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Road To Reopening: How Barrington Stage Is 'Ready For Anything' Post Pandemic

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We check in with the company as they return for their second season affected by the pandemic.

Road To Reopening: How Barrington Stage Is 'Ready For Anything' Post Pandemic

BroadwayWorld is checking in with theaters around the country as they prepare to reopen this summer. Next in our series we check in with Barrington Stage Company Artistic Director Julianne Boyd.

Julianne Boyd is the Founder (1995) and Artistic Director of Barrington Stage Company (BSC) where she has directed many productions, including the critically acclaimed West Side Story (2018) and the 2017 hit production of Company, starring Aaron Tveit. She also directed the world premiere of Christopher Demos-Brown's American Son, which won the Laurents-Hatcher Award for Best New Play by an Emerging Playwright in 2016. Other productions include the world premieres of Mark St. Germain's Dancing Lessons, The Best of Enemies and Dr. Ruth, All the Way and the critically acclaimed revival of Goldman and Sondheim's Follies. In 1997 she directed BSC's smash hit production of Cabaret, which won six Boston Theater Critics Awards and transferred to the Hasty Pudding Theatre in Cambridge for an extended run.

Boyd conceived and directed the Broadway musical Eubie!, a show based on the music of Eubie Blake which starred Gregory Hines and garnered three Tony nominations. She also co-conceived and directed (with Joan Micklin Silver) the award-winning Off Broadway musical revue A...My Name Is Alice (Outer Critics' Award) and its sequel A...My Name Is Still Alice.

Ms. Boyd has created several seminal programs at BSC. In 2000 she created the Playwright Mentoring Project, BSC's underserved youth program that won the prestigious Coming Up Taller Award in 2007. In 2012 she started the 10×10 New Play Festival, and with the City of Pittsfield, the city-wide 10×10 Upstreet Arts Festival. In 2013 she founded the Musical Theatre Conservatory, BSC's pre-professional training program for college-aged musical theatre performers and directors.

From 1992 to 1998 Ms. Boyd served as President of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, the national labor union representing professional directors and choreographers in the U.S. She holds a Ph.D. in Theatre History and Criticism from CUNY Graduate Center. She and her husband Norman have three grown children.

What has your theater's staff been up to over the past year?

We've been busy safely producing shows outdoors under a tent, beginning last summer in July. We then moved on to digital presentations of plays in the fall and then in February we videoed a production of our 10x10 New Play Festival in an empty theatre but with actors on stage with a set and costumes. We are trying to support artists in any way we can, whether live on the stage or digitally.

How has the pandemic most affected your company?

The pandemic has taught us how to be nimble, and how to pivot doing our work the safest and best way possible. We are now ready for anything! Our staff has been wonderful at adapting to change, and we have done a lot here at BSC to make sure our patrons feel at ease whether they are walking into a theater for the first time in a year, or logging onto a show for the first time. Financially it has affected us. We are doing smaller shows with fewer production values since we are bringing in about 30% of our usual ticket revenue.

Have you done any streaming theatre/events?

We've been able to produce quite a few streaming events, beginning with Judgment Day by Rob Ulin starring Jason Alexander and Patti LuPone in the fall to our show Holiday Getaway which was filmed live in an empty theatre in December to our present streaming project a staged reading of the Grand Prize Winner of the Burman Play Contest, Get Your Pink Hands Off Me Sucka and Give Me Back by Daniella de Jesús, playing June 4-6.

What have the audience reactions to any digital performances been like?

Unbelievably positive. We now have many new patrons from around the country who, in the past, wouldn't have been able to see our work but can now experience it digitally. Of course, there's no substitute for live theatre but we are enjoying our new audience from around the country.

What have you got coming up you're most excited to share with audiences?

There is so much coming up to be excited about, Outdoors under our tent we're producing a George Gershwin Concert - Who Could Ask For Anything More? that plays June 10-July 3 and then we're doing a world premiere comedy Boca in August. Indoors at the Boyd-Quinson Stage we're doing a marvelous psychological drama Chester Bailey starring Reed Birney and his son Ephraim. (first performance June 18th). Chester Bailey is followed by Eleanor, a play about Eleanor Roosevelt starring Harriet Harris in July and then a world premiere thriller Sister Sorry in August.

How did your venue come up with a reopening plan/covid safety plan?

Last summer, we partnered with our local hospital, Berkshire Health Systems, our Air Conditioning Company and Zogics, a local company specializing in sanitation for hospitals and gyms, to create an initial reopening plan which was then approved by Equity, allowing us to be the first indoor Equity theatre in the nation to be approved.

Will there be any adjustments in capacity or seating/vaccination or testing requirements?

We have removed 2/3rd of our seats in our indoor theatre (we now have 160 out of 520 seats). Our staff is fully vaccinated but there will be no vaccination requirements for our audiences. At the present time, all patrons must wear masks both at the indoor and outdoor theatres. We have no plans at this time to alter our safety plan

Will there be any changes to the on-stage aspects of the shows in response to the pandemic?

Yes, we chose smaller cast shows indoors that had little or no physical contact.

Will there be any changes to your ticketing policies, flexible rescheduling, etc.?

We intend to have a very similar policy to last year. We won't be using any printed tickets to help reduce points of contact between our staff and patrons, and if someone is ill, we'll work with him/her to exchange a ticket to a later performance.

When and what did you re-open with?

On June 10th we began performances with Who Could Ask for Anything More? The Songs of George Gershwin, outdoors under a tent in Pittsfield. It features an incredible cast: Allison Blackwell, Britney Coleman, Alan H. Green, Jacob Tischler and Alysha Umphress.

What are you most looking forward to?

It's difficult to pick what I'm most looking forward to. But I am really proud we're producing some new shows this year like Boca, a world premiere comedy written by Jessica Provenz as well as a world premiere drama Sister Sorry by Alec Wilkinson. I am also looking forward to partnering with our community on our new festival Celebrating Black Voices, which is a community driven festival that celebrates the talent we have here at home that is often overlooked.

How have you remained engaged with your audience about the return to the stage?

We have weekly eBlasts, use our social media platforms and have a digital brochure available on our website.

How can audience members learn more and stay up to date?

Audience members can always stay connected with us on social media or check out our website Barringtonstageco.org.


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