Normally, you wouldn't be allowed to eat a bowl of caramel corn while watching a play. Even the most accommodating and hip theater companies don't offer snacks that are so notably audible—at least not to be eaten during the show. But that's one of the secret silver linings of watching theater during the coronavirus crisis: kicking one's snack game up a notch.
In fact, more often than not, my online theater watching coincides with my full dinner hour, an enjoyable combination that’s far less possible to pull off when a show is in situ. Nor do I have to worry about an unpredictable BART delay making me late for curtain, since curtain can be whenever I decide, and perhaps most amazingly of all, intermission and bathroom breaks are whenever I want them.
Since the last show I was able to review live, Toni Stone at A.C.T. (which closed the morning after its March 11 opening night), I haven’t been able to attend any shows in person. But thanks to modern technology, recorded shows from the archives of notable companies from around the globe are now available to anyone with an internet connection. Being able to binge-watch my way around the world—from The National Theatre of London to Schaubühne Berlin to the Wooster Group from NYC—has been an instructive crash course in shows that, in some cases, haven’t been seen onstage in decades, and never in the Bay Area.
But catching up with the many works offered by local theaters online has been a wonderful way to fill in some recent gaps, as well as revisit old favorites. Theaters that are challenging for a non-driver such as myself to visit, such as Marin Theatre Company and TheatreWorks, are suddenly accessible, and closed-captioning options offer another important accommodation not generally available in a live setting. With a few exceptions, such as TheatreWorks live-streamed Pride and Prejudice—which had a proscribed, universal “curtain time”—videos can be viewed when convenient for the viewer. This removes some of the ritual of live performance, to be sure, but increases access for people on unconventional timelines (quarantine-induced or otherwise).
A known hotbed of new works, the Bay Area premieres many shows that tend to be one-and-done, rarely performed again elsewhere. So what a rare joy it’s been to dive into Shotgun Players’ Art in the Time of Corona series online, where they’ve been posting two shows a week from their archives. Through May 8, you can check out the 2008 Glickman award-winning, Banana Bag & Bodice collaboration, Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage, as well as last year’s triumphal Three Sisters-remix Kill the Debbie Downers! Kill Them! Kill Them! Kill Them Off!, both of which defied conventional structures at their inception, and neither of which are likely to see another full production this side of the continent any time soon.