As the novel coronavirus COVID-19 continues its spread around the globe, its impacts can be felt in every aspect of daily life. For many in the New York performing arts world, the reality really set in on Thursday, March 12, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued emergency guidelines on public gatherings. While most of the attention has been paid to the closing of all Broadway shows, due to its large scale economic impacts, the affects on Off-off-Broadway, downtown, experimental theater, dance and performance are just as severe if not more so. Despite some additional flexibility for smaller organizations, many theaters and art spaces have followed suit and suspended programming out of an abundance of caution. The result is that many small, independent productions with limited runs, tight budgets, and slots in busy seasons have suddenly found themselves without a place to play. Touring productions may not make it back; some shows may never receive a presentation in NYC.
In response, Culturebot has decided – based on a suggestion by Kamila Slawinska – to do its best to produce a living document of the affected works. While this may seem of trivial importance in the face of the life-and-death realities of the global pandemic, we simply want to recognize some of the potentially lost work that creators have sacrificed for. While we have built this list off of publicity notices we’ve received, moving forward we invite anyone who wishes to list their work here to email details to cbot.covid(at)gmail.com. Please include a description of the show, including title, collaborators, the venue and dates it was originally scheduled to run, and the status of the production to the best of your knowledge (i.e., has it been cancelled by the presenter, has a potential future date been offered, etc), and preferably a photo.
For readers, there are several important things to note. First, while we endeavor to keep this list up-to-date, you should check the website of the presenter or company for the most accurate information. Second, all the information contained herein is conditional and subject to change; many organizations have suspended operations for at least a month, but that does not guarantee that conditions in April or May will permit for the resumption of normal activities. A postponement could become a cancellation, and so on. Again, please default to the applicable organization’s website for up-to-date information. Third, even if a work or presentation has not been cancelled or postponed, we encourage you to use your best judgment as to whether the risk of exposure is worth attendance, and please follow public health suggestions for protecting yourself and others from infection. Finally, we ask the any interested parties remember that Culturebot is a volunteer organization and our ability to respond to emails or to make updates can be limited.
POSTPONED – Heather Christian’s Oratorio for Living Things @ ArsNova (Minimum 30-day suspension of performances began Thurs., March 12)
In this sweeping world premiere, Heather Christian, “a composer of blazing creative ambition” (Ben Brantley, The New York Times), imbues the classical oratorio with blues, gospel, jazz, and soul. Both otherworldly and achingly intimate, Oratorio for Living Things heralds Christian as an undeniable artistic force — and inspires us to reflect on the mystery of human experience, set against the vast scope of cosmic time. NOTE from Press Release: Ars Nova is hopeful that performances of Heather Christian’s Oratorio for Living Things will resume at Ars Nova at Greenwich House in mid-April, pending the status of COVID-19. Performances had just begun on March 10 and the commissioned world premiere was scheduled to open on March 30. Ars Nova is deeply committed to its core values, especially during difficult periods. Therefore all individuals who were scheduled to work on Ars Nova programming and operations—full and part-time staff, performers, house managers, ushers, bartenders, and custodial staff—including all involved with the production of Oratorio for Living Things, will continue to be paid even during this suspension of programming.
POSTPONED – Ren Dara Santiago’s The Siblings Play @ Rattlestick (postponed following preview on Sat. March 14)
Set inside a rent-stabilized Harlem apartment in 2014, The Siblings Play delves deep into the psyche of a teenage girl and her two brothers left to raise each other in their parents’ absence. The play looks at the ways these three teenagers protect, love, fight, and diminish in the wake of their family history and the complexity of growing up with parents who are too young to be parents in the first place.
