Gore Vidal Would Have Been 97 Today, We’ll Look at His Contribution to the American Theatre

Gore’s first venture in the theatre was the result of a teleplay that had been produced on the Goodyear Playhouse in 1955;  It was described thusly:  “A visitor from another planet arrives on Earth and seems anxious to provoke a war- “one thing you people do really well”.   The teleplay starred Cyril Ritchard, at the height of his US popularity having created the role of Captain Hook in Peter Pan.  He starred as Kreton, the visitor who had hoped to cover the United States during the Civil War, and through a time warp, had arrived in the 1950’s, upending the household of a General in Manassas, Virginia.  The popularity of the Playhouse presentation inspired Gore to expand the “Visit” into a full-length play and it opened to mostly positive reviews in February of 1957.

Brooks Atkinson in the Times called “Planet” “uproarious” and Life Magazine called it “the freshest and funniest invasion of the Broadway season.”  Not only did Ritchard create the role, he also directed the production. The play was later adapted into a Jerry Lewis film which bore little resemblance to the original. In the fall of 2000, there was a special reading of “Visit to a Small Planet at the Douglas Fairbanks Theatre.  The cast included Alan Cumming (as the Visitor), Lily Tomlin (in the gender-changed role of the General), Philip Bosco, Christine Baranski, Kristin Chenoweth and Tony Randall, directed by John Tillinger.  One could have charged premium tickets.  While the reading was positively received, its future was dimmed when Cumming, who was approached to continue in the role, was unable to schedule a commitment.

Melvyn Douglas, Lee Tracy and Leora Dana in “The Best Man” by Gore Vidal, (1960)

His most famous play would open three years later. When it opened in 1960, it was simply titled “The Best Man” and acclaimed as one of the best political plays ever on Broadway.  It ran for over a year at the Morosco Theatre and the leading role won Melvyn Douglas the Tony Award for Best Actor.  In the fall Douglas had portrayed President Warren G. Harding in “The Gang’s All Here” but here he was merely a former Secretary of State who was was an aspiring Presidential Candidate at a convention. The play was written pre-primary politics which has subsequently become a staple on the American scene, though that spring there would be the first highly publicized major Presidential primary with Senators Stuart Symington, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy vying to be the Democratic candidate. In the play the opposing candidates were famously drawn upon Adlai Stevenson who had twice been the Democratic presidential candidate and Richard Nixon. Almost stealing the spotlight was the character of the ex-President and potential kingmaker (patterned after Harry Truman) portrayed by Lee Tracy, who recreated the role in the film, which co-starred Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson.

Melvyn Douglas (far right) with fellow 1960 Tony winners Mary Martin (“The Sound of Music”), Jackie Gleason (“Take Me Along”), and Anne Bancroft (“The Miracle Worker”).

When the play was revived in the year 2000, it came on the heels of the popular film “The Best Man” which starred Taye Diggs. When the producer Jeffrey Richards, with director Ethan McSweeney,  travelled to Ravello to meet with Vidal, it was suggested, to avoid confusion, that the play be retitled “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man”. Gore’s response:  “I thought you’d never ask”.   The production which co-starred Charles During, Spalding Gray, Chris Noth, Elizabeth Ashley, Michael Learned and Christine Ebersole won both the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Revival and was a surprise success of the fall season. It also benefitted from the five week delay in the Presidential contest which resulted in the George Bush presidency.  A line that before the election did not get a laugh was noted to receive one after November 4th when the putative candidate Joe Cantwell remarked “and the last thing we want is a deadlocked convention.”

There was a second revival of the play in 2012 with another all-star cast including John Larroquette, James Earl Jones, Eric McCormack, Angela Lansbury, Candice Bergen, Jefferson Mays, Kerry Butler, and Michael McKean.  Again the play was a success. Gore attended the second week of rehearsals in a wheelchair and serenaded the company with stories about the original production and the night that JFK attended a performance. Unlike the first revival in which he joined the company on stage at a glittering opening night with celebrities in the audience included Woody Allen, Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Bebe Neuwirth, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick among others, Gore was unable to attend the second re-opening. He died later that year, during the engagement of the production, which focused attention on his life and work and, consequently, resulted in an extension of the play with a replacement cast of Cybill Shepherd, John Stamos, Elizabeth Ashley and Kristin Davis.

