Live theatre adapting
to the virtual age

An update of online entertainment from Montreal and New York

By Byron Toben

Just as businesses have adapted to people working remotely, so have live theatre and other entertainment events. The growing realization is that even when the current COVID-19 crisis over, neither will revert to the former norm but that a “hybrid” system will evolve.

I plan to study the status of this worldwide, but first a quick update in the Montreal and New York areas.

Live streaming theatre

Gingold Theatrical Group, a premier body using the human rights messages of G. Bernard Shaw over the years, concludes its current selection of Shaviana with a fine production of Caesar and Cleopatra today, October 1.

The elder Caesar, of the occupying Roman forces, contrasts delightfully with the teenage Egyptian queen whose unsure rule he props up. He promises to send her Mark Anthony as her lover, which Shakespeare takes up in Anthony and Cleopatra. This version enlarges the role of the unpronounceable Phtatateeta, nurse to the queen.

This show was in conjunction with Stars In the House’s subdivision Plays in the House, with all voluntary donations going to The Actors Fund.
(Earlier streamed Shaw shows from April 2020 included Arms and the Man, Candida, Mrs. Warren’s Profession and Misalliance.)

Gingold routinely quotes Shaw’s belief that “without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.”

Bedlam Theatre reading of Hedda Gabler -

Bedlam Theatre’s reading of Hedda Gabler – Image: Zoom

This New York group Bedlam Theatre (there is a similarly named group in Scotland) recently concluded a streamed version of Shaw’s Don Juan in Hell. That was part of its Do More series of free readings (voluntary donations going to different non-profit groups) every other Tuesday.

They recently (on September 29) released a well-done streamed reading of Ibsen’s classic Hedda Gabler. I had last seen this live at the Mainline, where Patricia Summersett (since moved to California) gave a memorable performance in the lead role.

Still to be released are:
October 13 – Othello (Shakespeare)
October 27 – TBD
November 10 – The Machine Stops (E.M. Forster)
November 24 – Titus Andronicus (Shakespeare)
December 8 – TBD
December 22 – TBD

Just For Laughs lineup -

Part of the Just For Laughs lineup – Image:

Other entertainment events

Centaur Theatre had to cancel the balance of its Portico outdoor project midway through its schedule due to the provincial red alert on September 29 despite the first few days drawing favourable reviews. However, it will maintain its Saturday Salon@ Centaur series online. Coming up next on October 17 at 2pm is Patrick Lloyd Brennan and Jeansil Bruyère.

Likewise, the Segal Centre will continue with its online episodes of Lisa’s Nightcap.

Tableau D’Hôte Theatre managed to conclude its free outdoor series in Pointe Saint-Charles on September 27.

Just For Laughs Comedy Festival continues its streamed online features on October 9 and 10. I had no notice of the fate of its live adjunct as of posting this article.

And the Off-Jazz Festival has also gone virtual from October 1 to 3.

Feature image: Caesar and Cleopatra 2019 production, courtesy of Gingold Theatre Group
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Read more articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’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.

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