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The Show Must Go On: Actors Theatre Of Louisville Offers Virtual Showing Of Humana Festival Plays

Noah Keyishian and Kaitlyn Boyer in ARE YOU THERE by Vivian Barnes, Jonathan Norton and Gab Reisman, 44th Humana Festival, 2020. Photo by Jonathan Roberts.
Jonathan Roberts
Actors Theatre of Louisville performs ARE YOU THERE?, directed by Artistic Director Robert Barry Fleming and written by Vivian Barnes, Jonathan Norton, and Gab Reisman. This seasonÕs Professional Training Company stars in this production.

You’ll soon be able to enjoy plays that recently received their world premieres from your living room.

Actors Theatre of Louisville announced on Monday that it’s launching an on-demand streaming service called Actors Theatre Direct, featuring some plays from its archives, as well as pay-per-view full-length presentations of two works that debuted during its 44th Humana Festival of New American Plays. 

The theater company suspended the Humana Festival earlier this month, canceling nearly 100 scheduled performances of new works to help prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus. While the company has modified performances and schedules for the festival in the past, it has never had to do something on this scale before.

“I think the need for stories remains very consistent,” executive artistic director Robert Barry Fleming said. “Particularly at a moment like this, we want to be able to reflect on what it essentially means to be human, which every great play has a window into.” 

Fleming said this is the best way the organization can continue to fulfill its mission and serve the community during the pandemic. 

“We knew if we were not able to engage the art in public assembly, that digital opportunity would be the only option” he said. “And so we began working pretty quickly in identifying the resources that would necessitate being able to do that.”

“Being able to do that” involved working with more than 100 different entities, including unions and artists, to secure the rights to present these works online. And to do it in a rapid and cost-effective fashion, meant some concessions had to be made. Fleming described the negotiations as “unprecedented,” as some normal-circumstance restrictions on digital content were removed to streamline the process “because there's just never been anything of this nature that any of us have had to navigate.”

It’s hard to tell how this process could change things moving forward, he said. That’s because the situation itself remains fluid and Actors Theatre is trying to be as nimble as possible in its response. That nimbleness also applies to the plays that weren’t able to debut after the organization suspended the festival. 

“We’re getting, every day, a little bit more clarity about the timeline of the peak of the pandemic and what that might mean in terms of public assembly,” Fleming said. “So we're working out different scenarios to see what's possible and what's not realistic in terms of being able to maybe continue the work and think of it as a postponement.”

Actors Theatre is also planning on moving its some of its summer camps online through Google meet.

For the Actors Theatre Direct virtual lineup, Fleming said they’re “drawing from the vault,” but the marquee offerings will be two recent Humana Festival offerings: “Where the Mountain Meets the Sea” by Jeff Augustin with music by The Bengsons and “Are You There?” by Vivian Barnes, Jonathan Norton and Gab Reisman. 

Virtual tickets are available now starting at $15 and streaming begins April 6.

Stephanie Wolf is LPM's Arts & Culture Reporter. Email Stephanie at swolf@lpm.org.