CINCINNATI: In a striking display of local solidarity, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati have released a joint announcement delaying the start of their 2020-21 seasons due to the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. The artistic leaders of the three theatres are working together to present consistent opening plans and safety guidelines as they navigate Ohio’s current ban on mass gatherings, lower audience capacities, work with the theatrical unions on safety procedures, and implement safety procedures. Specifics on the safety measures that will be put in place will be announced closer to opening dates.
For Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, the revised season is slated to open with a one-person adaptation of A Christmas Carol (Dec. 1-27), in which two actors will alternate performances as they take the stage to tell the story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Artistic director Blake Robison will direct.
Following that opening, the playhouse will proceed with seven productions. The Marx Theatre will open 2021 with the world premiere of The West End (Jan. 16-Feb. 14, 2021), by Keith Josef Adkins and directed by Nicole A. Watson. After that will be Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias (Feb. 27-March 28, 2021), directed by Laura Gordon. Next will be Jocelyn Bioh’s School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play (April 10-May 9, 2021), directed by Candis C. Jones. The Marx Theatre will wrap up its 2021 season with the Agatha Christie classic Murder on the Orient Express (May 22-June 20, 2021), adapted by Ken Ludwig and directed by Risa Brainin.
Playhouse’s Rosenthal Shelterhouse Theatre will open its season with Becoming Dr. Ruth (Jan. 9-March 9, 2021), by Mark St. Germain, directed by Holly Twyford. Next will be Lanie Robertson’s Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (March 20-May 16, 2021), directed by Kenneth Roberson. The season will close with Katie Forgette’s Incident at Our Lady of Perpetual Help (May 29-July 25, 2021).
“This is the most viable way for us to provide cheer and hope this holiday season,” said Robison in a statement. “For safety, we are starting off with the smallest cast shows and building up from there through the spring. The acting, sets, costumes, and overall artistry will be at the same level that Playhouse audiences always enjoy.”
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company has its sights set on reopening in November with its holiday tradition Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) (Nov. 19-Dec. 27), by Michael Carleton, James FitzGerald, and John K. Alvarez. The season will continue in the new year with Hamlet (Jan. 15-Feb. 21, 2021), Romeo and Juliet (March 5-April 11, 2021), and The Comedy of Errors (April 23-May 23, 2021). The season will close with Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (June 4-July 3, 2021), which had its 2020 run cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.
“This show had already become the most popular production in Cincinnati Shakespeare Company history before the unfortunate closure,” said producing artistic director Brian Isaac Phillips in a statement. “We think it will be very fitting for us to close this triumphant new season with the return of this much loved and very jubilant production.”
Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati will start a four-production season in January with the reprisal of its production of Dominique Morisseau’s Pipeline, which closed a few performances into its run this past March. The other three productions and dates for the season will be announced in the coming weeks. Citing safety precautions, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati is canceling the previously announced holiday production of Sleeping Beauty. The company plans to return to its large-cast musicals in 2021, provided it is safe to do so by then.
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