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    Positive Coronavirus Test Halts Shakespeare in the Park for Third Night

    “Merry Wives,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy, had already pushed back its opening night by nearly two weeks after an injury to its leading man.The merriment is still on hiatus.The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of “Merry Wives,” which had already pushed back its opening night by nearly two weeks after its leading man was injured, announced on Friday that it would cancel its third consecutive performance after learning a production member had tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.The theater had canceled the Wednesday and Thursday performances at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, in accordance with its existing protocols. It announced on Twitter on Friday that it would call off Friday’s performance as well “to support the artistic and logistical efforts required to restart performances.”A spokeswoman for the theater, Laura Rigby, said the theater planned to resume performances on Saturday. The production is scheduled to run through Sept. 18, with a special gala performance on Sept. 20.The theater noted on Twitter that it practiced “rigorous testing and daily health and safety protocols to ensure everyone’s safety.” It said on Wednesday that the cast, crew and staff members would isolate and take additional tests if needed.Earlier this week the theater postponed the play’s opening night to Aug. 9, from July 27, after Jacob Ming-Trent, who plays Falstaff, sustained an undisclosed injury. (He is recuperating, the theater said, and his understudy Brandon E. Burton will perform the role in his absence.)The show, a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” has been running in previews since July 6. Written by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Saheem Ali, it is set in South Harlem and represents African immigrant communities not often seen onstage. Bioh and Ali have said they hope the production makes Shakespeare accessible to all audiences, especially people of color who may have been told Shakespeare was not for them.“We want it to be antiracist,” Ali told The New York Times this month. “We want it to have opportunities for people of color that didn’t exist before.”In June, the theater announced that it would fill the Delacorte Theater to 80 percent capacity after initially saying it would allow only 428 attendees in the 1,800-seat theater for each performance.People who show proof of vaccination can occupy full-capacity sections, and distanced sections are available for those who are unvaccinated (and those theatergoers do not need to show proof of a negative test to enter). Face masks are required for people in both sections when entering and moving around, though those in the full-capacity sections may remove them while seated.On Friday, Rigby said the theater was monitoring Covid-19 cases in New York City and would adjust its policies if needed in collaboration with its city, state and union partners.The cancellations come amid the rise in cases caused by the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, which has been responsible for the postponement of a number of stage productions and delays in television and film projects in Europe over the past month. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella” musical recently moved its opening night in London’s West End back about a month after a cast member tested positive, while productions like “Hairspray” at the London Coliseum and “Romeo and Juliet” at Shakespeare’s Globe have also experienced delays following positive tests.In the United States, the Delta variant is now responsible for a majority of cases, and some experts are recommending that fully vaccinated people wear masks again to protect the unvaccinated. More

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    ‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ Review: Shakespeare, With a Hint of Celine Dion

    The Drilling Company returns to live theater with this slapdash tragicomedy about two cousins who fall for the same woman.For its return to live performance, the Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot series did not rely on a familiar crowd-pleaser from a catalog of greatest hits. It instead chose a deep cut: “The Two Noble Kinsmen.” This play was not even a solo effort for Shakespeare, who shares the credit with John Fletcher, like a Jacobean version of James Patterson sharing authorship with lesser-known collaborators for his thrillers. This new version might also include a third culprit, the director Hamilton Clancy, since it is unlikely that the original contains references to Celine Dion and the ballad “I Will Always Love You.” (We are double-checking with the Folger Shakespeare Library.)The popcorn aspect isn’t incidental, either: While this isn’t top-shelf drama, there certainly is potential for entertainment in the slapdash, bordering-on-incoherent adventures of two cousins who fall for the same woman, with somber notes inserted at seemingly random intervals, and a time-consuming comic subplot grafted on because why not? This is a tragicomedy so you need a bit of everything, plus plays greater than this one have thrived despite devil-may-care logic.Unfortunately, Clancy’s staging does not exploit this potential, and on a recent evening in Bryant Park, the production relied mostly on a certain earnest enthusiasm. (The show moves to the parking lot of the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, on the Lower East Side, next week.)In this iteration, the cousins are the sockless, chino-wearing Palamon (Bradford Frost) and the slightly more brooding Arcite (John Caliendo, in a role played by, fun fact, David Harbour in the 2003 Public Theater production). They actually feel more like mismatched brothers from Delta Tau Chi, hitting the brewskis until they both fall for Emilia (Liz Livingston). Mind you, all it took was seeing her through the window of the cell where they ended up after fighting the power, that is Theseus (Lukas Raphael).This shared passion for a comely lady who happens to be Theseus’s sister-in-law turns the young men into rivals, then they are friends again, then there’s a fight, which does not end well for one of them. As for Emilia, it does not really matter which of the cousins she prefers because the dying one just gifts her to the survivor.Meanwhile, the jailer’s daughter may not be deemed worthy of a character name but still lands a lot of juicy comic scenes after she becomes obsessed — also after just one look — with Palamon. This is an excuse for the actress Jane Bradley to gleefully chew the scenery, except we are on the park’s upper terrace behind the New York Public Library and there isn’t any. To indicate the moment when the jailer’s daughter totally loses the plot (like many of us in the audience), Bradley turns up with smudged lipstick, like a long-lost relative of the Joker. A production interested in subtlety might have excavated poignant resonance from her descent into madness, as when Malvolio garners our sympathy upon being humiliated in “Twelfth Night,” but this is not it.Apparently, Clancy’s concept was some kind of “modern espionage story,” which is not evidenced in what we see. Then again, so many such modern movies are far-fetched and incomprehensible that maybe the idea is perfectly executed.Two Noble KinsmenJuly 28-30 at the Clemente, Manhattan; shakespeareintheparkinglot.com. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. More

