Red Bull Theater’s Short NEW Play Festival 2021

During the pandemic, Red Bull Theater has been entertaining audiences worldwide with very accomplished Zoom readings of classic plays. Now they are offering an evening of NEW short plays…again via Zoom…and again free to the public but with a request to pay what you can. And again the live readings will occur on a Monday night and the event will be available to stream through the following Friday evening. This makes the entire presentation simply irresistible! And the details?

An Online Benefit Reading
MONDAY, JULY 12, 2021

This year’s theme is RESTORATION. The evening will be directed by Margot Bordelon and Timothy Douglas. Nathan Winkelstein is the Festival’s producer.

The 2021 Short New Play Festival: RESTORATION will premiere LIVE at 7:30 PM EDT on Monday, July 12. A recording will be available until 7:00 PM EDT on Friday, July 16 – then it disappears.

Enjoy seven world premieres in one night. This benefit event is the latest installment of our renowned annual new play festival. The evening will bring you works by some of the most exciting writers from across the country, penning classically inspired ten-minute plays. This year’s festival will include a new play by Obie Award winner José Rivera (Marisol) alongside six of today’s up-and-coming playwrights selected through an open submission process: Rosslyn Cornejo, Constance Congdon, George LaVigne, David Lefkowitz, Abigail C. Onwunali, and Charlotte Rahn-Lee.

This year’s theme? RESTORATION.

And the plays??

f This Be Not A Good Play Then The Devil Is In It.

by Connie Congdon

Deep in a night of 1599, on the banks of the Thames, players from one theater, called The Theater (disassembled to escape abusive rent payments), wait for barges to carry their lumber across the river, where they will build another theater, yet to be named.


by Rosslyn Cornejo

A twist on the Greek myth of Narcissus and Echo. What happens when you’re in love with someone who only loves themself?

The Wolf Tree

by George Lavigne

Just past the turn of the 17th century, Captain Pouch, a revolutionary leader of the Midland revolt in hiding, encounters a simple shepherdess beneath the Wolf Tree. 

Restoration Playhouse

by David Lefkowitz

The artistic director and stage manager of a tiny New York theater face obstacles, post-pandemic.


by Abigail C. Onwunali

A modern-day short play written after the character Sidi from Wole Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel, this play explores the complexities of what it means to chase after the “American Dream.”

The Misanthrope Breaks His Quarantine

by Charlotte Rahn-Lee

The year is 2023. COVID is over, and everyone has left social isolation and moved on with their lives . . . everyone, that is, except Alceste.


by José Rivera

On a cool summer night, five close teenage friends–two Latinos, two Blacks, and one white woman–get together in a rundown basketball court in Brooklyn to watch a total lunar eclipse.  

Tickets are available here…there are some suggested contributions but scroll down to the free button if so inclined. And there will be other chances to contribute to Red Bull Theater before you check out if you want to contribute your own amount!

I am really looking forward to this event and I hope to ‘see you there’!


RED BULL THEATER brings rarely seen classic plays to dynamic new life for contemporary audiences. Our work unites a respect for tradition with a modern sensibility.

RED BULL THEATER is named for the rowdy Jacobean playhouse that illegally performed plays in England during the years of Puritan rule, and was the first London theater to reopen after the Restoration. This bold spirit is central to our identity. With the Jacobean plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries as our cornerstone, Red Bull Theater is New York City’s destination for dynamic performances of great plays that stand the test of time. The company also produces new works that are in conversation with the classics.

Red Bull Theater’s Reading of Ben Jonson’s Volpone!

This past Monday, Red Bull Theater presented a live Zoom reading of Ben Jonson’s Volpone, or the Fox, directed by Jesse Berger. And then it streamed through the week essentially free but recommended as a pay what you can viewing. As with their other offerings over the past year, this online reading made an impressive use of their actors and modern technology while we are still away from in person theater. To fully experience a 500 year old comedy via 21st Century Zoom has been very rewarding…and RBT’s Volpone pushes the technology even further!

And as the Avocatori (judge) tells us as we are invited into the play, “The place is Venice and Zoom. The time is 1607 and now”. And so it is.

screen capture by Ed Heinzelman

One of the things that Red Bull Theater does impressively and subtly is make up for the lack of a set and stage scenery with very effective and appropriate Zoom backgrounds. If you look at the various screen captures that I have included here you’ll see excerpts from drawings or prints that say 17th Century Venice and the lines work their way from the overall background to the individual character windows. Something that you don’t necessarily notice but makes the reading far more effective as a play.

And as everyone’s Zoom experience grows, we are seeing more elaborate costuming and makeup. This play in particular goes all out and maybe just a little over the top at times…some characters are obviously in Jacobean dress while a few others are strictly steam punk! for instance:

screen capture by Ed Heinzelman

or maybe:

screen capture by Ed Heinzelman

And something else that I’ve been leaning into, after watching a number of RBT readings, is their gender neutral and race neutral casting. It’s been a joy to experience and has added a new understanding of what theater can do. But in this case I am not sure that the gender neutral casting of Carbaccio and Corvino worked quite so well. I found it a bit distracting that these two male characters were played by women…at times I got a little lost from the story line by the cross casting.

One other important talent to have when performing in Zoom is the ability to tell even more of the story than might be normal on stage with your voice and facial expressions. And of course being able to play to the small camera is also a key talent.

But this time, in Volpone, there were a few moments when the dialogue felt rushed and I lost track of the meter, rhyme, and poetry in Jonson’s text, but that is a minor quibble I guess.

And here RBT has really honed their passing of props from character to character…since it can’t actually be accomplished physically…but they have rehearsed the timing and direction to make it feel more natural. And in the spirit of a play of then and now, some of the music interludes included contemporary samples…charming and brought just a bit of a smile.

And the finale! virtual applause all round:

screen capture by Ed Heinzelman

Editor’s note 6/19/2021: adding a ‘Bull Session’ including a cast member and the director giving us some inside perspective on this presentation: