Two acclaimed Off-Broadway companies continue their mission of presenting rarely produced plays from the past, and works by undeservedly forgotten women dramatists, with virtual productions on Monday. One is a live reading, to be followed by a discussion with the cast and team, the other is a streaming of an archival recording of a previous on-stage performance. Both are sure to be welcome reminders of theater’s rich history, given new life through the talents of current artists.
Up next in Mint Theater Company’s popular Silver Lining Streaming Series, commemorating its 25-year silver anniversary of reviving and preserving lost plays, is the on-demand streaming of Women Without Men by Hazel Ellis. The little-known work (her second and last play) made its debut in Dublin in 1938, and wasn’t published or produced again for another 77 years, until Mint’s 2016 American premiere, which the company captured for posterity in three-camera HD (with a running time of approximately two hours and fifteen minutes).
The workplace drama, filled with sardonic humor, explores the clash of personalities, competition, and petty jealousies that arise among the quarrelsome teachers at a private cloistered all-girls boarding school in 1930s Ireland, when an enthusiastic new instructor arrives, becomes very popular with the students, finds herself at odds with her colleagues, and is accused of destroying the writings of one of them. Directed by Jenn Thompson, the all-female cast (Mary Bacon, Joyce Cohen, Shannon Harrington, Kate Middleton, Aedin Moloney, Alexa Shae Niziak, Kellie Overbey, Dee Pelletier, Beatrice Tulchin, Emily Walton, and Amelia White) is supported by an all-female design team, featuring a set by Vicki R. Davis, costumes by Martha Halley, lighting by Traci Klainer Polimeni, and sound by Jane Shaw.
Women Without Men streams Monday, February 22-March 21, 2021, at the Mint Theater Company’s website. The price of viewing is free, but registration is required to receive a password; tax deductible donations are welcome. Closed captioning is available for all of Mint’s upcoming streaming productions.
The latest in Red Bull Theater’s 2020-21 virtual season is a live benefit reading of The Belle’s Stratagem by English playwright and poet Hannah Cowley (1743–1809), premiering on Monday, February 22, at 7 pm. The event, directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch, will star Tony Award nominee Lilli Cooper (Tootsie; SpongeBob Squarepants) and Tony winner Santino Fontana (Tootsie), with Cecil Baldwin, Jasmine Batchelor, Mark Bedard, Neal Bledsoe, Peter Jay Fernandez, Tony Jenkins, Lauren Karaman, Aaron Krohn, Heather Alicia Simms, and Chauncy Thomas appearing in supporting roles.
“Written in 1780, The Belle’s Stratagem is a timeless and triumphant cry for love, decency, and equality. We’re thrilled to continue our online offerings with this under-performed great classic play by yet another talented female playwright, Hannah Cowley. With the inspired direction of Gaye Taylor Upchurch and this fantastically talented company, this rom-com romp is certain to be something special – a delightful diversion from the Februaries,” said Red Bull Managing Director Jim Bredeson.
The light-hearted courtship comedy considers the concerns of the proto-feminist Letitia, betrothed since childhood, but fearing that she will be trapped in a loveless arranged marriage. So she conspires with three women accomplices to open the eyes of her fiancé (and the other men) at a masquerade ball – where mistaken identities ensue – to ensure that he realizes he is to be wed to an equal partner.
Following the live premiere, there will be a free interactive Bull Session on Thursday February 25, at 7:30 pm, discussing the play and its themes with director Gaye Taylor Upchurch, scholar Dustin D. Stewart, and members of the company. Register here to receive a link to participate.
The Belle’s Stratagem reading will livestream on Monday, February 22, 7:30 pm; a recording will then be available until 7 pm on Friday, February 26. The event is a benefit for Red Bull Theater. Tickets are free, but pay-what-you-can donations are encouraged, to support the company; advance reservations are recommended.