Virtual Theater: TEENAGE DICK (Theater Wit in Chicago; Third Extension)

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by Tony Frankel on May 16, 2020

in Theater-Chicago


Chicago’s Theater Wit announced a third and final extension today of Teenage Dick, its long-running critically acclaimed virtual production of Mike Lew’s devastatingly funny new play inspired by theater’s most famous disabled character — Shakespeare’s Richard III — like audiences have never seen him before: scheming his way through the brutal, no-holds barred world of high school. Picked on because of his cerebral palsy (and his semi-creepy tendency to monologue), Richard is determined to become class president. But the road to power is never smooth and Richard must decide: is it better to be loved? Or feared?

The fact that this was recorded on the fly just as Chicago was on the verge of lockdown from the coronavirus is amazing. Back on March 16, just days after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot decreed that all Chicago bars and restaurants needed to close due to COVID-19, Theater Wit was able to capture Teenage Dick on video in front of a small live audience. What turned out to be the show’s opening and closing night performance debuted online two days later as one of the first virtual theater productions in the age of COVID-19. (Click here to see a CBS News item on the taping.) Even more amazing than that is the script. I saw this streaming four weeks ago and it still resonates with me.

Happily, Theater Wit has been able to pay full performance rates to all 11 members of the show’s cast, creative team and staff for the past 12 weeks as a result.

Since the opening, Teenage Dick has attracted national acclaim. The New York Times praised Wit’s “scrappily defiant, even noble insistence on the part of the producers that the artists’ work on their small stages not disappear.” The Wall Street Journal called Teenage Dick, “a technically sophisticated pre-taped version of a smart, raucously funny update of Richard III set in a status-conscious high school.”

Here’s how Theater Wit’s new way of “attending” theater works:

To start, patrons pick a “remote view” date and time from Theater Wit’s performance calendar, same as always. Remote view performances — all CST — are Wed at 2:30, Thurs, Fri and Sat at 8, and Sun at 2:30. The Wednesday matinee is Pay What You Can. Tickets for shows Thursday through Sunday start at $25. For tickets and information, call (773) 975-8150 or visit Theater Wit. The performance runs 100 minutes, no intermission. Post-show chats have lasted as long as an hour, as the chance to talk live with each other is a key way to emulate the communal feeling of attending live theater together.

After purchasing a ticket, a confirmation email comes with instructions on how to view the show online, a link to a virtual tour of Theater Wit’s lobby and set, and tips on how to set up the live post-show video chat with cast, crew and fellow audience members.

Then, approximately 15 minutes before show time, each remote viewer receives an email with a private URL and password to watch the performance on a private Vimeo stream.

photos by Charles Osgood

Teenage Dick
Theater Wit in Chicago (virtual performances)
ends on May 17 24, 2020

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