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Appointment Theater, Coming to a Screen Near You


Outside of the United States, theaters have started grinding back into gear. For American viewers, this essentially means two things: The flow of archived European shows made available is slowing to a trickle; and live performances are popping up again, in controlled environments, and we can watch some of them. The Auckland Theater Company in New Zealand, for example, was recently able to record its staging of Ibsen’s “The Master Builder” in front of small audiences; the production will be available on the company’s YouTube channel, Aug. 8 to 30.

America is in isolation for the longer haul. Here, most theater continues to happen online with a mix of taped older works and new projects that tend to be relatively modest in size but are getting conceptually more daring. (The Obie-winning Ice Factory festival of new, unexpected works is entirely online this year, through Aug. 15.)

Read on for a selection of events you can sample over the next couple of weeks.

For New Yorkers, the annual “Broadway Bares” fund-raiser for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is an opportunity to do good while enjoying scantily clad performers strutting their stuff. The icing on the cake — which comes in both the cheese and beef varieties — is the Broadway stars who come to partake in something new, something blue (but remain clothed). This year’s edition, “Zoom In,” takes place online Aug. 1 at 9:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The Almighty and puppets: that could be the elevator pitch for “The God Projekt,” and admit it — you’re curious. Originally staged at La MaMa in 2016, Kevin Augustine and Edward Einhorn’s absurdist show is now available on Vimeo through Aug. 16, thanks to Untitled Theater Company #61. (Note that the company also offers its intimate “Performance for One” on demand for $25.)

The ambitious “#WhileWeBreathe: A Night of Creative Protest” is made up of 11 new works by and starring an exciting group of writers, directors and actors. The project, which can be watched on YouTube, benefits the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense and Educational Fund and other like-minded organizations. While the pieces are short (the whole program runs just over an hour), most are very effective. A perfect example is Cheryl L. Davis’s “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep,” starring Patina Miller and Hailey Stone under Tamara Tunie’s direction — the minimalist staging only makes it more quietly distressing.

A good murder-mystery party is wicked fun but, alas, real-life parties are impossible these days. Enter Andrew Barth Feldman, a former Evan Hansen and continuing murder-mystery fan, with “Broadway Whodunit?,” a new interactive online series in which viewers try to finger a killer while hobnobbing in virtual rooms with pro performers. The cast for the first edition, “Murder at Montgomery Manor” (Aug. 1 at 8 p.m.), includes Gaten Matarazzo (“Stranger Things”), Shereen Pimentel (“West Side Story”) and Will Roland (“Be More Chill”). Tickets cost $21.30.

Those who prefer singing along to goofy investigations might investigate the digital show “A Killer Party: A Murder Mystery Musical,” which premieres Aug. 5. The cast for the nine short installments (cost: $9.99 for all nine) includes Jeremy Jordan, Laura Osnes, Carolee Carmello, Alex Newell and Miguel Cervantes (who had taken on the title role in “Hamilton” a few days before Broadway shut down).

Sadly, the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theater, known as the Muny, won’t be packing its 11,000-seat house this year. Instead, it is going online with weekly installments of “The Muny 2020 Summer Variety Hour Live!” The new episode, which streams Aug. 3 and 6, includes recorded scenes from the Muny’s productions of “Les Misérables” and “Newsies,” along with live performances by audience favorites like Beth Leavel and something called “Munywood Squares” with Ann Harada, Vicki Lewis and Christopher Sieber, among others. The streams, which include audio description and captioning, are every Monday and Thursday at 9:15 p.m.

In April, New York’s PlayCo began “Mini-Commissions” of new works, which are now coming to fruition. “Inside Voice,” for instance, is an animated music video for a lovely song by Lauren Worsham (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”) and her husband, Kyle Jarrow (author of the book for “SpongeBob SquarePants — The Broadway Musical”). Also alluring is the first episode of a musical podcast by Katie Brook and Trish Harnetiaux about a cruise ship on which the entertainment includes a play by Eugene Ionesco.

Note that most of the Mini-Commissions are accessible on demand but William Burke’s will be done as live Zoom performances Aug. 10-12 at 7:30 p.m.

For his 2001 epistolary play, “The Secret Love Life of Ophelia,” Steven Berkoff, the British actor, playwright and director, filled in the blanks behind one of the stage’s most underexplored relationships — hint: it involves a Danish prince. A new project of the Greenwich Theater in England reimagines Berkoff’s two-hander with 40 actors, including Helen Mirren as Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude. The show streams free July 31-Aug. 14 on the company’s YouTube channel.

Like everything else, the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn., had to change tack — in method of delivery, not artistic goals. One initiative under the new artistic director Jacob G. Padrón’s leadership is the omnibus livestream “Black Trans Women at the Center” on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m. The free event will feature readings of three short plays: Dezi Bing’s “Things Unknown,” CeCe Suazo’s “You Will Nevaaa …” and Douglas Lyons’s “Sunshine.” (Register on the Long Wharf site.)

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