Despite the way that society often maligns artists as frivolous, unnecessary, and inessential, it seems that many people are leaning on art to get them through this difficult time. Whether it’s to stave off boredom or find some glimmer of hope in the doom, people all over the world are seeking out their favorite music, theatre, film, television, and more during the pandemic.
As I said in my last post, theatre is my church. As religion, tradition, and ritual have been a huge comfort to folks during their modified Easter and Passover celebrations, the creativity of my theatre community has given me so much joy. I’m taking a zoom monologue class and have been participating in virtual play readings — I’m doing more theatre now than I did in the past six months. It reminds me how much I love it.
Here are ten plays to read (or watch online) that are well suited to this time.
Leaning In To Existential Dread
Sartre’s No Exit is THE classic existentialist play. A take on the afterlife that may seem familiar to fans of The Good Place, this French drama is in turns absurd, frightening, and funny. Watch the 1960s film adaptation (starring Harold Pinter of all people) or read the play here.
Waiting for Godot
This Beckett classic hardly needs an introduction. But waiting for what seems like an indefinite amount of time? Mood. Stream it here.
Not only is it the relatable tale of a man slowly drifting into madness with only his
roommate fool to accompany him, but Shakespeare may have even written it in the middle of a plague. There are lots of versions to watch online, including this live recording from 2011.
Next To Normal
A more contemporary take on existential dread, with a wonderful score to boot, Next To Normal is also on my list of musicals getting me through. It is sad, funny, and conveys a sense of being stuck that is familiar to us all at this point.
Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice is one of countless retellings of the classic Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice. This time, we get the story from the heroine’s point-of-view. It is a gorgeous tale of lost love. Read it in this anthology.
Laugh Out Loud Funny
In The Next Room, Or, The Vibrator Play
Another Sarah Ruhl entry into this list, In The Next Room is a hilarious and heartbreaking play based on real historical accounts of gynecological treatments for so-called hysteria. It’s available as an e-book at many local libraries. Try Cloud Library, Hoopla, or Libby to find it.
Wonder of the World
Written by David Lindsay Abaire, Wonder of the World is one of the first plays that made me double over with laughter. It is a silly, absurd story about a woman who flees her engagement and ends up having a madcap adventure in Niagara falls. Check your local library website for the ebook.
Much Ado About Nothing
I love every form of this play. Not only is it Shakespeare comedy at its best, it is also one of the few plays with an older (read: over 25) female character who is neither evil nor tragic. Two great options for viewing is the star-studded film version (Kenneth Branagh! Emma Thompson!! Keanu Reaves!!!) or last summer’s fabulous Shakespeare In The Park adaptation starring Danielle Brown.
Into The Woods
A little bit metaphor, a little bit fairytale, the Sondheim-Lapine classic has one of my favorite musical scores of all time. There is of course the star-studded film adaptation that was released a few years ago, and I also love the version recorded for PBS.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Another twist on fairytales, Midsummer is one of Shakespeare’s most popular shows, and for good reason. Fairies, love potions, and royalty? A perfect way to take your mind off of current circumstances. I haven’t seen any of the film adaptations, but there are hundreds of versions of the play on YouTube. And this modern film version that looks delightfully bad. (Side note, I played Demetrius in a woman-led adaptation of the play!)
I’d love to hear which plays you have read, watched, or revisited during this time. Theatre is saving my life over here. I hope you are finding what brings you joy, meaning, and solace.
Love and theatre,