Every September, stages around the country spring back to life after the summer slowdown. This year, however, all usual bets are off as theaters ponder not just their fall seasons, but what exactly constitutes a season — as opposed to an assemblage of ad hoc programming.
Chicago’s Steppenwolf company, for example, has announced a virtual slate under the umbrella “Steppenwolf Now,” starting in November, while New York Theater Workshop is unveiling seven new projects from its pool of “artistic instigators,” beginning with part one of Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson’s “What the Hell Is a Republic Anyway?” on Sept. 27 and Oct. 5.
So what else is happening in a theatrical back-to-school unlike any other?
Off Broadway strategies
The Irish Repertory Theater surveys familiar terrain with a mix of prerecorded (but still by appointment) and new digital productions. First off is the Geraldine Hughes autobiographical solo “Belfast Blues,”; Carol Kane’s production was taped last year at Belfast’s Lyric Theater. (Through Sunday; irishrep.org.)
The Vineyard Theater, on the other hand, is combining live shows and virtual ones, with a focus on brand-new material. Conceived by Marin Ireland, Peter Mark Kendall, Tyler Thomas and Reggie D. White, the multipart “Lessons in Survival” lets the Commissary, the Vineyard’s collective in residence, recreate historical audio documents by artists and activists. Actors employ in-ear feeds to bring the words to new life while we audience members watch from home. (Part 1 is Oct. 6-Nov. 1; vineyardtheatre.org.)
Fans of the great Bill Irwin will be happy to know that he is turning up with both of these Off Broadway institutions: His in-person performance “The Busking Project” is presented to Vineyard members Wednesday through Oct. 3, and his tweaked and retitled “On Beckett/In Screen” is at Irish Rep on Nov. 17-22.
Enemies of the people
For his new project, the Caracas-born director Moisés Kaufman (“Torch Song,” “The Laramie Project”) is adapting Jonathan Jakubowicz’s novel “Las Aventuras de Juan Planchard,” about the devastation brought on Venezuela by Hugo Chávez and Nicolas Máduro. Kaufman’s Tectonic Theater Project and Miami New Drama are presenting select scenes in a virtual reading, in Spanish with English subtitles. (Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.; tectonictheaterproject.org.)
Those with a taste for catty bon mots are in for treat with the streaming debuts of two plays about gay men who get sloshed at a friend’s birthday bash. Let the fur fly!
The writer-performer Drew Droege’s solo “Happy Birthday Doug,” in which he captured an uproarious gallery of partygoers, joins his earlier comedy, “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns,” on BroadwayHD; it will not make you miss wine bars. (Premieres Thursday; broadwayhd.com.)
The following week, “The Boys in the Band” lands on Netflix. While technically this is a film, the director Joe Mantello reunited the cast of his Tony Award-winning revival of Mart Crowley’s now-classic play, so the world can check out Zachary Quinto, Jim Parsons et al. camp it up like 2018 is 1968 all over again. (Sept. 30; netflix.com.)
Nikki M. James (“The Book of Mormon”) and George Salazar (“Be More Chill”) — a stage couple many of us would love to see burn the boards in real life — are leading a reading of Megan Loughran’s “The Silverfish” for New York’s endearing, scrappy Urban Stages. The plot involves some kind of scheme, and it’s likely high jinks will come into play. (Wednesday at 7 p.m., through Sept. 27; urbanstages.org.)
In a rather different vein — from pretty much anything you could think of — “Kiki and Herb: Seeking Asylum!” is streaming for the next several weeks. Nothing can match the mayhem of a live performance by Justin Vivian Bond and Kenny Mellman’s gonzo Dada cabaret act, but this live recording of the pair’s 2016 reunion show at Joe’s Pub will be a good proxy. (Thursday through Nov. 5; publictheater.org.)
The cast’s the thing
Set in 1995, Steven Levenson’s “Seven Minutes in Heaven” was already deliciously retro when it opened in 2010. A 10th-anniversary reading, directed again by Adrienne Campbell-Holt for the Colt Coeur company, should feel like stepping into a hot-tub time machine. Levenson’s romance-obsessed high schoolers are played by a dream team that includes Leah Lewis (“The Half of It”), Dallas Liu (“PEN15”) and Natalia Dyer (“Stranger Things”). (Saturday at 8 p.m., through Sept. 30; coltcoeur.org).
Speaking of dream teams, the “¡Viva Broadway! Hear Our Voices” concert presented by Playbill and the Broadway League has wrangled quite the roster to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month: Antonio Banderas, Gloria Estefan, Christopher Jackson, John Leguizamo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chita Rivera, Daphne Rubin-Vega and many, many more. Connoisseurs will be happy to see the marvelous Andréa Burns, of “On Your Feet!” and “In the Heights,” turn up as the host. (Oct. 1 at 8 p.m., through Oct. 5; broadway.org.)
Moving the goal posts
With regular theater ground to a halt, now is a good time to reset some clocks, and repertoire is one of them. Hedgepig Ensemble Theater is partnering with Ma-Yi Theater Company, American Players Theater and the Classical Theater of Harlem to “Expand the Canon.” They selected nine obscure plays by women and are giving some of them virtual readings. Still to come are Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s “House of Desires,” Fumiko Enchi’s “Restless Night in Late Spring” and Zora Neale Hurston’s “Spunk.” (Through Oct. 1; hedgepigensemble.org).
Not your usual feel-good plays
Every summer, PTP/NYC (born Potomac Theater Project) sets up camp in New York and presents a repertory season, usually featuring uncompromising, undersung (at least in the United States) works. This year, the company is presenting four virtual productions on its YouTube channel. Of particular note are two shows by British experimentalists: Howard Barker’s “Don’t Exaggerate (desire and abuse),” Oct. 1-4, and Caryl Churchill’s “Far Away,” Oct. 15-18. (Through Oct. 18; ptpnyc.org.)
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