Sunday, November 29, 2020

Time for theater!

The days of lots of free stuff seem to be coming to an end, as theaters struggle to make ends meet without a live paying audience. One free venue that continues to provide free productions is the Theater of War. They are doing excellent Zoom readings of mostly Greek plays, followed by discussion. It's all aimed at making social change, or at least raising awareness of vital issues. Coming up: productions centering on "Antigone," "Philoctetes," and "The Book of Job." December 3, 6, and 8. Check them out:

And if you're wondering why a company devoted to social justice and health awareness is called Theater of War, have a look at

"Almost, Maine"

The Waterville Opera House has a film of their current production, the well-known chronicle of a town in Maine called Almost, where the women are strong, the men are . . . well, you know. $40 tickets for specific dates through December 13.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Coming up soon!

Want to see all the lights in the Bangor area? The Bangor Rotary Club has made it easy for us. Just go to their website and download a map when the time comes. What a nice way to brighten up these long evenings, December 5-January 2!

On another note,

Barack Obama is the headliner in a big-time set of presentations at the PEN Gala. PEN America "stands at the intersection of writing and human rights to protect free expression," and gives annual awards for writing that furthers those goals. (PEN/Faulkner, which gives annual literary awards, is a different organization.)

This even features other familiar names, from Spike Lee to Emma Thompson.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Learning the easy way

TV and streaming documentaries may be the learning method that requires the least exertion of those brain cells. 

If you have a smart TV and/or streaming device, you have access to a ton of documentaries on YouTube, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. This long weekend, when you may be stuck at home instead of enjoying a big family feast, might be a good time to dig in and explore things you've scrolled past before.

To name just one, the Smithsonian Channel has a wealth of possibilities, and you can enjoy them on your tablet or phone, too. Check out

And if you want to spend a little money on a virtual trip abroad, check out Context Travel's many offerings:

Monday, November 16, 2020

Buy local

Short editorial here: All arts and entertainment companies are struggling, of course. Local groups are smaller and have fewer resources than, say, a major New York theater. They need our help to survive the pandemic. Maine theaters have made it easy for us, by offering things we can love from our own living rooms. And please note: it takes smarts, imagination, and a ton of persistence and hard work to switch from what you know how to do well to a completely different means of production. It also takes money.

Penobscot Theatre Company has put together an impressive, innovative season, with a sizeable variety of audio and video releases. We can be proud of our very own local productions. There's a lot of fun to be had:

Down the road, Waterville Opera House is offering the perennial favorite "Almost, Maine" at the beginning of December.

And Portland Stage has the romantic play "Talley's Folly" available through November 22.,20201114153000 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

More performing arts

Here's a site that lists a dozen European theaters offering streaming dance, opera, and music, including much that is free. It may be a sort of mini-travel adventure. For example, I registered in Italian--it was easy--and saw the Rome opera company performing at the stunning Roman Baths of Caracalla. Subtitles may not be in English for opera, but dance speaks no language except that of beauty.

Friday, November 13, 2020

"Going to" the theater

Now that the pandemic is in full swing again, theaters are trying to keep or regain their audiences by offering archived movies and films of live shows. In fact, there are so many possibilities out there that it can be hard to sort through it all. They're desperate for funds, so many of the shows have a fee. But there's also a lot that's free.

We'll keep adding to this list as we go along. Here are a few sites for starters:

Highly recommended: Maine's own Jewish Film Festival, with movies you'll never see anywhere else. Many offer a glimpse at cultures unfamiliar to most of us, like ultra-conservative Israelis. It's underway right now, so check out the remaining offerings at

A big help: the updates provided weekly by the wonderful folks at the Collins Center at UM. Get on their mailing list, if you aren't already. They include all the performing arts. For example, coming up this weekend is West End Unplugged, with performances by London musical theater stars:,

The Stratford Festival, Canada's Shakespeare theater, offers a sizeable choice of filmed plays for a $10/month introductory subscription. (You could always drop out later.)

Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, November 8, 2020


Don't stop reading just because you hate opera. Do you picture screechy sopranos in helmets? Boring, unrealistic stories full of tenors dying for hours and laughable plot twists? Weird music in foreign languages?

Those images are outdated. Today, the stories and music haven't changed, but productions certainly have. Audio technology eliminates screech and today's stagings are dramatic, engaging, even exciting. Carmen in sneakers? A tattooed woman playing Nero? Sure.

The pandemic brought a few good things, and one is the chance to experience things you couldn't in normal times. You don't have to go to New York and buy an expensive ticket to see an opera; you can do it for free in your living room. In some ways, HD broadcasts are better than in the theater; the cameras put you right in the singers' faces. Subtitles translate for you. Check it out: what do you have to lose?

For a donation, you can watch Wagner in 3D! Check it out at the Minnesota Opera:

Free: The Metropolitan Opera offers a different top-of-the-line show each evening:

Also free: The San Francisco Opera offers productions on weekends:

And, for laughs, there's this goofy comic opera that combines Mozart's music with commentary life during COVID-19, by the Finnish National Opera: 

There's lots more, some free and some paid, including the Met's brilliant concert series, featuring its stars in exquisite European castles, seafront terraces, chapels, and such. A good umbrella site is