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COVID-19 Programming and Facility Update: Read more

Asbury Park Press: Live theater goes digital with 'first-of-its-kind' transatlantic performance

by Ilana Keller

One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increased reach that many theaters have found through streaming.

“Herding Cats” is taking it one step further — combining streaming and live theater for a performance with actors who span two continents.

Jassa Ahluwalia (“Unforgotten,” “Peaky Blinders”) and Sophie Melville (“Pops,” “Iphigenia in Splott”) will perform the play by Lucinda Coxonfor an in-person audience on Soho Theatre’s London stage, while Greg Germann (“Assassins,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) will join them via video, performing live from the United States.

“Herding Cats” is a collaboration between OHenry Productions and the streaming service Stellar, in association with Soho Theatre.

“‘Herding Cats’ is a chillingly funny play about a generation negotiating intimacy and independence in the 21st century,” the show’s description reads. “Meeting the demands of modern life is as impossible as herding cats for Justine, Michael, and Saddo. To deal with work, Justine talks — a little too much — to her roommate Michael, who earns a living by chatting with strangers like Saddo. But all three will soon find that in a cold, disconnected world, words may not be enough.”

“Ten years on from the première of ‘Herding Cats,’ I’m excited to share the story with audiences once again. It strikes me that the play’s exploration of acute loneliness and of the striking inequality between genders and generations feels incredibly of the moment, particularly as I reflect on the events of the last year,” Coxon said in a news release.

The Stellar Original production is billed as “a first-of-its-kind, transcontinental live event.”

“I directed the first production of ‘Herding Cats’ over a decade ago and I can’t wait to revisit the characters of Justine and Michael. Returning to direct a new production of the play, the universe around it is drastically different,” director Anthony Banks said.

“Justine’s rant about the property market has become an austere reality for young adults. The #MeToo movement has busted characters like Justine’s boss out of the safety of their back-offices and gender identity is recognized not only by the health service but also by education. We’re entering the (2020s) reassessing each other, it’s a bumpy ride, like herding cats. Like Michael, over the last 12 months, many of us experienced extraordinary isolation. The play explores disappointment — in the footsteps of Beckett and Chekhov — but it also contains a rallying, raging cry for fairness, for equality, for justice.”

“Herding Cats” runs May 19 to 22. For tickets and more information, including a lottery option and Broadway Plus One reduced price tickets for students, visit herdingcatsplay.com.

A Little Shakespeare goes digital

Two River Theater’s popular A Little Shakespeare program has gone digital, and you can reserve free tickets now for “Tiny Shakes: Romeo and Juliet.”

Twenty-one local students partnered with industry professionals through the Red Bank theater to learn about acting, visual design, music, fight choreography and filmmaking, culminating in filming their own scenes in their own ways, including original music, TikTok dances, FaceTime calls and more to contribute to the final project. It’s directed by Aneesha Kudtarkar and Em Weinstein.

The show will be released on May 17 and will be available through June 30 via Two River’s website.

The company includes: Matthew Blankley (Red Bank Regional High School), Taylor Brinson (Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts in Jonesboro, Georgia), Gabrielle Costanza (Howell High School), Kimani Culbreath (High Tech High School), Jack Cusick (Christian Brothers Academy), Tori Dillon (Howell High School), Herrin Oum Fontenette (Henry Snyder High School), Abigail Gilder (Colts Neck High School), Jesse Kodama (Red Bank Regional High School), Lilly Light (Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School), Eliana Mandelberg (Howell High School), Quinn McManus (Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School), Claire Munley (Red Bank Regional High School), Kaitlyn Nickerson (Middletown High School North), Kiri Patient (Ranney School), Dylan Pitanza (Red Bank Regional High School), Saorla Rafferty (High Tech High School), Maya Ramdayal (High Tech High School), Alex Reyes (Canutillo High School in El Paso, Texas), Maya Sta. Ana (Howell High School) and Dianna “Gracie” Whaley (Trinity Hall).

“This year the Tiny Shakes company embraced a new way of exploring Shakespeare,” said Kudtarkar. “Despite the distance between them, they found imaginative ways to come together, collaborate, and think deeply about the themes in the play. It’s been a joy to watch the students’ creativity blossom over the course of this process, and we’re thrilled to share this production of Romeo and Juliet with Two River audiences!”

To reserve free tickets, visit tworivertheater.org/whats-on/tiny-shakes-romeo-and-juliet.

Educators who are interested in incorporating “Tiny Shakes: Romeo and Juliet” into their classrooms can contact Education and Community Engagement Manager Amanda Espinoza at aespinoza@trtc.org for information about the free curriculum guide and virtual workshops.