By Karen Isaacs
I went to see Girl from the North Country on Broadway on March 12, and the theater was full. Yes, there were some empty seats, but since the show was sold out and standing room, those seats were filled at intermission.
Then Broadway shut down on March 13, and, a day later, off-Broadway. Connecticut theaters also began canceling performances and doing triage on the remainder of their seasons.
It made me think back about prior crises.
After Sept. 11, 2001, Broadway went dark, but just for two days. During World War II, some London theaters continued performances even during the Blitz, though sometimes audiences were relocated to makeshift stages in the basements of theaters.
But, this time, the enemy is among us. This is unprecedented. So it is no surprise that information about what will happen, and when, is constantly shifting.
Here’s what we knew as of press time for the Living section on March 19.
Are you holding tickets for one of the cancelled shows? There’s a list below. If a show is cancelled, of course, you are eligible for a refund or other tickets. But one way to help theaters, who operate usually on the financial edge, is to not request a refund or another performance date. Instead, you can donate your tickets to the theater. This means they keep the money and have a full range of tickets to sell for future performances.
All of the theaters are making arrangements to handle refunds and rescheduling for people holding tickets and subscribers. In most cases, subscribers will receive emails from the theater with updates and instructions. Single ticket buyers can contact the box office either by email or telephone.
A few exceptions include Yale, which according to Steven Padula, the communications director, is calling ticket holders and subscribers. Apparently, to process the refund the box office must speak directly to the person. Ticket holders and subscribers and contact the box office directly at the temporary phone number, 203-654-9443.
All of Connecticut theaters will face a huge financial impact. Theaters have hired scenic, costume, lighting and sound designers. For the show already in rehearsal these professionals have earned some if not all of their fee. Theaters have also built or rented scenery and costumes. So a large part of the budget for a show has already been spent and will probably not be recouped unless the show is rescheduled.
Even before a show goes into rehearsals, money has been spent. According Michael Barker, managing directors of Westport Country Playhouse, if a show was budgeted at $500,000, about twenty percent has been actually paid out before rehearsals even begin.
Are the theaters cutting staff? It depends. Barker, managing directors of Westport Country Playhouse said” Our guiding principles are (1) people will gather in large groups at some point the relatively near future, and (2) producing plays is important. Our aim is to be ready to produce for community again when we’re through this. Laying off our staff would harm our ability to return to producing when the time comes.
Jaqui Hubbard Executive/Artistic Director of Ivoryton Playhouse, on the other hand, said “We are running a skeleton [administrative] crew to take care of box office,,, All production staff have been laid off until we are able to produce again.”
We are acutely aware of our theatre’s power to gather dissimilar communities to experience transformative storytelling. It is with a heavy heart that we find ourselves unable to offer our new and longstanding supporters an opportunity to witness the work that was in progress. Long Wharf stands committed to combatting fear by focusing on staying well informed and acting with empathy and compassion
What about the performers and others? According to Barker, Westport have agreements with the unions about payments for any artists with whom we already have signed contracts. In the case that we don’t yet have signed contracts we are making arrangements directly with artists and in conversation with Equity and others.
Unfortunately, most theater do not have insurance that might cover these losses. It’s unclear if “business cancellation” policies, as they called would even cover this event.
List of Theater Cancellations, Rescheduling
Connecticut Rep – hasn’t announced officially cancellations, but with the UCONN campus shut down and students gone, Mean in Boats (Wednesday, April 8 to Saturday, April 11) and Little Shop of Horrors (Thursday, April 30 to Sunday, May 3) are cancelled.
Goodspeed – South Pacific will not open on Friday, April 17 as originally planned. The theatre will decide shortly when it will be safe to begin rehearsals and open the show. Once the exact start date for South Pacific is determined the theater will contact all ticket holders with the option to exchange to a new performance, keep a credit on file, donate their tickets or get a refund. People will be to do it by email or by phone with our staff.
Hartford Stage –the final performances of Jane Eyre were cancelled as well as the up-coming production, The King’s Speech (to Sunday, April 19). No decision has been made about the final production of the season Ah! Wilderness (Thursday, May 7 to Sunday, May 31). You can contact the box office at 860-527-5151 or use an online form at hartfordstage.formstack.com/forms/cancellations.
Ivoryton Playhouse – Forbidden Broadway which was scheduled through Friday,April 5 has been rescheduled for Wednesday, May 27 to Sunday, June 14. The Great Gatsby (Wednesday, April 22 – Sunday,May 10) and Native Gardens (Wednesday May 27-Sunday, June 14) have been cancelled. Ivoryton hopes to include them in the 2021 season. Ticket holders and scribers are being contacted by the theater.
Long Wharf Theater – the production of The Chinese Lady (to Sunday, April 12) is cancelled. At the moment, the final production of the season, The Great Leap (Wednesday, May 6 to Sunday, May31) is still scheduled. For other information, contact longwharf.org or the box office
MTC (Music Theater of Connecticut) – Rescheduled The Buddy Holly Story to Friday, May 15 to Sunday, May 31). Subscribers and those that had purchased tickets will be given tickets for the corresponding performance during the new dates. Exchanges for a different date will be free.
Playhouse on Park – The West Hartford Theater cancelled Diaas, its dance production and Ugly Lies the Bone scheduled for Wednesday, April 22 to Sunday, May 10. Contact playhouseonpark.org.
Seven Angles Theatre – The Waterbury theater is still planning to produce The Wedding Singer scheduled from Thursday, April 23 to Sunday, May 17
TheaterWorks – It cut short the run of Every Brilliant Thing and The Cake which was scheduled for Sunday April 5 to Sunday May 10. TheaterWorks hopes to reschedule that show. The next show, currently The Who and the What doesn’t open until June 4. Ticket holders can contact the box office at 860-527-7838.
Westport Country Playhouse – An announcement about the open show (and subsequent shows) should have been announced by now. The opening show was Next to Normal, Tuesday, April 14 to Saturday, May 2. They are looking at the entire season. Ticket holders/subscribers can donate, exchange or request refund at westportplayhouse.org or the box office, 203-227-4177
Yale Rep – cancelled the remaining two shows of its season: A Raisin in the Son which was already in previews and the final show of the season, Testmatch. Box office personnel will be in phone contact with subscribers and ticket holders.
The Bushnell, Shubert, Waterbury Palace and other theaters that offer national tours productions will be cancelling or rescheduling.
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