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Catskill's Bridge Street Theatre Goes Virtual With Online Content


Catskill's Bridge Street Theatre Goes Virtual With Online Content

What happens when a pandemic strikes and one of the region's most adventurous and exciting small theater companies is forced to close its doors to the public? It rummages through its archives and goes "virtual"!

"Back in February, we'd just held an enormously successful benefit performance by violinist Edmund Bagnell (of the acclaimed string quartet Well Strung), hosted an encounter with four female occupants of the White House in Ginger Grace's magnificent one-woman show 'The First Ladies Coalition', and were on the verge of launching an ambitious five-play 2020 Subscription Series called 'American Roots', when COVID-19 invaded New York," says Bridge Street Theatre's Artistic and Managing Director John Sowle. "For a while, we hoped that the shutdown would only be temporary and that we'd be able to re-schedule most of the performances we had slated for dates later in the season. But it soon became obvious that we were going to have to stay shut down for a long, long time. My partner Steven and I sat down to try to figure out what we could do to remain active and attempt to keep our audience engaged."

"Live performance is what our work has always been about," says Steven Patterson, Sowle's Bridge Street Theatre partner. "98% of the Zoom readings and other online content we were seeing felt completely inadequate - hastily thrown together, under-rehearsed, technologically crude, and with none of the electricity you get when artists and audiences are in the same room. The one thing that did seem to function for us was seeing archival videos of full productions from the past. Still not in the same league as seeing it live, but at least an indication of a play's full intent. John and I have been producing small theatre together since 1986. And with a sudden abundance of free time on our hands, we started digging through our own video archives. John began capturing and editing them digitally. And since so much of the work we've done has been original or collaboratively created, we've been able to post quite a bit of it online free of charge."

"Steven simultaneously embarked on a project of his own," adds John. "The first event ever held at BST was the exhibition of a monumental balloon sculpture and every weekend during the month it was on display, he'd sit underneath it and read a children's book to the kids who attended. He's now begun recording some of his old favorites and we're posting them online as 'Bridge Street Bedtime Stories'."

Production videos posted thus far include the Al Carmines/Gertrude Stein musical "In Circles", Roxanne Fay's "Thrice to Mine", Dan Carbone's "Kingdom of Not" and "An Impersonation of Angels or The Enigma of Desire", Steven Patterson's "Beauty" and "The Epic of Gilgamesh", John Sowle's "Horripilation!", Oakley Hall III's "Grinder's Stand", Jill Dowse's "X: the Rise & Fall of an Asylum Star", Gertrude Stein's "Do Let Us Go Away. A Play", Paul Boesing and Timothy Cope's Hardy Boys musical "The Secret of the Old Queen", C.D. Arnold's "The Client", the Ned Rorem/Gertrude Stein chamber opera "Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters", and Robert Montgomery's musical deconstruction of Dostoyevsky's 'The Idiot' "Subject To Fits".

Bridge Street Bedtime Stories has posted readings of Little Golden Books "Rootie Kazootie, Baseball Star" and "Rootie Kazootie, Detective", Eugene Ionesco's "Stories 1 a?? 2 a?? 3", Tomi Ungerer's "I Am Papa Snap", Randall Jarrell's "The Animal Family", John Coy's "Night Driving", Jean De Brunhoff's "L'Histoire de Babar" with musical accompaniment composed by Francis Poulenc, and Jean-Pierre Abraham's "The Pigeon Man". New content is added weekly "in the hope we'll be able to re-open our doors before we run out of material," adds Steven.

"We're living for the day when it's finally safe enough for us to open our theatre's doors again," says John. "Till then, we hope you'll enjoy all these free virtual performances online."

Links to all the current archival videos can be found at

Links to the Bridge Street Bedtime Stories can be found at

And for all the latest news on the theatre's plans for the future, visit the BST website at

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