Culture

‘Zoo Motel’ and other great shows to catch during Philly Theatre Week

Theatre Exile // ZooMotel // Billy Cook

Theatre Philadelphia is bringing back Philly Theatre Week for another amazing year. Philly Theatre Week will be running from Thursday, April 22 through Sunday, May 2. These great shows and productions are devoutly needed by theater lovers after a year where hundreds of stages, theatres, rehearsal rooms, and creative spaces were forced to close.  Now our region’s world-class theatre industry will have a chance to show an entire spectrum of audience members, everything they’ve been missing.

Over the last month, Theatre Philadelphia and new Executive Director LaNeshe Miller-White have mobilized 64 theatres and arts organizations back to their stages, who will present 72  virtual and in-person events, over the 11-day festival. Hundreds of performances will bring back the talents of actors, directors, stagehands, designers and so many others.

(Ashley Smith, Wide Eyed StudiosIn the blue jean jacket-Elena Camp from 11th Hour Theatre Company’s Quarantine Cabaret:Elena Camp & Rajeer AlfordIn the black jean jacket-Rajeer Alford from 11th Hour Theatre Company’s Quarantine Cabaret:Elena Camp & Rajeer AlfordIn all black-LaNeshe Miller-White, Executive Director of Theatre PhiladelphiaIn the tie-Newton Buchanan from Laurel Tree Theater’s A Doll’s House 20/20In the horns-CJ Higgins from The Hum’n’bards Theater Troupe’s #Knightlife RenaissanceFaire // Photo by Ashley Smith, Wide Eyed Studios)

Companies from every single corner of Philadelphia will be represented, as well as from Delaware to New Jersey to the far Philadelphia suburbs. Participants will range from large regional professional theatres to college-based organizations to small up-and-coming theatres – and every size and shape in between.

Shows will be priced at three very accessible levels with shows for free, $15 or $30. This unique model is similar to popular programs like the region’s restaurant weeks – and makes theatre affordable and accessible to all. This goal has never been more important than the here and now.

At A Glance 

(1812 Productions// Melanie Cotton // Photo by Mark Garvin)

Participation in Philly Theatre Week was free for the above and other participating organizations, artists and businesses. Enrollment was open to independent artists, organizations, theatres, or establishments within a 35-mile radius of Philadelphia’s City Hall. Extensive outreach efforts included theatres, galleries, schools, artists, screening rooms, and all theatre-supporting restaurants and businesses. While exploring the variety of work in Philadelphia’s theatre community, audiences will also have the opportunity to make a donation to Theatre Philadelphia’s Emergency Relief program, designed to provide financial support for theatre workers and artists whose jobs and opportunities were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additional Theatre Philadelphia funding and support are provided by the William Penn Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

2021 Philly Theatre Week partners include Ticketleap, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, and Yelp.

Events & Shows

(South Camden Theatre Co. // Jasmine Omari // Robert Bingaman)

Event: Philly Theatre Week Opening Night Celebration

When: Thursday, April 22, 6 p.m.
Where: Live Virtual Event
Cost: Pay What You Can

Join the theatre community for a Philly Theatre Week kick-off celebration. I will be a toast to the beginning of the fourth annual Philly Theatre Week and see previews from participating theatre companies.

For more information, click here.

Laurel Tree Theater

Production: A Doll’s House 20/20
When: April 22 – May 2
Where: Pre-Recorded Theatre Event
Cost: $30

Ibsen’s classic adapted to 2020. Nora Helmer has a beautiful life and a dreadful secret: She’s $300,000 in debt, possibly going to jail and being blackmailed by one of her husband’s subordinates. On top of it all, she’s quarantined alone at home where her only human interaction comes from friends who drop by on Bubble Chat throughout the day. As Nora’s story unfolds, so do the lives of the people around her: COVID19, desperation, unemployment, and power struggles interweave over Bubble a Zoom-like environment created specifically for this independently funded film which brings Henrik Ibsen’s Victorian masterpiece to lockdown.

For more information, click here.