Gore Vidal (AP)

Gore’s third Broadway play was an adaptation of Frederick Durrematt’s “Romulus” about the last of the Roman emperors. premiered on Broadway in 1962; once again his director and star was Cyril Ritchard (Vidal quipped- “Cyril was a wonderful actor but as a director he would just tell the actors to stand there, in a line and recite the dialogue”) and Dame Cathleen Nesbitt and Howard DaSilva were also starred.  

His fourth play reunited him with the original director of “Gore Vidal’s The Best Man”, Joseph Anthony, but did not repeat the success.  The play was “Weekend “and a one sentence description of the play read as follows:  “An unscrupulous Republican senator’s son brings home his black girlfriend”.  The play opened in March of 1968;  the previous December the Spencer Tracy-Katherine Hepburn-Sidney Poitier film had a similar racial theme in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and was Oscar-nominated and a big box office success.  “Weekend” was neither a box office success, despite a starry cast which included John Forsythe, Rosemary Harris and Academy Award winner Kim Hunter and introduced Carol Cole, Nat King Cole’s daughter, as the girlfriend, nor was it well received. The producers advertised it without quotes calling it THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE. It wasn’t. It played three weeks at the Broadhurst Theatre.

Gore’s fifth and final play on Broadway was in 1972; a blistering satire called “An Evening With Richard Nixon and…” with George S. Irving in the title role.  Originally scheduled to be directed by (Sir) Peter Hall, it was directed by Ed Sherin, who had staged “The Great White Hope”. It opened 50 years ago and was budgeted at $150,000; there was a cast of fifteen (with a very young Susan Sarandon) portraying a gallery of over 50 characters ranging from George Washington to JFK, including, FDR, Harry Truman, Thomas E. Dewey, Dwight Eisenhower, FDR, Gloria Steinem and Pat Nixon – Clive Barnes in his review said “I laughed a great deal at this political bloodletting” but had reservations about the play’s cumulative impact.  So did audiences, and without the star power that had been associated with previous Vidal entries, the play last only two weeks after opening at the Shubert Theatre.

George S. Irving, Susan Sarandon.

Gore’s final play that received a production premiered at Duke as part of Duke Theatres’ Previews in 2005.  A glittering cast headed by Charles During, Chris Noth, Michael Learned, Harris Yulin, Richard Easton, Isabel Keating and David Turner brought “On the March to the Sea” to life for a brief engagement.  Directed by Warner Shook, who had brought “The Kentucky Cycle” to Broadway, “Sea” was a noble effort that failed to march on to New York.  The play concerned a Georgian family’s trial by fire during Sherman’s famous march during the Civil War.  Vidal delighted students at a writing class with various bon mots such as “The best writers have been actors…Shakespeare, Shaw, Twain, Wilder.”;  “Reading is like going to bed with someone.  Save Jane Eyre for a dismal night” and on the staged reading format of the play “naked language…the eye is not distracted by the adventurous and dangerous set designer”…

Gore had developed and was retooling a script inspired by his novel Lincoln (which had also been a mini-series on television in the late 80’s) when he passed away. A reading had been scheduled and ultimately was not realized.


8 Shows Opening on Broadway in October

Mother Nature has her faux fur coat on the foot of her bed and she’s almost ready to step out for New York’s hottest shows. We are here to celebrate the eight shows that will open up on Broadway before October.