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    Avignon Festival Forges Ahead, Despite Virus Restrictions

    The French theater festival’s Fringe offering is giving some respite from the pandemic, even as new rules to stop coronavirus transmission are making it harder to get to the shows.AVIGNON, France — It sounds like a virologist’s nightmare: 1,070 theater productions; 116 venues, most of them within Avignon’s cramped medieval center; and everywhere, festivalgoers sitting shoulder to shoulder in indoor spaces.Yet the Fringe offering at this summer’s Avignon Festival — which runs parallel to the main event, and is known as “le Off” — has forged ahead, even as the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus became the dominant strain in France.Is it problematic to enjoy excellent performances under the circumstances? With the rituals of Avignon, including unmasked performers handing out publicity fliers in the street, came a sense of normalcy. Still, a sneaky sense of guilt permeated conversations with theatergoers — not least when new restrictions were announced, shortly after the Avignon Festival began.Last week, the French government decreed that a “health pass” — a QR code proving full vaccination or a negative coronavirus test result — would be required from July 21 for all venues with over 50 seats. Restaurants, bars and trains will follow from Aug. 1. (The health pass requirement previously applied only to events with more than 1,000 audience members.)Frustration was palpable in Avignon in the days before the rule came into force. While roughly half of Fringe venues are small enough to skirt it, some companies opted to leave early, and bigger shows reported ticket returns and a drop in bookings. Last weekend, as widespread demonstrations against the policy swept France, protesters filled Avignon’s biggest avenue, shouting “Liberté!” (“Freedom!”)Marc Arnaud in “The Metamorphosis of Storks,” his one-man show at the Théâtre du Train Bleu.Alejandro GuerreroWhile the Avignon Festival’s official lineup (“le In,” in local parlance) went from bleak to bleaker in its themes, Fringe fare at least offered some respite from pandemic worries, since comedy has always been a prominent part of this less highbrow portion of the festival.Two original one-man shows, by Mehdi-Emmanuel Djaadi and Marc Arnaud, combine jokes and impressions with explorations of deep-seated inner conflicts. Djaadi’s “Coming Out,” especially, is an exercise in stereotype busting. The coming out in question is religious: The show recounts the 34-year-old comedian’s conversion from Islam to Catholicism.Support for his choice was scarce, as Djaadi tells it at the aptly named Théâtre des Corps Saints (Theater of the Holy Bodies). His family, of Algerian descent, felt he was turning his back on them; a priest explained that he didn’t want any trouble; in artistic circles, many were ill at ease with what they saw as the Catholic Church’s homophobia and conservatism.Yet instead of expressing the resentment he might have felt, Djaadi looks back on his journey, from teenage rebellion and drug dealing to a Catholic wedding, with amused affection. He points to contradictions on both sides, and France’s churchgoers come in for pointed satire, too.In “The Metamorphosis of Storks,” Arnaud focuses on a much shorter stretch of time. He and his wife went through the process of in vitro fertilization, and we meet Arnaud as he is about to donate a sperm sample — a process that brings up far more feelings than he expected.Morgane Peters as Effie in “Iphigenia in Splott,” directed by Blandine Pélissier at Artéphile.Blandine PélissierAs he stalls impatient hospital staff, his monologue covers his sexual education, his attempts at therapy and anxiety about parenthood. It’s a brisk, honest reckoning with the travails