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Playhouse, Shakespeare Theaters Cancel Holiday Shows, Delay Seasons

Courtesy of Mikki Schaffner
The cast of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park's 2019 production of 'A Christmas Carol.'

Two more arts organizations are going dark for the remainder of the year because of the pandemic. Playhouse in the Park and Cincinnati Shakespeare Company are canceling their holiday productions and postponing mainstage productions until fall of 2021.

The theater companies previously delayed their seasons with the intention of opening for the holidays and presenting a season from January through July 2021. Both say they'll announce their 2021-2022 season shows at a later date.

Now, even a one-man version of A Christmas Carol is out, says Blake Robison, Playhouse artistic director.

"No matter how many people are on stage, there are dozens and dozens of people working on these shows, indoors, in very enclosed spaces," he says. "Whether that's a rehearsal room or backstage, you take that (and) you add several hundred people in the auditorium and we're just not at a place yet where we feel like we can do that safely, especially with the rise in (COVID-19) numbers that we see now in the Midwest and Hamilton County."

The theaters aren't completely shutting down. Educational and outreach programs have been adjusted to meet needs during the pandemic. Both companies also intend to offer a limited selection of presentations, either virtually or in socially distanced locations.

Playhouse in the Park is approved for opening at 30% capacity, though close working conditions make it difficult to keep employees and actors safe, the theater says. It intends to stage a series of special productions on select dates with socially distanced seating in the Marx Theatre. Robinson says those performers and events will be self-contained and won't require behind-the-scenes staffing as mentioned earlier.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company intends to produce some on-demand video presentations. It's also producing The War of the Words: An Audio Drama in conjunction with Cincinnati Public Radio.

"The theater industry needs to see sustained lower (COVID-19) numbers in order to do what we do. It's not the same as musicians who can sit on stage and play their instruments eight feet apart," Robison points out. "We put real life on stage. ... We kiss; we touch; we dance; we argue; people live their lives in proximity to one another; that's the real life we put on stage that we can't get our arms around just quite yet."

The companies say season ticket holders and subscribers will be rolled over to the 2021-2022 seasons. More information about both theaters and their plans can be found at the following links:

Playhouse in the Park

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.