Dorset Theatre Festival, Weston Playhouse cancel planned seasons

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WESTON — The scheduled 2020 summer theatrical season at the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company has been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, though organizers are planning to produce some of the canceled shows next year and develop alternative programming in the meantime.

The company announced its decision on April 2.

All scheduled productions at the Weston Playhouse and Walker Farm have been cancelled, but three shows slated for the 2020 season — "Ring of Fire," "Kinky Boots" and "Steel Magnolias" — will be produced next year as part of the company's 2021 season, according to a news release.

"COVID-19 has affected us all in real and profound ways," Susanna Gellert, the company's executive artistic director, said in the release. "The mandated guidelines necessary for keeping us safe and healthy have a deep impact on our theatre company and our role as a community arts center."

"We will re-imagine our 2020 season," Gellert said.

The company, which has been in existence for 84 years, "will continue to work toward a variety of dynamic projects, including the development of brand-new musicals and plays, concerts, and events featuring Weston artists," according to the release. "When the threat of COVID-19 recedes, Weston Playhouse will once again open its doors as soon as possible for exciting and joyful entertainment."

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The company ordinarily brings in more than 100 people from New York to work on productions for the season, which draws 20,000 audience members, Gellert said in an interview after the announcement. The decision to cancel productions was made after considering factors that included the potential risk to the community's health posed by such a convening and the financial risk to the company of proceeding with the season only to see it shut down, she said.

The company is now turning its attention to online projects intended to be entertaining, informative and community-focused, according to Geller and Andy Butterfield, the company's director of marketing and communications. It will also be preparing in-person shows to perform whenever its venues can reopen; those efforts could include presentations of short musicals written by emerging theater writers and concert readings of classic Weston musicals.

The company has a full-time, year-round staff of seven people. It is working to retain them, but furloughs may be necessary, Geller said, adding that she is determined to avoid permanent layoffs and is taking a pay cut to help with day-to-day operations.

More information is available at westonplayhouse.org. Staff will be contacting ticket holders with information about options for their 2020 tickets, according to the release.

The Dorset Theatre Festival has also announced the cancellation of its summer season.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com.


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