of masculinity, which packed the Théâtre du Train Bleu to the rafters (before the health pass requirement was implemented).Not that Avignon audiences were turned off by darker shows. At Artéphile, one of the few Fringe venues to also function as a year-round cultural space, the director Blandine Pélissier offered a stark and convincing production, “Iphigenia in Splott.”The Welsh playwright Gary Owen is relatively unknown in France, but his 2015 reworking of the Iphigenia myth — translated by Pélissier and Kelly Rivière — should prompt curiosity about his work. Here, the sacrificial victim is Effie, from the Cardiff district of Splott, a blaze of raging energy who becomes unexpectedly pregnant. This 90-minute monologue convincingly attributes the lack of support she encounters to social and medical service cuts, and the actress Morgane Peters takes the role from hard-edge anger to pain with poignant ease.Productions with larger casts were a bigger challenge this year, given that a positive coronavirus test among the company was enough to call a show off, and the director and actress Julie Timmerman downsized her show “A Democrat” as a result. Timmerman retooled this excellent production about Edward Bernays, the American nephew of Freud known as “the father of public relations,” for just two actors (Mathieu Desfemmes and herself). The result is adroitly written and witty, a worthy look at the dangers of Bernays’ techniques when they’re used for propaganda purposes.While the Avignon Festival’s official, curated lineup involves far fewer productions than the Fringe, it was hit with a handful of coronavirus-related cancellations. The artistic teams of two choreographers, Dada Masilo and Dimitris Papaioannou, were unable to travel to Avignon, while Eva Doumbia’s “Autophagies” saw its run interrupted when members of the cast and crew had to go into isolation after coming into contact with an infected person.Mathieu Desfemmes and Julie Timmerman in “A Democrat.”Roland BaduelTwo European productions that went ahead make a lasting impression. Emma Dante, of Italy, choreographs as much as she directs, and in “Misericordia,” theater becomes dance and vice versa. In it, three women raise a child, Arturo, who is described as mentally disabled and whose mother was a victim of domestic violence. Together, they form a bickering, complex family. The dancer Simone Zambelli not only captures Arturo’s twitching, disjointed body, he spins his physical vulnerability and moments of joy into poetry, knotting himself into expressive shapes.Avignon also hosted the stage version of “Pieces of a Woman.” Before it became a film starring Vanessa Kirby last year, the playwright Kata Weber and the director Kornel Mundruczo imagined it for the TR Warszawa playhouse in Warsaw, and the Polish cast delivered a gut punch in Avignon at the Lycée Théodore Aubanel.The play starts with the same lengthy labor scene as the film, but it covers less narrative ground after the central couple’s baby is stillborn. Whereas the screen version details the trial of a midwife who attended to the birth, this is only hinted at as a possibility onstage, and Maja, who lost her child, refuses to go through with it. Instead, the characters’ grief plays out over a long family dinner at the home of Maja’s mother.The result requires more patience on viewers’ part, but rewards it with a fully formed portrait of a family adrift. In that sense, the stage version of “Pieces of a Woman” completes Weber and Mundruczo’s puzzle: Let’s hope Avignon won’t be its only international stop.The cast of “Pieces of a Woman,” by the playwright Kata Weber and the director Kornel Mundruczo.Christophe Raynaud de Lage/Festival d’Avignon More

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    Can I Go to See This Show? Must I Wear a Mask? It Depends.