October 2
Leopoldstadt (Longacre Theatre)

  • Olivier Award Winning NEW play by Tom Stoppard
  • Features 38 actors
  • Tom Stoppard’s “most personal work of his career”
  • From Director Patrick Marber (Closer, Tom Stoppard’s Travesties)

October 3
Cost of Living (Samuel J. Friedman Theatre)

  • Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize
  • Martyna Marjok is a new playwright with a very promising future (she’s penning The Great Gatsby with Florence Welch)
  • Kara Young stars after exploding onto the Broadway stage after Clyde’s

October 6
1776 (American Airlines Theatre)

  • Reimagined revival with an all woman presenting cast
  • Jeffrey L. Page (Violet, FELA!) and Diane Paulus (Waitress, Pippin, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Jagged Little Pill) co-directs
  • Carolee Carmello is back on Broadway after 6 years

October 9
Death of a Salesman (Hudson Theatre)

  • Marianne Elliott (Company, Angels in America, Warhorse) directs this critically-acclaimed West End Transfer
  • Tony Award Nominee and Multi-Olivier Award Winner Sharon D. Clarke, Wendell Pierce (HBO’s The Wire) and the incomparable André De Shields round out this powerhouse cast
  • The Black actors portraying the Loman family during the 1940s transcends the writing making an even harder hit for Willy, his wife and his boys

October 13
The Piano Lesson (Ethel Barrymore Theatre)

  • Samuel L Jackson and Danielle Brooks return to Broadway in this much-anticipated revival
  • Directed by Latanya Richardson Jackson
  • August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize Winning Masterpiece about how we perceive our past

October 20
Topdog/Underdog (John Golden Theatre)

  • The first ever Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama revival
  • Kenny Leon directs
  • New York Times says it’s “the Greatest Plays of the last 25 years”

October 27
Take Me Out (Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre)

  • The hit revival is back from it’s sold-out run at the Helen Hayes
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson won his first Tony Award for this hilarious and heart-breaking role
  • A scintillating drama about being authentically oneself and the importance of friendship and community

October 27
Walking with Ghosts (Music Box Theatre)

  • Gabriel Byrne (Hereditary, HBO’s In Treatment) returns to Broadway with his one-man staged biography
  • The incredible Lonny Price directs
  • The Times calls it “Spell-binding”


November 3 – Almost Famous (Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre)

November 10 – Kimberly Akimbo (Booth Theatre)

November 13 – Mike Birbiglia: The Old Man & the Pool (Vivian Beaumont Theater)

November 17 – & Juliet (Stephen Sondheim Theatre)

November 20 – KPOP (Circle in the Square Theatre)

November 21 – A Christmas Carol (Nederlander Theatre)

Cover Story Creative

History of Movies to Musicals on Broadway

The 2017-2018 Broadway season reached 13,792,614 in attendance and grossed over $1.6 million. Despite these record setting numbers, discussion and debate broke out amongst fans as all four Tony nominated Best Musicals were stage adaptations of films; The Band’s Visit, SpongeBob SquarePants the Musical, Frozen, and Mean Girls. 

The Broadway cast of Some Like It Hot

A major criticism of Broadway is the trend of stage adaptations of popular movies, which has been featured heavily in recent seasons. With this upcoming season having two announced adaptations, Almost Famous and Some Like It Hot, and even more rumored for the future including The Notebook, The Devil Wears Prada, and a transfer of the West End’s Back to the Future, there is an understandable interest in the creation and development of original stories on Broadway. What many theatergoers are unaware of is that this trend isn’t new to Broadway. In fact, Broadway has a long history of translating movies to the stage including some classic and fan favorite shows. 

Little Shop Of Horrors

While some adaptations are more obvious, such as the Disney Broadway catalog including shows like Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, and The Lion King, many well known theater classics were inspired by movies. Sondheim and Wheeler’s A Little Night Music, which originally opened on Broadway in 1973 and ran for 601 performances, is based on the 1955 Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night. The well-known Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon staple Sweet Charity, written by Neil SImon with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, is based on the 1957 screenplay Nights of Cabiria. Little Shop of Horrors, whose award winning Off-Broadway revival is currently running at the Westside Theatre, is based on the low budget 1960 dark comedy, The Little Shop of Horrors. Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ Sunset Boulevard, which broke advance sale records and sold over 1 million tickets with its original Broadway production, is based on the 1950 film of the same name. Some other classics include Nine, based on Frederico Fellini’s 1963 film 8½, On The 20th Century, based on the 1930s film of the same name, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair, and Promises, Promises, based on the 1960 film The Apartment.  

