Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
After the national theater industry announced on Thursday that Broadway theaters would suspend operations until April 12 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a cascade of similar individual announcements began to emerge across the Bay Area, with most local troupes canceling current and immediately upcoming productions.
American Conservatory Theater announced the closure of the hit “Gloria” at the Strand and of “Toni Stone,” which opened at the Geary in San Francisco the night before.
“It is critical to prioritize the safety and health of our patrons, employees, artists and students, and this is the responsible action to take,” read a message from Pam MacKinnon and Jennifer Bielstein, the artistic and executive directors.
“It’s a wild and unprecedented time,” said Bielstein on Friday, adding that ticket holders to both productions will be able to see recordings of the shows via BroadwayHD, a New York-based media streaming company.
“We knew we would not be able to continue to gather in large groups, so we worked with our union partners and asked for permission to share a recording of our current productions,” said Bielstein. She said patrons who have tickets to the shows will soon hear from ACT on how to access the recordings, and expects that 99 percent will accept the offer.
On March 16, ACT, due to demand, announced that new patrons also may purchase tickets to both shows, which will be available for viewing until midnight March 29. For information, visit www.act-sf.org or call (415) 749-2228.
The same goes for Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which will offer those with tickets to canceled performances of “Culture Clash (Still) in America” and “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” access to those shows and Broadway HD’s entire catalog for 30 days, according to publicist Tim Etheridge.
Due to evolving public health orders, Hammer Theatre in San Jose has canceled plans tostreamed a live performance by acclaimed Swiss mime troupe Mummenschanz at 7:30 p.m. March 17. . And“Fast Forward,” a performance by South Bay troupe New Ballet, slated to be live-streamed from Hammer Theatre on March 28, has been moved to June 7.
New Conservatory Theatre Center previously canceled performances (through March 21) as had the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus (on March 26), following Mayor London Breed’s banning of large gatherings in San Francisco-owned venues.
On March 10, as Broadway San Francisco announced its 2020-21 season of incoming tours, the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre began a trickle of cancellation announcements. Other companies like EXIT Theatre stated they were open but taking extra precautions. (EXIT has since suspended performances through March.)
On Wednesday, Foothill Music Theatre and others started to announce early closure of existing runs. Then, the floodgates opened.
Broadway SF posted that remaining performances of “The Last Ship” with Sting were canceled and that “Hamilton” was on hiatus until March 31. By Thursday night, Magic Theatre, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, San Jose Stage Company and Marin Theatre Company announced the scrapping of current or coming productions, as did Feinstein’s at the Nikko.
Some, like Custom Made Theatre Co. and Broadway by the Bay are postponing things a week at a time. San Francisco Playhouse announced a two-week postponement of the production slated to open next week. Shotgun Players have stopped shows through April 5, and The Marsh in San Francisco and Berkeley have canceled through April 1.
For patrons, there is disappointment and hassle. For the affected artists, the cut is far deeper, ranging from grief to economic insecurity. Social media began to churn with shared disappointment, camaraderie, frustrations and the commitment come back even stronger.
Patrons with tickets to canceled productions at nonprofit companies are encouraged to donate tickets back as a tax-deductible contribution to help the venues mitigate some of their unexpected losses.