    Vaccination and mask requirements vary by venue. It’s a weird pandemic summer for the performing arts.During its preview performances in June, New York Classical Theater was allowed to put on “King Lear” for only up to 75 audience members outdoors. Those patrons were socially distanced on picnic blankets, wore masks and could not eat or drink during the play.That same month, Foo Fighters played a full-capacity show inside Madison Square Garden for 15,000 vaccinated fans. Few had face coverings on; none were required to.As New York and the rest of the country begin the slow journey back toward something resembling prepandemic life, rapidly shifting protocols in the state and across the country have created starkly different environments at theaters, music venues and sports arenas as venue operators seek to balance lingering coronavirus concerns with their business plans and their customers’ desire for normalcy.The differing approaches at venues perhaps just miles apart has resulted in what some arts officials said has been head spinning confusion and a sense of whiplash.“There is frustration,” said Stephen Burdman, the artistic director of NY Classical Theater. “Things have not been communicated well.”In mid-June, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo lifted most of the state’s Covid-19 restrictions after 70 percent of New York adults had gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, essentially clearing the way for most spaces to do as they please — at least as far as the state was concerned. The state does not mandate that a venue check a person’s vaccination status; and in all but the biggest indoor venues, the masking and social distancing policy is now left to the discretion of the people running performances.Many venues have sought to create an environment with as few reminders of the pandemic as possible. When Bruce Springsteen ushered in the return of Broadway last month, he played for a packed St. James Theater of 1,721 sparsely masked, vaccinated fans. At the al fresco amphitheater on Little Island, more than 600 people have been piled together onto curved wooden benches — few of them wearing masks.People attending performances at the Little Island amphitheater are not required to wear masks unless they have not been vaccinated.  Vincent Tullo for The New York TimesAnd at Feinstein’s/54 Below, officials pointed out that making vaccinations a requirement for attendance has had an additional benefit: Patrons do not need to wear masks as they enjoy drinks, supper and a show.“Safety is paramount,” said Richard Frankel, one of the owners of the venue. “After safety, we want people to be comfortable and happy.”Those wishing to attend the Off Broadway sound experience “Blindness” at the Daryl Roth Theater, for example, are no longer asked to fill out a health questionnaire or have their temperature checked. But the venue continues to require audience members to be socially distanced and wear face coverings while inside the theater.The Public Theater is among the institutions that have sought to find a middle ground.Officials announced in early June that they planned to allow only 428 people to attend each performance of its acclaimed Shakespeare in the Park, citing state rules as the reason they had to set such sharp limits on attendance. Then on June 24, the Public said it would significantly increase the capacity of the Delacorte Theater to 1,468 seats for its free performances of “Merry Wives” because the state had lifted its restrictions.“The governor’s decree to lift restrictions acknowledges a beautiful reality: We are finally starting to recover from Covid-19,” the Public’s artistic director, Oskar Eustis, said in a statement.Now the Delacorte has both “full capacity” sections for people who show proof of full vaccination and “physically distanced” sections for others. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a face mask at all times to enter the theater and when moving around. But whether audience members must wear a mask while seated depends on which section they are seated in.Arts officials also have to contend with city and union rules created to ensure performances are safe. Though New York Classical Theater performs outdoors, it still had to abide by restrictions imposed by its city parks permit and by the actor’s union, which sets out the rules under which its members are allowed to work.Only the vaccinated can attend performances at Feinstein’s/54 Below.Justin J Wee for The New York TimesThe theater’s city permit for June preview performances set a cap on how large the audience could be, though city officials say that cap was lifted on July 6. The rule the theater followed on audience masking was set by the actors’ union, Actors’ Equity. The union said that rule was in place only until early June, though Burdman said he was not told of any updates to the rules until June 30.Burdman said he was disinclined to detail his pandemic-related rules for performance during an interview in early July for fear his understanding would be out of date by the time an article appeared.“Things are changing honestly so rapidly, I don’t want something to go to press and not be in compliance,” he said. “No one is totally clear.”Asked Friday about the current state of play, Burdman said the rules had finally become clear. Audiences no longer need to socially distance or wear masks, they can once again eat and drink during the performance and capacity limits have been restored to normal levels.Frankel said the speed of change had also overtaken Feinstein’s efforts to create a nice, highly organized safety manual. His staff began compiling it as early as April 2020, but it had to be updated so many times over the course of a year, that by the time it was printed, it was almost immediately rendered obsolete. “It was such a beautiful document,” he lamented.Big indoor event venues still must follow somewhat more stringent state guidelines. People who show proof of vaccination no longer need to wear masks or socially distance inside such venues. But unvaccinated people must show proof of a recent negative coronavirus test to be admitted and must wear masks while inside.“It’s a little bit overwhelming to be back with people again,” said Molly Wissell, 31, of Virginia as she waited to enter the Foo Fighters concert at Madison Square Garden last month. “Standing in line and not having our masks on makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.”For its first full capacity concert by Foo Fighters, Madison Square Garden required that audience members show proof of vaccination. Nathan Bajar for The New York TimesOf course, the major caveat that comes with the current rules is the same as it has been for months: They are subject to change again as the pandemic continues to evolve.As of the mid-July, roughly 74 percent of adults in New York had gotten at least one dose of the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask.But there is growing concern about a highly transmissible Delta variant that has surged in hot spots around the globe and is now responsible for more than half of new infections in the United States. The spread has renewed concerns about the virus and prompted the World Health Organization to urge people — even vaccinated ones — to wear masks again.In New York City, the percentage of positive tests has doubled in the past few weeks to just over 1 percent.It is primarily the responsibility of venue operators and local authorities to enforce state pandemic regulations where they still exist. And some arts officials say that even after they have taken the time to think through and establish the rules for their venue, enforcing them uniformly can pose a challenge.At the Foo Fighters show at the Garden, staff members checked thousands of people’s vaccine cards with varying levels of scrutiny. Some asked for identification and attempted to match it with proof of inoculation while other checkers simply waved people through as they flashed their passes.One concert attendee packed tightly in the stands bragged openly about having gained admittance even though he said he had not been vaccinated.Roughly an hour earlier, Marianna Terenzio, 30, of Battery Park, said she was glad there were rules in place limiting who could attend the show.“I like that they are asking people to show vaccination proof,” she said. “I feel safer for sure.”Michael Paulson, Julia Jacobs and Jon Caramanica contributed reporting. More