Heathers The Musical on Roku

Beyond the classics, many fan favorites, such as Heathers which currently has a production on the West End, are based on films. The 2007 Legally Blonde, which has become a go-to for many community theaters and High Schools across the country, is heavily based heavily on the 2001 film starring Reese Witherspoon as well as the Amanda Brown novel. The beloved Sara Bareilles musical Waitress, which ran on Broadway from 2016 to 2020 and returned in a limited engagement in 2021, is based on the 2007 film written by Adrienne Shelly. Other fan favorite adaptations include the currently running Beetlejuice, based on the Tim Burton horror comedy, 9 to 5, based on the 1980 film, Anastasia, based on the 1997 animated movie, and many more. 

Billy Elliott the Musical

Some screen to stage adaptations have even garnered critical acclaim and gone on to win Tony Awards, such as Once, which won the 2012 Tony Award for Best Musical. Carnival, which won the 1962 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and an Outer Critics Circle Award, was based on the 1953 film Lili. The 2013 winner Kinky Boots, which ran on Broadway for 2,507 performances and is currently running Off-Broadway at Stage 42, is based on a 2005 British film of the same name. The 2021 Tony Award-winning Best Musical, Moulin Rouge!, is based on the 2001 film starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Other Tony Award winning adaptations include Billy Elliot the Musical, Spamalot, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Producers, and Passion. 

The river flows both ways. While many musicals based on films have gone on to win awards and break records, Hollywood continues to turn out movies based on beloved Broadway shows. In the last 5 years alone, there have been a slew of film adaptations of Musicals including Jonathan Larsons’ Tick, Tick…Boom, directed by Lin Manuel Miranda starring Andrew Garfield, a remake of West Side Story directed by Stephen, In The Heights, 13, The Prom, Dear Evan Hansen, and The Last 5 Years (although this came out in 2014 and has yet to have a Broadway production). Coming to Netflix this December will be a movie adaptation of the acclaimed musical Matilda. The long-running Broadway musical Wicked, which has multiple national tours and international productions, has a film adaptation in the late stages of development starring Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo, and Jonathan Bailey. 

While there should be a healthy mix of original stories and adaptations in commercial theater, the relationship between Broadway and the silver screen has an extensive history that shouldn’t be dismissed. If a screen to stage adaptation is done well, it has the potential to connect with audiences, set records, and become a staple in the theater canon. 


Celebrating the Jewish Holidays with Iconic Moments in the American Musical Theatre

by Sydney Lydecker

Is there anything more moving or beautifully rendered than the Sabbath Prayer from “Fiddler on the Roof”.  Whether it was recently celebrated on Broadway by Danny Burstein or is currently in its fourth year in a record-breaking national tour, whether it is done in English or in Yiddish by Steven Skybell about to return to New York for the holiday season in the unique Joel Grey production, this is a highlight of one of the great American musicals.

Danny Burstein (Photo: Joan Marcus) Steven Skybell
(Photo © Matthew Murphy)

What better time to listen to “Falsettoland” which not only has its youngest protagonist singing about “The Miracle of Judaism” but then also has the ensemble celebrating “Jason’s Bar Mitzvah”.  William Finn is not the only acclaimed composer-lyricist that has explored the Bar Mitzvah on stage—one could go back 60 years ago when Harold Rome’s heartfelt “A Gift Today” was sung (by Elliot Gould, no less) to Sheldon the young Bar Mitzvah in “I Can Get It For Your Wholesale”. 

And composer Jule (“Gypsy,” “Funny Girl”) Styne, one of the most prolific of Broadway composers, couldn’t get his musical “Bar Mitzvah Boy” to Broadway (it played in London and was introduced in New York by the American Jewish Theatre) but if you can find the original British recording, take a listen to the obscure song “The Bar Mitzvah of Eliot Green”.

