Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, Lenox’s Shakespeare & Company announced the cancellation Tuesday of its summer season, including a production of “King Lear’’ that was to have starred Christopher Lloyd of "Back to the Future'' and "Taxi'' fame.
The company’s intention, according to a statement, is to present “King Lear’’ in 2021, along with an outdoor production of “Much Ado About Nothing’’ and an unspecified number of other plays that had been scheduled for this summer.
“The unpredictability of its path and outcome leaves us no alternative but to shift our programming to next year,’’ artistic director Allyn Burrows said in a statement, referring to the pandemic. “When it is safe to convene and the all-clear is sounded, we’ll welcome our audience back to Shakespeare & Company to celebrate humanity, language, and the joy of sharing stories.’’
While not surprising, Shakespeare & Company’s announcement underscores how radically different this summer will be in the Berkshires, where theater is a centerpiece of the cultural economy. Last week Williamstown Theatre Festival also canceled its season, including a high-profile revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire” starring Audra McDonald and Bobby Cannavale, while announcing that recordings of “Streetcar’’ and the other six shows scheduled for the Williamstown season will be produced on Audible.
In addition, Barrington Stage Company and Berkshire Theatre Group, both based in Pittsfield, announced last week that they are postponing numerous productions, and Chester Theatre Company canceled the first three shows of its summer season.
Adopting a tack many other theater leaders have also taken in a bid to limit financial losses from requests for ticket refunds for canceled shows, Shakespeare & Company board chair Ken Werner expressed hope that “everyone who has bought tickets for this season, that is able to do so, will join me in donating them to the Company to help us emerge from this crisis in the strongest position possible.’’
Shakespeare & Company also canceled its renowned education and actor training programs for this summer, and rescheduled its gala from June 27 to Oct. 10.
Amid the bleak news, Burrows tried to sound a note of optimism, telling S&C audiences that “we will see you again’’ and saying: “Just as Shakespeare endured two plagues in one decade to produce some of his most brilliant work, we will get to the other side of this.’’