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    Review: Unearthing the Late Curiosities of Tennessee Williams

    “Hilton Als Presents,” from New York Theater Workshop, features three of the playwright’s overlooked and often disparaged works.Once mortals become immortal, it’s easy to forget how precariously they stumbled through life. That is certainly true of Tennessee Williams, who ensured his place in the pantheon of American playwriting with his early hits “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” but spent his last two decades — after “The Night of the Iguana,” in 1961 — in what Hilton Als calls “a kind of critical purgatory.”But critics at their most vital aren’t a baying wolf pack chasing weakened prey. They’re champions of the overlooked, the underpraised, the misunderstood. In that spirit, Als, a writer for The New Yorker who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2017, is asking for a reconsideration of some late Williams works.In “Selections From Tennessee Williams,” the second episode of the two-part New York Theater Workshop podcast “Hilton Als Presents,” he plucks excerpts from three plays dismissed in their own time: “In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel,” from 1969; “The Red Devil Battery Sign,” which succumbed in 1975 en route to Broadway; and “Clothes for a Summer Hotel,” Williams’s final Broadway premiere in his lifetime. It opened in 1980 on his 69th birthday and was met with such a pile-on of viciously mocking reviews that it closed after just two weeks.These plays are not exceptional in Williams’s oeuvre as considerations of masculinity, sexuality or the divided self — though, as Als notes, each includes a male artist character.Directed by Als, and with skillful audio production and editing by Alex Barron, the podcast does not always succeed in conveying, with voice and stage directions, what we need to envision.The scene from “The Red Devil Battery Sign,” starring Raúl Castillo as a band leader and Marin Ireland as a sexually rapacious belle, feels too untethered from context to add up to anything. But each of the other plays is memorable for a standout performance and for glimmers of beauty in the text.The longest excerpt, from “In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel,” at first seems an airless exercise: an encounter between a brittle yet lascivious American woman (Nadine Malouf) and the Japanese barman (James Yaegashi) she is harassing. It comes to life only belatedly, with the entrance of Reed Birney as her husband, Mark, an exceedingly drunken painter struggling to maintain his dignity and harness his artistry. It is an utterly lived-in performance, edged with terror and mirth. (John Lahr, in his biography of Williams, calls this play “a fascinating dissection of the perversity of his psyche,” and he is correct.)“In the beginning,” Mark says, his hands shaky, paint all over his suit, “a new style of work can be stronger than you, but you learn to control it. It has to be controlled.”Williams, at that point, was not doing so well at controlling his art, his addictions or his emotional frailty.The other magnetic turn is by Michelle Williams in “Clothes for a Summer Hotel,” which the playwright labeled “a ghost play,” about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. As Zelda — a role originated by Geraldine Page on Broadway — Williams evades the traps that lie in wait in Tennessee Williams’s women: the masks and artifices of gender and class that made him famous for writing diva roles, and that often expose those characters to ridicule. Against the odds, Michelle Williams locates a human being.“Are you certain, Scott, that I fit the classification of dreamy young Southern lady?” Zelda asks her husband (played by André Holland). “Damn it, Scott. Sorry, wrong size, it pinches! Can’t wear that shoe, too confining.”Tennessee Williams, too, felt pinched and confined by expectations. He was forever in competition with his younger self.Als’s production doesn’t persuasively argue for these late plays. But it does accomplish what a critic is meant to do when elevation is in order — to urge close examination of something that might otherwise escape our gaze.Perhaps, taking Als’s cue, some brilliant director will see a way.Hilton Als Presents: Selections From Tennessee WilliamsThrough July 31; nytw.org. At anchor.fm/nytw79 and major podcast platforms. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. More