Inis Nua Theatre Company

Production: How To Be Brave
When: April 22 – April 25
Where: Pre-recorded Theatre Event
Cost: Pay What You Can

Single-parent Katie is having a terrible morning: her mom is yelling, her daughter is bleeding, and the smoke alarm just went off. Overwhelmed, Katie runs out the door and on a wild ride through Newport, Wales. Featuring a stolen BMX bike, a quick dip in the River Usk, and an impromptu public dance number, How To Be Brave is an uplifting reminder of how our hometowns shape who we are.

For more information, click here.

(Theatre Exile // ZooMotel // Billy Cook)

Theatre Exile

Production: Zoo Motel
When: April 22-May 2
Where: Live Virtual Theatre Event
Cost: $40

Theatre Exile invites you to check into ZOO MOTEL, devised by director, designer, and performer and Philadelphia Fringe Festival favorite Thaddeus Phillips in 2020 as a quarantine experiment that offers a window into what’s possible for live performance — a world where audiences from around the globe can share a mind-bending adventure in the comfort of their own home. Broadcast live and online from one room in a South American village, ZOO MOTEL takes audiences on a journey to Spain, Japan, the Mojave Desert, and around the world alongside fellow motel guests in a family-friendly performance that showcases how connected we are even in a digital world.

The show initially opened in the Fall of 2020 and recently became the longest-running virtual production to date! Step into this virtual odyssey that combines interactive live theater, gripping storytelling, cinematic illusions, musical interludes, and magic. The immersive production takes you on a journey that you don’t want to miss. From the stellar scenic transitions to its one-of-a-kind interaction with the audience, you’ll be blown away as the mystery unfolds. In one room there are endless possibilities.

Once you’ve stayed at the ZOO Motel, guests send images of what they experienced on the wild ride and journey.

For more information, click here.

InterAct Theatre Company

Production: The Niceties – A Virtual Presentation
When: Thursday, April 22 – Sunday, May 2
Where: Pre-Recorded Theatre Event
Cost: Free

The Boston Globe called this production a “blisteringly smart” drama in which Zoe, a brilliant Black college student, and her white history professor Janine square off over the role slavery played in the American Revolution. Heightened by protests and a social media frenzy, their taut and timely debate careens out of control and threatens to derail their careers and their lives. Directed by Kathryn MacMillan. Starring Angela Bey & Janis Dardaris. Audiences register in advance and receive the streaming link on April 22. Register after April 22, and you’ll receive the link directly from InterAct Theatre Company within 24 hours!

For more information, click here.

Mallbodies

Production: Mallbodies, A Performative Elegy to the American Shopping Mall
When: Thursday, April 22 – Sunday, May 2
Where: Audio Performance
Cost: Pay What You Can

Shopping malls hold a strong place in American culture as well as personal culture. Mallbodies, is a soundwalk performance dedicated to – and in critique of – our experience and memory of the American shopping mall. This project is designed to be listened to by individual audience members using headphones while exploring a shopping mall of their choosing. Mallbodies explores the origins of the shopping mall, our attraction to it, our histories within it, and how malls could function today and into the future. Mallbodies is performed for an audience of one (or do it with a friend!) as they stream the series of tracks on a playlist on the Mallbodies website.

For more information, click here.

(Lantern Theater Company // Measure for Measure)

Hella Fresh Theater

Procuduction: Frauenschlläechterei
When: Thursday, April 22- Sunday, May 2
Where: Theatre By Mail
Cost: $15

A German lawyer attempts to make Brigette Helm an American movie star in 1933 Hollywood. A play told in mailed installments sent to you in the mail culminating in a performance in your home.

For more information, click here.

• People’s Light

Production: Spiritual Uprising
When: April 22 – May 2
Where: Pre-Recorded Theatre Event
Cost: $15

Zonya Love (Lights Out: Nat “King” Cole, Broadway’s The Color Purple) brings her forthcoming collection of reimagined Negro Spirituals to the People’s Light stage in this filmed concert event. The nationally acclaimed actor-musician leads a full band through evocative new renditions of songs like “My Way’s Cloudy” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”  while illustrating the music’s deep cultural and historical significance.

