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, Blackbird, The Gin Game, The Audience, The Realistic Joneses, Betrayal, Picnic, Death of a Salesman, Jerusalem, God of Carnage, November, The Odd Couple, Glengarry Glen Ross, Reckless, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, True West, Smokey Joe’s Cafe, Art.
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:
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
With Debbie Allen, Ellen Burstyn, Bobby Cannavale, Kathryn Hahn, Kevin Kline, Eric McCormack, Audra McDonald, Mary-Louise Parker, Phylicia Rashad, Keanu Reeves, Heidi Schreck, Alia Shawkat, Heather Alicia Simms, Alicia Stith, Meryl Streep, and many more.
THE THANKSGIVING PLAY 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” (NY 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
ANGRY, RAUCOUS AND SHAMELESSLY GORGEOUS 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
THE BALTIMORE WALTZ 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
WATCH ON THE RHINE 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
THE SISTERS ROSENSWEIG 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
OHIO STATE MURDERS 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
DEAR ELIZABETH 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 affair— and 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Looking Back at Forgotten Plays by Black Playwrights
A New Series in Honor of Black History Month
Almost 70 Years Later, Take a Giant Step Remains a Vital American Play
By MARK BLANKENSHIP
Spencer Scott, the hero of Louis S. Peterson’s 1953 drama Take a Giant Step, ought to be listed alongside Willy Loman, Walter Lee Younger, and Joe Bonaparte as one of the great, socially aware protagonists of American drama. Just like those characters, he fights as hard as he can against the country’s failures, and even though he doesn’t win, he exposes something true.
But as vital as they are, both Spencer and his play are largely forgotten. That’s our mistake. Now is the perfect time to remember them.
To a modern audience, the story of Take a Giant Step will seem acutely familiar: The only Black kid in his tony northern high school, Spencer gets suspended after angrily contradicting a teacher who says the slaves were too lazy to free themselves during the Civil War. When his parents find out, they’re horrified, though not by the teacher. They tell their son that as a Black man, he doesn’t have the privilege of contradicting white people.
How is he supposed to be happy, he wonders, when everyone he knows just wants him to remember his place?
Peterson understood this conflict. He based the play on his own experience growing up in Hartford, Connecticut, and critics hailed him for his uncommon insight and feeling. After the show played five weeks on Broadway — and returned Off Broadway for an impressive eight months in 1956 — he abandoned his earlier career as an actor and became a trailblazer on Broadway and in film and television. He not only wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Take a Giant Step, which made him one of the first Black screenwriters in the Hollywood system, but also got an Emmy nomination for Joey, a 1957 installment of Goodyear Playhouse starring Kim Stanley and Anthony Perkins.
Granted, Peterson’s success didn’t always shield him from the very oppression that Spencer tries to fight. The film of Take a Giant Step, for instance, was forced to be re-edited because it was deemed too frank in its language and sexuality. As the critic Mark A. Reid noted in a Jump Cut magazine article about Peterson’s work, onscreen depictions of Black sexuality in the 1950s and 60s were typically limited to lusty madness (like Dorothy Dandridge’s character in Carmen Jones) or violent crime (like the the courtroom description of interracial rape in To Kill a Mockingbird). In this thick of this era, it was considered taboo for Spencer to have everyday confusion about growing up and meeting women.
Undaunted, Peterson kept writing about social issues. His 1962 play Entertain a Ghost examines interracial relationships, as does his sweeping 1979 drama Crazy Horse. In 1983 he wrote Another Show, about the rise adolescent suicide, specifically for his students at SUNY Stony Brook.
None of these later plays were as successful as Take a Giant Step, but Peterson still had an undeniable impact on the arts in America. Along with laying a foundation for other writers of color, his work also highlighted a generation of Black performers. At the age of 17, for instance, Louis Gossett, Jr. made his Broadway debut playing Spencer, and before he became a superstar pop singer, Johnny Nash played Spencer in the film. Ruby Dee also appeared in the movie, while Beah Richards, Bill Gunn, and Godfrey Cambridge were among the stars of the Broadway and off-Broadway productions. (It’s worth noting that Gossett briefly reprised his role in the Off-Broadway run as well.)
The astonishing cumulative success of these performers just burnishes the legacy of both a play and a playwright that are ripe for rediscovery.
Mark Blankenship is the editor of The Flashpaper and the co-author of the recently published book Madonna: A to Z.
Thank you for all who have donated to the Actors Fund!
GORE VIDAL’S THE BEST MAN weaves humor and suspense in equal measure as a Secretary of State and a U.S. Senator contend for the Presidential nomination and, most importantly, for the endorsement of a colorful and canny ex-President. Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman plays the ex-President and the company of actors includes John Malkovich, Zachary Quinto, Vanessa Williams, Stacy Keach, Tony Award winners Phylicia Rashad, Reed Birney, Katie Finneran, and Elizabeth Ashley, directed by Michael Wilson.
With Stars Of Hamilton, The Band’s Visit, and Fiddler On The Roof
Based in Jewish tradition, Shabbat — and its teaching that spending meaningful time connecting with friends and family — is for everyone. Much like yoga or meditation can be, Shabbat is an act of peaceful rebellion against a constantly moving world. When this isolating global pandemic took hold, OneTable was looking for a way to keep the magic of Friday night Shabbat going, and for a way for people to mark time when every day feels the same.
They landed on PAUSE, a new video series collaboration between OneTable and Broadway’s Adam Kantor. Initially conceptualized as a one night special, OneTable and the production team behind Saturday Night Seder were stuck on the fact that the beauty of Shabbat comes from its unfaltering arrival every single week. The series is designed to build on the ritual of Shabbat, to take a moment — a pause — and ask big questions. Each video melds tradition with innovation, asking and answering the question how might we imagine the world not as it is, but as it could be?
“Since Broadway has shut down, I’ve been missing the joys of collaborating with artists who inspire me on the daily,” Kantor said. For the series debut, OneTable and Kantor collaborated with dancer/choreographer Jesse Kovarsky (The Band’s Visit, Fiddler On The Roof, Sleep No More). “Jesse is one of my favorite artists and collaborators on Broadway,” Kantor said. “We first met during Fiddler On The Roof, in which he played the titular role, and then we had the good fortune of working together again on The Band’s Visit, in which he was the associate choreographer.” Filmed in his own NYC apartment, Kavarsky explores his interpretation of receiving traditional Shabbat candles in the mail from his parents, and figuring out how to make them his own — delving into the question, “What do we do with the things we inherit?”
The second installment (Friday, November 6) features Daniel Watts (Hamilton, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, In the Heights, Tina) and Kelly Hall-Tompkins (the fiddler violin soloist in the recent Broadway revival of Fiddler On The Roof), wrestling with the concept of making the ancient new, through music and spoken word poetry. The remaining ten episodes of the series (co-produced by Eric Kuhn and production agency Gesundheit Media) will debut on each of the first Fridays of the month, culminating on Friday, September 3, 2021.
You can watch the first video above, and stay tuned at @onetableshabbat or onetable.org/pause on the first Friday of each month at 5pm Eastern as featured artists offer their personal interpretation of the traditions, intentions, and contemporary applications of Shabbat ritual through digital performance art, spoken word, dance, song, humor, meditation and more.