This year+ in quarantine, with theatre and other creative outlets shut down, has been a tough one. So much so that I don’t even know where to begin, except to say that theatre is one of the oldest forms of human interaction and, whether productions were one-person shows with very limited, socially distanced seating or if the plays streamed online, theatre persisted. And, as the pandemic continued, I would even go so far as to say that artists got more creative in what they brought to their virtual audiences—and how they made it happen.
Other new business in this true season of change is that we welcome a new San Antonio Ambassador, William Razavi. He replaces Sheila Rinear, who served for many years and in several capacities for our region. We are grateful to have William onboard, and we thank Sheila and William for their service!
So now, without further ado, and as Dramatists Guild Regional Representative for Austin/San Antonio, I shake off the cobwebs in my brain to share some of the work that was produced in our area from May 2020 to May 2021.
Marisela Barrera was awarded the Kathy Armstrong Contemporary Art Grant by the Luminaria Artist Foundation (April 2021). St. Philip's College did a live concert Zoom reading of Paladin by Andrew Heinrich (November 2020). And Voces Latinx Reading Series did an online reading of (trans)formada, by Lily Gonzales (June 2020).
A lovely new initiative with San Antonio Public Theater, Zoom readings of new plays include: Country Girls by Stephen Brown (September 2020), Abigail by Sarah Tuft (August 2020), The Calling by Joel Stone (August 2020), Paletas de Coco by Franky D. Gonzalez (July 2020), Incident at Willow Creek by Benjamin Vaughan Marshall (July 2020), Bibo & Bertie by Sarah Lawrence (June 2020), Brilliant Works of Art by Donna Hoke (June 2020), Underground by Lisa B. Thompson (June 2020), Dorothy's Dictionary by E.M. Lewis (May 2020), and Backstory by Allison Gregory (May 2020).
While some of the biggest arts events in town, like SXSW and FronteraFest, “the largest fringe festival in the Southwest,” were cancelled, Austin saw some exciting initiatives launch, like Hyde Park Theatre Writers Group (HPT WG), the first such playwriting initiative in our area. HPT invited five playwrights to their inaugural Writers’ Group: Jenny Connell Davis, Aimee Gonzalez, Briandaniel Oglesby, Greg Romero, and me. We pilot playwrights met with HPT Literary Manager Megan Thornton several times a month for a year, and the residency culminated in online staged readings of our new full-length plays. That Fall Reading Series is as follows: Piper by Briandaniel Oglesby (September. 2020), I Wanna Be a Fucking Princess by Jenny Connell Davis (September 2020), my play Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird (September 2020), Falling Down the Mountain of Great Storms by Greg Romero (October 2020), and Look Back to Where I Was Sitting and I’m Gone by Aimee Gonzalez (October 2020).
Penfold Theatre also performed The Control Group: A Mission in Time, by Monica Ballard, that is billed as a “week-long theatrical experience you enjoy from the comfort of your own home.” It included texts and a call from the “Commander,” all of which gave you clues! (October-November 2020).
Also in October 2020, The Vortex Theatre produced The Odyssey, an outdoor event that centered around a drive-through theatrical experience that had magical surprises around every corner. And in April 2021, The Vortex hosted Valoneecia Tolbert’s Tales of a Blerd Ballerina, an original one-woman show that Val wrote and performed LIVE.
JWHill Productions were also busy with online readings of two of Jeanette Hill’s plays, Beginning Again. . . Again! (June 2020), and The Saturdays (July 2020).
Ground Floor Theatre produced a TRANS LIVES/TRANS VOICES series (May 2021), as well as a Zoom Reading Series that included Allan Baker’s short play, Click, and my dark comedy, The 27 Club, amongst others. They also hosted Manifest Minifest, Manifest Theatre’s short-play series online, and GFT hosted performers like Sade Jones (Black While: A Creative Justice Mixtape).
Many theatres stayed afloat by streaming musical revues, holiday programming, or “re-runs” of favorite shows from seasons past. But one thing is certain. There were so many virtual shows online this year, like Carlo Garcia’s A Portrait of My Mother (David Jarrott Productions, May 2021) and Bernadette Nason’s Confessions of an English Danger Girl (Austin Playhouse, May 2021), both of which were one-person shows, written and performed by the authors. It is impossible to capture them all!
In closing, I would like to raise my glass (of water because it is only noon in Texas!) in appreciation of every artist who created ART this year, especially to playwrights like Laura Neill who were moved to write about the pandemic, as she did in Love in the Time of Corona. Cheers and congratulations to all!
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