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    Andrew Lloyd Webber Delays ‘Cinderella’ Musical in West End

    The composer and producer blamed Britain’s coronavirus restrictions for the delay.One day before Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-anticipated “Cinderella” musical was slated to open in London’s West End, and two days after a cast member tested positive for the coronavirus, the prolific composer and producer announced on Monday that opening night would yet again be delayed.“I have been forced to take the heartbreaking decision not to open my Cinderella,” he said in a Twitter statement. “The impossible conditions created by the blunt instrument that is the Government’s isolation guidance mean that we cannot continue.”Lloyd Webber’s announcement initially did not specify whether the production was closing for good or just being postponed, though a spokeswoman for him later clarified that the show’s opening was delayed, not canceled, and that they hoped to open the show “soon, but it’s very difficult under the current conditions.”The composer’s statement was likely an attempt to try and force the British government to change its rules on quarantine for actors and crew. Last month, he made newspaper front pages with comments promising to open “Cinderella” at full capacity “come hell or high water” — even if he faced arrest for doing so. He quickly pulled back from the plan after learning his audience, cast and crew risked fines for breaching British coronavirus rules.With its story and book by the Oscar-winning screenwriter Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”), the $8.2 million musical had been set to star Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role, and had been in previews at half capacity at the Gillian Lynne Theater for about a month.Lloyd Webber, 73, has been pressuring the government for more than a year to allow theaters to open at full capacity. In an interview with The New York Times earlier this month, he said protocols that required a show to cancel performances because one member of the cast came into contact with someone who tested positive could be the death knell for a musical like “Cinderella.”“The trouble is, we wouldn’t be able to carry on,” he said. “We can’t carry on hemorrhaging money each week, because at 50 percent we do. It’s almost unthinkable, but there comes a time when you just have to hand in the towel.”A surge of coronavirus cases in Britain, driven by the Delta variant, has also been shuttering London’s other West End theaters after members of productions like “Hairspray” at the London Coliseum and “Romeo and Juliet” at Shakespeare’s Globe tested positive earlier this month. And London’s Riverside Studios announced that “The Browning Version,” which had been set to open next month starring Kenneth Branagh, has been canceled.Despite a rise in cases that has driven England’s daily average to 39,950 — approximately double the level just two weeks ago — virtually all social distancing and mask requirements were removed on Monday, prompting widespread “Freedom Day” celebrations.But for those involved with “Cinderella,” the news was grim.“Cinderella was ready to go,” Lloyd Webber said in the statement. “My sadness for our cast and crew, our loyal audience and the industry I have been fighting for is impossible to put into words.” More

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    Head of Classic Stage Company to Depart in 2022

