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If your theater is outdoors, they will definitely come. As for indoors? It’s two steps forward, one step back, with fingers crossed.

Some gyms are opening their doors. Some schools are opening their doors as well, with both gyms and schools using time shifting and limiting capacity, social distancing, wearing masks, you know the drill. But as we move through “Phase IV” in New York State so far, the only local theaters to “open” have been the two that traditionally operate outdoors – Torn Space at Silo City and Shakespeare in Delaware Park. And for those two organizations as they observed the 50-person limit imposed by New York State, every performance has been sold-out.

In addition to the mixed messages theater managers are dealing with as the guidelines evolve, there is also audience (well, at least an audience of one, me) confusion over the terminology used. “Live” should mean what, pre-Covid, “going to a show” meant: that you leave your home, you gather at a venue, actors appear in front of you, the performance is “amazing” that night or maybe an usher tells you “it was better last night,” whatever, you laugh, you cry, you applaud, the actors bow, and you leave the venue, whether the venue was in a building or in a park, and you go home.

Then there’s “Livestreamed” which, according to Webster since 1998 means “to stream (a live event) over the Internet.” So, my expectation is that it’s the same as “broadcast live” as, for example, if you’re home on a Sunday watching the Buffalo Bills. I know that what I’m are watching is actually happening, in real time, somewhere. Whether “broadcast” or “livestreamed” over the internet, the concept is the same. It’s real, it’s now, only you’re watching in on the ‘tube or the ‘net.

But then it gets tricky. What you experience live in the theater may be seen by others, simultaneously over the internet or it may be archived and made available on some website later. Often that’s okay. Everyone is comfortable with some of the late night television talk shows which are announced as “filmed before a live studio audience.” We get it. That doesn’t seem to be the case, yet, in Buffalo.

This shouldn’t be confusing, but while the word “filmed” being in the past tense tells you that it’s not “live” now, that “L-word” has started to crop up in promotional materials when, in fact, what we’re being offered is not live. We are watching something that happened earlier.

So what local theater productions were, are, or will be, actually “live?”

SHAKESPEARE IN DELAWARE PARK: This is definitely “live” and is presented anew at each scheduled performance. The Phase Four NYS COVID-19 guidelines still seem to limit attendees at outdoor events to 50 people, although a couple in Akron are challenging that in court since they want 110 people at their wedding. Whichever way that case is ultimately decided, and even though one of the most famous weddings of all time takes place at the end of Shakespeare’s play A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, that’s not enough of a marriage of true minds to open up more seats for this summer’s Shakespeare in Delaware Park “Intermezzo” offering. And that’s too bad, because the very second all the details were finalized, the shows sold out. BAM! Taking a potential summer’s worth of over 40,000 audience members who would normally be on “Shakespeare Hill” in Delaware Park and then doling out only 450 tickets (9 shows at 50 people each) is what quickly led to sellouts.

So, for a lucky few, the fraction (450 this summer / 40,000 every other summer) who acted quickly got to  (or will get to) see something special. Since Friday, August 21, four popular local actors – Zachary Bellus, Marie Costa, Angelo Heimowitz, and Jamie Nablo (who coincidentally recently got married herself at a very small wedding) – have been taking on the personas of characters from A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM which was to have been (and will be in 2021) one of the SDP offerings on “the hill.” Over a span of 45 socially distanced minutes, those four have been presenting scenes which you might call “the best of the bard.”

The show revolves around MIDSUMMER character Quince (Costa) and her merry band of rude mechanicals as they perform a series of “Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits” scenes and monologues. And it turns out that social distancing not only goes for the limited 50 attendees per show, but also for the actors on stage, who additionally wear shield masks which can be decorated, as they incorporate the lingo of COVID precautions in their scenes with a sort of meta-shtick.

The tickets are all gone, even with the extra seats at Artpark. No walk-up ticket purchases will be allowed. You can still get “stuff” though. There may be a third run of the bard-with-a-mask tee-shirts, but definitely the new logoed masks (lead image) are in and can be ordered for a small donation.

TORN SPACE: Previously, in this space, we reported on what ultimately became the first live shows of the new 2020-2021 season, SILENCE produced by Torn Space Theater at Silo City and that was ALSO a series of outdoor events, carefully observing COVID-19 safety protocols for both the audience and the actors and crew. Every show was sold out and the run had to be increased.

So it seems that the hunger for live outdoor theater with audience limitations is voracious. Will that translate to sold out shows once indoor theaters open up? We don’t know.

So it seems that the hunger for live outdoor theater with audience limitations is voracious. Will that translate to sold out shows once indoor theaters open up? We don’t know.

Kudos to the Kav because, as far as I can tell, the Kavinoky Theatre on the D’Youville College campus is the very first theater to schedule real, good-old-fashioned, indoor performances. Good for them. I’LL EAT YOU LAST opens (here’s where the fingers crossed comes in) on November 6, 2020.Yes, they’ll use a limited cast (it’s a one-woman show) and don’t be surprised when you go online to get your tickets at the limited socially-distanced seating available. You can read a little more about that below.

