The innovative American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va has shut down its Actor’s Renaissance Season, canceled its Spring Season, and closed its doors at least until June in response to the coronavirus, the Company announced yesterday.
The company will release its nearly-30 actors from their contracts, and furlough its staff of forty. ASC’s current touring productions will also be shuttered. As ASC is a major employer in tiny Staunton, the town’s economy will be affected by the shutdown.
The scheduled world premiere of Emily Whipday’s The Defamation of Cicely Lee, a winner of last year’s Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries competition, is among the cancellations.
“ASC depends on its box office for almost 80% of its annual operating expenses,” Artistic Director Ethan McSweeny explained. “Like many not-for-profit arts organizations we operate very close to the edge, with little to no cash reserve. We need to make an average of $50,000 a week at the box office to meet our expenses.”
Over the last few weeks, as the effect of Covid-19’s spread took hold, ASC’s weekly box office receipts dropped from $60,000 to $22,000, McSweeny said.
ASC has traditionally received significant revenue from student matinees and extended visits from colleges and universities, McSweeny stated. School closings have ended those visits.
McSweeny estimates that ASC will have to raise $350,000 to keep the company viable between now and its reopening. “This figure will allow us to employ a part-time, skeletal staff for essential operations, make payments on the mortgage for the Blackfriars Playhouse, continue to cover health insurance for all furloughed staff and artists, and keep our actors safely housed until we begin again,” McSweeny said.
If you’ve already purchased tickets to any of the canceled performances, ASC will reserve them for a future performance. But McSweeny urges ticketholders to consider donating the money they paid for their tickets to ASC’s effort to remain alive while the coronavirus shuts it down. McSweeny also urged donations (you can donate to the ASC here) and early purchases of summer-season tickets as ways to help alleviate the effects of the shutdown.
ASC’s Marquee Repertory, which runs from June 19 to November 29, features Othello and its Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries counterpart, Anchuli Felicia King’s Keene, The Merchant of Venice, Ben Jonson’s Volpone, and a 90-minute, one-act Twelfth Night. Subscriptions available here If a single show is more your cup of tea, click here.
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