Two local theater festivals are coming to a living room near you


Photo by Adrien Olichon from Pexels

Photo by Adrien Olichon from Pexels

Area stages have gone dim to protect audiences, actors, and theater workers during these uncertain times.

But that doesn’t mean the show can’t go on.

Ann Arbor's Theatre NOVA and Ypsilanti’s Neighborhood Theatre Group are Zooming theater festivals to audiences online in October, but each is taking a different approach.

According to Theatre NOVA's Producing Artistic Director Diane Hill, after canceling two of its Michigan Playwrights Festivals, which spotlights new works, the company “decided to feature new short plays—this time online and using the Zoom [web conferencing] platform.” Of the 35 plays submitted this past summer, 15 were chosen. Each play runs about 10 minutes.

Beginning Wednesday, October 7, the “audience will see three new short plays each night, performed live but online," Hill said. "The excitement of seeing the actors perform new plays will still be there for the audience. The only difference is the actors won't hear or feel the audience response.”

All rehearsals are currently being held online with the actors connecting from separate locations, but Hill said the "plays will be performed—not read, so the actors will memorize their lines so that they can connect with the other characters.” The plays will also be recorded as they air live so that audience members may stream the performances later as well.

“Tickets will be $5 per person per evening," Hill said. "A festival pass can be purchased for $20, which admits audience to all 15 plays during the five nights of performances. This is a fundraiser for Theatre NOVA to help us pay our rent during this shutdown, so any and all supplementary donations will be greatly appreciated.”

Neighborhood Theatre Group (NTG) is also using Zoom for its rehearsals and performances with the actors connecting from their respective locations for its Inspired By… festival, which is comprised of five original 10-minute plays written by local playwrights that were each inspired by music. (Disclosure: my play Letting Go is one of those being performed.)

One play will be pre-recorded and air on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube each Thursday in October, starting October 1. Pre-recording is a departure from NTG’s usual live shows said Marketing Director Alice Kepchar: “We do this so that way if we run into any technical issues it is worked out in post. We want our audience to tune in, enjoy, and escape for a little while, technical issues can take the audience right out of the moment. Our audience misses theater, we miss it too. We hope they can expect some new, original theater during what we have dubbed ‘Pandemic Season.’”

Artistic Director Kristin Anne Danko added, “As for how we'll be preparing, these are readings of new plays. Workshopping scripts as staged readings are part of the new play process. Normally we would perform the readings live but since that's not an option we are turning to the virtual stage. Our focus is on the scripts and their development. Directors will work with the actors and playwrights to lift these five plays up to their greatest potential. Script analysis, world-building, and character development will be involved during the rehearsal process.”

NTG will not be charging for these virtual performances.

“The mission of Neighborhood Theatre Group is to make theater an accessible home for the collaboration of people, artistic challenges, and new ideas," Kepchar said. "Accessibility for theater is at our core. We will have a link to our website with ways you can support NTG.”

Crysta Coburn is a desk clerk with the Ann Arbor District Library, freelance writer, editor, and author.

For more information on these festivals, visit and