New COVID-19 theater policies
More than 30 Philadelphia theaters have banded together for new COVID-19 requirements for patrons, including proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, which will allow for children under 12 and those unable to be vaccinated to attend.
Twelve of those theaters, including the Wilma Theater, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, and the Philadelphia Fringe, will allow only those who are fully vaccinated to attend shows. Following city protocols, masks must be worn indoors if all patrons aren’t vaccinated.
“Theaters have come together to prioritize the safety of audiences and theater workers, as well as streamline front of house processes for both patrons and staff,” said LaNeshe Miller-White, executive director of Theatre Philadelphia, the umbrella marketing organization for Philadelphia’s theater community.
Some big names are missing from the list, including the Walnut Street Theatre and the Kimmel Cultural campus, but they have announced their own similar policies. New Jersey theaters announced a similar policy last month.
To help theaters manage these requirements, Theatre Philadelphia has contracted with the Bindle app, which allows theaters to quickly check vaccine and test results for patrons and employees.
Daphne’s Dive comes to Camden
Quiara Alegría Hudes’ play, Daphne’s Dive, will open the season for South Camden Theatre Co. Hudes, a graduate of Philly’s Central High School, collaborated with Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda to bring their Tony-winning musical In the Heights to the screen. (The movie was released in June and streamed on HBO Max.) He wrote the music and the lyrics; she wrote both the play and screenplay. Hudes also won a Pulitzer for her 2012 play, Water by the Spoonful.
Daphne’s Dive, set in a North Philadelphia corner bar, relies on the matriarchal chops of Daphne, played by Jessica “Jessy” Gruver, who turns a cast of characters into family with all its quirks. Director Joel Guerrero was looking for a play that could tell the story of the region’s diverse Latino community. “Daphne’s Dive has changed how I see one’s own nuclear family and one’s chosen family,” he said.
In other South Camden Theatre Co. news, Dawn Varava will become the company’s interim artistic director, replacing Raymond Croce Sr., who is retiring.
The Sept. 17-19 performances have been cancelled; performances currently scheduled to continue Sept. 24-26 at the Waterfront South Theatre, Camden. Masks required.
Visions at Philly Fringe
Ordinarily, when the Philadelphia Fringe Festival comes around, actor and playwright Nick Jonczak is readying himself for his own project. But this year, he wanted something different. “I was just hungry for community. I could have made something full-length by myself, but I wanted to feel community with my artistic siblings, with people I admire.”
The result is Visions ― three weeks of short plays presented by 10 playwrights. Each week will feature a one-hour performance with three or four short pieces. Attendees can pay what they can.
“I wanted it to feel full,” Jonczak said. With the pandemic, “it’s very easy to feel lacking. I wanted the audience to leave with a sense of abundance.”
Some playwrights, he said, will present complete short works. Others will stage scenes from longer works in progress to gauge audience reaction. Some will present the same scene and tweak based on the audience.
Reaching out to his fellow playwrights, Jonczak asked them to think in terms of abundance, light, and vision. “What can we envision about the future of our country, of our planet, or our species, or what can they envision for themselves as an artist or as a person?”
Jonczak, who graduated from American University with a degree in theater activism and went on to study at Pig Iron Theatre Co., will present his own work called Pirate/Queen, which he describes as a verse play. “It’s just a fun, silly time to see pirates escape the queen.”
Through Sept. 15: Jonczak and fellow playwrights Nikki Brake-Silla and Carl(os) Roa; Sept. 19-22: Eppchez !, L M Feldman, and Jarrett McCreary; Sept. 26-29: Emma Gibson, Johnny G. Lloyd, and Kate Kearns. Masks and vaccination proof required.
The Motherhood Project
To bear or not to bear: That is the question for many who grapple with the question about parenthood. At a certain age, it can become fraught, as people try to figure out their own complicated relationships with fertility, pregnancy, overpopulation, loss of identity, and more.
Being actors, Jacqueline Libby, Christine Octavia Shaw, and Jacinta Yelland did what theater people do. They formed the inFLUX Theatre Collective and turned their personal dilemmas into a show. Presented at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, The Choice is the first of five new plays the trio will produce as part of the Motherhood Project. In The Choice, they invite the audience to help them decide about parenting.
The beauty of the Fringe is that anything, anything, can be the topic of a show, and nowhere is that more evident in Jennifer Blaine’s solo treatise on packages left on stoops in Package Deal. Blaine, who has been compared to Lily Tomlin, said she decided that “the phenomena of leaving packages on stoops in Philly was a great entry point for exploring the breakdown of systems, anonymity, and disposability that I feel as an artist and an aging woman.” Her goal? “I want to make you laugh and give you something to reflect on, too.”
Bat out of Doylestown
Doylestown’s Andrew Polec, who played the lead in Bat out of Hell in New York, won first prize in the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music’s 23rd Annual Lotte Lenya Competition last month. After singing four selections, each of which was its own one-act drama, Polec, an actor, singer, composer, and musician, earned kudos from the foundation’s director, who described Polec as a “terrific example … of singing actors/acting singers who can do it all.” He recently performed at the Bucks County Playhouse.
“Once upon a time there was a little ogre named Shrek,” who has now turned up to star in the hilarious and heartwarming Shrek the Musical, at SALT Performing Arts Center in Chester Springs. “The climactic song ‘Freak Flag’ represents an anthem of multiculturalism as expressed in the lyrics, ‘What makes us special makes us strong!’ ” says artistic director Lauren McComas.
On stage and livestreamed through Sept. 26, SALT Performing Arts Center, 1645 Art School Rd. Chester Springs. Masks required. Saltpa.com
Plays in parks
Let’s start with the name of the villain, Vernal Belch. You can probably get a hint from that about the nature of this family-friendly neighborhood comedy involving gentrification and a South Philadelphia vacant lot. Theatre Exile presents The Ever Present by R. Eric Thomas, free, at five South Philadelphia parks. Pax Ressler plays Belch.
Through Sept. 19. Wharton Square Park, Sept. 15 at 5:30 p.m.; Stephen Girard Park, Sept. 17, at 5:30 p.m.; Columbus Square Park, Sept. 18, 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and Hawthorne Park, Sept. 19 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Bring your own chairs/blankets.