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On a traditional stage, audiences and actors alike rely on the talent of scenic and lighting designers to help create the world of the show. But in a virtual production format, where actors are logging into a streaming platform from their own remote locations, it isn’t always possible to be so visually ambitious.
Good thing solid acting—and great material—can more than make up for any spareness in your production design!
These nine titles offer serious theatrical quality without the fuss of elaborate set pieces or technical elements. Better yet, each show on our list Is available for streaming rights from Stage Rights independent theatrical publishers:
Cast Size: 2F, 2M, 3-12 women chorus members
Other Details: 10 minutes in length. Themes of politics, tragedy, violence against women. Not suitable for children.
Playwright: Anya Martin
Synopsis: It’s 2009 and Helen of Troy runs on a treadmill at an LA fitness in Pittsburgh, where centuries of violent obsession and lust are about to explode in a horrific tragedy. Appeared in the 2018 Red Bull Theater Short New Play Festival.
Recommendation: Makes a great addition to a program of once acts, or as part of a streamed season of short works. Check out the entire Red Bull Shorts series for other ideas.
Cast Size: 5F
Other Details: Written in a classic style. 10 minutes long.
Playwright: James Still
Synopsis: Should married women be allowed to join a 20th century women’s group? Lydia doesn’t think so. A true representation of cultured society and presumed notions come together in a fun, witty and thought-provoking session about love, jealousy and perception.
Recommendation: Good play for community theatre. Funny and captivating.
Cast size: 1F, 1M (any ethnicity) – mid 30s
Other details: Set on a green, hilly highway with inflammatory political ads and other road messaging. Projections and virtual backgrounds can work well to create the visual scene.
Playwright: Matthew Ivan Bennett
Synopsis: A road trip may be just what Hannah and Cooper need to salvage their marriage from the wreckage of a recent tragedy. While Hannah is content to play car games, Cooper is determined to confront the details of the traumatic event that has led them on this journey to reconnect. As they fight through the traffic and the secrets between them, Hannah and Cooper travel in and out of their memories and must both question whether they can trust each other— or themselves. At once humorous and heartbreaking, A Version of Events masterfully explores the choice between truth and peace in a marriage.
Recommendation: A good choice for the intimacy of a streamed production, as the material tackles issues of relationships and honesty.
Genre: High School Drama
Cast size: 4F, 3M
Other details: Presented through a series of monologues; funny.
Playwright: Leda Siskind
Synopsis:Over the course of a school year, six inner-city high school students are forced to speak with the new school counselor. Through a series of monologues, we meet a diverse group of students including: Ruby, a foster kid who struggles with sobriety as she ages out of the system; Wade, whose Asperger’s poses a unique problem for him when he develops his first crush; and overweight Marcy, an aspiring poet devastated by a cruel prank. Their struggles challenge the experience of the school counselor, who discusses her work in therapy sessions of her own. Beautifully drawn, funny, and heartbreakingly poignant, All My Distances Are Far turns the audience into a silent confidant as each character struggles to make it to the end of the school year.
Recommendation: Good for both school and community theatre. The monologue format makes this an ideal piece for physically distanced production.
Cast size: 1F, 1M (can switch up characters) – mid 20s to mid 30s
Other Details: Deals with themes of dating, relationships, love, flirtation, hope, and regret. Set in a Chinese restaurant, a subway platform, and other popular locations for singles around the city.
Playwrights: Josh Lanzet & Lindy Voeltner
Synopsis: The same combination of humor and heart that made I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change a regional hit will have audiences falling head-over-heels for this sketch comedy concoction. In a series of vignettes, eight couples “Bumble” through the frenzied world of dating in search of “eHarmony” and a “Match” that lasts. With all of the pickups and hiccups that come with first impressions and final goodbyes, Dating: Adults Embracing Failure “Tinder-ly” proves that love can conquer even the world’s worst one-liners.
Recommendation: With storylines based in the awkwardness of 21st-century dating, this piece translates especially well to a virtual performance format.
Cast size: 3F; mid-30s, late 30s, and late 20s – any race or ethnicity, but inclusive casting is required to reflect the diversity of the setting.
Other details: Includes themes of family history, strength, vulnerability, being middle-class, the American dream, and American women.
Playwright: Rachel Bykowski
Synopsis: Camaro Gibson loves only three things in this life: strawberry glazed donuts, her daddy, and Route 66. Born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, Camaro keeps her daddy’s heart in their family’s repair shop: a 1967 Chevy Camaro engine. Since her daddy passed away five years ago, she has been trying to get that baby to rev and hear its heartbeat one last time before she lets him go.
Recommendation: Community theatre audiences love this show! Plan for lots of audience engagement, for example, by including a virtual talk back after the performance.
Genre: High School Drama
Cast size: 2F, 3M
Other details: Themes include school shootings, adolescence, bullying, angst, breaking stereotypes, outcasts, and nerd culture. Set in different locations with quick changes. Can use a projector or virtual backgrounds for set design and added thematic context. Transitions between scenes are fast.
Playwright: Gregory Crafts
Synopsis: In this honest and poignant look at adolescence, Garrett, an outsider, navigates the tumultuous halls of his school with his best friend Diz, a self-proclaimed freak. They escape the day-to-day tortures of high school in a game-world called Haven, where they slay monsters and save maidens. When Garrett catches the attention of Nicole, a popular cheerleader with an honest heart, it upsets the status quo. Jealousy and betrayal force Garrett to confront past mistakes and question who his real friends are. This gut-wrenching new play unswervingly explores the tragic consequences of bullying that have left us staggering as a nation time and time again.
Recommendation: A thought provoking treatment of contemporary cultural issues. Would be well paired with supplemental programming, such as a virtual talk back or roundtable discussion, to address the topics raised.
Genre: Dark Comedy
Cast Size: 3F, 2M mid-to-late 30s; early to mid-30s; late 20s to early 30s; 40s; late 20s to early 30s
Other Details: Set in the interior of a small, depressing apartment during a snowstorm. Dialogue should be fast-paced. Themes of family, sibling rivalry, broken dreams, and disappointment.
Playwright: Amy Dellagiarino
Synopsis: Three sisters move back into a New York City apartment together after their lives have taken turns for the worse. Before they can even finish unpacking, their first night together becomes a comedy of Chekhovian proportions. Armed with nothing but a dwindling bottle of vodka, some pizza, and a loaded gun, these siblings must set aside their grievances and work together to save themselves from an ever-escalating series of events.
Recommendation: Filled with witty banter and playing off the dynamics of long established relationships under pressure in close quarters, this piece allows the acting to really shine in a virtual production or live-streamed format.
Cast Size: Varies from play to play
Other Details: Each play in the Red Bull Shorts series runs 10 to 20 minutes in length.
Playwrights: Multiple up-and-coming and established playwrights for Red Bull Theater in New York City.
Synopsis: In the hands of great playwrights, the 10-minute play is a highly entertaining dramatic form. The Red Bull Theater’s Short New Play Festival features short plays of heightened language and classical themes—some downright silly, and others powerfully moving—by today’s hottest writers, including commissions by established playwrights such as John Guare, David Ives, Regina Taylor, and Anne Washburn, and winning entries by writers such as Mike Anderson, Sam Lahne, Lynn Rosen, and Jen Silverman.
Recommendation: This series offers a variety of works that can be combined to suit any audience, whether you’re producing a program of one-acts or streaming a full season of shorts.
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