If you clicked on this story there’s a good chance you’re missing nights out at the theater as much as I am. Unfortunately, we all know it will be a while before we’ll be able to come together and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers to enjoy the shared experience of watching a story unfold live on stage, but in the meantime, several Bay Area theater companies are refusing to go completely dark and are producing shows that can be enjoyed at home.
You won’t have that impossible-to-reproduce moment when the lights go down and a hush comes over the audience eagerly waiting for the curtain to arise, but you can still count on a magical experience that transports you to another place and time — something we all need more than ever right now. Plus, you can watch in your sweatpants, which despite being something we’ve seen on opening nights before, is actually not a good look IRL.
Berkeley Rep, a home for emerging artists and ambitious projects and a Bay Area treasure, promises to return to live theatre in 2021, but in the months until spring 2021, there are several virtual projects happening. They’re calling the season “Rep On-Air” and say that all of the productions will feature “the kind of innovative storytelling that speaks not only to our time, but also to the themes of hope, compassion, and connection.”
Anyone who has the Rep-7 subscription for the 2021 season, gets Rep On-Air automatically, but single tickets for individual productions are also available.
Here’s what’s coming up:
It Can’t Happen Here
October 13, 2020
(Available on demand through November 8)
By Tony Taccone and Bennett S. Cohen, adapted from the novel by Sinclair Lewis
Sound Design by Paul James Prendergast
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Written in 1935 during the rise of fascism in Europe, Lewis’ darkly satirical It Can’t Happen Here follows the ascent of a demagogue who becomes president of the United States by promising to return the country to greatness. In 2016, Berkeley Rep unveiled a new stage adaptation of Lewis’ prescient novel; one week after that production ended, Trump's election roiled our nation. Now, Berkeley Rep reprises that production with the same director, but this time as a radio play in four episodes, just in time for the 2020 presidential election. It features much of the original cast including David Kelly as the candidate Buzz Windrip, and Academy Award nominee David Strathairn is joining as the liberal protagonist Doremus Jessup.
A Paris Love Story
November 22, 2020 (livestream)
(Available on demand through November 29)
Featuring the Music of Claude Debussy
Written and Performed by Hershey Felder
Directed by Stefano de’ Carli
Based on the Stage Play Directed by Trevor Hay
Piano virtuoso and actor Hershey Felder takes us on his own personal journey to Paris, live from where the story actually takes place as he explores the life and music of Impressionist composer Claude Debussy. In A Paris Love Story, Felder brings to life a visionary who proclaimed nature his religion – creating music of ravishing beauty, color, and compassion, from the sweeping “La mer” to the evocative “Prélude à l'après-midi d’un faune” and the mystical “Clair de lune.”
Stories surround us everywhere, whether we can see them or not. Ten writers – including Eisa Davis, Tom Toro, Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket, and Adam Mansbach – inspired by events in their own personal histories, take the audience on an aural adventure to specific locations around Berkeley. Audience members will receive a snail mailed surprise, lifting them out of the virtual realm and inviting them to explore the past hidden beneath the present.
The Waves in Quarantine: A Theatrical Experiment in 6 Movements
Featuring three-time Tony Award nominee Raúl Esparza, this exploration of Virginia Woolf’s innovative novel The Waves is transformed into a digital experience for our current time. The story follows the lives of six friends from first memory to the end of life, while also tracking the progress of the sun through one glorious day. The Waves in Quarantine incorporates dazzling choral music, passages from the novel itself, real-life situations of actors in quarantine, exquisite visual imagery, and more to create a truly unique work of interdisciplinary art.
This summer, A.C.T., San Francisco’s largest non-profit theatre company, launched “InterACT at Home,” a series of free and ticketed virtual programming that includes several virtual performances.
In Love and Warcraft
On-demand through October 16
Written by Madhuri Shekar
Directed by Peter J. Kuo
College senior Evie prefers the online role-playing game World of Warcraft to real life. In the game, she’s a fearless warrior with a boyfriend. In real life, she ghostwrites love letters for people, even though she’s never been in love. When Evie becomes attracted to her client Raul, she must decide whether or not to let her powerful and sexy warrior character out in the real world. Playwright Madhuri Shekar (House of Joy, HBO’s upcoming The Nevers) conjures a cosplay-loving romantic comedy about intimacy and love in the digital age. This is a remount of the ground-breaking MFA spring 2020 production that blazed a trail for new theater storytelling possibilities in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Thanksgiving Play
On-demand through October 16
Written by Larissa FastHorse
Directed by Shannon R. Davis
Four white actors devise a play about the origins of Thanksgiving. What could go wrong? Drama teacher Logan wants to put on the most culturally sensitive and historically accurate Thanksgiving play the school’s ever seen, but can she overcome the conservative school board, overbearing parents, and her own well-meaning cast? Performative wokeness meets school pageant in this razor-sharp satire from playwright Larissa FastHorse from the Sicangu Lakota Nation.
