The show goes on with Philadelphia Theatre Week

Ashley Smith / Wide Eyed Studios

The show must go on… even during a pandemic, and safely of course.

Starting April 22, Philly Theatre Week will be in full swing with 64 theaters and arts organizations presenting 72 virtual and in-person events over the 11-day festival. This comes after a long and hard year of closures and pivoting for the arts world in the City of Brotherly Love and beyond.

“Theatre Philadelphia is so excited to showcase the amazing ways that the Philadelphia region’s theatre community has continued to create work and look forward during the global pandemic,” said Theatre Philadelphia’s new Executive Director LaNeshe Miller-White in a statement. “The 4th annual Philly Theatre Week gives producers and artists an opportunity to connect and/or reconnect with audiences as they begin their journey on the long road to recovery that lies ahead.”

Miller-White has been working through Theatre Philadelphia to mobilize the annual event, which was put on hold last year for obvious reasons. With 2021’s Theatre Week almost here, the community of creatives in Philadelphia have banded together for what could be perhaps the most important year of the event yet.

Pictured are (top, from left) Elena Camp and Rajeer Alford, (bottom, from left) Newton Buchanan, CJ Higgins and LaNeshe Miller White.Ashley Smith / Wide Eyed Studios

“Philly Theatre Week was designed as an exciting annual celebration for arts, culture and theatre audiences. It grew into one of the most anticipated festival-style events to take place in Philadelphia, joining the ranks of Philly Beer Week, Philly Tech Week and Center City Restaurant Week,” Miller-White said. “Now, after the struggles our artistic community has endured over the last 12 months, this event means more than ever as it’s the first big step to seeing artists back at work, audiences fill seats and curtains rise again. We brought it back to give our community hope and show that better days are ahead – and that our industry needs positive news and momentum to get through these next few months as we sort out what theatre looks like the fall and next season – and what it looks like for years to come.”

When Theatre Week kicks off, Philadelphians can expect to see productions on the local, national and global level ranging from a collection of classics, experimental theatre, low-budget readings, panels, improv, physical theatre, workshops, in-depth discussions, local voices and much more.

“All eyes of the country can and will be on us as virtual theatre has opened up amazing new opportunities to bring in theatre lovers from across the country – and across the world,” said Miller-White in the release. “Some of our region’s theaters have been making national and international headlines during the pandemic. Some have perfected the unique and new art of virtual online performance. We are so excited to introduce our world-class theatre scene to these brand new audiences. When the time comes for audiences to come back inside to take their seat, we hope that the lasting impact of virtual theatre will be even more tourists and visitors coming to Philadelphia to fill our houses.”

Theaters from around the region, both big and small, will be participating in Theatre Week this year including Philadelphia Theatre Company, The Arden, The Hum’n’bards Theater Troupe, Kaleidoscope Cultural Arts Collective and more. The reach expands beyond the city limits to the Main Line, the suburbs, Chester County and Wilmington.

Opening night will have its own celebration on April 22 at 6 p.m. The event will be virtual and live, with a pay-what-you-can attendance option to help support the fourth annual Theatre Week and its participants. The evening will feature an array of previews for what’s to come for the 11-day festival.

A few highlights for the event include Laurel Tree Theater’s take on a Henrik Ibsen classic with ‘A Doll’s House 20/20.’ The pre-recorded show follows the well-known story through the character of Nora Helmer, who on stage works through the trials and tribulations of quarantine life taking the story from the acclaimed playwright to new and current heights. Mallbodies on the other hand will be experimenting with audio entertainment. With ‘Mallbodies, A Performative Elegy to the American Shopping Mall,’ Philadelphians are invited to go on a sound walk performance journey dedicated to – and in critique of – our experience and memory of the American shopping mall.

Ego Po Classic Theater has also figured out a way to adapt to the times and will be putting on a live drive-in outdoor event. The official description from the release for this show reads: “Fifteen years ago, I killed my sister”. Thus begins this haunting story of pain and isolation. Before the event, you receive directions to a remote abandoned parking lot in Philadelphia. You arrive in the night, your vehicle illuminating the empty landscape. A man appears out of the darkness, blinded by your headlights. Through your FM radio, he begins to share the story of his journey to redemption. You, and your car, become essential players in this theatrical nightmare as his life (re)emerges out of the darkness and silence.

Other events throughout the week include a free virtual discussion with Philadelphia Theatre Company as they announce the recipient of the 2021 Terrence McNally Award, a virtual immersive quest with Cirque du Nuit, an improvisation live event with Crossroads Comedy Theater and much more.

For a full list of performances and for more information on what to expect, visit theatrephiladelphia.org

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