INDEFINITELY POSTPONED/SUSPENDED – Emily Johnson’s Kinstillatory Mappings in Light and Dark Matter, Autumn Knight’s M _ _ _ ER & Transport Group’s Unsinkable Molly Brown, all at Abrons Arts Center. (
Emily Johnson/Catalyst: Kinstillatory Mappings in Light and Dark Matter (): “A ceremonial fire outdoors in the amphitheater at Abrons Arts Center centering Indigenous protocol and knowledge. Sit by the fire and welcome the evening with neighbors, stories, songs, and food (bring some to share).” Autumn Knight’s M _ _ _ ER (): “M _ _ _ ER considers how the concepts of “mother,” “murder,” and “matter” shape experiences of intimacy.” Transport Group’s Unsinkable Molly Brown (Feb 8 – Mar 22): “Transport Group presents a revitalized version of the musical tale of Margaret “Molly” Brown — still the character you know and the songs you love but a story that’s new and true. This is Molly as she really was: vibrant, progressive, and ready to fight for the underdog as a champion of women’s rights, labor rights, and immigration reform.”
SUSPENDED – Martyna Majok’s Sanctuary City @ Lucille Lortel (New York Theatre Workshop) (Originally scheduled Mar. 4- April 12; all NYTW operations were suspended March 12 for 31 days)
DREAMers. Love(r)s. Life-long friends. Negotiating the promise of safety and the weight of responsibility, they’ll fight like hell to establish a place for themselves and each other in America. 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner, NYTW Usual Suspect and former 2050 Fellow Martyna Majok brings us an unforgettable story that asks what we’re willing to sacrifice for someone we love. Rebecca Frecknall, director of the 2019 Olivier Award-winning Summer and Smoke, helms the production. NOTE: NYTW has communicated that they intend to continue paying all artists and staff during the suspension.
CLOSED EARLY – Will Eno’s Gnit @ Theatre for a New Audience (was extended through March 29; closed Thurs., March 12)
Peter Gnit, a modern-day version of Ibsen’s heroic character Peer Gynt, is a carefree young man on a reckless search for Experience and the True Self. Armed with tales from his mother of his early greatness and his absent father, he heads out into the world. Like all true stories of human endeavor and adventure, Gnit is part horror story, part fairy tale, and part road movie. A timely reckoning with received notions of Rugged Individualism and the self-made person. Come see how it all turns out. Playwright Will Eno‘s recent plays include The Realistic Joneses (Broadway), which won a 2014 Drama Desk Award and was named USA Today’s “Best Play on Broadway.” The Paris premiere of Juste Les Jones, will be directed for the stage by documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman. The Open House (Signature Theater) won the 2014 Obie Award, the Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, and a Drama Desk Award, and was one of Time Magazine’s Top 10 Plays of the Year. Will wrote the book for the award-winning 2019 Skittles Commercial: the Broadway Musical. Director Oliver Butler‘s recent productions include What The Constitution Means To Me, which won a 2019 Tony Award nomination for Best Play. He has collaborated with Will Eno on the first NYC revival of Thom Pain (Signature Theater, starring Michael C. Hall) and The Open House (Signature Theater, Lortel Best Play, Obie Award); and The Plot (Yale Rep). He is a Sundance Institute Fellow and a Bill Foeller Fellow. Oliver is co-artistic director of The Debate Society.
POSTPONED – Hansol Jung’s Wolf Play @ Soho Rep (originally March 17-April 19; new dates TBD)
When a young South Korean boy—represented onstage as a puppet operated by a “wolf”—is ‘re-homed’ via a website chat room, he and his brand-new parents (a professional boxer, Ash, and Ash’s wife, Robin) undergo the strange, fraught process of becoming a family. A “sense of being unmoored affects the characters [Jung] writes about,” American Theater notes of the playwright, who was born in South Korea, spent part of her childhood in South Africa, returned to South Korea, before moving to New York in 2010. With a rivetingly unpredictable sense of theatrical invention, Jung (Wild Goose Dreams, Among the Dead, Cardboard Piano) has explored experiences of displacement across cultural, national, digital, and political realities. Wolf Play was inspired by a series of articles Jung read in Reuters in 2013 and 2014 about Americans using “Yahoo message boards, Facebook groups and other online sites to ‘re-home’ unwanted children”—most commonly international adoptees. This was also a time when the effort to legalize same-sex marriage in the U.S. was at a peak. Jung says, “I’ve always been interested in stories of departure and landing and the liminal spaces in between and was considering what roots a person to a place. And how do people make family when the idea of it is no longer bound by a traditional sense of biological family? In the queer community, people talk a lot about ‘chosen family’—in terms of how you create your own community and who you decide your family is. I was trying to answer those questions for myself through those characters, and in using the different framework of the wolf and the puppet, I could make something more kaleidoscopic out of the actual issue.”