    The Tony Award-winning director John Doyle will leave after six years at the theater — but not before directing two musicals.John Doyle, the artistic director of Classic Stage Company since 2016, announced on Monday that he would step down from the Off Broadway theater next summer.“I feel like it’s somebody else’s turn,” Doyle, 68, said in a video interview from Britain. “It’s as simple as that. I think art is better with a kind of turnover.”Classic Stage Company on Monday also revealed its 2021-22 season, Doyle’s last with the company. The productions include: Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s “Assassins”; Marcus Gardley’s “black odyssey”; Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s “Snow in Midsummer”; and Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally’s “A Man of No Importance.”Doyle, a Tony Award-winner in 2006 for his revival of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” will direct the musicals “Assassins” and “A Man of No Importance.”“Assassins,” which will be Classic Stage Company’s first in-person production since the start of the pandemic, was in rehearsals last year when New York theaters were closed to slow the coronavirus’s spread.Given the events of the past year and a half, Doyle said, storytellers “must be addressing the stories they tell.”“How they tell those stories, why they tell those stories, who are they for?” he said. “We have to pick up that responsibility very strongly.”Doyle has also asked of Classic Stage Company: What does it mean for a piece of theater to be a “classic” today?“It need no longer mean plays by dead, white, European men,” Doyle said. “Which is inevitably what most classical theater has been.”Two of the coming season’s works — “black odyssey,” directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, and “Snow in Midsummer,” directed by Zi Alikhan, both planned for the first half of 2022 — are by living artists of color. Both reimagine classic stories: Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Guan Hanqing’s “The Injustice to Dou Yi That Moved Heaven and Earth.”Those plays, Doyle said, are “trying to take the worldwide stories and make those available to the modern audience, in the hope and intention of bringing in new audiences into the theater.”“A Man of No Importance” resonates with Doyle. It’s a musical about a Celtic man (Doyle is Scottish) making theater for his local community (which Doyle once did).“It celebrates what theater can do, and it celebrates how theater can make change,” Doyle said. “And I’m hoping that my leaving will help to make more change. And I’m hoping that my doing a piece about how spiritual, in a way, the theater can be, in terms of how it touches our souls, is a nice way to leave.”Reflecting on his tenure, Doyle said he was especially proud of reconfiguring the physical space of the theater itself. “It really feels like a New York space to me now, not just a black box,” he said. “Plays come and go, but the space stays. And it is a truly remarkable space.”His departure is not a retirement. Doyle said that the pandemic made him realize the importance of family, self and quiet time, but that theater remains as important to him as ever. And although he would like to spend more time in the Scottish Highlands with his husband, he has no plans to leave New York any time soon.“I’m really hopeful that I could do another Broadway show or two, before I pop my clogs, as we say in Britain,” Doyle said. “I would love that.” More

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    Historic Cherry Lane Theater Sold for $11 Million

    The Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation, which has managed the 97-year-old theater for the past decade, will take over the building in Greenwich Village.The Cherry Lane Theater, the oldest continuously running Off Broadway theater in New York City, has been sold to the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation for $11 million, the theater announced on Monday.“It has been a great run,” Angelina Fiordellisi, the executive director of the theater, said in a statement. “To stand on the stage where so many of our greatest artists, crews and theater providers have stood is to know what theater history feels like.”The new owner will be the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation, which is a few blocks from the Cherry Lane Theater on Christopher Street and has managed the building for the past decade. The sale includes the 179-seat main stage and a 60-seat studio theater.Fiordellisi, who has led the 97-year-old nonprofit theater since acquiring the building in 1996, will continue to lead the nonprofit producing group Cherry Lane Alternative, which will have readings — and possibly productions — in the theater’s studio space.She had previously announced plans to sell the building, at 38 Commerce Street, in 2010, citing financial struggles. At the time, she told The New York Times that the theater was operating at a deficit of $250,000, which she attributed to a steep drop in income from government and foundation support, ticket sales and rental fees.“It’s frightening to me, what’s happened to Off Broadway theater,” Fiordellisi told The Times in 2010. “We have to adhere to the formula of having a film star in our productions to sell tickets because it’s so financially prohibitive. I don’t want to do theater like that.”But eight months later, she reversed her decision because of a significantly reduced deficit, a new managing agent and the support of the theater’s neighbors. Cherry Lane Alternative, the resident theater company Fiordellisi established in 1997, currently has a deficit of $100,000, a spokesman for the theater, Sam Rudy, said.The theater, a Greenwich Village institution that has long been a testing ground for new work by emerging artists, reopened at full capacity last month with Jacqueline Novak’s “Get on Your Knees,” a comedy that offers a personal and intellectual history of oral sex. It is scheduled to run through July 31.Under Fiordellisi, Cherry Lane has mentored writers including Katori Hall, who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “The Hot Wing King”; Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu, whose play “Pass Over” will begin previews on Broadway in August after being produced at the theater in 2016; and Jocelyn Bioh, whose “Merry Wives,” a contemporary take on Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” is running at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.Cherry Lane was started by a group of artists who were colleagues of Edna St. Vincent Millay and has showcased work by Samuel Beckett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams. But despite its storied history, the theater had not staged a play in two years when Fiordellisi bought it for $1.7 million in 1996 and renovated it for $3 million.Cherry Lane Alternative, the nonprofit producing group, said it expects to resume a scaled-back version of its acclaimed Mentor Project, which pairs emerging writers with established playwrights like Lynn Nottage, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins and Taylor Mac to develop and stage their work in the studio theater space. It will likely include one production per season instead of the typical three.George Forbes, the Lucille Lortel Theater Foundation’s executive director, said the foundation plans to announce new programming shortly. More