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The stage in the digital age: How theaters are adapting to the COVID crisis

There’s a saying in show business: “the show must go on.” But what happens when most shows can’t go on because of a pandemic?

Here are ways some theaters and performing arts groups are taking the stage to the digital age and adapting to quarantine.

The Shows Must Go On

Yes, this was just mentioned, but this isn’t about the popular saying. The Shows Must Go On is the name of a new YouTube channel by musical composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who is most famous for plays such as CATS, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and Jesus Christ Superstar, among many others.

For the past few months since quarantine started, the channel has streamed a variety of shows for two days each weekend, or just one day for those outside of the US. While the channel often streamed many of Lloyd Webber’s shows, it recently streamed musicals such Hairspray and The Wiz, a black re-telling of The Wizard of Oz.

The channel was initially going to stream Peter Pan this past weekend, but it has now been rescheduled to this upcoming Friday in the wake of recent protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Even if you missed the limited run of some of the many musicals on the channel, The Shows Must Go On still features a variety of clips and songs from them. Don’t worry, you can still enjoy some of your favorite songs from musicals you love, or even discover a new one.

Shakespeare’s Globe

As the Bard wrote in As You Like It, “all the world’s a stage.” Shakespeare’s Globe, a replica of the original Globe theater, is taking that famous phrase to the digital world.

The theater now offers a variety of their productions online. People can buy or rent through their on-demand platform, stream a selection of their shows on BBC iPlayer, or watch a few full productions for free with their limited run of Youtube premieres.

Shakespeare’s Globe currently offers an adaptation of Macbeth designed for young people at only 90 minutes, as well as A Midsummer Night’s Dream that will run until June 28. It also has a production known as Globe to Globe, whose release dates will be announced soon.

The theater’s website also has a variety of blog posts, video series, and interactive online events if you’re looking for a good dose of Shakespearean content on a time crunch.

National Theatre

Even while closed, London’s National Theatre is still devoted to providing audiences with world-class entertainment.

If you’re looking for plays as opposed to musicals, and you’ve decided to take a break from Shakespeare, the National Theatre is a solid option for you. The theater offers a variety of more modern productions each week.

This week’s show is The Madness of George III, and the full-length production is available to stream now on YouTube.

Upcoming plays include Small Island, which discusses the history between Jamaica and the UK in the years after World War II, and “Les Blancs,” which showcases a fictional African country that teeters on the edge of revolution. Keep an eye out on the National Theatre’s website and YouTube channel for more updates on upcoming productions.

The Metropolitan Opera

For those looking for a nice offering of opera in their lives, the Metropolitan Opera in New York is now streaming a different production of theirs each night until June 21.

Their platform offers a variety of operas from a range of composers and languages. From romantic tragedy to moving drama, the Metropolitan Opera has plenty of performances in store.

Tonight’s opera that will be offered on-demand is “Armida” by Gioachino Rossini, which tells the romantic and dramatic story of the titular sorceress and her ill-fated lover Rinaldo.

The impact is real

Due to the pandemic and quarantine in place, the theater world has been among some of the industries most severely affected. And the effects of this are more than just economically adverse; also artistically.

Performers can no longer express their art and creativity in the way they used to. Productions that have had so much effort and thought put into them have been snuffed out.

This impact affects not only theaters themselves, but potential audiences too. Many people expecting new seasons of shows only find disappointment as productions are cancelled. They’ve been stripped of the vital experience of being exposed to art through performance in a personal and intimate setting of the theater.

Yet it’s because of these issues that make many theater’s attempts to adapt and overcome these problems all the more important.

If you’re seeking ways to help, consider donating to your local theater or actor’s fund so that these creators can keep on creating.