The pandemic certainly brought our region’s theatre scene to its knees, but like theatre folks everywhere, our community proved resilient. One of the first events to go fully online was the Boston Theater Marathon (BTM), an annual fundraiser for the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund (TCBF), which provides emergency relief to members of the Greater Boston Theatre Community. This aid was needed more than ever, with so many out of work. Normally, the Marathon produces 50 short plays by 50 playwrights by 50 companies, all in the space of ten hours. In the pandemic, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, who run the BTM, decided to switch to a one-a-day lunchtime format via Zoom. In both 2020 and 2021, they ran one new play every day for 50 days, raising much needed funds that have allowed TCBF to provide more than $250,000 in emergency relief to theatre artists and struggling companies. Just as important, it provided an important sense of continuity and community at a time when we needed it most. And it gave voice to the work of many Guild members, including Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, Andrea Fleck Clardy, Donna Sorbello, Cliff Odle, Ken Green, Deirdre Girard, Cassie M. Seinuk, Hortense Gerardo, Bill Lattanzi, Mark Evan Chimsky and Zev Burrows, Michael Pisaturo, John Minigan, Marisa Smith, Patrick Gabridge, Alexa Derman, Alan Brody, Nick Malakhow, Melinda Lopez, K. Alexa Mavromatis, Alexis Scheer, and Jack Neary.
Other area theatres found ways to create new work, despite their stages being dark. The Huntington Theatre Company commissioned more than a dozen local writers to create new audio plays rooted in their favorite Boston places. The Dream Boston Series featured scripts by Guild members Patrick Gabridge, Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, Melinda Lopez, and Kate Snodgrass.
The Lyric Stage Company of Boston created an even more site-specific set of new audio plays, with their Walking Plays series, which followed a physical path around the city and had each writer pass off a single character to the writer of the next episode. The result is a series deeply rooted in place that travels wildly over time. Guild members Ginger Lazarus, Liana Asim, Melinda Lopez, and Patrick Gabridge wrote for the first series.
New Rep commissioned new video one-act plays A Very Herrera Holiday by Alexis Scheer and [keyp-ing] by Miranda Austen ADEkoje, which streamed online, as well as The Charles Lenox Experiment by Ken Green, a new socially distanced walking play around the streets of Watertown, MA.
The Sparkhaven Theatre jumped into the online episodic game very early with their highly creative streaming video series, Tales from Camp Strangewood, whose many writers included Guild member Alexis Scheer.
Central Square Theatre put together the Brit d’Arbeloff Women & Science Theater Festival, featuring virtual performances and special events at the intersection of art and science. The readings and productions included work by Alli Hartley-Kong, Amy Merrill, Melinda Lopez, and Maeve Chapman.
In response to George Floyd’s murder, New World Theatre in Concord, New Hampshire, led by Guild members Donald Tongue and Eugenie Carabatsos, created its 08:46 Monologue Project, a collection by Black writers, reflecting on their personal experiences of living in America while Black. A number of the monologues were filmed and streamed, and the entire collection will be published.
Portland Stage in Maine continued its commitment to new work and streamed readings from their 2021 Little Festival of the Unexpected, which featured Rx Machina by Caity-Shea Violette and The Last Ship to Proxima Centauri by Greg Lam, who recently left our region for California.
At the other end of our region, the Wilbury Theatre Group kept live performances happening with their outdoor series, Decameron Providence. The series featured ten outdoor performance spaces spread over a downtown campus with a wide range of monologues, performance art, and music.
Arlekin Players in Needham, Massachusetts, pushed and pulled at the limits of streaming platforms with their innovative The State Versus Natasha Banina by Yaroslava Pulinovich, and more recently with a new experimental exploration Chekhovos/An Experimental Game.
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