Stephen Bogardus, Barbara Walsh, Chip Zien, Jonathan Kaplan, Michael Rupert, Heather MacRae and Carolee Carmello in the original Broadway production of Falsettos Photo by Carol Rosegg – pictured right, Elliot Gould

Looking forward to Jerry Herman’s “Dear World” at Encores this coming season.  Well, before that there was “Hello, Dolly!” and “Mame” and after that came “Mack and Mabel” and “La Cage Aux Folles”.   But in his very first show, Herman said hello to Broadway with “Shalom”, the opening number of his vastly underrated score for “Milk and Honey”.  That may not have been the first time that word found itself in a Broadway lyric but it definitely was the first Broadway song to use that word in the title.   When “Milk and Honey” arrived on Broadway in the state of Israel had recently celebrated its Bar Mitzvah as a nation and the rousing title song was a paean to the spirit, humanity, the dreams and the hopes of that country.

Last season the Tony nominated revival of “Caroline, Or Change” reminded us of the  Festival of Lights, with its joyous “The Chanukah Party”.  The Tesori-Kushner score was even handed with its equal appreciation of that other seasonal holiday with its lively “Santa Comin Caroline”.   Theatergoers can look forward later this fall to the latest Jeanine Tesori score when “Kimberly Akimbo” arrives on Broadway at the Booth Theatre.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Finally let us salute, with break fasts coming up in at the conclusion of Yom Kippur, the ultimate panacea proscribed by almost every Jewish mother.  Again we reference “I Can Get It For You Wholesale” with the quiet but powerfully moving finale (in the original production) of “Eat a Little Something”, sung by Mrs. Bogen to her son Harry, whose ambition and manipulation has come tumbling down on his friends, family and business empire.

Lillian Roth

Maybe “Milk and Honey” at a future Encores; maybe “I Can Get It For You Wholesale” at a major revival of a resident theatre.  Maybe happy New Beginning and Ending for them both, as we wish you a Happy New Year from Broadway’s Best Shows.


Spotlight on Plays – Spring 2021

Broadway’s Best Shows is proud to present Spotlight on Plays, a starry series of livestream readings of Broadway’s best plays to benefit The Actors Fund (now the Entertainment Community Fund).

With Jason Alexander, Debbie Allen, Ellen Burstyn, Bobby Cannavale, Alfred Enoch, Carla Gugino, Kathryn Hahn, Kevin Kline, Eric McCormack, Audra McDonald, Mary-Louise Parker, Phylicia Rashad, Keanu Reeves, Heidi Schreck, Alia Shawkat, Meryl Streep, and many more. 

The Spring 2021 season of Spotlight on Plays, a celebration of women playwrights, raised over $100,000 for the Entertainment Community Fund.

The seven productions were produced and captured entirely virtually by dedicated digital line production and post-production teams with each show’s cast, creative, and crew scattered across the United States and the world. The playwrights and directors were intimately involved in the process and often made adjustments to the material to better adhere to the medium.

We are proud to have given a platform to women playwrights, continuing to make theatre while in-person live entertainment was shut down, and fundraising for those in need in our community while keeping each other safe and healthy.

The virtual series has acted as an incubator for upcoming Broadway productions, with The Thanksgiving Play and Ohio State Murders recently announcing Broadway runs, and more are currently in discussion.

Thank you to our streaming and ticketing partner Stellar Tickets!

By Larissa FastHorse
Directed By Leigh Silverman
Starring Bobby Cannavale, Keanu Reeves, Heidi Schreck and Alia Shawkat

Larissa FastHorse’s wickedly funny comedy finds a troupe of terminally “woke” teaching artists scrambling to create a pageant that manages to celebrate both Turkey Day and Native American Heritage Month. “A delicious roasting” (The New York Times) of the politics of entertainment and political correctness, The Thanksgiving Play puts the American origin story in the comedy-crosshairs.

Premiered Thursday, March 25th, 2021 at 8:00PM ET

By Pearl Cleage
Directed By Camille A. Brown
Starring Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, Heather Alicia Simms, and Alicia Stith

Pearl Cleage’s “funny and hopeful” (Georgia Magazine) comedy is all about aging gracefully and gorgeously. Anna Campbell, now 65, sparked controversy when she bared it all on stage years ago. When a theatre festival asks to re-stage the work with a younger actress in her role, dramatic and comic fireworks ensue.

