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Theater lovers getting 'Buffalo Quickies' through July 10

Mike Desmond / WBFO News
A sidewalk audience watches live theater happening inside Shea's 710.

It's certainly one of the more unique local theater productions ever. Thursday evening, the Alleyway Theatre opened its annual "Buffalo Quickies" show. This time, the audience sat outside and the performers inside a series of store windows and theatre entrances along Main Street.

Some passersby looked a little confused as they walked by groups of seated people wearing headphones, looking into windows. It was a reflection of COVID-19 and the desire to open a live production.

Buffalo Quickies is a socially distant way to enjoy live theater and will run through July 10.

In the past, it was held inside Alleyway. A cast shifted from short play to short play, changing costumes and changing sets in between. This year, each of the six plays has its own cast and its own production crew.

Managing Director Robyn Horn said it is very different.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
A performer wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt (l) entertains the sidewalk audience outside the Avalon on Main Street.

"We're not doing the traditional 'Buffalo Quickies,' where all the same actors are playing all the parts, because each of the plays are performing at the same time, all six plays are performing," Horn said. "There's small audience groups in front of each window and then they move to the next window and watch the next play, after their play is over. So they're all happening at the same time and the actors perform them six times throughout the night, the one play."

One production was on the patio at the Stage Door of Shea's. That theater's president, Michael Murphy, said it's been a hard year.

"It was a crazy time during COVID and it still is. It's going to be a difficult time coming out of COVID, for all industries," Murphy said. "There's a lot to do and a lot to catch up on and a lot to adjust to."

For many of the performers and production staff, it was a return to live theater and it was good to be back after the long lockdown of the pandemic. Some had worked on streaming or online shows, but mostly, there weren't opportunities.

Steve Vaughan said he's been working construction, although it was turning a Fredonia warehouse into a theater. Now he's directing Alex Lin's "Helen Mirren Takes a Day Off."

"Helen Mirren's rehearsal room in her private house, somewhere. And in her rehearsal room, she's working on her show and the phone keeps ringing off the hook, with things that she has to do," Vaughn said. "So the silliness is that it's supposedly her day off and she never gets a moment's peace. Very fun."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Every audience member receives a pair of headphones to hear the action inside.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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