as you dream of your next production. If you are searching for inspiration, check out Theater World’s list of High School Musicals. When it comes time to consider backdrops, check out our wide assortment of options here at Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart.

 

Summer Planning for your Theater Loving Family

Does your family love the theater? Is Playbill one of your favorite bookmarked pages? Is your name constantly in the daily raffle for front row seats for Broadway musicals? Well, summer is here and that means time to catch all the shows you can!

Massachusetts is the birthplace of summer stock theater and there is no shortage of great playhouses all over New England. That’s why it comes as no surprise that if you want a summer filled with musicals and thespians, our region is the place to be!

If you are looking for musicals or performances that are kid friendly or will entertain, there is a long list of Boston Theaters that will deliver! For example, Boston theaters are currently performing Pete the Cat, The Lion King, Cirque Du Soleil, and the ever-popular Blue Man Group. If you are looking for showtimes or tickets, then check out this site to start your summer planning. Think of the fun you could have in Boston for the weekends.

If you are looking to get out of the greater Boston area, there are tons of summer stock theaters from Maine to Vermont and Connecticut to Cape Cod. In a recent blog, we examined all the summer theaters that you could make a road trip out of this summer. Check out the options for your family and make it a summer you won’t soon forget.

For more serious theater lovers or children who have a flair for the arts, some of these shows may be of interest this summer. Check out Dear Evan Hansen, Hello Dolly, Cats, the 20th Anniversary of Rent, Mean Girls, Miss Saigon, or Fiddler on the Roof. Depending upon the style of musical you like, you could catch a few shows before the end of the summer.

Looking for a list of theaters that can help you plan your summer vacation? Check out MassHome for theaters with family-friendly productions, musicals, community theaters, and even campus theaters.

Social Issues and Broadway

Since the dawn of theatrical performances in ancient Greece, social issues have been a major theme. Theater lovers would be quick to note that musicals have never been removed from the world in which it exists. Why would we expect it to be in a time when social issues such as racism, human rights, and homophobia are still being debated. Let’s take a quick look at how Broadway has used the stage as a mirror to reflect the changing times and the issues that need attention in our society.

Hamilton: An American Musical

Since its first performance in February 2015, Hamilton: An American Musical has been inspiring conversations about the broad range of people who get to call this American founding narrative our own. This political musical attempts to reframe the way we envision partisan politics in America. In a time when American citizens are being put in travel bans and equal rights are being stripped away – sometimes slowly other times in large open ways – Hamilton is part of the dialogue of what it means to be American.

 

Rent

Rent opened in 1996 and, while it was never as popular as Hamilton, it still tackled issues such as the HIV/AIDS crisis in the U.S. Rent was the hottest, most groundbreaking musical in town in the 1990s. With a slew of Tony Awards and the elusive Pulitzer Prize, it was a cultural phenomenon of its time. Not only were we singing the songs but also discussing love, loss, and equality. Rent took the audience along for a ride through the struggles of those living under the threat of impending death and shows that love, respect, and friendship are the only things that matter.

In an article published by the Huffington Post, author Katherine Brooks points out that there are so many musicals that broach social issues in a way that gets theatergoers thinking and talking. She states that, “There are countless other, even more obviously politically charged plays and musicals worth discussing: “Assassins” (the hedonism of political culture in America), “An Enemy of the People” (whistleblowers), “The Crucible” (witch hunts), and, more recently, “Eclipsed” (civil war in Liberia) and “Allegiance” (Japanese prison camps). And those are just some of my favorites, cherry-picked from a long, long, long list of historically relevant titles.”

 

The Importance of Community Theater

As Americans, we love to be entertained. We visit sporting events, the movies, and concerts seemingly endlessly. Many Americans are hooked on theater, especially the bright lights and awe of Broadway theaters in New York City. We are here to tell you that, you don’t need to travel that far to find amazing theater productions. You can find them right in your own neighborhood, at a community theater. Community theaters are strong and vibrant!

There are so many reasons why community theater is important to our society both for the local economy and businesses as well as a place to nurture new talent. Here are just a few of the ways that community theater remains an important part of American culture.

Nurturing New Artists

Broadway stars had to start somewhere first! Just like with any job, most actors need to work their way up to the larger productions in major cities. Many successful actors, directors, writers, and choreographers have launched their careers in humble, small-town playhouses. Some have started in summer theaters or local acting workshops. By sponsoring shows and attending performances locally, you are not only supporting an important arts outlet but also providing encouragement to the cast and crew.

 

Provide a Creative Outlet

Young children have many strings pulling them in different directions. Some of those strings are unhealthy while others, like community theater, are a healthy way to act out! Community theatre provides a safe place for even the shyest or quirkiest of students. Everyone can find a place in a show whether you know how to act or build a set.

 

Business Advertising

Most community theaters have small budgets and require the help of communities, in particular, the businesses in those communities. For sponsors, community theater is a win-win situation. Not only can a business help an arts program but it can also get their name out there in the form of programs and other marketing materials to hundreds of people who visit the theater.

 

Lifelong Friendships

Not every actor who takes part in a production hopes to make it to Broadway. Many just enjoy the exhilaration of putting on a show or the lifelong friendships that are made due to long, hard hours working on something they are passionate about. You really can’t put a price on the importance of friendships in community theater.

Our backdrops have graced the stages on Broadway and the local church down the street. We understand the importance of community theater. Consider becoming a sponsor this summer or, at the very least, check out a show in your area to support the arts.