The Alleyway Theatre will kick off its 2020-2021 season this month with CURRENTS:716. The past year has been one of major transition for the theatre, as it welcomed new leadership and now, like many arts and cultural institutions, navigates through the process of reaching its audience through the virtual realm.
“When we realized the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, the question became: well what do we do now? We’re a theatre company dedicated to new plays – so, this actually was a fantastic opportunity to reach out to our local playwrights and create something very new, very of the moment,” said Chris Handley, Executive and Artistic Director.
With CURRENTS: 716, the Alleyway Theatre’s leaders met the challenge of social distancing head-on, by commissioning fifteen local playwrights to create solo performances filmed by Full Circle Studios on locations around the city of Buffalo. The show weaves together a variety of styles – from short sketches, to monologues, poetry, ASL and dance – to take audiences on a socially-distanced yet incredibly intimate journey through the many experiences of our city’s residents during this unprecedented time.
“Currents: 716 is about the Buffalo we know and love,” Handley said. “It’s about seeing our neighbors, understanding what they’re going through, celebrating the things we have in common, and looking optimistically toward the future. We created this original series of short plays which could have all been performed on stage, but now we have an opportunity to go out on location across WNY and really show off Buffalo, its people and their stories, the architecture and beauty. I’m telling you, this city looks really great on film.”
The play is the collaborative effort of nearly fifty artists, bringing forth many pieces of the larger picture of our city and region through monologues and solo performances. Local performers include Peter Palmisano and Alexandria Watts, Pam Mangus, Steve Jakiel, LauRen Alaimo, Mary Craig, Melinda Capeles, Dave Marciniak, Rolando Gomez, Johnny Rowe, Todd Benzin, Ember Tate, Rachel Hernandez, Anna Krempholtz, Greg Howze, Ricky Needham, Antonietta Alfano, and Sue McCormack. Additionally, Naila Ansari and Marquis “Ten Thousand” Burton created and performed their own piece of the show.
We are really excited to feature so many incredible artists,” Handley said. “It’s the thing I love best about theatre – bringing all these really talented people into the same room (well, in this case, the same Zoom room) to share ideas and create something awesome together.
While many of the issues that Western New Yorkers are confronting are also happening on a nationwide and global scale, CURRENTS: 716 brings the audience’s focus back home to our community and the people surrounding us.
“To me, this play is about connection with our neighbors,” Handley said. “Sure, people out of town might watch it, but it’s made by and for the people who live here. It’s about us. That’s where theatre comes from, you know, telling stories to our family and friends around the campfire.”
For Handley and managing director Robyn Horn, CURRENTS:716 is far from what they anticipated their first production at the helm would be, but they embraced the challenge and are thrilled at the end result of creating under unusual circumstances.
“That’s the mission of Alleyway. We’re here to do new plays in new ways, creating a space for the playwright’s voice. So, we’re doing exactly that, just instead of onstage, we’re pivoting to become a little movie studio this fall,” Handley said. It’s certainly not the way I imagined my first production at Alleyway, but, now I can’t imagine it any other way.”
CURRENTS: 716 will run Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from September 11-26.
Dates and times for the performances are as follows:
Friday, Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 12, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 19, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 25, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 26, 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased on the Alleyway Theatre website here.
Those who purchase a ticket will receive an access code for the streamed performance.
This virtual season opener will also feature a series of “Armchair Audience” special events, which will allow socially distanced audience members to interact with one another and the Alleyway performers, playwrights and directors.
There will be an Opening Night Celebratory Toast live on Zoom on Friday, Sept. 11 at 7:15 p.m. Audience members can put on their finest black tie attire and raise a glass to the new season. Those who make an additional donation of at least $15 with their ticket purchase can have a mini bottle of bubbly delivered to their home by an Alleyway staff member.
Thursday evening performances will include a post-show Q&A with the actors, which is included in the ticket price for those events.
On Fridays, Artistic Director Chris Handley will host a pre-show chat via Zoom, where he’ll give updates on what’s in store for the Alleyway Theatre. This feature is included in the ticket price for Friday performances.
Saturday Matinees will include a free “Pop and Watch!” feature where playwrights, actors, and designers will “pop in” after the show to interact with audience members. Saturday matinee tickets also include delivery of a complimentary bag of popcorn.
Saturday evening shows will feature “Playwright Talks” after the performance, where the CURRENTS: 716 writers will host a live discussion moderated by the Alleyway dramaturg.
All Armchair Audience events are hosted on the Zoom platform and links to those special events will be provided to the ticket purchaser via email. Pre-show events will begin 15 minutes before curtain time, and post-show events will begin immediately after the performance concludes.
For more information on the CURRENTS: 716 show and to purchase tickets, visit the Alleyway Theatre website or email firstname.lastname@example.org.