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The Great Outdoors

[caption id="attachment_58719" align="aligncenter" width="900"] The outdoor stage at L.A.’s Fountain Theatre.[/caption]

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, but as vaccination rates creep past 50 percent in the U.S., theatres are planning a return to something like business as usual: Many Broadway shows are slated to reopen in September, and a number of other spaces around the country—from Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis to the Kraine Theatre in New York City—are already open at reduced or restricted capacities.

But how about outdoor theatre? Given what we now know about the transmission of the virus, it seems like a no-brainer. And sure enough, this summer is likely to see a rush back to open-air stages, whether at traditional amphitheaters or more makeshift gatherings: impromptu drive-ins, park stages served by portable stage trucks, walking tours of historic sites. While many theatres spent much of the last year exploring virtual options, many are now experimenting with outdoor performance. Will these trial runs bring audiences rushing back as well, and might they even—like the digital offerings of the past season—point the way toward another avenue of direct engagement with communities theatres could and should have been reaching all along? Slather on some sun screen and bug spray, and follow us into a package of stories exploring theatre al fresco, summer 2021 edition.

—Rob Weinert-Kendt, editor-in-chief

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