“SafeStart” Season Performances Follow Commonwealth, VDH, and CDC Guidelines
Company Takes Layered Mitigation Approach to Living and Working in the Age of Coronavirus

American Shakespeare Center today announced its Summer 2020 “SafeStart” programming – an integrated approach to live and digital theatre that will offer two productions performed under a carefully developed series of mitigation protocols designed to keep actors, staff, and audiences safe.

“Summer 2020 will see ASC return to its roots,” explains Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny, “producing, much as Shakespeare’s company did, a single, versatile troupe of actors performing in repertory both at our Blackfriars Playhouse home and around the region, including outdoors in an exciting new partnership with our friends at the Blackburn Inn.”

The Summer 2020 repertory will feature an ensemble of actors performing Shakespeare’s beloved comedy of identity Twelfth Night alongside his tragedy of jealousy and racism, Othello.  Both shows will appear on the stage at the Blackfriars – the world’s only recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor theatre, under the stars on the grounds of the Blackburn Inn, and online via livestream events.  Performances are slated to begin at the Blackburn Inn on July 25 and at the Blackfriars Playhouse on July 31.  Calendar and ticketing details are available on the company’s website.  

“Our embrace of early-modern theatre approaches like repertory casting, performing without elaborate scenery in shared light, and our emphasis on the power of the actor, the word, the hand-made, and the acoustic all contribute to ASC being uniquely suited to safely adapt to the variety of conditions presented by this challenging new era,” continues McSweeny.

ASC SafeStart

SafeStart, ASC’s evolving program of coronavirus prevention mediations, has been carefully formulated in consultation with an advisory group of medical experts and local officials familiar with the region and with ASC’s facilities.  The plan focuses first on establishing a safe workplace environment for rehearsals, production, and administration and then proceeds to create a safe gathering place for audiences.  The ASC SafeStart Visitor’s Guide is available for viewing on the company’s website.

Highlights of ASC SafeStart include:

  • Two weeks of virtual rehearsals and intentional self-quarantining of the performance company for the duration of the performance season
  • Significantly reduced occupancy in all venues and workspaces
  • Universal Masking for all audiences and non-performing staff and volunteers
  • Enhanced hygiene at all facilities and for all individuals
  • Socially-distanced seating, contactless ticketing and merchandise purchasing, and the elimination of concessions and programs

“ASC SafeStart is a series of layered mitigations that, taken collectively, represent an iterative and evolving response to how we will live, and work, in the age of coronavirus,” states Managing Director Amy Wratchford, “The plans are designed to make it safe for our actors, our staff, and our audiences to create and experience live theatre again, as well as share the community connection inherent in ASC productions that we’ve dearly missed during this time of isolation.”

“Dual Citizens”

Building on the success of BlkFrsTV, ASC’s groundbreaking and industry-leading digital streaming theatre and education platform, the company will move forward as “dual citizens” of the physical and digital worlds.  This means simultaneously offering a range of in-person and virtual ways to experience ASC’s unique blend of artistry and education, including:   

  • the monthly contemporary music concert series Live @ Blackfriars hosted by Chris Johnston,  
  • the digital edition of ASC’s celebrated summer theatre camp #SHXCamp for three weeks beginning July 13,
  • the return of Founder and Director of Mission Ralph Alan Cohen with “Dr. Ralph Re-Zooms” Fridays at 5 pm beginning June 19,
  • the opportunity to purchase streaming tickets to live theatre events coming in July and August.

“We know that individual audience members will have different thresholds for returning to live theatre,” says McSweeny, “For some that will be outside while others will be ready to sit socially distanced in the Blackfriars, and some, whether because of personal concerns or travel restrictions, will be most comfortable being with us online.  That’s why we are determined to find every way possible to continue to bring the Playhouse to your house.”

Community Commitment

Summer 2020 corresponds with initiatives throughout the region, including the weekend conversion of Staunton’s iconic main street into a pedestrian mall with local restaurants offering socially-distanced outdoor seating.

“As a key economic engine, we have a vital role to play in the rebuilding of our city, our Shenandoah Valley community, and our entire Central Virginia region,” explains Wratchford, “We want to make it possible for as many of our audiences as possible to be a part of that future.”

Tickets are now on sale for the Summer 2020 repertory. Visit www.americanshakespearecenter.com for complete ticketing information and SafeStart details.