POSTPONED – Noche Flamenca’s Antigona @ La Mama. (Originally scheduled March 19-April 5; officially postponed due to President Trump’s limitations on European travel to the US).
Noche Flamenca, the renowned company founded and led by Artistic Director Martín Santangelo and dancer Soledad Barrio, performs its celebrated dance-theater work Antígona, March 19 – April 5 at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre. This visually and aurally arresting adaptation of Sophocles’ Antigone, which made its New York premiere in 2015, was declared a New York Times Critics’ Pick by Laura Collins-Hughes, who wrote that “a haunting, distant classicism coexists with sweaty, unmediated corporeality in this dance drama.” Apollinaire Scherr wrote in The Financial Times that Noche Flamenca “has created a powerful marriage of Greek tragedy and flamenco,” and Joan Acocella, in The New Yorker, pronounced, “Never, until I saw Santangelo’s ensemble, their heels stamping, their arms cutting through the air, had I seen a chorus whose physical force could support the fate-heavy songs that Sophocles wrote for his plays.” The impetus to create a flamenco interpretation of Antigone began when Martín Santangelo encountered the Living Theatre’s production of the classic play and was struck by the battle between an individual, disenfranchised woman and the authority of the patriarchal state. The idea resurfaced in 2010, when judge Baltasar Garzon was suspended from the Spanish court for his efforts to publicly honor those who fought against Franco, allowing families to bury their relatives previously left in mass graves. This breach of democracy struck Santangelo as similar to the conflict in Antigone, confirming his belief that the story remains relevant today. At its heart, the story of Antigone resonates with the roots of flamenco, which is based not in any one culture or region, but on the strength of family. Antigone’s story is her humanity and her quest to bury her brother, regardless of the circumstances.
POSTPONED/CANCELLED – Colleen Thomas’s light & desire @ New York Live Arts (Originally Mar. 25-28; cancelled due to both travel restrictions and NYLA’s indefinite suspension)
light and desire calls upon family history, social politics, and personal experience to tell and uplift the narratives of women who have resisted oppression by creating their own forms of radical expression. The central question it addresses is how women hold, embody, and express power. Conceived and directed by Colleen Thomas, who also performs in it, light and desire features Carla Forte (Venezuela); a dancer-choreographer Ildiko Toth (Hungary / Germany); dance curator, critic, and choreographer Joanna Lesnierowska (Poland); filmmaker, dancer, and choreographer Ermira Goro (Albania/ Greece); and teacher, dancer, and filmmaker Rosalynde LeBlanc (USA). The piece is an homage to Women’s History Month and a celebration of the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
POSTPONED – PEAK Performances @ Montclair State University’s Spring Season.
Due to COVID-19 precautions and the suspension of most activities on the Montclair State University campus, PEAK is postponing their Spring 2020 presentations. They are working to reschedule the World Premiere of Kate Soper’s The Romance of the Rose, slated for April 2-5, to take place in the 2020-21 season; we will share new dates as soon as possible. Familie Flöz’s Hotel Paradiso (May 7-10) will also be rescheduled to next season (dates TBA).
POSTPONED – Yangtze Repertory Theatre + Gung Ho Projects’ Salesman之死: The (Almost!) True Story of the 1983 Production of Death of a Salesman at the Beijing People’s Art Theatre Directed by Mr. Arthur Miller Himself From a Script Translated By Mr. Ying Ruocheng Who Also Played Willy Loman @ Target Margin Theater.
In 1983, Arthur Miller traveled to Beijing to direct his most famous play, despite not speaking a word of Chinese. The Chinese ensemble, newly out of the Cultural Revolution, had never met “a salesman.” What could possibly go wrong? Sort of based on true events, Salesman之死 is an irreverent tale of cross-cultural mayhem in a time before Google Translate. Performed in both English and Mandarin (with surtitles!) by an all-female cast.
