Charleston Stage, the largest professional theater company in the state, will delay the opening of its upcoming season until January 2021, citing "the uncertainty of the current COVID-19 health emergency," according to a news release.
“It is with great regret that we are having to delay the opening of our season," founder and Producing Artistic Director Julian Wiles said in a statement. "The magic of live theater is about a gathering of live audiences and live performers together celebrating, interacting and enjoying the play or musical at hand. At present, we could not see a way to gather together while still ensuring the safety of our audiences and our performers."
The postponement is meant to protect the theater-going community and safeguard the financial health of the organization.
"This brief intermission from production will give us the financial strength to return with a full staff in January once we begin production again," Wiles said. "If conditions do improve, this would also give us the resources and flexibility to reopen sooner."
Charleston Stage will reduce its operating budget over the next nine months by 60 percent — almost $1 million — and furlough 19 of its 29 staff members for at least a few months. The organization will seek to raise $200,000 in donations to continue scaled-down operations, maintaining a small staff and preparing for future productions. Donations can be made online at CharlestonStage.com/CurtainUp.
Associate Artistic Director Mary Beth Clark announced that the company’s theater school classes and SummerStage Musical Theatre Camp have been canceled.
“Due to the required social distancing because of the pandemic, we simply could not find a way to safely hold these classes for our students at this time," Clark said. Classes could resume sometime in the fall if circumstances improve.
The new MainStage season will open at the Dock Street Theatre with the musical "A Closer Walk With Patsy Cline" in February 2021, followed by the Charleston premiere of Agatha Christie’s "Murder on the Orient Express" in March, "Kinky Boots" in April and "Bright Star" in June.
A Family Series production of E.B. White’s children’s classic "Charlotte’s Web" is set for January.