Rhode Island Theater Improvises for the Fall Season

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday September 16, 2020

Rhode Island theaters will remain mostly non-operational for the remainder of the year. Due to ongoing concerns about coronavirus and the need to keep performers and patrons safe, some companies have opted for outdoor productions or virtual performances only.

Some, though, are improvising with plans for fall productions.

Wilbury Theatre Group, based in Providence, is staging a production of "Fire Flowers and A Time Machine" from October 1 through 17. Directed by Shey Rivera Ríos, the story is told through monologues, poetry, dance, and ritual. It will be held at Waterfire Arts Center at 475 Valley Street.

Artistic Director Josh Short notes the show "concerns the immigrant experience and issues around the (Presidential) election coming up."

"At this point, we are not making any plans to reopen the theater space to the public for large scale performances," Short said. "Most of our (shows) are going to be outdoors or online."

Last August, Wilbury presented an outdoor production, "Decameron Providence," which was staged in multiple locations.
"We had a great response from that," Short said. "It's something that can be done safely."

Tony Estrella

The Gamm Theatre, in Warwick, is hoping to begin its 36th season in January with "Bad Jews" from playwright Joshua Harmon.

The past several months have featured an online series of discussions called "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."

"My goal was to bridge the gap between the actor and the audience," explained Artistic Director Tony Estrella. "To help actors kind of handle Shakespeare's language more powerfully and more clearly and for audiences to lose their fear of not being able to understand his work. That was a lot of fun to do. We're going to bring that back for Season 2. I'm lining up special guests for the episodes."

Gamm also plans to do an encore of their 2019 holiday show, "It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play."

"We are working on a way to keep the production alive in some way that can be safely delivered to our audience," Estrella noted.

In October, Providence's The Players at the Barker Playhouse is presenting Henrik Ibsen's "An Enemy of the People," adapted and directed by Vince Petronio. The performance will be taped and shown via Zoom.

On October 31, The Players will perform a radio version of the classic "War of the Worlds." It will be shown via Zoom.

There will also be a "green room" show called "Home Away From Home."

"It's a showcase of different people and players doing different things from puppetry to singing to readings," said spokesman Bill Applegate. "That will be aired on The Players' YouTube channel."

On December 4,5, and 6, The Players will air a recording of a two-person play called "Dancing Lessons" by Mark St. Germain and directed by Kristin Goff and Mike Daniels.

Applegate said the theater will not be reopening until the end of March. Barker will be presenting shows in March, April, and May, including "The Women," which was scheduled for last spring.

Woonsocket's Rhode Island Stage Ensemble (RISE) is presenting a Halloween show in October called "The Ghost Story Project." An audio program of people sharing their true-life stories of the unexplained, which will be live-streamed on Saturday, October 24 at 8:00 PM for a "virtual campfire" listening party. After the stream, the program will be made available for free download.

Voluntary donations will be encouraged throughout the live stream and on the download page, but no fee will be charged to listen or participate.

Playwright Lenny Schwartz, who is Chairman of RISE's Board of Directors, said no live performances can happen until there is a vaccine for coronavirus.

"We can't have gatherings of more than 15 people and until we're able to, it's kind of like our hands are tied," Schwartz added.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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