When states and municipalities across the country began banning large gatherings, theaters — from regional stages to Broadway — shut down. But, in a creative solution to a difficult problem, some theaters made archival videos of the closed productions available online, for the cost of a ticket.
In March, the American Conservatory Theater, or A.C.T., in San Francisco had a new play on its main stage called Toni Stone. It was about a female ballplayer in the Negro Leagues.
"It opened on a Wednesday night, March 11th, and we had to close performances for the rest of the run the very next day," says A.C.T. executive director Jennifer Bielstein.
Like many theaters, her company had recorded a video of the production for its archives and Bielstein wondered if it could be made available to audiences online. But that requires permission from Actors' Equity and other theatrical unions whose rules strictly prohibit archival footage to be shown to the general public. Bielstein gave it a try.