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Coming to a movie screen near you, the best in theater

Plays from the world's most revered stages are being beamed into multiplexes, bringing theater lovers a chance to see top-class productions at a modest price.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / July 8, 2009

Helen Mirren as Phedre in the production "Phedre" playing at the National Theater in Minneapolis, MN.

Courtesy of Catherine Ashmore


Hollywood, Calif.

Theater lovers rejoice. The world's best stage productions are on their way to a movie house near you. Thanks to the digital revolution, everything from London's acclaimed National Theater production of Racine's masterwork "Phèdre," starring Helen Mirren, to the off-Broadway cult favorite "Forever Plaid," not to mention upcoming top Broadway musicals, are beaming into multiplexes from Reykjavik to Los Angeles – in high-definition and eventually 3-D, to boot.

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It's high-tech culture for the low price of a movie matinee and a box of popcorn. And in a sure sign that regional thespians aren't worried about the arrival of their digital counterparts, the premier regional theater in the United States, Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater, will actually screen a delayed transmission of "Phèdre" July 8 and 9 in one of its main stages.

"It's the wave of the future," says Guthrie artistic director Joe Dowling. This week alone, in addition to the two-night reprise of the "Phèdre" production, which was beamed live around the world this past Thursday, "Forever Plaid," will go national for a special 20th-anniversary event live from Club Nokia in the heart of Los Angeles July 9.

This wave of global sharing of the world's toniest stage confections in the humblest of Milk-Dud-and-Raisinets venues has been ushered in by the success of New York's Metropolitan Opera's "The Met: Live in HD," which has been beaming matinees around the world for three seasons.

"The whole idea is to engage opera lovers [and] to reach new audiences as well," says the Met's Peter Gelb. Just as sports fans have flocked to live simulcasts of major events, he adds, culture fans have embraced the satellite experiences for what they are.