NEW YORK, NY
NEW YORK, NY
Erin Gilbreth is the Co-Producing Artistic Director of the American Bard Theater Company, serving the Greater New York City area. www.americanbard.org
6:30pm, Friday, March 13, 2020 – “Let’s get through Opening Night. We’ll take an anonymous poll and if ANYONE feels unsafe to continue our run, we will pause for a week, and come back for the third week to close the show.” This was our message to our Off-Off-Broadway actors and designers at a company meeting at half-hour before curtain.
The Broadway show “Moulin Rouge” had voluntarily closed the day before and the rest of Broadway followed suit when meetings of more than 250 people were deemed forbidden just a few hours before our Opening Night. Good news for us (I guess?): Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway houses could still run at half capacity. Our director called my cell phone right after the Governor’s afternoon press conference: “Quick!” she breathlessly advised, “Shut down online ticket sales immediately!” I received this information as I picked up my son from school and got home just in time to cut off our ticket sales for that night at juuuuuust under half capacity in our small theater.
After our Opening Night bows, our stage manager sent out an anonymous poll via email. Within minutes, we knew our Opening Night was very likely our Closing Night. Several members of the company didn’t feel comfortable using public transportation and gathering nightly at the theater – even with the reduced-audience mandate and CDC-advised cleaning procedures in place. In hindsight, I am glad we put the poll out there and shut down when we did: within 48 hours, all gatherings of more than 10 people weren’t allowed anyway. My producing partner announced the results of the poll via email on Saturday morning and scheduled appointments for Sunday afternoon: allowing the actors, crew and designers to safely collect any personal items they might want to take home while waiting out Covid 19.
Our show, Echoes in the Garden, a new family drama by playwright Ross G. Hewitt, was on a three-week AEA showcase code and set to close on March 29, 2020. After workshopping and fundraising for 18 months, we enjoyed only two previews and one Opening Night performance for all our effort. Opened and Closed the show in one fell swoop. That’s it.
“Don’t forget to take the open wine bottles from concessions! Might as well take them home and drink them!” I joked with my producing partner on that Sunday afternoon, not imagining that I’d be sitting here NOW – weeks later – with a production still in limbo. Within a few days of our decision to pause, the landlord of the building padlocked the front door. We mailed full payment to our artists. We filed our revenue loss with our insurance company. Our gorgeous set is still standing, the costumes still hang in place, and props are still strewn all over the stage as they appear in the final scene of the play. So still.
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