Welcome to the 6th edition of The Interval – VocalEyes’ weekly selection of accessible cultural experiences available remotely until our favourite venues re-open their doors.
Before we start, a brief news update. From today (Thursday 30 April), most of the VocalEyes office team will be furloughed, so that we can benefit from the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and help our long-term financial situation. We will continue to advocate for and provide access services for arts, heritage and other cultural organisations if commissioned, but with reduced capacity reflecting the current situation. Please direct all enquiries to [email protected].
And now for the main event. This week’s contributions are from the VocalEyes Trustees, put together by Matthew Cock, Chief Executive.
Trustee Jo Wood recently cut short a trip to the US where she was undertaking research for a PhD. She’s shared some recommendations of streamed productions from her favourite venues in Boston and, of course, a taste of Broadway.
The Boston Lyric Opera has a free audio stream of Norma available to the end of April – you can just sneak in under the wire today (30th).
The Huntingdon Theatre Company has made their 2018 production of Mala available online: though not audio described, the compelling one-woman production still offers a lot for those listening in.
Soundstage, a new initiative from Off Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons, features commissioned audio works from an array of playwrights. The opening production is the musical PRIME by Heather Christian, whose buzzy Oratorio for Living Things closed early due to the current health crisis. You can listen to all Soundstage episodes for free on the Playwrights Horizons website.
Catch the star-studded concert Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration: the Broadway.com benefit for the nonprofit ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty) is packed with legendary Broadway stars singing favourite Sondheim tunes. Watch for free on Broadway.com’s YouTube channel.
Alternatively, tune in to BroadwayWorld’s daily Living Room Concerts: one-song performances recorded by Broadway stars in their homes.
Jo’s lockdown list would not be complete without some Shakespeare, and her perennial favourite are the BBC Shakespeare sessions. Most recently added are Othello and Henry IV Part 1 but if you’re looking for something a bit cheerier you can’t beat A Midsummer Night’s Dream recorded on location in a Sussex wood with Roger Allan as the indefatigable Bottom.
If all that culture consumption results in too much sofa time, Jo suggests you check out the brilliant workouts posted by Achilles International (on Facebook): designed by and for adaptive athletes, plenty of descriptive cardio, strength and flexibility options posted each week.
Trustee Timandra Nichols’ recommendation is Once Upon a Quarantine, curated by actors Garry Cooper, Richard Sutton and Harriet Vyner to ‘bring a little amusement and entertainment into our lockdown lives’. Short stories read by actors, about 20-40 minutes long each, and at least two new ones added to the site each week. Timandra says she finds the stories relaxing and interesting as she hasn’t read many of them before.
Board Chair Lynette Shanbury runs the Polka Theatre, which is dedicated exclusively to children. Her recommendations are Polka Online, with readings of a children’s book and workshop activities to get creative and Half Moon, a young people’s venue and touring company, who celebrated National Poetry Month during April, and has recorded readings from John Hegley, Slam the Poet and Desree, among others.
Trustee Sharon Stockman has recommended a live-streamed concert by Baluji Shrivastav OBE, a blind multi-instrumentalist who is one of the world’s leading composers and sitar players.The concert is tonight (Thursday 30 April at 7pm) but can also be accessed afterwards.
The Baluji Foundation also supports theBlind.tv streaming 24hrs a day on Twitch, an insight into the lives of blind people. Please send them your footage or ask to be featured, using the email [email protected].
Miscellaneous reading and listening
Trustee Rebecca di Corpo’s recommendations are on the theme of contemplation, temptation and anticipation.
On the French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal’s aphorism ‘On Confinement’: ‘The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he cannot stay quietly in his room.’
Friend of VocalEyes, audio describer Jonathan Penny will be guest-editing next Thursday’s edition, so be prepared for some of the best audio-described shows across a range of TV channels and streaming platforms. He asked me to share one this week as it starts next Monday, 4 May: ITV’s new Isolation Stories comprises four 15-minute dramas, filmed in the actors’ homes, shot by their families, and directed by video-link. Read how they did it in this Guardian article and catch the dramas nightly on ITV and on the ITV Hub app for iOS and Android, from Monday 4 May.
Image: detail of Der arme Poet (‘The poor poet’), painting by German artist Carl Spitzweg (1839). The painting depicts a poet in his narrow attic room. The room is illuminated by a small window on the left. On the right are the rafters of the house roof, on which an umbrella hangs, to protect the sleeping area from the moisture dripping through. Full description on Wikipedia.