Westport Country Playhouse postpones season, in danger of permanent shutdown

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Graphic by Finnegan Courtney '23

The Westport Country Playhouse, normally a stage for plays, now has postponed its entire 2020 show season, due to COVID-19.

Finnegan Courtney '23, News Editor

The Westport Country Playhouse postponed their planned 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which would have included five shows, including “Antigone” and “Next to Normal.”

“After careful consideration of public health guidelines and with the well-being of our Playhouse community in mind, we have made the decision to postpone our 2020 season,” a statement on the theater’s website said.

The theater’s closing is in compliance with social distancing guidelines.

“We looked at the current public health guidelines, availed ourselves of as much information and advice as we possibly could, and made the proactive determination to postpone the season and produce predominantly in the online space for now,” Michael Barker, Playhouse managing director, said.

Barbara Streicker, chairman of the Playhouse board of trustees, summed up the postponement plan to multiple publications, including Westport News, “The board, in conjunction with the artistic director and the managing director, is taking this monumental step of postponing the 2020 season in order to protect all who attend and produce our outstanding theatrical productions. We are saddened by the circumstances – and look forward to opening again in 2021 – under healthy conditions,”           

Barker said the 2020 season is not cancelled, but did not commit to it being played at a later time.

“We are calling this a postponement. We intend to bring back most or all of our programming, but so much will depend on the availability of artists who were attached to productions in 2020 who have now had their entire lives upended along with everyone else,” Barker said. “It’s an insane time to be making anything resembling a long-term plan, but we’re [currently] calling it a postponement to 2021.”

However, for the Playhouse, a non-profit that relies on donations, this sudden postponement may have adverse financial  consequences.

“Due to the pandemic we have had to make painful expense cuts. We cannot produce plays when there can be no audience, so our entire crew [was] laid off,” Barker said.

“We looked at the current public health guidelines, availed ourselves of as much information and advice as we possibly could, and made the proactive determination to postpone the season and produce predominantly in the online space for now,”

— Michael Barker, Playhouse managing director

In the meantime, the Playhouse has set up “The Playhouse Survival Fund.”

“We have committed to fundraising $1.6 million between now and December 31,” Barker said. Additionally, both Barker and Lamos have taken pay cuts on their original salaries.

Even with the closure of the physical location, the Playhouse is exploring other ideas for the upcoming summer. “Plan on exciting online and livestream events that will be coming,” Patricia Blaufuss, Playhouse public relations manager, told the Ridgefield Press.

“The future is always uncertain,” Barker said. “But, with the support of the community, the Playhouse will be here for a long, long time.”