Apr 7th, 2020, 09:34 PM

Play On!

By Jane Addington-May
Viola as Cesario (Dinita Gohil) delivers Orsino's words of love to Olivia (Kara Tointon) in the RSC's 2017 'Twelfth Night': Photo by Manuel Harlan (c) RSC
A comprehensive guide to all the live theater being streamed online

As the world continues its steady shut down in the wake of Covid-19, theater and dance companies are facing a remarkable challenge: how to survive with neither venue nor audience. Theaters across the globe are shutting down, bringing spring seasons to an abrupt halt, which can account for upwards of 60% of company programming. The revenue lost in ticket sales is exceptional, New York City BalletBoston Ballet and San Fransisco Ballet all estimating well over $8 million in losses, and relegating their company and school classes to dancers' kitchens and living rooms over live stream. 

Below is a non-exhaustive list of ways to enjoy live theater, and support companies, from the comfort and safety of your home. 

For Shakespeare Fans:

The Globe Theater offers two options for accessing its world renowned performances. The first one, which is free, is through YouTube Premiers. This series will rotate a new production every two weeks, the first one, 2018's Hamlet (starring Artistic Director Michelle Terry in the titular role) is already available here. Other performances will include Romeo and Juliet (2009), A Midsummer Night's Dream (2013), The Two Noble Kinsmen (2018), The Winter's Tale (2018), and The Merry Wives of Windsor (2019).  These performances will also be available on The Globe's own streaming platform,  The Globe Player, which presents the second option for viewing. The platform houses 130 films from The Globe's repertoire, all available to rent or own, or to send as a gift. These purchases directly support The Globe Theater, a charity which receives no annual government subsity. To donate to The Globe directly, find more information here. 

Bethan Cuilinane as Innogen in 'Cymbeline' 2016: Photo by Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC

The Royal Shakespeare Company is partnering with Marquee TV to offer a 30 day free trial to the streaming service. Marquee TV has 17 RSC productions on offer, and on April 11 will be hosting a watch along party of the RSC's 2018 Twelfth Night production. The RSC is also offering a broad range of online educational programming. First Encounter: King Lear is an edited, hour long production of the famous tragedy written for young audiences and played in schools across England. Tim Crouch's I, Cinnia (The Poet) is a one man film inspired by the 2012 production of Julius Cesar which explores the purpose of writing and activism. 

The American Shakespeare Center has their own similar streaming service, not offering subscriptions but selling digital tickets starting at $10. All proceeds go directly to the theater and it's staff. 


National Theatre is also releasing its productions through YouTube Premiers, kicking off their new National Theater At Home programming with the charming One Man, Two Guvnors starring James Cordon. One Man, Two Guvnors was available to stream until April 9, when Jane Eyre took its place until April 16. Other productions will include Treasure Island and Twelfth Night. 

For theater across the pond, #StarsInTheHouse, hosted by Seth Rudetsky, brings Broadway actors together nightly for Q&A sessions and mini-concerts. This series directly benefits the Actors Fund, which supports members of the American theater community. 

PBS's Great Performances Library streams an exciting collection of high quality recordings of Broadway and West End Shows, Shakespeare in the Park performances, dance and opera programs. While typically costing $5 for subscription, they have made their entire collection free.


Ballet companies have been forced to cut not only their performance seasons short, but their training as well. Ballet schools have also been forced to close, and Instagram is full of dancers going through their daily conditioning and classes from their homes. This presents even more difficulty for dance companies when the time finally comes to reopen theaters. "It’s not as easy as going back on stage and switching on the lights. If you have dancers who cannot train for three months they need to retrain, rehearse," Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director of the English National Ballet, said in an interview with The Stage. ENB is currently conducting daily classes in classical ballet and conditioning over livestream.  

There are still a few ways to enjoy ballet from home, primarily through the streaming services mentioned elsewhere in this article, but the best way to support companies is still to donate directly. 


