During the long pandemic closure of live in-person performances, Off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre commissioned five innovative artists to create a series of new works of alternative theater. That initiative, the Fall Forward Festival, offers a mix of three fully realized film, audio, and livestream performances accessible to the public online, in addition to two limited in-person invitation-only readings of plays still in development (56 Flowers by Polly Pen and The Fish by Madeline Sayet).
The festival, which runs through the end of 2021, has now opened with the premiere streaming of Aunt Lillian, a short audio musical based on a story from the childhood of Obie-winning composer Kirsten Childs (book, music, and lyrics). Directed by Awoye Timpo the “wickedly funny” 20-minute work recounts the battle of wills between two young sisters and their no-nonsense aunt, who made the trip from North Carolina to LA to care for them and their brother.
Featuring the voices of Darlesia Cearcy, Brandon Gill, Amber Iman, Ashley D Kelley, Kevin Massey, Jasmin Walker, and NaTasha Yvette Williams, the cast is backed by musicians Jacinth Greywoode on keyboards, Kevin Wunderlich on guitar, Parker McAllister on bass, and Spencer Cohen on drums, with music direction by Jacinth Greywoode, orchestrations by Daryl Waters, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop, and Jhanae Bonnick serving as production coordinator.
The Fall Forward Festival also includes the following two online productions:
Maybe Dorothy Was Right – The short eight-minute film and love letter to New York and the theater by Nigerian-born playwright and actress Ngozi Anyanwu (Good Grief), in collaboration with filmmaker and director Alfonso Johnson, takes viewers to the neighborhoods and theaters that have been part of her NYC journey. Available for streaming October 7–December 31, the event will also include a one-hour live chat (for Vineyard members, by invitation only) with Anyanwu, Johnson, and Vineyard’s Artistic Director Sarah Stern on November 1, at 7 pm;
On the Beauty of Loss – Obie winner Jared Mezzocchi ‘s introspective multimedia live streaming performance explores the emergence of social technology and its impact on memory and grief through the loss of two family members – a father passing before the invention of the iPhone and a grandfather reaching the end of his life sixteen years later at the peak of the pandemic. Presented in the framing device of the audience traveling hundreds of miles in a car, the piece, playing November 11-21, features original composition by Lee Kinney.