While many theaters have been paralyzed as of late by the coronavirus pandemic, Lenny Banovez, co-founder and artistic director of Woodside-based Titan Theatre Co., has seized an opportunity to explore new horizons in an effort to help keep the cultural scene alive.
From humble beginnings at a Tex-Mex bar and restaurant in Long Island City, the company has blossomed into one of the borough’s performing arts mainstays.
With a mission to breathe new life and clarity into classical works of theater, the troupe has been doing that for more than 10 years now, regularly drawing crowds as the resident acting troupe at Queens Theatre.
Now that the theater is dark, the company is in the midst of the Titan Shakespeare Festival, a free online series of performances that run periodically through June 13.
“We must move forward, we must adapt,” Banovez said. In keeping with Titan’s tradition, he said, “We will always take risks.”
It’s a medium in which Banovez had never worked before. “Everybody is learning as we go,” he said.
“Zoom readings will only get us so far. That’s not the future, but it’s not safe to be inside [a theater] for a while. We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to do in a short period of time,” he said.
What he and his fellow artists have done is to prepare three virtual readings of plays that are near and dear to Banovez’s heart: Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Henry V.”
Banovez was quick to point out that, while Titan has presented staged versions of the plays in the past, the performances do not feature archival footage; they have been created specifically for this online programming.
Of course, as Banovez pointed out, while viewers “don’t get the palpable emotions of being there, the plays are so amazing. They were meant to be heard, like radio plays, but now you can see them, too.”
Banovez was understandably saddened for having to cancel the remainder of the troupe’s live season and its Shakespeare on Demand tour, which was to bring programs into school settings. But through Titan’s education component, classes are being offered online for young people as well as adults. A support group is also available online for artists who need a place to share their concerns over the current state of things.
Perhaps most exciting of all for Banovez was the opportunity to work with a wide variety of acting talent. Seeing the silver lining in a very dark cloud, he said, “I’ve been able to bring people in from across the country that I’ve wanted to work with all my life.”
And, while the performances are free, all the actors involved get paid. Donations are happily accepted.
In an effort to “replicate a true Shakespearean Festival experience,” all viewers must reserve “e-tickets.” They will then receive information as to how to tune in.
Remaining dates and times for each presentation, along with other information, may be found at titantheatrenyc.com.