top of page

Theatrescape August 2020: WOMEN TAKE THE LEAD

By CEEK for Boston Compass (#126)

August 9, 2020

While theaters are still closed and summers are generally the off-season, a few local companies are taking to the internet with readings, important community discussions and female fronted shows galore.

For decades the white male narrative has been dominating the stage with the rest of humanity serving as one-dimensional support. Well, the times they are a changin’. Women and POC aren’t holding their breaths for others to write interesting and complex roles for them, but are taking the reins by creating those roles and opportunities for themselves.

With notable exceptions, women haven’t existed much onstage beyond the male gaze, playing parts to serve the male ego in one way or another. There's the bland and beautiful love interest as the enviable trophy, the damsel in distress who needs rescuing, the nurturing mother, the nagging wife and a hundred other peripheral parts with limited to no depth. And if you think women have it bad, take a second to think about the kind of roles written for anyone of color.

This summer Boston is telling a whole range of stories featuring women on and behind the stage. The morally complex must-see is the Arlekin Player’s interactive, one-woman show State vs Natasha Banina. It’s gotten a lot of hype, but for good reason. Then there’s Gloucester Stage’s Never Dark Series 2020 presents a handful of work written by and about women that all look promising. Also worth checking out is Dream Boston, an online series of mini audio plays by some of Boston’s most notable female playwrights.

More details on all these shows and more below, along with our picks for other FREE theatre streaming online beyond Boston.

Tips? Email




8/1 & 8/8

Check out the final 2 of 3 new plays in this series about people from Apollinaire Theatre Company’s own community in Chelsea, MA.


This FREE virtual one-woman show, written by and starring Leigh Strimbeck, explores the life of Boston’s legendary female millionaire and patron of the arts. Famous for her taste and extensive art collection from throughout the world, on display at her namesake museum (and former residence) The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Fenway. A rare and interesting woman makes this a promising show, brought to you by Gloucester Stage’s Never Dark Series 2020.


Also part of the Never Dark Series is this online reading of a new play by Tira Palquist about a pregnant Sudanese refugee on the run in rural Minnesota and whether those who can help her actually will.


One of the best productions to emerge from quarantine is back! A LIVE one-woman show via zoom where the audience serves as the jury in a trial by way of interactive polling. An engaging performance by Darya Denisova and brilliant direction by one of Boston’s best, Igor Golyak. The show returns to the digital stage via ArtsEmerson to kick off their international tour following an impressive run earlier this summer. This is free but please consider donating $25 or more, if you can.


Another part of Gloucester Stage’s Never Dark Series, this one-woman show from the mind and mouth of Dee Dee Batteast shines a light on theatre’s long history of 2-dimensional roles for POC and gay men that only existed to serve the white male protagonists.


The Huntington Theatre Company’s online series of 5-minute plays by four of its best female playwrights: Melinda Lopez, Kate Snodgrass, Brenda Withers and Kirsten Greenridge. Each piece is set in a future Boston and inspired by the author’s favorite spot in town.


Each month Company One Theatre focuses on a different Boston neighborhood and brings together artists, community leaders and policy makers to have some necessary conversations on how to navigate our current crises. Check out Episodes 01 and Episode 02 on their site to get a better idea and look out for info on Episode 03.

Thru 8/10

NYC’s incomparable leader in experimental and avant- garde theatre, The Wooster Group, offers their fresh take on Harold Pinter’s first play. A rare chance to see this 2015 production, directed by the brilliant Elizabeth LeCompte.

Every day

From Puccini to Philip Glass, the MET has been showcasing their archives as they’ve been streaming an opera every 24 hours for months now. Some popular classics kick off the new month with two of Mozart’s most famous (The Magic Flute on 8/3 and Don Giovanni on 8/9) and a stunning production of Puccini’s beloved Madama Butterfly on 8/6. Check in with for the upcoming week’s schedule.




Based outta Vermont, one of the oldest non-profit theatre companies in the country has been pumping out charming, innovative and completely original performances since the ‘60s. Check out some of their incredible work online, then catch them the next time they’re touring.

A legendary performance of a legendary play that is both funny and brutal in its depiction of family and the duality of man. John Malkovich and Gary Sinise play two estranged brothers coming to terms with themselves and each other.


A founding member of NYC’s Wooster Group, where Spalding first developed these autobiographical monologues which he became famous for and toured with throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Many have been published as books and some have become movies, but you can check them out as they were meant to be heard at the links above.

A brooding, bleak play hopelessly crawling towards death doesn’t sound like a laugh riot but that is Beckett’s great gift. One of his most beloved black comedies, this production from 2000 stars heavy hitters Michael Gambon and David Thewlis.

One of the most prolific Irish playwrights alive, McDonagh might be best known for writing the films In Bruges and his directorial debut, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. This play is a great blend of the action, tension and humor that McDonagh is known for. Hilarious with twists and turns that demand a rewatch to fully appreciate its craftsmanship.


Check out all the art and columns from August's Boston Compass at


bottom of page