The Company women find a way to connect while apart to rehearse the emotional opening of Balanchine's Serenade, part of the postponed Carmen program. We hope their message of unity, strength and love will brighten your day. We can't wait until we are together again. Until then, we need your help. As a non-profit, we rely on your generosity to continue bringing our community inspiring dance in the months and seasons ahead. Please visit the link in profile to donate today. Video by @erniegalan, with special thanks to @h_schwan, @mlakshmi, @dawnatkins, @georgiepeachd, @madfelbs, @chyrstynmariah, @louise_hautefeuille, @lrherfindahl, @sagenicolehumphries, @ryan_kwas, @mal_mehaffey, @abbymerlis, @powi295 #bostonballet #bbcarmen #balanchineballet #ballet #artheals #balanchine #georgebalanchine #danceinspiration #stayhome #serenadeballet #supporthearts

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Northern Ballet is launching a mini, pay-as-you-feel, digital season, making their new dance movie EGO available to stream, as well as Jonathan Watkin's 1984, extended footage of ballets Victoria and their new work Geisha. They will also be partnering with BBC's Culture In Quarantine program, a recording of their ballet Dracula set to premier on BBC4, and their children's program Little Red Ridinghood on CBeebies

San Francisco Ballet, similarly to the RSC, benefits from having an achieve of recordings to fall back to, having previously streamed many performances into theaters across the United States. They are currently releasing several works on their website as part of their SFB at Home initiative. Currently available is Bespoke, recorded in February of this year. If you make a donation of $200 or above (including  ticket holders who donated their tickets directly to the company), you'll also have access to a recording of their 2020 production of Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream, which graced the stage only once before the company made the choice to suspend their season. 


The Metropolitan Opera was one of the first organizations to make their content readily available, introducing a nightly opera stream on their website, at 7:30 EST and available until 6:30 EST the following day. This program is now in its fourth week, some past streams having included Aida, Eugene Onegin, and La Triviata. This week's productions will be Falstaff, Parsifal, Romeo et Juliette, Don Pascale, and Cosi fan tutti. The week five schedule is available here. 



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While The Met's offerings are by far the most extensive, they are not the only source for free and high quality opera. Opera Wire maintains a list of all companies providing streaming services here

Other Streaming Services:

Marquee TV, mentioned earlier in connection with The RSC, offers full length plays, ballets, contemporary dance programs, operas, and documentaries. Some international venues include The Royal Opera House, Sadlers' Wells, The Bolshoi, and Opera Zurich.  Notable productions available include Akram Khan's award winning and chilling Giselle, Glydenbourne Festival Opera's The Fairy Queen, and Classic Spring Theater Company's full Oscar Wilde Season. A subscription costs £8.99 a month, but they are currently offering a 30 day free trial period. 


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Digital Theater functions similarly to Marquee TV, with slightly more offerings for traditional theater and classical music, as well as musical theater. The service partners with the Old and Young Vic Theaters, Barbican Center, Stanislavsky Electrotheater, and more. Their full list of offerings can be found here. Unlike Marquee TV, Digital Theater is not current offering a trial period, though they do offer the options of renting individual productions rather than subscribing (for £9.99 a month). 

BroadwayHD is just what it sounds, the Broadway version of Marquee TV and Digital Theater, housing hundreds of Broadway musicals, plays, and performances from leading world dance companies. You can currently sign up for a seven day free trial, and afterwards an $8.99/month subscription. 

As challenging and jarring as the abrupt halt to normal life as been, these productions provide something that Netflix cannot: a sense of communal experience. Fun as the Tiger King memes are, there's something transcendent about laughing, crying, rejoicing along with others in a theater. Netflix, it's safe to say, will survive this time of tumult with little trouble (maybe with , but the theater industry is facing of challenge of monumental proportions, one which will likely take years to recover from.

So, have a laugh, have a cry, bake some bread, give what you can, and enjoy the show.