Hartford Stage drops all live performances; hopes to reopen fall 2021

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Hartford Stage is canceling all onstage performances scheduled through June 2021.

The move is in response to the ongoing public safety concerns and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, theater officials said in a recently released statement,

The cancellations include the previously postponed productions of "The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged)" and "Ah Wilderness!"; the annual production of "A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas," and the entire six-play season scheduled to begin in January.

The theater has also reduced its employee workforce from a pre-pandemic staffing level of 200 employees and guest artists down to 21. In addition, both Hartford Stage Managing Director Cynthia Rider and its Artistic Director Melia Bensussen are taking a salary reduction.

"Having to cancel our final weekend of 'Jane Eyre' this past March, the entire run of 'The King's Speech,' and the productions of 'Ah, Wilderness!' and 'The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged)' has created a serious financial hardship for the theater," Rider said. "Canceling our 2020/2021 season as well is such a painful but necessary decision to ensure the safety of our audiences and staff and the long-term survival of Hartford Stage."

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The not-for-profit theater has launched a fundraising campaign, Raise the Curtain, aimed at giving the Tony Award-winning theater the financial wherewithal to resume performances in fall 2021.

Meanwhile, the theater has scheduled a virtual fall series

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"I am excited by the new ways we are finding to connect with our audiences, and make entertaining and meaningful work," Bensussen said. "Our virtual season this fall gives us an opportunity to further build our community partnerships, highlight our education work, and contribute to a meaningful dialogue with our city and region. We need the theater and our artists more than ever to help us make sense of this challenging time, and to help us envision the future."

The theater's virtual fall season — dubbed "New Season, New Vision: Fall Online With Hartford Stag" — will feature four events, two of which are exclusive for patrons who donate their tickets back to the theater.

The events include:

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- The Not-So-Complete History of Comedy (Online) — In this exclusive ticket donor event (Thursday, Sept. 17), The Reduced Remote Shakespeare Company (RSC) will host an exclusive virtual evening of stories and material including from the canceled "A Complete History of Comedy (Abridged)."-

- A Broadway Evening with Hartford Stage — This exclusive ticket donor event (Friday, Oct. 9) provides an intimate evening of Hartford Stage in your home, co-hosted by Broadway power couple Adam Heller and Tony Award winner Beth Leavel, alongside Melia Bensussen.

- New Works Festival — Ticket donors can receive a Festival Pass (November, dates TBD). Three plays over three weeks will be workshopped virtually with a public reading at the end of each week. With a Festival Pass, patrons will receive access to all three presentations.

- "A Community Carol" (December, dates TBD) — A collaborative performance created by Hartford Stage, artists and local community partners.

Complete information is available online at hartfordstage.org.


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