Premiered Thursday, April 8th, 2021 at 8:00PM ET

by Paula Vogel
Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz
Starring Mary-Louise Parker, Eric McCormack, and Brandon Burton

A comic and dramatic fantasia based on the love and adventures of a brother and sister, one of whom has a fatal disease.  Winner of the 1992 Obie Award for Best New American Play.

Premiered Thursday, April 29th, 2021 at 8:00PM ET

By Lillian Hellman
Directed by Sarna Lapine
Starring Ellen Burstyn, Alan Cox, Sasha Diamond, Alfred Enoch, Carla Gugino, Luca Padovan, Mary Beth Peil, Gabriella Pizzolo, Neel Sethi, and Jeremy Shamos

Written and set during the rise of Hitler’s Germany, Watch on the Rhine is a play about an American family, suddenly awakened to the danger threatening its liberty.  Hellman’s powerful drama won the 1941 New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

Premiered Thursday, May 13th, 2021 at 8:00PM ET

By Wendy Wasserstein
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
Starring Jason Alexander, John Behlmann, Tracee Chimo Pallero, Lisa Edelstein, Kathryn Hahn, Kathryn Newton, Chris Perfetti, and James Urbaniak

Three very different sisters reunite after a lengthy separation and discover humanity, respect, and love in this definitive serious comedy about sisterhood. 

Premiered Thursday, May 20th, 2021 at 8:00PM ET

By Adrienne Kennedy
Directed by Kenny Leon
Starring Audra McDonald, Warner Miller, Lizan Mitchell, and Ben Rappaport

Ohio State Murders is an unusual look at the destructiveness of racism in the U.S.  When Suzanne Alexander, a fictional African American writer, returns to Ohio State University to talk about the violence in her writing, a dark mystery unravels.

Premiered Thursday, June 3rd, 2021 at 8:00PM ET

By Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Kate Whoriskey
Starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline

Based on the compiled letters between poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop, Dear Elizabeth maps the relationship of the two poets from first meeting to an abbreviated affairand the turmoil of their lives in between.

Premiered Thursday, June 17th, 2021 at 8:00PM ET

The Actors Fund envisions a world in which individuals contributing to our country’s cultural vibrancy are supported, valued and economically secure.

The Actors Fund fosters stability and resiliency, and provides a safety net for performing arts and entertainment professionals over their lifespan.

Stories from the Stage


One of my favorite experiences as a Stage Manager has been working on the show Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth. It stands out to me for several reasons. I went to London to rehearse the show which was a first for me. Working with my assistant Ken McGee, I learned a lot about how differently a British director and acting company work on a play. There was a lot of improvisation and playtime built into the day. The majority of the cast had done the show before so this helped the new members (and us) get a feel for the show and become integrated into the world of the play. We also had to work on our accents (we all had to practice it for a few days). And we took a field trip to the area outside London to the part of England where our play was set.

This passion and care to create the exact atmosphere was invaluable as we moved this show to New York.

Another extraordinary component was that the show had live chickens, (kept in their own “star” dressing room) a turtle, goldfish, a horse trough full of water, small children, real grass and dirt and an Airstream trailer on stage. As it turns out this was not the last show I did with live animals and children but that’s another story. The magic we created together with Mark Rylance as the lead actor and Ian Rickson as our director was an amazing experience. The show started with a late night rave party with strobe lights, stage fog and LOUD music and ended with the conjuring of mythical giants.

Every night I was swept away as the actors and technicians joined together to believe wholeheartedly in the story we were telling. We were lucky to be able to make that magic with every performance.

JILL CORDLE Broadway: The Inheritance, The Ferryman, Six Degrees of Separation, The Cherry Orchard, BlackbirdThe Gin Game, The Audience, The Realistic Joneses, Betrayal, Picnic, Death of a Salesman, Jerusalem, God of CarnageNovember, The Odd Couple, Glengarry Glen Ross, Reckless, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, True West, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Art.


Spotlight on Plays FAQ

Spotlight on Plays’ Spring 2021 season of virtual plays has concluded and there are no re-airs scheduled at this time. We greatly appreciate your support of The Actors Fund and can’t wait to see you back at the theatre!

