Byron’s Internet theatre
picks for housebound fans
A sampling of fine theatrical events available free on the net
By Byron Toben
In my last article, celebrating Shakespeare’s birth (and death) date of April 23, I recommended two Internet shows suggested by Hudson Village Theatre. I have since viewed them and they are both terrific.
For those who did not follow the links to them, they are still available for a few more weeks.
The Stratford Ontario Shakespeare Festival full-scale film of its King Lear, which I viewed on the April 23, can be seen via this link. Next up in its series of filmed plays is Coriolanus on April 30, followed by Macbeth on May 7.
Rebecca Northan’s Blind Date, which I viewed on April 24, can be seen on YouTube, along with other earlier “dates”. Each duo broadcasts from their own residence so literally, no touching. Her guest is celebrated Canadian improvisation actor Colin Mochrie.
On April 25, I saw a wonderful dramatic reading of G. Bernard Shaw’s Arms and the Man. Read by New York’s Gingold Theatre Group, one was swept up into the whole, not missing backdrops or elaborate costumes, by the skilled voices and expressions, each actor in separate boxes. This was a one-time streaming event but one can conjure up decent old films of that play, including the 1989 version (see YouTube above) with Helena-Bonham Carter, on the Internet. It was Shaw’s 4th play of the 65 he wrote. In my opinion, it is the best entry play for those not familiar with his work.
The Gingold version was part of a New York operation called Stars in the House 2020, which presents mostly free shows almost daily at 2 pm and 8 pm – interviews, reunions, concerts and, as with Arms and the Man, dramatic readings.
It does solicit donations for The Actor’s Fund, a worthy cause in these days of postponed and cancelled events.
Visit starsinthehouse.com for forthcoming events.
A word about The Actors Fund
This fund is attached to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He was shot while attending a performance with his wife of Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington on April 14, 1865. The killer, John Wilkes Booth, was one of the pre-eminent actors of the time but also a supporter of the separating Confederacy.
Revulsion at the assassination (at least in the North) led to prejudice against all actors and theatres suffered greatly.
As a consequence, in 1882, Harrison Gray Fiske, Editor of The New York Dramatic Mirror, suggested a relief fund, which grew from its modest initial capitalization to $105,236,385. (2018 audited figures). As a non-profit organization, it joined with Actors Equity of America in many projects.
A Canadian group, which had been a subsidiary of the US Actors Equity was advised, in the late 1950s, to adhere to the control of the U.S. Actors Fund. However, this was resisted by a group of five including William Needles (father of Jane Needles, former executive director of the Quebec Drama Federation).
The quintet tossed a symbolic $5 into a pot to start off the Canadian Actors Fund. It grew over the years, largely from donations and benefits and investments. In 2016, it was rebranded as “AFC”.
Benefits under either country’s Fund is not limited to performers but includes technicians, writers, directors, designers, even some reporters.
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.