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California Shakespeare Theater.

COVID-19 Forces Cal Shakes to Cancel 2020 Summer Season

The announcement comes with news of the company furloughing more than half of its year-round employees.

BERKELEY, CALIF.: California Shakespeare Theater has announced the cancelation of its four-show 2020 season, originally set to kick off in May and run into October. This major decision by the organization was made in an effort to prioritize the health and well-being of the staff, artists, and Bay Area community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This may seem like an extraordinary decision,” said artistic director Eric Ting in a letter to subscribers, “but taking into account the incredible uncertainty of this moment, the cost of producing a season at the Bruns, of which ticket sales only account for a third, the current and long-term disruption in fundraising, and our desire to participate fully in current and future civic actions intended to flatten the curve, we feel this is our best course of action.”

According to a release from Cal Shakes, the company will lose more than $1.2 million in earned revenue. Additionally, while the organization is committed to cover employee health coverage through at least the end of April, Cal Shakes has had to furlough 65 percent of its year-round employees.

Programming for future seasons is yet to be determined, though it has already been determined that the Cal Shakes New Classics Initiative commission of Leila Buck and Evren Odcikin’s 1001 Nights (A Retelling) is slated to premiere during the 2021 season. The play, inspired by the Middle Eastern folk tales of One Thousand and One Nights, will be directed by Odcikin.

The rest of the 2020 season consisted of a production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, Ellen McLaughlin’s The Oresteia, and Karen Zacarías’s bilingual adaptation Romeo y Juliet. There is no word on whether any of these productions will be included in future programming.

Like many theatres across the country facing cancelations and closures, Cal Shakes is asking patrons who purchased tickets, subscriptions, or flex passes to consider donating the value of their purchases to the organization as a tax-deductible contribution.

“This is a moment when we need our community more than ever,” said managing director Sarah Williams in a statement. “We are looking with optimism to the 2021 summer season at the Bruns, but we need the help of our community to get there.”

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