Moon Man Walk
On-demand October 16 - October 23
Written by James Ijames
Directed by Dawn Monique Williams
While planning his mother’s funeral, Spencer stumbles upon a letter revealing the truth about his estranged father, which sets him on a magical journey through time and space. Along the way, he falls for a woman he meets on the plane and encounters a mysterious astronaut stranded on the moon. From the Whiting Award–winning playwright James Ijames, Moon Man Walk is a poetic look at how the stories we learn as children shape us as adults.
On-demand through October 16
Written by Martyna Majok
Directed by Jessica Holt
Polish immigrant Darja wants love and money, but none of the men in her life can afford her both. At a bus stop in New Jersey, over the course of two decades and three relationships, Darja must choose between the men she loves and the security she needs as she fights to find her place in America. From Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok, Ironbound is a funny, intimate, and moving portrayal of a woman who never gives up.
Live stream: October 23 - October 30
On-demand: November 6 - November 13
Written by Federico García Lorca
Adapted by John Graham
Directed by Christine Adaire
Can you burn with desire and remain silent? When a bride’s former lover pays her a visit, she disappears before the ceremony. The vengeful groom follows them into the woods, unfazed by Death, Spirits, or the Moon. As passion and blood feuds converge, the fate of the three lovers hurtle toward the inevitable. By turns witty and gruesome, featuring texts in both Spanish and English, this new adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s Blood Wedding examines the bonds of tradition, the legacy of family, and the price of conformity.
A Christmas Carol: On Air
On-demand listening: December 5 - December 31
Listening parties: December 4 and December 26
Written by Charles Dickens
Adapted by Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh
Music by Karl Lundeberg
Radio Adaptation, Additional Material and Direction by Peter J. Kuo
For the first time in its 44-year history, the Bay Area’s favorite holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol, will come to life as A Christmas Carol: On Air, an enthralling radio play that the whole family can enjoy from the comfort of your home. Masterfully directed and adapted by Peter J. Kuo—using the original Dickens text and adaptation by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff—this timeless story of optimism and redemption will feature the delightful music, deliciously spooky ghosts, and cast that has made it a beloved Bay Area holiday classic.
Shotgun Players plans to announce plans for its upcoming 30th season in February 2021, but in the meantime, the company of artists known for its commitment to new works, has put together virtual programming that will run through March 2021. Best of all, tickets are offered on a pay-what-you-can scale with all proceeds going to paying the artists, production team, and staff members.
Here’s some of what’s coming up:
October 16 - November 8
Written by Josh Kornbluth
In collaboration with Casey Stangl and Aaron Loeb
At the Global Brain Health Institute, Bay Area comedian and monologist Josh Kornbluth immersed himself in the study of brain disease and wondered if our society was suffering from political dementia. The discovery of the “empathy circuit” in the brain might be the cure. Can a neurotic storyteller, who flunked every science class, spark a science-based revolution of empathy?
December 4 - December 13
Written by Loy A. Webb
Directed by Nailah Harper-Malveaux
A surprise proposal gift puts the future of Genesis and Rashad's relationship at risk, when they are forced to confront a devastating secret from the past. The Light is a 70-minute, real-time rollercoaster ride of laughter, romance and despair that uncovers how the power of radical love can be a healing beacon of light. Leigh Rondon-Davis and Kenny Scott are a couple in real life and these two exceptional actors will perform this play live in their own home!
Magic Theatre has been entertaining audiences with the bold work of emerging playwrights for 53 continuous years, and it’s not going to let a pandemic change that. There is currently only one audio play (from one of the UK’s best playwrights) on the schedule, but we’re hopeful that more will follow.
Escaped Alone: An Audio Play
October 19 - November 15
Written by Caryl Chuchill
Directed by Loretta Greco
"I’m walking down the street and there’s a door in the fence open and inside there are three women I’ve seen before…"
Three old friends and a neighbor spend a summer of afternoons in their English backyard. Entwined histories, laughter, and song abound over tea and catastrophe.
NCTC has always been about championing innovation and is staying true to that during COVID. The theatre company is currently offering online classes, a podcast, and has also taken a play meant for the stage an reformatted it into a radio play.
The Law of Attraction
October 14 - November 18
Written by Patricia Milton
Directed by Nikki Meñez
America’s Self-Help Sweetheart, MJ Powers, has built her brand on creating the ultimate guide to the perfect relationship. In real life, her lover Natasha is suing over the personal details in her latest book, her career is on the brink, and it looks like her “ultimate guide” is a jumbled roadmap. A brand new comedy of bad manners, The Law of Attraction explores just how miserable “perfect” really can be.