For more information, click here.

Philadelphia Young Playwrights

Production: Pandemic!
When: Thursday, April 22 – Sunday, May 2
Where: Audio Performance
Cost: Pay What You Can

From the Playwright: “Pandemic is a politically charged piece that explores racism, both externalized and internalized, through the eyes of two starkly different generations–the 1930s and modern day 2020. It portrays how racism exists today in subtlest ways that are easily missed but also in violent, hateful ways like that of a hundred years ago. It also sheds important light on the Chinese Exclusion Act, an often overlooked part of our history that is not taught in schools, and draws a parallel between those acts and the rise of anti-Asian-American sentiment with the COVID-19 crisis. However, in such a bleak story, I see my play as a sense of hope. The younger generations are turning over the world and sparking change.”

For more information, click here.

• The Phoenix Theatre

Production: The Second Annual Surprise Birthday Party for William Shakespeare
When: Friday, April 23 from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Where: Love Virtual Theatre
Cost: Pay What You Can

Don’t tell Shakespeare, but we’re throwing him another surprise birthday party! This year the bard is turning 457 so we’re all getting together again to perform some more of his work! It’ll be a night of scenes, monologues, songs, sonnets, and of course… cake!

For more information, click here.

• Die-Cast

Production: Dispatches From Gloria
When: April 23 – May 1
Where: Live Virtual Theatre Event
Cost: Pay What You Can

What do you do after an insurrection? Search through the detritus of characters, images, music, games, imposters, hip hop, zines, and nook miles in an episodic collage that is the quiet after the storm. How far would you go? Who can you save? Are the voices in your head calling, Gloria?

For more information, click here.

(11th Hour Theatre Co // Grayce Hoffman)

• 11th Hour Theatre Company

Production: Quarantine Cabaret: Elena Camp & Rajeer Alford
When: Saturday, April 24 from 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
The recording will be available for two weeks after the original air date.
Where: Live Virtual Theatre Event
Cost: $15

Adorable real-life couple, Elena Camp & Rajeer Alford, will serenade audiences with moving duets, unique interpretations of classical musical theatre pieces, and more as part of 11th Hour’s spring Cabaret Series. The event will be streamed live on April 24, and available for replay up to two weeks after the original air date.

For more information, click here.

• August Wilson Consortium

Event: Celebrating August Wilson!
When: Tuesday, April 27
Where: Facebook Live
Cost: Free

Artists and community members will join the August Wilson Consortium in celebrating the birth anniversary of August Wilson.

For more information, click here.

(Peoples Light 1341 // Deja Morgan)

• EgoPo Classic Theater

Production: Nocturne
When: April 28 – May 2
Where: Live Drive-In Outdoor Event
Cost: $15

“Fifteen years ago, I killed my sister”.  Thus begins this haunting story of pain and isolation. Before the event, you receive directions to a remote abandoned parking lot in Philadelphia.  You arrive in the night, your vehicle illuminating the empty landscape.  A man appears out of the darkness, blinded by your headlights. Through your FM radio, he begins to share the story of his journey to redemption.  You, and your car, become essential players in this theatrical nightmare as his life (re)emerges out of the darkness and silence.

For more information, click here.

• Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective

Production: First Cousins
When: April 29 – May 2
Where: Pre-Recorded Theatre Event
Cost: $15

After the funeral of a beloved cousin, the first cousins are left to deal with a family secret that has haunted them since childhood. Through tears, anger, and humor, they stumble forward to healing.

For more information, click here.

• Philadelphia Theatre Company

Event: The McNally Award Moment
When: Friday, April 30
Where: Virtual Discussion
Cost: Free

Join Philadelphia Theatre Company as they announce the recipient of the 2021 Terrence McNally Award, which honors the magic and transformative power of theater as a way to reach into the hearts and minds of audiences. This award will celebrate socially responsible art and civically engaged playwrights who aim to dismantle systems of racism and oppression through fearless and audacious art.

