“State and city government mandated that all theaters close in March. Darkness covered the theater world, with no promise of a re-opening date. Over time, many productions turned to live streams. In recent months, the Theater for the New City, led by its executive director, Crystal Field, launched an innovative weekly pop-up series featuring live music and spoken-word performances. The tightly-run one-hour variety show, called “Open ‘Tho Shut,” happens live on Saturdays at 2 p.m. in the venue’s set shop, renamed the ChopShop Theater.
The staging area features full stage lighting and a four-microphone sound system, and Mark Marcante and Lytza Colon created a colorful backdrop specifically for this series. A live socially-distanced audience on the sidewalk watches the shows through an open garage door. Cameras simultaneously broadcast the shows to home viewers via the venue’s website. Both the in-person performance and the live-stream are free of charge to the public. All installments of “Open ‘Tho Shut” are accessible on the Theater for the New City’s website.
The Theater for the New City’s health protocol requires that all “Open ‘Tho Shut” performers test for COVID before their appearances. Staff takes the temperatures of the performers as they arrive and offers hand sanitizer. Stage hands sanitize the communal microphones between performances, and the emcee uses a separate microphone.
Snowflakes drawn in chalk on the ground indicate where audience members should stand in order to remain socially distant. Staff provides masks to audience members who arrive without their own.
Today’s “walk-by theater” was the ninth installment of Open ‘Tho Shut. Crystal Field was the mistress of ceremonies. The performances began with COBU, the all-female Japanese Taiko drumming and dance troupe comprised of Yako Miyamoto, Ayaha Otsuka, Mayu Yamashita, Micro Fukuyama, and Kana Matsui. Mark Marcante, Dan Kelly, and Arthur Abrams led a vaudevillian British music hall sing-along set. Cheryl Gadsden sang pop standards and Robert Homeyer recited monologues by William Shakespeare.
“Open ‘Tho Shut” will continue throughout the winter as a weekly event. In inclement weather, the live audience will be able to shelter under tents.”