APT The Road Back Chapter 5: Summer season return Q&A

American Players Theatre

Photo via APT

We heard you have questions! Join us for some of the answers in this week’s ‘The Road Back.’ Last week, we asked you what questions you have about APT’s plans to put on a season this summer. Today, we’re back to answer as many as we can in the latest edition of The Road Back.

Q: When are you going to announce the season?
A: The short answer is we’re not sure. We have submitted our safety plans for the first few plays to the unions we work with for their approval. We’re not sure how long it will take to (hopefully) get their blessing to move forward, but we think it’s prudent to wait until we have some positive indication from them – if not final approval – before we share titles with you. We hope that will come in the next month or so.

When it became clear last fall that we could not simply move our 2020 season to 2021, Brenda DeVita and the rest of the artistic staff immediately began work to put together a season that would be viable under these odd circumstances. It’s happened at a very swift pace; they usually start season planning a couple years in advance. For example, if we were in normal times the titles and directors for the 2022 season would be set and we would be working on the budget. But all that is out the window this year.

Here are a few hints, though: Expect to see a couple holdovers that were slated for the 2020 season and perhaps a couple favorites from seasons past. Also, Brenda and her team found inspiration in the Out of the Woods play-reading series, and one or more of those pieces may be promoted to full productions. One thing Brenda emphasizes again and again is that this season will be very different in many ways from a “normal” APT season in terms of the play selection, casting and too many other elements to list. The silver lining there is that it allows us to explore new plays and new ways to cast them without the constraints of a repertory structure. Along the way, we expect to learn some things that could carry over post-pandemic. For these reasons, and for so many others, we are all excited for the opportunity to bring these plays to you.

Q: When will tickets go on sale?
A: Once again, we don’t know the answer to this but our best guess is that it will be sometime in April.

We don’t want to sell tickets until we are confident that we will actually be able to produce, which depends on getting approval from the unions to hire their members (actors, directors, designers and stage managers) and begin rehearsal.

Essentially this means we will be prepared to begin selling tickets at the same time rehearsals begin, and sooner if we get positive news from the unions earlier than expected. Since approval from the unions is granted for each play individually, we won’t be able to put the whole season on sale at once this year. Rather, plays will go on sale as we get approval to produce each one, or each pair if possible. More on that down the page.

We thank you for your patience and understanding on this. We hope you’ll think of this as a nice surprise just as spring is beginning to, well, spring, and you won’t have as much time to wait between the time you order your tickets and the time you see your play.

Q: I read in The Road Back that the actors have to live in pods and not see anyone else. What does this mean for actors who live in Spring Green with their families?
A:This will vary from person to person. Company members who are in a “pod” are allowed to live at home if all of the members of their family also agree to stay home during the weeks the artist is working on a play. This may be practical for some people – for instance, if both members of the household are working at APT on the same project. However, many members of the company that are also Spring Green residents will temporarily move out of their homes and into APT housing. This is especially true for people who have kids – kids who are on swim team, or in baseball, or who have part-time jobs. It’s a personal decision for each family

Q: I come to APT from Chicago and really like seeing several plays in a weekend. Why aren’t you going to have your usual rep schedule this season?
A: We were heartbroken when we realized that the festival nature of APT was not compatible with our COVID safety plan. In a normal season, most staff members work on more than one play, making them what contract tracers consider “close contacts” of upwards of 50-60 people. If an employee were to test positive in such a scenario, the entire theater would have to be shut down. Though we are taking many precautions to make sure nobody gets COVID, it’s just too much of a risk to take.

So, this year it is very important for everyone to only work on one play at a time and limit contacts within the organization. Rest assured: we will gleefully return to our beloved festival schedule as soon as the pandemic is behind us.

Q: If you’re only going to sell tickets for 25% of the theater, am I going to be able to get tickets?
A: We definitely won’t have as much availability this season. However, we are increasing the number of performances to partially make up for the limited capacity. In a usual season, there are an average of 18 performances per Hill Theatre production and about 25 per Touchstone performance. Though the final schedule for the season is still in progress, we’ll average 30-35 performances for Hill productions and about 45 per Touchstone production to maximize the number of seats we can make available for sale.

Another factor is that we anticipate a portion of our patrons will elect not to come to APT in person, and will choose to view the filmed versions of the plays.

For those patrons who feel comfortable coming to APT in person this summer, we’re going to do our very best to accommodate as many as possible while still adhering to the requirements set out by state and local health officials and the labor unions. This may mean that you won’t always be able to get your favorite seats, or your first choice of performance. Once the schedule is released, we recommend making a list of dates that work for your party in case your first choice isn’t available.

Q: Will you be able to get everyone that works at APT vaccinated? Will that change the safety precautions you’re taking?
A: We encourage our staff to get vaccinated when state guidelines permit it. However, we are planning that the strong safety requirements we are putting in place for our company – podding, for instance – will remain for the entire 2021 season. If at some point in the season guidance from health officials and the labor unions changes, we may be able to revise our safety requirements.

We look at the safety precautions on the audience side the same way. We anticipate that all of our safety measures such as mandatory masking and 25% capacity will be in force all year, even for fully vaccinated patrons. But we will stay in touch with health officials and will revise our protocols if the situation warrants.

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. We’ll be doing more of these Q&As as we get closer to spring, so send us your questions at info@americanplayers.org as they arise. Thank you, too, for your support, your engagement and your evident love of this theater. We’re so excited to plan for a future where we see you at APT.

Next week, On the Grounds at APT: What to Expect This Year.