When will I receive my access code to watch?

Your access code for each play will be sent to the email registered with your Stellar account shortly before each premiere. You must be logged into the Stellar account that you used to purchase your ticket in order to view.

How can I watch the Spotlight on Plays presentations?

The Spring Season is available to stream exclusively on Stellar Tickets. You can watch in several different ways:

Desktop or Laptop Browser: Stellar streams work on most browsers on both Mac and PC computers. We recommend Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox for the best viewing experience. To view on a browser, just come to this page at the event time and select “Livestream” to start the stream.

Mobile Browser: Viewing on a mobile browser works the same as viewing on a desktop browser. Just come to this page at the event time and select “Livestream” to start the stream.

Stellar Tickets Mobile Apps: You can download the Stellar Tickets app for iOS or Android to watch your stream on your mobile device.

How can I watch it on my television? 

Download the Stellar app to view the presentation on a TV: 

Roku TV: 

Google Play:

Apple App Store:

How long will the shows be available? 

Each Spotlight on Play presentation will be available for 96 hours following the initial premiere time of 8:00PM Eastern Time. You are able to watch the show at any time during this window. Please note that on-demand access will not become available until after the live event has fully streamed. If you miss the premiere, the on-demand video will become available a few hours following the event. Once the time frame expires, there will be no encore performances and the presentation will be unavailable for streaming.

If I’m not able to watch the premiere, can I see it later? 

Yes! Each title will be available for 96 hours following the initial premiere time. You must watch the show before this time frame expires. Once the time frame expires, there will be no encore performances and the presentation will be unavailable for streaming.

I purchased multiple tickets. How do I transfer the additional tickets to my friends? 

Tickets can be transfered by accessing “My Tickets” in your Stellar Tickets account. Then, click on the event page you’d like to access and scroll down to where it says “Your Tickets.” You will see “Transfer ticket” on the right side of the screen. From there, you can select the ticket you want to transfer and type in the email address of the new recipient. They will receive an email from Stellar Tickets, which may go to their promotions folder on Gmail.

How long is each show? 

Run times vary between 90 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes. Longer presentations will include a brief intermission.

Can I watch outside of the US?

Yes, you are able to watch outside of the US.

What is the refund/exchange policy?

There are no exchanges or refunds for the Spotlight on Plays Spring Season. This is a series of charitable benefit performances and we greatly appreciate your generous contribution to The Actors Fund. If you have questions or concerns, please email

How is this benefitting The Actors Fund?

Founded in 1882, The Actors Fund serves all professionals—and not just actors—in film, theater, television, music, opera, radio and dance through programs that address our community’s unique and essential needs.

Your generous donation to The Actors Fund will help provide everyone in the performing arts and entertainment community with emergency financial assistance, affordable housing, health insurance counseling, supplemental employment, addiction and recovery services and so much more.

Will these readings be captioned?

Yes, there will be an option to turn on subtitles.

If my whole family wants to watch the presentation, do we each need our own ticket?

No, only one livestream ticket is needed per household, not per individual. 


Stories from the Stage Lois Smith

The role that escaped me – one that I would have loved to play.

It’s a play I’m pretty sure hasn’t been written yet. There are significant roles for Vinie Burrows and for me. I’ve met Vinie only a couple of times and seen only a little of her work.  But she impresses me, and I want to do this play with her.

Maybe we, the not-only-white American theater, are on the verge of gaining and expressing more insight about how our country’s systemic racism has formed us, as people, as citizens, as artists. If so, then this insight will of course flow through us, from us, in our work, as our gift to our audience.

Vinie has experienced the injustice of lessened opportunity in our racist theater, and also her own resilience and strength. She carries the legacy of the crimes against her forbears, and their suffering.

I have experienced easier opportunity, and a sense of such privilege as normal. That has certainly made earning a living as an actor easier. I’m not feeling strengthened though by a legacy of racism.  In this case, easier isn’t better. I need to keep learning more about my history and experience of racism, and of hers.

It would be my privilege to do this play with Vinie. Working together is more fun than anything. I like to think we have something to offer each other, our colleagues, our audience.

