Stream on: Four ideas for theater lovers missing live productions
Theater critics are entertainment first responders: We tend to get to the scene of the art before most other folks. But having had my access pass nullified these past months, I have had to go on other journeys for diversion. All those destinations, as it happens, under my own roof.
What I share here are a few recommendations for your own arts delectation, all carefully curated at my own desk. I often pair them with a glass of a crisp white wine or cup of Assam tea. They all go down quite nicely.
Read 'What Blest Genius'
For a delightful theater read, may I suggest "What Blest Genius: The Jubilee That Made Shakespeare"? Andrew McConnell Stott, an English professor at the University of Southern California, takes us to Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, in 1769, where the celebrated actor David Garrick staged a lavish multiday publicity event to fete the playwright who made him famous. The whole thing was a bit of a debacle, as Stott's witty account reveals. But it was also the turning point for the world's wholehearted embrace of theater's greatest writer.
Watch 'Call My Agent'
The streaming services provide all sorts of theater-adjacent joys. In the category of utterly irresistible for me are the three seasons of Netflix's "Call My Agent." Set in a hard-charging Parisian talent agency -- the series is called "Dix Pour Cent" (10 percent) in French -- it is built around the outfit's star agents and their tempestuous clients. Each episode (in French with English subtitles) features an actual, good-sport star, among them, Isabelle Huppert, Juliette Binoche, Jean Dujardin and Audrey Fleurot. I have to mention, too, the superb regulars -- Camille Cottin, Liliane Rovère, Grégory Montel, Fanny Sidney, Nicolas Maury, Stéfi Calma, Laure Calamy and Thibault de Montalembert -- because they make up the best comedy ensemble on television. Available via Netflix.
Check out Play Per View
A new hybrid performance art taking shape on the web, built on the Zoom conferencing platform, is getting more inventive by the week. It consists of actors in their bedrooms and living rooms and studios, reading from scripts and conjuring the work of a passel of playwrights who are just beginning to make their marks. One of the most intriguing of the startup groups is Play Per View, which offers live online "theatrical events" with top-flight actors, the proceeds going to arts organizations hobbled by the shutdown. The next production is Jonathan Spector's "Eureka Day" on Friday, May 22. play-perview.com.
Visit Colonial Williamsburg -- virtually
And here's a tip for lovers of "Hamilton" who've had their appetites heightened for history with a dash of theater: Colonial Williamsburg has online video talks -- in and out of character -- by some of the actor-"interpreters" in the 18th-century village, who embody figures of the colonial past. As with a talk by George Washington (found on Colonial Williamsburg's Facebook page), you can get the rich flavor of the Williamsburg experience, as the village waits to invite you back. colonialwilliamsburg.org.