DELAYED – Sarah Einspanier’s Lunch Bunch @ PlayCo. Previews now start April 1; this information is subject to change–check the company’s website.
Lunch Bunch—inspired by the lunches of the real-life Bronx Defenders, where Einspanier’s childhood friend works—is a tribute to the sacrifices public servants make every day. The play’s characters seek meaning, belonging, and some semblance of order in daily culinary minutiae amidst the failures and injustices of larger social systems around them, as the momentous (The Law) projects itself onto the mundane (lunch). Einspanier’s “charming and smart” (The New York Times, in a Critic’s Pick review) play kindly exposes the quirks of its characters’ coping mechanisms and communicates the dire circumstances their clients face.
POSTPONED – Good Chance’s The Jungle @ St. Ann’s Warehouse (originally scheduled to open April 2; no alternate dates are yet available)
The Jungle is an intense remembrance of the bulldozed camp in Calais, France, where thousands of refugees who had escaped drought, war, and strife in countries in Africa and the Middle East waited for their “good chance” passage to Britain. With minimal resources in the squalid, sprawling landfill-turned-makeshift-camp, immigrants and committed volunteers built a warm, self-governing society—with restaurants, shops, a school, a church, a sauna—from nothing. With the fervent hope that this short-term society would be remembered in all its complexity, Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson wrote The Jungle after going to Calais and constructing a theater in a geodesic dome they called the Good Chance Dome. Directed by Stephen Daldry (The Crown, The Inheritance) and Justin Martin (The Crown, The Inheritance), the play invites the audience inside a faithfully replicated Afghan restaurant where endless cycles of survival and threat, failed social contracts, creative thought and action, and acts of compassion unfold. The New Yorker wrote, “[The Jungle] does not so much present its story as plunge us directly into it, to astonishing emotional effect.” Most media coverage of refugees tends to focus on unfolding humanitarian crises and the rabid responses to them among rising nationalist movements and governments; the individual stories of the fleeing men, women and children, like those living in the Calais Jungle, are rarely heard. The Jungle centers these personal stories and the events leading up to the camp’s demolition by the French government in a sharp-eyed tribute to human resourcefulness and resilience against enormous odds.
CANCELLED – Noah Diaz’s Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally @ Playwrights Realm (Originally scheduled April 3-May 2
Diaz’s play exposes the gap between the idealized and narrow archetypes we internalize as children and the painfully complex real-life experiences and social constructs that drive our development as adults. Created for a non-homogenous cast of actors, with the directive that Sally be played by a deaf actor, Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally is a co-production with Baltimore Center Stage—where it is currently being presented as part of Stephanie Ybarra’s inaugural season as the theater’s artistic director—as well as a collaboration with The Sol Project, a national theater initiative amplifying the voices of Latinx playwrights, founded by Jacob G. Padrón. The Realm engagement will feature two ASL-friendly performances, as well as a childcare matinee. The creative team includes Stephanie Osin Cohen (Scenic Designer), Alicia J. Austin (Costume Designer), Reza Behjat (Lighting Designer), Frederick Kennedy (Sound Designer & Composer), James Caverly (Director of Artistic Sign Language), and Ada Karamanyan (Casting), and stage management includes Kara Kaufman (Stage Manager) and Seth Betzler (Assistant Stage Manager). The play emerged as a pastiche of settings, emotional states, and social questions from a transitional stage in Diaz’s life. In the summer just as he was preparing to attend graduate school for playwriting—after having spent six years working in a program studying and helping with deaf adolescent language acquisition—his grandmother fell gravely ill. His family experienced three weeks of grief as she was dying, resuming the process all over again after she passed. He found himself writing amidst this time of mourning—experiencing firsthand how a nuclear family grieves collectively and individually—while also sorting through the reflexive perception of the middle class American nuclear familial experience as white. NOTE: The Realm will be honoring full fees for playwright, director, designers, and pay actors and stage management through what would have been opening.