The pandemic that has wreaked havoc with every facet of modern life is also disrupting one of the few things that might help audiences temporarily forget COVID-19: the transporting pleasure of attending a live performance.
Over the summer, local theater troupes announced that they would resume shows with in-person audiences in the fall or winter. But one by one, skyrocketing COVID-19 infections in Maryland put the kibosh on the groups’ hopes, though most are attempting to connect with their patrons by providing online entertainment.
The Sun checked in with the five largest stage companies in the Baltimore area to find out what they’ve had to reschedule, what they’re offering now and when they hope to once again welcome live audiences.
Baltimore Center Stage
Previously announced plans — A shortened, four-production season of live performances was to have debuted Jan. 29 with Noah Diaz’ ““The Swindlers: A True-ish Tall Tale.”
Tentative New Plans — Live performances are being postponed indefinitely. The production of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” which was to have opened in late April with a mix of professional actors and community volunteers has been pushed back to a later date to ensure that it can be rehearsed and performed safely.
Plans remain up in the air as to when and how the three remaining shows of the 2021 winter/spring season (by playwrights Diaz, Miranda Rose Hall and Charlayne Woodard) will be produced. A fourth play will be added to this season’s roster to replace “Our Town” according to artistic director Stephanie Ybarra.
“I can’t help but see our postponement of Our Town in a positive light, because it means we can employ an additional living playwright in our season,” Ybarra wrote in an email. “I take that opportunity really seriously, especially now.”
Available Now: A production of “A Christmas Carol” starring the hometown favorite and Tony Award-winning actor Jefferson Mays performing all 50 roles is available for live-streaming through Jan. 3. Tickets cost $50 and can be purchased at onthestage.com.
Chesapeake Shakespeare Company
Previously Announced Plans: None. Unsure how the pandemic would progress, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company managers held off on announcing their 2020-2021 production season.
Tentative New Plans: The troupe hopes to resume live performances outdoors this summer once the cicada invasion has passed and to welcome audiences indoors in the fall, according to company marketing director Brandon W. Vernon. A production schedule for the second half of 2021 has not yet been announced.
“We continue to be conservative in our commitment to actual dates which depend so much on the broad distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine,” Brandon wrote in an email.
Previously Announced Plans: Everyman was to have been the first troupe in Baltimore to resume live performances on Nov. 19. It planned to present the one-actor show it had commissioned: “Queens Girl: Black in the Green Mountains” by Caleen Sinnette Jennings. But as COVID numbers spiked, in-person performances were cancelled on Nov. 12.
Tentative New Plans: “We’re optimistic that we’ll be able to open to the public again after the New Year and celebrate our 30th anniversary in-person,” managing director Marissa LaRose said in a statement. “We’ve taken extensive steps to ensure patron safety as well as the safety of our staff and artists and will continue to work closely with the union and local and state officials to navigate a safe reopening as soon as possible.”
Available Now: Viewers can purchase tickets for at-home viewing of “Queens Girl: Black in the Green Mountains” featuring new company member Felicia Curry. Tickets can be bought for either the standalone production (the third part in Jennings’ “Queens Girl” trilogy), or for all three plays featuring different actresses performing the role of the spirited young Jacqueline Marie Butler.
The Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center
Previously Announced Plans: A six-day run of “Mean Girls” was to have kicked off a full season of touring Broadway musicals on Jan. 19, 2021.
Tentative New Plans: Live performances will resume May 4, 2021 with the 2018 jukebox musical, “Ain’t too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations” running through May 9. It will be followed by “Hamilton” (June 8-July 3); “Hairspray” (July 27-Aug. 1); “Tootsie” (Aug. 24-29) and “Pretty Woman” (Sept. 28-Oct.3), according to Hippodrome president Ron Legler.
New performance dates for the four other musicals originally scheduled to visit Baltimore this season have not yet been determined. They are: “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical”, “Mean Girls”, “The Prom” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Previously Announced Plans: Artistic director Joseph Ritsch originally had hoped to kick off a three-production season of in-person live performances with the musical revue, “Side by Side with Sondheim.” That, and subsequent plans to produce a radio play of Jason Robert Brown’s ”Songs for a New World” were subsequently scrapped due to production issues related to the pandemic.
Tentative New Plans: Dane Figueroa Edidi’s “Ghost/Writer,” initially slated to debut in February, will be filmed as a radio play that will be broadcast in the spring. A fully produced production is being planned for next season. The regional premiere of “The Moors” by Jen Silverman has been moved to summer with the possibility that it will be produced outdoors.
Available Now: Nothing at this time.