Having already shut down Broadway, the coronavirus pandemic has also forced the closure of many summer theater festivals. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Williamstown Theater Festival have canceled their summer programs (the latter plans to record its shows for Audible), and now the Public Theater has announced that it will cancel its summer programming, bringing an end to plans for this year’s season of Shakespeare in the Park, a New York City fixture. This year, the Public had planned to stage Richard II and its musical adaptation of As You Like It at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. “It’s just clear to us at this point that there’s no way we can responsibly prepare, build and rehearse to get shows open in a timing that might match the quarantine’s timing,” the Public’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis, told the New York Times.
To make up for the financial losses — an estimated $10 million to $20 million shortfall by August 31, according to the Times — the nonprofit is laying off about 70 percent of its full-time, permanent staff from May to August 31 and having the remaining staff take significant pay cuts, up to 40 percent for Eustis himself. To fundraise, the Public still plans to have its gala online. It is also commissioning digital, remotely produced theater online, including a new play by Richard Nelson that assembles the characters from his Apple family plays over Zoom while they’re all quarantined.
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