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Theatre Aspen delays start to summer season due to COVID-19 crisis

An image of the Hurst Theatre taken by Mike Lyons.
Courtesy photo/Theatre Aspen

THEATRE ASPEN 2020 SUMMER SCHEDULE

MAIN STAGE

“Rock of Ages”: July 6 through Aug. 1

“Chicago”: Aug. 6 through Aug. 22

SPECIAL EVENTS

Season Sneak Peek: Sunday, June 28, the Hurst Theatre

Summer Cabaret Series: July 1, 2, 19 and 20; Aug. 1 and 2. Multiple venues in Aspen.

“The Sound of Music: In Concert”: Aug. 3, the Benedict Music Tent

Theatre Aspen Apprentice Showcase: Aug. 16, the Hurst Theatre

THEATRE ASPEN EDUCATION

“Beauty and the Beast”: July 23 through July 29, the Hurst Theatre

“Frozen Jr.”: July 30 through Aug. 1, Aspen District Theatre Black Box

Theatre Aspen is delaying and modifying the start to its 2020 summer season due to the coronavirus pandemic, staff is set to announce Monday.

The company’s 37th summer season now will begin July 6 with the Tony-nominated musical “Rock of Ages” (runs through Aug. 1), will move the Tony and Drama Desk award-winning musical “Chicago” to August (runs Aug. 6 through Aug. 22), and postpone Neil Simon’s comedy “The Sunshine Boys” to 2021.

Other summer schedule changes include postponing Theatre Aspen Education’s outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to 2021, and moving the Season Sneak Peek to June 28 at the Hurst Theatre.

According to Jed Bernstein, producing director, Theatre Aspen started looking at how the company’s summer season would be impacted by the COVID-19 crisis in early March when related closures started happening across the country.

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“We started looking at all different scenarios about if and when this lasted this long or that long, whatever it might be, as we knew this was not going to be a 10-day event,” Bernstein said Sunday.

After discussion with Theatre Aspen’s board and executive committee members over the past few weeks, Bernstein said the decision was made to delay the season’s start and implement schedule changes.

When asked how Theatre Aspen decided on postponing “The Sunshine Boys” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” specifically, Bernstein said it was a matter of logistics. Both “Rock of the Ages” and “Chicago” have more in common with each other than with “The Sunshine Boys” in regards to overlapping performers and similar sets, making it more efficient to keep the two musicals and postpone the play, Bernstein said. Casting will be announced soon.

As for “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Theatre Aspen Education’s first-ever student Shakespeare performance, it was going to be rehearsed earliest and there just wasn’t room to put it later in the season unless two student shows ran at the same time, which Bernstein said wasn’t feasible and unfair to students who may want to be in more than one performance.

Other minor schedule alterations to the summer season include running “Rock of Ages” and “Chicago” in sequential order versus rotating repertory style. The season will also feature a new Freedom Flex Pass, giving ticket buyers the greatest options and flexibility for dates and shows with no added fees for changes, along with an expanded Summer Cabaret Series with six evenings of dinners and performances, according to a news release.

While Bernstein said Theatre Aspen is closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 crisis and will continue to follow the guidance of health and government officials, he feels it is important for Aspen arts organizations to be there for locals and visitors after the pandemic.

“In American history going back at least 150 years to the Civil War, the arts in general and theater in particular was a place people flocked to during crisis and after crisis,” Bernstein said. “We are social animals and we crave shared experience, and I think it will be no different this time,” Bernstein continued.

“With the cancellation of Food & Wine and the (Aspen) Ideas Festival, there’s not only going to be a big economic hit to Aspen but I think an emotional one because those are two such iconic events we all enjoy,” he said.

“That puts extra responsibility on ourselves and the music festival and JAS to try to be as vibrant as we can this summer and to do what we can for people’s psyches as well as for the local economy. … It’s going to be a tricky road, but I think it’s a road we all feel is important to travel down if this community is going to bounce back as quickly as we hope and know it will.”


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