by Mary Alice Franklin, ArtsNews Editor
Bram Lewis, Artist Director at The Schoolhouse Theater, had been determined since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to “carve out a virtual space” that would keep the theater connected with its audience. After a long discussion with Managing Director Madeline Rae, they came up with just the thing: The Pandemic Players.
The discussion was the humble start of a full series of short lunch-hour plays intended to bring entertainment to audiences and give a “treasure trove of ace New York artists something to sink their teeth into.” So each Friday afternoon, for one hour, those who tune into the weekly Zoom event will get a reprieve from their busy day in the form of a one-act play. Sometimes there will be a brand new script; other times, a scary classic. It’s the “new” matinee.
Explains Lewis: “In a world without theater, The Pandemic Players will do their best to replace it through these readings. While you won’t have the thrill of fighting over the armrests in a theater, you’ll still have the transformative experience of a live performance.”
The series, which began in July with a female version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple read in two parts over two days, is now cast and scheduled through August with no end in sight. Lewis excitedly boasts that Broadway veterans Tim Jerome and Austin Pendleton will be part of what he affectionately refers to as the “merry band of players.” Jerome will perform Sullivan & Gilbert on August 21, while Pendleton will tackle the Tennessee Williams classic Vieux Carrè in September. Also on deck are Whose Life Is It, Anyway? (August 14), Molly Bloom’s Night Dreams, Bedtime Story (both August 7) and Night Must Fall (August 28).
Soon, you may not need to tune into Zoom at all. Lewis says the theater is in talks with several radio stations to bring the performances to a wider audience. “After all,” he playfully quipped: “The play’s the thing.”
A version of this article first appeared in the August issue of ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNewsis distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.