‘You Gotta Get a Gimmick’: Theatre’s Newest Stage During a Global Pandemic

  • May 20, 2021
‘You Gotta Get a Gimmick’: Theatre’s Newest Stage During a Global Pandemic

BY McKenzi Thi Murphy
JRN 490 Spring 2021

A TKTS booth in Times Square
Time’s Square’s TKTS booth has been shuttered since March 2020. Photo By McKenzi Thi Murphy

The show must always go on. The mantra of theatre calls for the opening of the metaphorical red velvet curtain, no matter the problem. But the grim real-life drama of a global pandemic forced theatres across the U.S. to remain dark — except for a single ever-burning bulb known as a ghost light. It’s for safety, and an unspoken promise that one day, it’ll be show time.

Until that day comes, non-profit companies, artists, and even commercial theatres have turned to any means necessary to remain relevant and recoup even a fraction of their losses brought on by the pandemic and keep their ghost light burning even as their physical stages remain dark. And so began the popularity of digitized performance.

But in those first months, no official guidebook existed on how to produce a digitized theatrical performance. Some aired archival footage on YouTube, others produced readings of new and previously established shows on Zoom.

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