In the meantime, many theaters, both locally, regionally, are stretching their wings and branching out as they continue to employ personnel and maintain a connection to their audiences. And this is where the word “live” starts to get a bit hazy.

Kudos to the Kav because, as far as I can tell, the Kavinoky Theatre on the D’Youville College campus is the very first theater to schedule real, good-old-fashioned, indoor performances.

LIVE: FROM THE KAV: In the months of September and October the Kavinoky Theatre will be offering something called LIVE: FROM THE KAV!. It was originally intended to actually be “live” and be livestreamed, but there were unforeseen technical limitations to doing that. So LIVE: FROM THE KAV! will pre-record performances from the Kavinoky’s newly restored theater with a series of Buffalo’s favorite actors and musicians performing the music they love. Executive Artistic Director Loraine O’Donnell will host and the performers will chat about their lives and career. Every night looks intriguing.

LIVE: FROM THE KAV! FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 11th @ 8pm will have actor and director John Fredo with Grammy-winning jazz great pianist George Caldwell (yes, he’ll also be livestreaming from MusicalFare on the 17th).

LIVE: FROM THE KAV! FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 25th @ 8pm features actor/vocalist Lorenzo Shawn Parnell (who sang “Motormouth Maybelle” in HAIRSPRAY).

LIVE: FROM THE KAV! FRIDAY, OCTOBER 9th @ 8pm will bring MusicalFare’s multiple sold-out “Let CHI Entertain You!”performances to cyberspace. Occasionally NSFW actress/comedienne Charmagne Chi and Joseph Donohue III will bring their musical comedic Cabaret show to The Kav!

ALLEYWAY THEATRE: With actual Zoomed live intros or talk-backs or other live-streamed events framing the show each night of the run, but without a live audience, the Alleyway is offering CURRENTS 716. With special support from the Golden and Goldman Philanthropic Fund, Alleyway commissioned fifteen local playwrights to create solo performances that have been filmed on location in sites across the Queen City. Per the Alleyway website, CURRENTS: 716 is combination of short sketches, monologues, poetry, ASL, and dance.  The show will take audiences on an eighty-minute excurdion across our region into the distinct and diverse lives of Western New Yorkers during these extraordinary times. The run is September 11 to September 26, 2020, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 with Saturday matinees at 2:00. For tickets to the streamed events, visit the Alleyway website here.

IRISH CLASSICAL: Meanwhile the Irish Classical Theatre Company (ICTC) goes virtual (only) for the first show of its 2020-2021 Season with SEA MARKS by Gardner McKay, October 16 to November 1, 2020.

This lyrical Irish love story which kicks off their 30th Anniversary Season, was the winner of the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award (Best Play) and the Canadian National Regional Theatre Award. It will be presented virtually with tickets affordably priced at $15 – $25. Audiences will see Chris Kelly and Kristen Tripp Kelley in a professionally produced, fully staged performance filmed at ICTC’s home, The Andrews Theatre, and will be available for online purchase during the run October 16 to November 1, 2020. Although viewing opportunities are spread out over time, this is not “live.” Every night will carry the same pre-produced performance.  This will be ICTC’s first digital theatre performance. Tickets are not available yet.

MUSICALFARE: In the meantime, virtual or “live streamed” shows, affordably priced, have been the norm for MusicalFare, which has been producing cabaret acts all summer long. They have one for mid-September. SONGS OF LOVE & LONGING starring 2018 JazzBuffalo Best Female vocalist Alex McArthur and Grammy winning jazz pianist George Caldwell is a special cabaret event, livestreaming from the Premier Cabaret at MusicalFare on Thursday September 17, 2020 8:00 pm. This will be “live” and livestreamed. For tickets visit here.

THE KAVINOKY THEATRE: The Kavinoky’s first actual, live, in-theater show, with a live, in-theater audience is scheduled for November 6 to December 6. There may be some confusion in the expression “offered digitally.” What this means is that, just as with the Irish Classical’s SEA MARKS,  the play will be pre-filmed and then made available, for a price, on the nights when the live show is available. For those who are uncomfortable with going to a theater, this is a good option. Or, it may come to pass that just as Shakespeare in Delaware Park discovered, socially distanced seating cuts way back on the available tickets. When I went to their website to buy my tickets, by my count they have about 38 seats available per night. So if you can’t get tickets, that might be your only option.

To keep the actors safe, Kavinoky Executive Artistic Director Loraine O’Donnell decided that a one-woman play would be the best way to open the new season. And so we’ll see I’LL EAT YOU LAST: A CHAT WITH SUE MENGERS by John Logan November 6th to December 6th. Here’s the plot: Hollywood super agent Sue Menger’s clients were some of the biggest names in show business. You’re invited into her glamorous Beverly Hills home for an evening of dish, dirty secrets and all the showbiz details only Sue can tell you! This hit Broadway comedy brought down the house when it featured Bette Midler. Starring Kavinoky Executive Artistic Director Loraine O’Donnell, THIS PERFORMANCE WILL ALSO BE OFFERED DIGITALLY AND WILL BE AVAILABLE ON-LINE! That may turn out to be “the new normal.” We’ll see. Tickets are $40-$45 and must be purchased online.

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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