Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
When the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year, theatres across the country shut their doors to audience members as their stages went dark. As the pandemic rages on, theatres are forced to remain closed for the safety of their audience, performers, and staff. Last April, I had the chance to write my first article for the museum where I shared seven virtual performances. Now, I’m back to share some more exciting theatrical viewing opportunities. From a small Midwestern town stuck in a labor strike to the floor of a megastore, these pieces represent just a tiny amount of the work being developed and shared online.
Take a look at the options below and let me know of any other productions I should check out in the comments. Now, it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!
Written by Matthew Masino
by Isaac Gómez
Steppenwolf Theatre Company (Chicago, IL)
It’s Christmas Eve and the employees of the mega-department superstore Wally World are just about to lose it. On one of the few days a year the store closes, secrets come to life that threatens to ruin more than the holiday season. As hard truths are realized, the employees do everything in their power to find a purpose in a place that has never seen purpose in them.
Wally World is one of six virtual productions available on the Steppenwolf NOW virtual stage. With works from some of America’s most exciting and talented writers, Steppenwolf NOW offers a unique and innovative slate of radio plays, episodic work, immersive and visual experiences, and bite-sized programs. Discounts are available for Steppenwolf NOW for essential workers, artists, students, and teachers.
Price: Included with a Steppenwolf NOW membership
Dates: Streaming now
Link: Stream Wally World
Until the Flood
by Dael Orlandersmith
The Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL)
On August 9, 2014, Darren Wilson, a white police officer, shot and killed Michael Brown, an African American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The shooting ignited weeks of protests and social unrest as well as propelling the Black Lives Matter movement. Pulitzer Prize-finalist and critically acclaimed performer Dael Orlandersmith explores the social uprisings in the wake of the tragedy through extensive interviews with Ferguson residents.
Until the Flood was commissioned by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis and premiered there in the fall of 2016. The stream is being presented by the Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL), Center Theatre Group (Los Angeles, CA), Portland Center Stage (Portland, OR), and the Repertory Theater of St. Louis (St. Louis, MO) among others. Until the Flood is a must-see drama that the Chicago Tribune raved, “achieves a great beauty by bringing us together rather than driving us apart.”
Dates: Now through Fall 2023
Link: Stream Until the Flood
Devised & Performed by Albany Park Theater Project (Chicago, IL)
Founded in 1997, Albany Park Theater Project is a multiethnic youth theater ensemble that works to inspire people to envision a more just and beautiful world by telling original plays based on the experiences of people whose stories otherwise go untold: urban teens, immigrants, and working-class Americans. In their critically acclaimed 2012 production Home/Land, the real-life struggles of undocumented immigrants are placed on center stage using live performance, music, and visual arts. Home/Land was written and performed by the teen ensemble and producing artistic director David Feiner.
Albany Park Theater Project is offering a free streaming version of Home/Land, as well as FEAST, a love letter to Chicago’s immigrant food culture.
Dates: Available now
Link: Stream Home/Land
Adapted by Natalie Piegari, Gabriella Yacyk, Sara E. Wilby, Mark Halpern, John Hamilton, Brendan Edward Kennedy, and Ann & Shawn Fraistat
Based on The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Pointless Theatre (Washington, D.C.)
When I read The Canterbury Tales in my high school English class, the last thing I ever imagined was someone adding puppets to the book. But that is exactly what Pointless Theatre has done. In this fresh, refreshing, and raunchy adaption of Chaucer’s work, the caravan of medieval drunks share stories of their wild and wonderful lives in the Middle Ages. Adapting Dramaturg Alex Leidy wrote in the program, “Right off the bat, it should be said that Canterbury is not a particularly reverent adaptation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. This is not something we at Pointless Theatre want to downplay; in fact, the idea of producing a perfectly reverent adaptation of one of the most famously irreverent works in the English canon seems kind of silly. It is, however, something that we want to acknowledge, as the source material has been a constant inspiration to us for the many months we’ve been working on this play.” So come raise a glass in the name of promiscuity, puppets, and pints and enjoy Canterbury!
Dates: Available now
Link: Stream Canterbury
by Michael Breslin and Patrick Foley
Presented by Fake Friends
It’s winter on Gaymen Island, a summer destination for the homosexual rich and fame-ish. It may be the offseason, but two White Gay internet trolls have decided to take back what’s wrongfully theirs. Circle Jerk explores the world of gay, right-wing trolls and the algorithms they invent to spread their gay agenda in an era when truth is dead and fact is fiction. First, they’ll take over the Discourse and then…the world.
Circle Jerk first premiered in October 2020 and marked the first official production by the theatre and media company Fake Friends. Due to popular demand and critical acclaim, Fake Friends is bringing back Circle Jerk for a limited rebroadcast. Critic Naveen Kumar wrote, “Circle Jerk isn’t a substitute for in-person theatre or a case for humbly making the best of limitations. It’s a gauntlet and a dare to imagine the future.” You won’t want to miss this.
Price: Starting at $5.00
Dates: Now through January 17
Link: Stream Circle Jerk
Days to Come
by Lillian Hellman
Mint Theatre Company (New York, NY)
Days to Come tells the story of a labor strike in a small Midwestern town that threatens to tear apart both town and family. The story focuses on a well-meaning factory owner driven to harsh measures by the strike and the strong wills of those who surround him. Days to Come ran only eight performances when it premiered on Broadway in 1963, reflecting the country’s view of labor unions at that time. While critics accused the work of being “a definite Marxian moral,” playwright Lillian Hellman defended the play saying, “It’s the family I’m interested in principally, the strike and social manifestations are just backgrounds. It’s the story of innocent people on both sides who are drawn into conflict and events far beyond their comprehension.”
The Mint Theatre will present Days to Come as part of its Silver Living Streaming Series. This production was directed by J.R. Sullivan. Upcoming productions streamed by the Mint Theatre will include Katie Roche by Teresa Deevy (2/1-3/28), Women Without Men by Hazel Ellis (2/22-3/21), and A Picture of Autumn by N.C. Hunter (3/29-5/23), among others.
Dates: Now through February 21
Link: Stream Days to Come
Netflix/Disney+/HBO Max/Amazon Prime
As theatre moves to a temporary digital medium, streaming services have embraced the medium to bring theatre to their subscribers. Below, I’ve listed a smattering of available recordings on some of the major streaming services.
- Springsteen on Broadway by Bruce Springsteen
- Oh, Hello on Broadway by Nick Kroll and John Mulaney
- Shrek the Musical with Book/Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire and Music by Jeanine Tesori
- Hamilton with Book, Music, and Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
- Newsies: The Broadway Musical with Book by Harvey Fierstein, Music by Alan Menken, and Lyrics by Jack Feldman
- David Byrne’s American Utopia by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne
- What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck
Matthew Masino is a content creator, writer, and theatre director based in Chicago, Illinois. He graduated with a B.F.A. in Theatre Directing from Columbia College Chicago in 2019. Matthew began writing for the AWM blog in April 2020, just after the museum’s closure and has since written more than two dozen articles for the blog. He is also responsible for creating the AWM Destinations blog series. As a theatre artist, Matthew has worked with the International Voices Project, the Chicago Fringe Festival, and BYOT Productions. You can learn more by visiting his website www.matthewmasino.com.