The Philadelphia-based playwright selected for the McNally Award will receive a cash award of $5,000 and development guidance at PTC, including administrative and dramaturgical support. We will also facilitate access to professional connections for the future of the playwright and their work following the exploration at PTC.”

For more information, click here.

(Without a Cue // Traci Connaughton)

• Cirque du Nuit

Production: Thickett / Quest 2
When: Friday, April 30 from 8:30 p.m. – 10:15 p.m.
Saturday, May 1 from 2:30pm-4:15 pm
Where: Live Virtual Theatre Event
Cost: Pay What You Can

THICKETT is a virtual immersive quest, where the world may turn on the stories you tell. Dive into a digital adventure with live actors, hidden mysteries, fairy tales and corporate espionage. THICKETT is a corporation in charge of gathering the lost pages of an ancient, powerful book of tales. You have just been hired as an employee, otherwise known as a “seeker”. The CEO has a hidden past, the three departments are in competition, and everyone is waiting to see how you will play.

For more information, click here.

• Crossroads Comedy Theater

Production: The Future
When: Friday, April 30 from 9:30 p.m. – 10:15 p.m.
Where: Live Virtual Theatre Event
Cost: Pay What You Can

Doing whatever it takes to make audiences laugh since 2013, this improv team has built a reputation domestically and abroad as a group of weirdos who create comedy that is always more than the sum of their parts. Give them a suggestion and watch as it gets turned into a recreation of the past, a twisted sci-fi dystopia, or possibly a feat of physical strength. The pandemic has grounded their festival performances, so don’t miss this opportunity to watch them from your couch! The Future is: Fred Brown, Caitlin Corkery, David Donnella, Rob O’Neill, Kristen Schier, and Molly Scullion.

For more information, click here.

(Inis Nua // Wide Eyed Studios // How To Be Brave)

The Hum’n’bards Theater Troupe

Production: The #Knightlife Renaissance Faire
When: Saturday, May 1 from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Where: Live Virtual Theatre Event
Cost: Pay What You Can

Hear ye, hear ye! #KnightlifeRenFaire returns to the digital realm! Join in the spring-time merriment from the comfort of your home as entertainers dazzle with music, art, dance, combat, and beyond streaming from The Hum’n’bards Theater Troupe Facebook page. Beginning at 5pm, we will feature artisans to demonstrate their craft. You will have the chance to win their wares in an online raffle, with proceeds going to Black Theatre Alliance of Philadelphia! Then, join us at 7 pm for some #Knightlife entertainment: singing, magic, drag, stage combat, Shakespeare, and so much more!

For more information, click here.

• Without A Cue Productions, LLC

Production: Murder By Gaslight
When: Saturday, April 24 from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 24 from 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday, April 25 from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 25 from 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Where: Live Outdoor Event
Cost: $15

There’s been a very Victorian murder in Philadelphia. Enter a world of stodgy alienists and charismatic charlatans, saucy-painted ladies and tweedy robber barons, steam-powered engines, and horse-drawn carriages. Stroll the byways and shadowy corners of Old City, led by your guide – who just happens to be the victim of a 130-year-old murder! You will be tasked with inspecting the crime scene, gathering the clues, and questioning the suspects you meet along the way. And perhaps, just perhaps, you can stay one step ahead of a wily murderer, avoid a similar fate, and have a chance to solve a – Murder By Gaslight!

For more information, click here.

Philly Theatre Week tickets are on sale now at www.phillytheatreweek.com.

Philly Theatre Week Opening Night will take place virtually on Thursday, April 22nd at 6 p.m., offering previews of events that will take place during the celebration.

Connect with Theatre Philadelphia on social media at Facebook.com/TheatrePhiladelphia, on Twitter, and on Instagram. #PhillyTheatreWeek


You can follow Candis McLean on Twitter (@CandisRMcLean) and e-mail her at candis.mclean@gmail.com.

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