COVID-19 cancellations and shifts

We’re in the thick of it right now here in Massachusetts, with a fairly steady stream of new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Like in the rest of country, people are hunkered down and practicing social distancing, as they should. When it became clear that we were facing a dangerous pandemic, one spread easily by social contact and often spread by asymptomatic infected people, theaters all closed.

Those optimists among us (it’s hard to be in theatre if you’re not a bit of an optimist), hoped that life would go back to normal by the end of March, but now it’s clear that restrictions will need to last into May, perhaps even deeper into the summer (or longer). Even when movement is less restricted it still might not be safe to gather in large, intimate groups (say, to watch a play), or people might not be comfortable doing so for a while. The future for the next year of theatre is tough to predict.

My work has definitely felt the impact. The biggest hit so far is the postponement of Mox Nox (or soon comes the night), which was scheduled to open May 22 in Maryland and play through June 14, in 11 different cities. I was going to go on tour with the show, as a stagehand and to take part in post-show talkbacks. Alas, Brown Box has had to push the production back to 2021. It was hard for us to wait–we’ve been working on this project for more than three years. But the good news is that the set is built already and in storage (it’s SO cool), and we’ll be ready to go next year.

My play Santa’s Dolphins was scheduled to be part of the annual Boston Theater Marathon, but had to be canceled. Sort of. Instead of a one-day festival of 50 ten-minute plays, they’re now doing a daily noontime Zoom reading of the plays. One every day, for 50 days. Mine will be produced by Wheelock Family Theatre and directed by Emily Ranii, and will play on May 13 at noon. You can check it out by visiting the Boston Playwrights Theatre site and click on Purchase Tickets (even though it’s free).

One of my most exciting projects is a new site-specific play for the Roosevelt Campobello Park in New Brunswick, Canada. I’m writing a 30-minute play about the Roosevelts and their summer cottage and the people who worked and lived on the Island (it’s told through the lens of the housekeepers who worked for them). Originally, the plan was for the play to be produced in the living room of the Cottage in August (and I’d get to go up and help with the production and enjoy the gorgeous Campobello Island). Right now, I think the August production seems unlikely, but the script is making solid progress, and I’m hopeful for a summer 2021 production.

The future of my other big projects this year–Moonlight Abolitionists at Mount Auburn Cemetery (scheduled for late August) and Blood on the Snow at Boston’s Old State House (scheduled for October)–seems very uncertain at the moment. I’ll let you know as their fate becomes clear.

The good news is that my family is all healthy and safe for the moment, and my wife still has her job, so we can pay our bills and eat. (My income from writing is likely to take a BIG dip this year, for obvious reasons.)  And, unlike many folks suddenly stuck at home, I’m used to working from home and my writing and producing projects have me completely engaged and occupied.  And (details coming soon), Plays in Place has signed a deal for a new project that I’m producing and we commissioned another playwright to write it, and there are some other fun projects in the works that seem like they will happen despite the pandemic.

It’s a rough time for the entire nation, the entire world. We’re all just trying to do our best to keep going and find a way through. Playwrights will make it through, but it could be a bumpy ride for a while. We’ll see how it goes.