Road To Reopening: Drury Lane Theatre Prepares To Return To The Stage This Fall

Their upcoming season includes Forever Plaid, Holiday Inn, Evita, The King & I and more.

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BroadwayWorld is checking in with theaters around the country as they prepare to reopen this summer. Next in our series we check in with Chicago's Drury Lane Theatre's Associate Artistic Director Matthew D. Carney!

Matthew D. Carney serves as the Associate Artistic Director and resident Casting Director for Drury Lane Theatre where he previously served as Company Manager for six seasons. Casting credits at Drury Lane include: An American in Paris, Mary Poppins, And Then There Were None, Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical, Mamma Mia!, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, South Pacific, Seussical, Joseph...Dreamcoat, 42nd Street, A Christmas Carol, Rock of Ages, The Gin Game, Saturday Night Fever, Crazy for You, and Deathtrap. He previously designed the costumes for Drury Lane's production of The Gin Game. BFA in costume design from Wright State University.

How has the pandemic most affected your company?

As a family-owned and operated business, one of the greatest impacts on our company was having to furlough hundreds of our employees for an indefinite period of time. Each one of those furloughs felt like letting a family member go.

As our colleagues in the entertainment industry also experienced, the inability to plan for the future for over a year and a half was devasting. Live theatre is our mission and what we live for. Not having an audience to share the power of theatre with - that has been soul crushing for us.

Have you done any streaming theatre/events?

There is nothing quite like the intimacy of sitting in the theatre with fellow audience members, seeing the same performance at the same time, and sharing in that connection with one another and the artists. That experience simply cannot be recreated with screens dividing us, so we opted not to pivot into live streaming.

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

When we closed on March 12, 2020, we were just about to begin rehearsals for the first show of our 2020/2021 season. We're now finally about to start that season on September 17, and we're excited to share these stories of humanity lifting one another up.

Our 2021/2022 Season begins with Forever Plaid, which is the perfect dose of nostalgia and warmth to usher us out of this dark year and a half. Music is what brought the four "Plaids" together, and through their story we are rediscovering the unifying power of theatre and song!

For the holiday we're bringing to the stage Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn. This musical is full of heart and reminds us that we can work together to build one another up, and be better for it.

In January comes Andrew Lloyd Webber's masterpiece, Evita. Eva Perón rose to become one of the most powerful women in politics in a time where women often were not welcome in positions of power. While she was a controversial leader, Eva's mission of making life better for the descamisados still lives on in Argentina today.

In April, we've chosen Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I. As we look at this classic through 'modern' eyes, we see Anna and the King of Siam as equals. While they come from completely different worlds, they find common ground. Certainly something we can all learn from still today!

We wrap up our season with Steel Magnolias- a classic story of facing incredible challenges and overcoming them through laughter, tears, and the bonds of friendship.

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

It feels like we've been planning for our reopening since the moment we had to shut down in 2020. We would explore multiple scenarios, just for the government to update guidelines or extend mandates, forcing us to come up with new scenarios. Using the CDC, IDPH, and union guidelines, we are happy to say that our reopening and safety plans have been approved by the unions and are being shared with our artists and staff.

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

At this time, Illinois is operating with no capacity restrictions. Should those conditions change, we will adjust accordingly. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to be flexible in our planning!

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

Our first production is Forever Plaid, which traditionally includes an audience member coming on stage. We are going to navigate around that and find creative ways of engaging the audience without bringing them onstage.

Were there any COVID considerations in programming the upcoming season - selecting titles, etc?

We arranged the order of this season to start with a smaller musical and gradually build back up to our larger musicals. This allows our audience, artists, and staff to re-acclimate, grow, and adjust to the changes of where we are now.

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

We are providing our Subscribers free, unlimited ticket exchanges for the 2021/2022 season. There's been so much unknown over the last year and a half-we're happy to allow additional flexibility if their new performance dates don't work for them.

When and what are you re-opening with?

We open September 17, 2021 with Forever Plaid.

What are you most looking forward to?

We are looking forward to being back in the theatre and creating art on stage again! Theatre artists know that all the hard work we put in pays off on opening night when you get to see, hear, and feel the audience engage with your work. There is nothing else like it and we have been starving for that for over a year and a half.

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

We have such a close connection with our core audience. Many have been Subscribers since the first year Drury Lane Oakbrook opened! Throughout the pandemic we've engaged a lot on social media, taking a nostalgic look at past productions while also looking forward with artist interviews from our upcoming season. Our audience has been incredibly supportive over the last year and a half, and we can't wait to welcome them home.

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

They can visit for all the latest information.


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