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The Play’s The Thing: Taking the arts online

Around the world, theatres had all gone dark by May of 2020. This had never happened on a worldwide scale, and the last major closure of theatres in England was during the black plague during Shakespeare’s day. This is unprecedented, an amazing time. But many thespians have risen to the occasion to keep on giving to their public and doing the thing they love the most. I have included a few links at the end of this article. 

By Joel Adams

Sunday 14 June 2020, 11:00AM

Sir Partick Stewart has been reading a Shakespearean sonnet a day during the COVID-19 lockdown and crisis. Screenshots: YouTube

Sir Partick Stewart has been reading a Shakespearean sonnet a day during the COVID-19 lockdown and crisis. Screenshots: YouTube

Many theatres round the world are streaming their filmed plays on the internet or TV channels to supply their audiences with entertainment and cultural input during this trying time. Even Wikipedia in its article ‘Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the performing arts’ lists many of the theatre companies’ offerings and where to find them.

Playwrights too are rising to the occasion and writing plays about the present situation, some made to be performed on Zoom or other online socially distanced media. I made a video of one of them, a play called ‘A Dog, a Cat, and a Bird Contemplate Quarantine’ by Christina Hamlett and published in Plays Magazine. I shortened the title to ‘Pets in the Pandemic’ and played all the parts. You can see it here.

I suppose you could look at this all as making the most out of a terrible situation, and of course any situation that causes deaths is terrible, and we commiserate with those who have died or lost loved ones. However, I prefer to look at the theatrical developments as previously hidden opportunities surfacing to lead us in new and exciting directions. As the old proverb says, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention.’ In this time of our need for uplifting input, we are seeing the theatre come through in wonderful ways. 

As I mentioned last month, the pandemic has led to Theatrix’s creation of a new YouTube channel, ‘Just So, Mr. Joel and Ms. Myriam,’ dedicated to supplying quality stories and songs for kids staying home, and the reception we have received has been very encouraging. Therefore, we plan to continue this project indefinitely with posts at least weekly. Theatrix is now also planning to expand and produce plays online for older audiences, some of which we hope to make available in real time, in other words, have audiences watch them as they are being performed. When you think about it, this could be an exciting new form of theatre not limited by location, that could be born out of this crisis. 

As many parts of the world begin to open up after the onslaught of the epidemic begins to pass over, I for one hope that things do not return to ‘life as normal,’ not only because I wish to continue with online productions, but because there have been many other benefits of this time of humankind withdrawing from our frenetic pace of life. I’m sure everyone can think of ways they and the world have benefitted from this time. But just to name a few…

I have realised that so many of the things that I thought were essential to life could be foregone and life could even get better without them. I have had time to do things I have always wanted to do, to give thought to ideas that were passing fancies before.

And then there are all the benefits that have come to the environment through the changes of late. Sea life is thriving, the seas are clear and beautiful, the skies are free of pollution in many very polluted areas around the world, and much, much more. I dread returning to the life we lived before. I was very relieved to read that.

Thailand is planning to close all national parks some months every year to give them a break from human activity. I hope we live our lives differently and never return to ‘normal life’, which was really anything but normal or natural.

In closing, I want to share a small part of a hilarious monologue an 8-year-old online student of mine, Alex Tuzov, wrote with his father, John Tuzov. It’s called ‘The People Zoo’.

PENGUIN in South Africa: Here I am, big plump African penguin in his prime… Come on, take your pictures!... I can’t believe this! It’s been a month and no people… something bad must have happened to people… like a creepy predator ate them all… I think I should go… and take a look… Look! Look at that poster of a green round monster with little crowns all over its body… The corona monster swallowed them all… (in eulogy) You know what, I’m gonna miss them. People could be a pain in the beak sometimes, but they were big, gentle, intelligent, funny creatures… Wait a minute… a little girl behind that window, and an old man on the balcony! They’re alive!... It’s like a people zoo!... Maybe we can even feed them, let’s go get some fish! 

To see online arts taking a leap forward, check out the following:

  • Sir Patrick Stewart reads a Shakespearean sonnet every day on YouTube.
  • Sam Neill sings, reads poetry and tells humorous stories during this time of isolation, all on Twitter.

Joel Adams is building a vibrant thea­tre community right here in Phuket. You can contact him at or by phone on 093 6490066. Facebook: Theatrix Group

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