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Boston Theater Marathon moves online

Format brings annual theater event to a wider audience

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Boston Theater Marathon moves online
Scenes from previous years’ Boston Theater Marathon, which is being held via Zoom this year. PHOTOS: Kalman Zabarsky

For the annual Boston Theater Marathon, the show must go on, now more than ever. Every year Boston Playwrights’ Theatre stages the event, showing 50 short plays in one day, each supported by a different independent theater in New England. The proceeds go to the Theater Community Benevolent Fund, an organization that distributes funds to theater artists in crisis, and those funds are in especially high demand right now.

This year’s marathon is being held on Zoom, and unlike previous years, one play is performed every day at noon from April 2 through May 17. Kate Snodgrass, artistic director of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, says this is to avoid mental and emotional fatigue.

“People have really adapted to the medium. What I’ve found is that when the actors are talking to the screen, we get to see their faces so much better than onstage, where it depends on where we’re sitting,” says Snodgrass. “Here we can see their faces as if they’re talking to each other. We see their eyes, we see their expressions.” Actors are also taking full advantage of the Zoom tools, for example to change their background into one that matches the play’s set or using music to lead in and out of a scene.

On the web
See the full program of plays at:

Though the online format is new territory, it has also allowed the plays to be seen by a wider audience. Snodgrass says the shows are attended by anywhere from 150-250 people a day all over the globe. A hyperlocal event has become a worldwide one, and it appears to be paying off.

“Since March 12, the TCBF has raised, and we’ve helped them raise, over $42,000. And they’ve given away over $65,000,” says Snodgrass. “We really want to help them because so many theater artists and companies are in need right now.”

Though theater artists qualify for some of the more general arts funding like the Boston Artist Relief Fund, the TCBF is specifically geared towards the theater industry, allowing for a better chance at funding in a competitive market of needs. Snodgrass encourages arts lovers to donate to the cause if possible or to share the event on social media to spread the word.

“I think it’s most important to continue our lives as best we can given the circumstances,” she says. “I think that’s really what theater does, affect us all together, bring us all together. I’d like to think the marathon is a community-builder in that way.”

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