In the move to begin the reopening of NYC venues and performances to live audiences, Off-Broadway companies are presenting compelling in-person shows that speak to our current times, with limited attendance and strict adherence to COVID-19 safety protocol.
Negative Liberty/Positive Liberty – Following their most recent collaboration on Static Apnea 2020, the american vicarious and The Invisible Dog Art Center co-present the world premiere of a socially-distanced performance installation exploring Isaiah Berlin’s historic 1958 lecture “Two Concepts of Liberty: Negative & Positive.” In it, the Latvian-born British-based socio-political theorist and philosopher observed that concepts of liberty, when used rhetorically to control and to repress individuals in the name of liberty itself, will eventually, and inevitably, lead to violent conflict.
The current artistic distillation of Berlin’s lecture was inspired by recent events in our country and informed in part by Anthony Barboza’s 1966 photograph Pensacola, FL – an image of a damaged neon sign that once read “LIBERTY,” with the E now broken and the R dangling. The new work is being offered as a single-viewer experience, delivered in artificial fashion in less than eight minutes, with an invitation to participate, to lend the actual to the artificial, and to make the experience real and complete – all in the name of exercising Liberty. But whose?
Conceived and directed by Christopher McElroen, with performers Sarah Ellen Stephens and Olivia Gilliatt, scenographer Troy Hourie, video designer Adam J Thompson, sound designer Andy Evan Cohen, lighting designer Lucrecia Briceno, and installation by Silovsky Studios, the event plays March 18-April 18, Thursdays-Saturdays 1-7 pm, and Sundays 1-5 pm, at The Invisible Dog Art Center, 51 Bergen Street, Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Admission is free; $5 donations are suggested. Masks are required, with social distancing and all NYC guidelines in effect. To reserve a time slot, go online; walk-ups will be accommodated if time slots are available.
Blindness – The Daryl Roth Theatre reopens on Friday, April 2, with the Donmar Warehouse production of Tony Award-winning playwright Simon Stephens’ timely adaptation of Blindness – Nobel Prize winner José Saramago’s dark and unnerving 1995 dystopian novel about a pandemic of infectious blindness that spreads around the globe overnight. Through spellbinding storytelling, narrated by Olivier Award winner Juliet Stevenson and directed by Walter Meierjohann, this socially distanced sound-and-light experience unveils the tale of a world in chaos, changed forever in the blink of an eye, while reminding us that from the darkness, we will all emerge stronger.
Just as it was presented in London, audiences in New York will hear the narrative unfolding around them through binaural headphone technology, while surrounded by immersive lighting and atmospheric design, to experience together, safely, the importance of community in our present moment. The creative team includes Ben and Max Ringham (sound), Lizzie Clachan (scenic design), Jessica Hung Han Yun (lighting), Markus Potter (US associate director), Chris Cronin (US associate sound designer), Gina Scherr (US associate lighting designer), Professor Hannah Thompson (UK production consultant), and Sara Aniqah Malik (UK resident assistant director).
The show, recommended for ages fifteen and older, runs approximately 70 minutes, with no intermission. Previews begin on April 2, with an opening on April 6, at the Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 East 15th Street, Union Square East, NYC. For tickets, available through September 5, 2021, go online. For detailed information and a list of the health and safety protocols being implemented (including temperature checks and mandatory masks for all attendees), click here.