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The 2020 fall theater season has now coalesced into a jam-packed, multimedia, indoor/outdoor extravaganza where, despite the continued COVID shutdowns, you can find fresh local entertainment multiple times a week to sustain you as the weather turns cooler.
Much of the October lineup acts as a prelude to Election Day on Nov. 3. But there’s also some nonpolitical themes explored, and some pure fun to be had. Here in chronological order are half a dozen highlights. Most are virtual, some are livestreamed rather than pre-recorded, and one is live onstage.
HartBeat Ensemble opened its 2020 season Oct. 8 with a livestream of California performance artist Kristin Wong in “Kristin Wong for Public Office.” On Oct. 19 it offers another political piece, performed by the ensemble’s brand new artistic director Godfrey L. Simmons, who’s also an accomplished actor, director and producer. Simmons puts his own spin on Mike Daisey’s 2016 monologue “Trump Card,” revising it for the 2020 election. HartBeat says the show isn’t just a partisan affair but “an examination of our current political moment and a call for self-reflection among Americans of every stripe.” All HartBeat shows this season are Pay What You Can; suggested donation is $20. hartbeatensemble.org.
The 2nd Annual Hartford Fringe Festival
Last year the Hartford Fringe Festival had trouble scaring up large enough audiences for some of its inaugural offerings. This year, that’s not a problem. The festival has gone virtual for its second go-round, giving the organizers a wider swath of fringey projects to choose from. Filling seats has given way to hosting streams. The lineup includes everything from traditional cabaret concerts to circus entertainments to the confessional piece “Dammit, Jim! I’m a Comedienne, Not a Doctor!” All the pieces are from North America (a couple from Canada), but around a quarter of them are Connecticut-based, including the improv group Mowfs and a couple of locally lensed film projects, one of which stars a puppet named Potbelly. The fest runs Oct. 9 through Nov. 9, plus lengthier runs for the winners of the “Best of Fringe” and “Spirit of the Fringe” awards. Tickets are $10 per show — they range in length from 15 minutes to an hour and a half — or $99 for a full pass that gets you over 12 hours of fringe entertainment. hartfordfringefestival.org.
Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland
Goodspeed Musicals, which staged some popular outdoor concerts over the summer, gets into virtual showmanship with the one-woman livestreamed tribute concert “Get Happy: Angela Ingersoll Sings Judy Garland.” It’s an ideal choice, since Goodspeed staged a new musical about Garland, “Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz,” in 2016. Ingersoll’s interpretation of the legendary Garland, which covers the singer’s hits from “Over the Rainbow” to “The Man Who Got Away," has been seen on PBS, garnering an Emmy nomination. This online presentation is a new live performance from Chicago’s Freedom Hall, with a talkback following the show. One performance only, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. $35. goodspeed.org.
Russian Troll Farm
Elizabeth Williamson was the associate artistic director at Hartford Stage, where she directed “Seder,” “Henry V," “Cloud 9 1/4 u2033 and the very last show that theater did before it had to close during the COVID crisis, “Jane Eyre.” Williamson resurfaces as a director, and reunites with “Seder” playwright Sarah Gancher, for the politically timely “Russian Troll Farm." TheaterWorks is her home this time, screening the show online as part of its new membership-based 2020 season. The made-for-streaming show, which lets audiences “ZOOM into the office of a Russian troll farm bent on impacting the 2016 U.S. election,” livestreams separate performances Oct. 18-24, then is available Oct. 25 through Nov. 2.
The Gin Game
Stamford’s Curtain Call complex in Stamford was one of the first theaters in Connecticut to stage shows outdoors this past summer. Now Curtain Call is moving indoors. The first show of its 2020-21 (30th anniversary) season has just two people in its cast. The actors, Gail and Ted Yudain, are a married couple in real life, who have been isolating together. The show is “The Gin Game," about two residents of an assisted living facility who don’t necessarily get along but get used to playing cards together. “The Gin Game” has strong Connecticut connections; it was a Long Wharf Theatre production in 1977 that transferred to Broadway, after which the play won a Pulitzer. It plays Oct. 22-25 in Curtain Call’s Kweskin Theatre space, which in normal times seats 185 and far fewer under the state COVID guidelines. $35, $25 seniors, $20 children. curtaincallinc.com.
Numerous Connecticut arts institutions, including The Bushnell, Hartford Stage, TheaterWorks, Charter Oak Cultural Center and HartBeat Ensemble plus the University of Connecticut, are joining with half a dozen other theaters around the country to co-present “American Dreams,” a social satire in which immigrants become citizens based on how well they do in a perverse soul-crushing game show. “American Dreams” had its premiere as a live show at the Cleveland Public Theater in 2018 and has been retooled for online consumption during a presidential election year. The director is Tamilla Woodard, who some Connecticut theatergoers might remember as the artistic director of the Yale Cabaret when she was a student at the Yale School of Drama nearly 20 years ago. The performances of “American Dreams” held by the Connecticut consortium are Oct. 28 through Nov. 1. americandreamsplay.com.
Christopher Arnott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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