The spread of Coronavirus has been a worldwide nightmare of grief and destruction, and one of its many unpleasant side effects has been the lockdown on pretty much all aspects of Australian cultural and social life. But a few creative flowers have bloomed amidst the despair, and one of them has been at the instigation of Aussie theatre company Red Line Productions. In an incredibly original and audacious movie, Red Line has opted to stage a live read of Lyle Kessler’s acclaimed 1983 play, Orphans, which was filmed in 1987 by Alan J. Pakula with Albert Finney, Matthew Modine and Kevin Anderson. The idea started with actor Aaron Glenane (68 Whiskey, TV’s Snowpiercer), who featured in an earlier production of the play for Red Line Productions.
“The idea of the Orphans world-wide live read was born out of staring out the ‘lockdown’ window, and the desire to connect with fellow artists and keep independent theatre alive,” Glenane tells FilmInk. “I contacted our original team and suggested that we do a live read of this story about two brothers essentially trapped inside all day and night.”
It was a great idea in and of itself, but Andrew Henry, the co-founder of Red Line Productions, boldly took it one step further, daring to put the concept to a very famous actor who had performed the show on Broadway in 2013. Aaron Glenane laughs at the recent memory. “Andrew said, ‘Let’s do it with Alec Baldwin! The next day, the writer of the play, Lyle Kessler, is on the line saying that he’s in. The next minute, Mr. Baldwin is not only on board and ready for his Australian debut, but suggested that we should go world-wide and play in the USA, Canada and UK as well!”
And now, it’s well and truly on, with the event to happen in just under three days, on Sunday April 12 at 11:00am AEST. At the same time, the 90-minute stream will screen in New York (April 11 at 9:00pm), Los Angeles (April 11 at 6:00pm), Montreal and Toronto (April 11 at 9:00pm), and London (April 12 at 2:00pm). Along with Alec Baldwin and Aaron Glenane, the performance will also feature the aforementioned Andrew Henry, with stage directions and descriptions read by lifetime member of The Actors Studio, Judy Jerome. All four performers will be connected from their homes around the globe thanks to Canvas Collective, a streaming production house in Sydney, who will be broadcasting the live reading via their Facebook page and via YouTube.
“Right now we all need to feel connected,” says Red Line’s Andrew Henry. “Sharing stories is something that is eternal and in the veins of every human being in some way. Alec, Aaron and I have all performed this story with a live audience in front of us and with live audiences now in isolation, we are connecting from our individual living rooms on opposite sides of the earth to read it out loud again. There will be an option to buy a ‘ticket’ for a couple of bucks, which will entirely support the survival of Red Line Productions, a vital Australian theatre company, but that is only to be done if people have the means. If people don’t, they shouldn’t think twice and just tune in anyway as Orphans is a visceral and wild story that we are so excited to share. We are all in this together.”
Orphans is the story of two brothers living in a row house in North Philadelphia. Treat (Andrew Henry) is a violent, petty thief who provides the means for himself and his vulnerable brother Phillip (Aaron Glenane) – who is forced to stay inside due to terrible allergies – to survive. One day, Treat returns home with a well-dressed man from Chicago with a suitcase full of money. Harold (Alec Baldwin) is not the businessman that they imagine him to be, but over time he becomes the surrogate father that the boys have always longed for. “We can’t wait to bring Lyle Kessler’s Orphans to the world,” says Aaron Glenane.
The final word, of course, must go to Mr. Alec Baldwin himself. “I love this play and I am excited to, finally, be playing Australia,” the actor says.
For all information about the live streamed read of Orphans, head to Red Line Productions’ official website.