I hope she’ll say Yes when the offer comes. I don’t know who is writing the play. Quickly please. Vinie and I are getting on.

Lois Smith is a three-time Tony Award nominee for her performances in The Grapes of Wrath (1990), Buried Child (1996), and The Inheritance (2020).  Her film career, spanning seven decades, includes East of Eden (1955), Fatal Attraction (1987), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Twister (1996), Minority Report (2002), and Lady Bird (2017).  She was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2007 for her outstanding contributions to the theatre.

Stories from the Stage

Stories from the Stage – Linda Cho

Once upon a time, a young woman ventured forth on a long road trip to attend the dreaded entrance interview for the Yale School of Drama. 

That was me, in a carefully chosen brand new double-breasted suit, hopeful, like a lottery ticket holder. I nervously entered an unremarkable brick building on York Street in New Haven.

I lugged my giant black bag filled with everything remotely artistic I have ever done up the stairs and sat in the Design Office waiting to be called, smoothing down stray hairs and trying to get my heart to slow down.

My fate would be decided by legends of design; professors Ming Cho Lee, Jane Greenwood and Jess Goldstein. I walked in, unzipped my portfolio, took a deep breath and launched nervously into my spiel.

After a short while, I was interrupted by Ming who raised his hand and said, “That’s enough.” 

The group silently pawed through my pile of naive attempts at designing the set for King Lear, pencil sketches of my mother (my only willing model), photos of medieval armor I made out of carpet pads, earnest attempts at still life paintings, laughable costume designs for Twelfth Night and my diaries filled with memories and doodles.

Finally, Ming spoke. “Your watercolor is terrible!”

 “The proportions on your figures are all wrong!”

 “Your set and costume design is really terrible!”

And, finally, he said, “I think you don’t know many plays!” 


Sad but true. 

“But… this…” He added, “this is something.” 

It was my hoard of scrappy, little diary/sketchbooks. The ones I’d take to concerts, museums, restaurants, on the subway, in which I’d sketch and write about the things I wanted to capture and commit to memory anytime I was still for more than a few minutes.

He flipped through them, nodding his head.

The others began nodding silently, too. 

To my amazement, I was accepted right there on the spot. 

What I realized then was that I didn’t need to show dazzling proficiency in theater design to be a promising designer; they were looking for a keen observer and a willing sponge.  

Designers draw from their wells of artistic inspiration. They fill this well with amazing and ordinary things they see and experience everyday and everywhere. 

I learned my first lesson before classes even began.

Linda Cho
 is a Tony Award winning costume designer with extensive experience designing for both theatre and opera in the US and internationally. In 2014 she won the Tony Award and the Henry Hewes Design Award for the Broadway musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.  In 2017 she was nominated for the Tony, Outer Critic’s Circle and Drama Desk Awards for Best Costume Design of a Musical for the Broadway production of Anastasia. In 2018 she was proud to be part of Broadway’s first all female creative team for Lifespan of a Fact.


PIAF. . . Her Story. . . Her Songs

Broadways Best Shows and The Actors Fund present Raquel Bitton’s acclaimed musical event “PIAF… Her Story… Her Songs.” All proceeds from suggested donations will benefit The Actors Fund.

Available for streaming on Broadway’s Best Shows Youtube channel and The Actors Fund Youtube channel beginning Monday, February 15 at 7:30PM ET. The concert will be available for four days through Thursday, February 18.

Part documentary, part stage performance, “PIAF… Her Story… Her Songs” is a “powerful, emotional and mesmerizing” (San Francisco Chronicle) look at French chanteuse Edith Piaf as she tells her story through a theatrical presentation by singer Raquel Bitton. Bitton literally becomes Piaf while singing, but steps back and tells her story – in English – between the mostly French songs. Archival photos of Piaf illustrate her life of lucky breaks and tragedy. Some of the evening’s best moments are of Bitton and Piaf’s friends, lovers, composers happily discussing Piaf over food and wine at a Paris bistro. The event features 16 songs performed with a full orchestra, including “La Vie En Rose,” “No Regrets” and “Hymn to Love.”