Live performances at the Blackfriars Playhouse have been cancelled; company is collaborating with local partners to bring the show to audiences in new ways

American Shakespeare Center announced today that due to new COVID-19 guidelines, all live performances of A Christmas Carol at the Blackfriars Playhouse have been cancelled. The production was set to open on December 2. The company will, instead, offer the holiday tradition in a variety of ways beginning December 4. 

ASC’s company of actors will maintain their “work bubble” and continue to rehearse. ASC has assembled a streamlined ensemble for their 2020 A Christmas Carol. In the style of the company’s annual Actors’ Renaissance Season, the small cast is recreating an actor-led Shakespearean rehearsal process and working with a small production team to play a multitude of creative roles, including directing the show themselves. This allows the ensemble to maintain a strict isolation so that the show may go on, albeit in a new format.

“When our medical experts at Augusta Health affirmed that holding live performances this December wasn’t advisable due to current COVID-19 conditions, we listened. This is what ASC’s SafeStart plan is all about: making informed decisions,” says Managing Director Amy Wratchford

A CHRISTMAS CAROL CARRIES ON

In the week since new COVID-19 guidelines took effect on November 16, the ASC team has pivoted their December programming to be completely digital while still offering audiences the warmth and light of A Christmas Carol which they know and love.

ASC will bring Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and the three holiday ghosts to audiences:

  • Live streamed from the Blackfriars Playhouse in real time on December 4 via Marquee TV
  • On-demand on ASC’s home-grown streaming service BlkFrsTV beginning December 9 
  • With the “Month of Merry” subscription package which gives a household the BlkFrsTV video of A Christmas Carol plus exclusive bonus events throughout December, such as Live @ Blackfriars backstage access, open rehearsals, and a live-taught Christmas Carol educational workshop

Tickets for all of these options are available now. Live stream tickets must be purchased through Marquee TV; all others are for sale on the ASC website. Plus, audiences can make the season even merrier by adding a Holiday Gift Bundle to their ticket order which includes an item you can’t get anywhere else.

For those looking to get out of the house safely, ASC will also offer their cinema-quality video performance of A Christmas Carol on the big screen at two types of venues:

  • As a drive-in movie presentation
    • The classic Hull’s Drive-in Movie Theater in Lexington, VA will play A Christmas Carol on December 12 and December 20. Tickets are on sale now on the ASC website. 
    • ASC is also planning a drive-in presentation with a regional partner in Northern Virginia. The dates and location will be announced soon; fans can sign up to get notified
  • At movie theaters
    • Visulite Cinemas in Staunton will offer A Christmas Carol for viewing December 18-24 or for private theater rentals. Tickets will be on sale through Visulite Cinemas soon.

ASC hopes to reach fans in their region and all over the world with this diverse set of digital viewing options, ensuring that no one gets left out of this beloved tradition. 

COMMUNITY MAKES IT POSSIBLE

In order to keep their Holiday Season afloat and in the spirit of community, ASC has partnered with a number of local businesses to make this pivot possible.

The three-camera, cinema-quality film of A Christmas Carol is being produced by Paladin Media Group, central Virginia’s premiere production company based in Charlottesville. They, with help from Deep Structure Productions in Staunton, will also orchestrate the show’s live stream. These companies previously worked together to film and produce seven BlkFrsTV titles last spring, when the coronavirus first caused a shutdown of the arts industry.  

ASC turned to Hull’s Drive-in in Lexington, Virginia to offer patrons a way to safely enjoy holiday entertainment. Built in 1950, Hull’s is one of only two non-profit drive-in theaters in America and the first community-owned. Usually closed this time of year,  the Hull’s team has generously allowed ASC to take over the space on select dates to present A Christmas Carol in this nostalgic format. ASC is proud to work with their fellow local non-profit organization. Locally-owned movie theater Visulite Cinemas will also help keep Christmas Present special by offering the film of A Christmas Carol on their roster of films for fans in the local area.

These local nonprofits and businesses jumped into action to make arrangements with ASC to help keep the spirit of the holidays alive this season. Patrons can enjoy great entertainment while supporting small area businesses.

RESILIENT & HOPEFUL 

ASC took on a leadership role in live theatre this summer as they became among the first and the few theatres in North America to produce for live audiences. And, in March, they gained recognition for their fast and high-quality pivot to filmed productions for digital distribution in just a week. Now, having learned from both of these experiences, ASC will innovate once again to bring A Christmas Carol to audiences in a variety of ways this December. 

“We know Christmas Present looks different from Christmas Past, but ASC’s joyous holiday traditions will be here now and in the future. Like Tiny Tim and the Cratchits, we remain resilient and hopeful, and are working even harder to bring joy to our neighbors this Holiday Season. We can’t wait to celebrate with you,” writes ASC Holiday Season acting company in a letter to their fans.

BlkFrsTV on-demand video, “Month of Merry” subscription packages, and drive-in presentation tickets are available via the American Shakespeare Center website, www.americanshakespearecenter.com. Gift Bundles are also on sale now. Live stream tickets are available on the Marquee TV website. Contact ASC’s movie theater partner directly for tickets to big screen showings. 

The ASC Box Office is open to answer questions Tuesday-Saturday from 9 AM to 5 PM; closed Thanksgiving Day. They can be reached at 1.877.MUCH.ADO (1.877.682.4236) or by emailing tickets@americanshakespearecenter.com. For future updates about ASC’s Holiday Season and more, follow American Shakespeare Center on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and sign up for email updates.

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