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Arts & Life

Kansas City Repertory Theatre Reimagines Upcoming Season Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Stuart Carden announces upcoming shows to patrons at the 20-21 Season Preview Party (Photo by Ryan Bruce).jpg
Ryan Bruce
Kansas City Repertory Theatre artistic director Stuart Carden in February announced the 2020-2021 season at a preview event. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, details about a reimagined season are expected by September 1.

Theater companies respond to COVID-19 with mix of small-scale live performances, outdoor events, and digital experiences.

In the coronavirus era, many performing arts organizations in the Kansas City metro have canceled or postponed productions, continued digital offerings or created something entirely new.

On Wednesday, Kansas City Repertory Theatre announced plans to scrap the 2020-2021 season. Instead, the company is now planning a mix of small-scale live performances, outdoor events, and digital theater experiences.

“With as much uncertainty that is going on right now, we want to keep everyone in our community safe," said Executive Director Angela Gieras, "not just our audience, but our artists, everybody who works for us.”

Gieras added, “We wanted to be a place where people would be excited to return, and we didn’t think that would be possible in the fall.”

According to the Rep, the decision was based on guidance from union partners, social distancing requirements, and current information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael Brosilow
'The Old Man and The Old Moon,' written by PigPen Theatre Co., and directed by Stuart Carden and PigPen Theatre Co., was scheduled to launch the Rep's season in September. Now, plans have changed.

Other area arts institutions have already switched gears. The resident companies at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts announced in early July that they were canceling or postponing shows at the venue in 2020.

On Friday, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City launches Soundscapes in the City, a series of short outdoor performances in their East Crossroads parking lot. The Kansas City Actors Theatre expects to start a weekly series of radio theatre in September with KKFI. And, starting this fall, the Kansas City Symphony plans to bring smaller ensembles to every zip code in the metro with pop-up outdoor events.

Gieras sits on the League of Resident Theatres (LORT)’s reopening committee, which meets each week. As other arts institutions shared stories about delays or cancelations, and as the Rep started to think about the logistics of large-scale productions, she said she and Artistic Director Stuart Carden realized it wasn’t “going to be possible in this new reality this year.”

“We just felt like rather than trying to save little bits and pieces, let’s re-envision the entire thing,” Gieras said.

The Rep plans to announce "a new slate of shows" by early September. The annual holiday production of "A Christmas Carol" remains on the schedule.

"While we are moving away from our traditional large-scale production of 'A Christmas Carol,'" wrote Gieras and Carden in an email on Monday, "We are in the midst of reimagining a way to share this beloved story with our community."

As Gieras describes it, it will be “a season for this time, that makes sense, that is safe, that provides a look into the world that will be exciting and new, but also a balm for what people are going through.”

The Rep is offering three options for patrons who've already purchased 2020-2021 season tickets: a credit, a refund, or a donation.

Editor's note: More information about "A Christmas Carol" was added Monday to include information from an email sent to KC Rep ticketholders.

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