Theaters Still in the Absurd: An update on the Washtenaw County stage scene


tragic masks

When Pulp published this article on May 4 about how area theater companies were dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, all had lost their current seasons and canceled most of the next ones.

But in the two-plus months since then, theater companies -- like the rest of us -- have had time to navigate this plague and try to make plans for what they can offer creatively knowing this pandemic isn't ending soon. 

So we decided to check in with the Washtenaw County theater world and see how their plans may have changed.

While all the info for The Purple Rose Theatre, Eastern Michigan University theater, and UMGASS remains the same from the May 4 article, here are updates for 12 other companies:

The Encore Musical Theatre Company recently announced the launch of its in-person but socially distanced Summer Series beginning July 24 with “A Celebration of Jewish Broadway.” Per Encore's Facebook, “All seating will be at least 6 feet away from the stage and other seating, and audience face masks will be required for entry and need to stay on throughout the performance. All seating and restrooms will be sanitized between performances, and we will have clearly marked one-way traffic for indoor restroom use.”

Theatre Nova has announced on its Facebook a call for submissions for its upcoming Zoom Play Series. “The series will run online in early October, and the deadline for submissions is August 1, 2020. The Zoom Play Series will feature 10-minute plays written specifically for the Zoom platform.”

Per Tim Grimes of Redbud Productions, “With an intimate space for classes, and given the emotional intimacy of the method itself -- for the health and safety of all of our students we do not plan to hold class this fall.” Redbud’s Facebook page has been linking to numerous shows that can be streamed online.

Roustabout Theatre Troupe has chosen to move its 2020 season to 2021. The group hopes to add virtual or outdoor staged readings to this year and perhaps to the 2021 season. Depending on where we stand with the pandemic in the future, Roustabout will add precautions such as requiring masks, reducing capacity, and socially distancing when possible. The troupe intends to take its lead from state requirements. 

The Penny Seats Theatre Company recently kicked off its Virtual 2020 Season after moving all of its live mainstage shows to their respective time slots in 2021. Keep an eye on Penny Seats' website and Facebook for future performances. 

The remainder of the Neighborhood Theatre Group’s 2020 shows will be online and the troupe is paying close attention to the pandemic. The 2020/21 season is TBD so far. When the time comes to perform live again, Neighborhood will follow all guidelines to ensure the safety of artists and audiences.

PTD Productions has canceled all remaining 2020 shows. It's currently working on a survey to best judge how patrons would feel about returning to live shows for the 2021 season.

Wild Swan Theater is currently offering some online camps as well as a Thursday evening Variety Show on Facebook during July. Returning to live performances for the 2020/21 season is still up in the air. 

One Off Productions plans to be dark for 2020 and return in 2021. 

The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre (A2CT) announced its popular Technical Theatre Camp is moving online August 3-7. See their website to register. In addition to the 2020-2021 activities reported on in the May 4 Pulp article, A2CT has added Digital Artist Residencies, which will feature a range of activities, including unique performance experiences, art made specifically for digital, an inside look into the creative process through new works in development, and casual artist interactions with their audiences. The You Can Dance series will be moving outside. There will also be a free outdoor concert this fall in West Park. 

The U-M School of Music, Theatre, and Dance is using its Facebook page to link to various online streaming content, such as their #VirtualVisionaries series and yoga-inspired stretching. 

Crysta Coburn is a desk clerk with the Ann Arbor District Library, freelance writer, editor, and author.