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McCarter Theatre suspends all live performances through June 30, moves to digital platform

<h6>Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons</h6>
Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Like many venues across the country, McCarter Theatre Center, which lies adjacent to the University, has been forced to cancel all performances,  including the Princeton Triangle Club’s annual Reunions performance, through June 30.

Though McCarter’s physical space is closed and all employees are working remotely, the theatre’s staff is seeking to showcase the arts and assist those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an email to supporters on March 18, Artistic Director Emily Mann announced that McCarter would pay its staff of 70 for as long as possible. Furthermore, the Theatre has committed to paying artists whose work was canceled.

McCarter canceled 30 productions, including “The Refuge Plays” by Lewis Center for the Arts Playwright-in-Residence Nathan Alan Davis, a performance by actress and singer Audra McDonald, and a 2020 Gala Concert featuring singer Michael Feinstein.

With the theater’s closure and University Reunions canceled, Triangle Club will not be able to perform its annual Reunions show. This year, the Club would have performed “Once Uponzi Time,” an original musical that premiered at McCarter in November.

Triangle Club Head Writer Ed Horan ’22 acknowledged that though the situation is especially difficult for University students who had been rehearsing for shows that will never be performed, the pandemic has also deprived Triangle of one of its most meaningful traditions.

“We got to do the show a lot on tour, but it still very much stinks not to have the closure of the reunions show, not to be able to show alum[ni] what we’ve been doing because this was a pretty good show and also incredibly fun to do,” he said.

According to an email sent to McCarter patrons, the closure impacts around 6,000 ticket buyers.

Horan was one disappointed ticket buyer. He was excited to see mandolin player Chris Thile in May, which would have been the first show he saw at McCarter.

“It was disappointing, but like, the thing is ... the kind of shows that are going through McCarter all the time [are] so insanely high caliber that it does also sort of feel like, you know, it’ll be back. There’ll be other similarly amazing shows to see,” he said.

Though McCarter is issuing vouchers for all affected patrons, the theatre hopes that patrons will donate the cost of their canceled tickets back to the theatre.

“We ask that you consider making a donation to McCarter to help ensure that we are ready to reopen our doors when the time comes and welcome everyone back for the magic and fellowship of live performance,” said McCarter’s Managing Director, Michael S. Rosenberg, in the March 23 announcement of closures.

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On March 20, McCarter announced that it had received a one-time $25,000 emergency support donation from the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation to help the Theatre navigate the financial fallout of COVID-19. The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation was founded in 2010 by playwright Arthur Laurents and commemorates the name of his late partner, Tom Hatcher. It donates over $1 million annually to develop new plays or musicals.

Donated masks from McCarter Theatre Center's Costume Shop.
Photo courtesy of McCarter Theatre Center

While the theater is closed, McCarter Costume Shop First Hand Sarah Romagnoli and her colleagues are putting their skills to use by remotely sewing masks for health care workers as part of the Mercer Mask Project. According to an April 3 NJ.com article, the project has already delivered over 950 masks.

The project began when Romagnoli started hand-making masks for her sister Dr. Anne V. Lee, a doctor in Kentucky.

While audiences cannot see performances at McCarter, the venue intends to continue sharing theater with the community.

“McCarter is working on different ways to engage with our audiences during this time,” wrote Tom Miller, McCarter’s Director of Public Relations, in an email to The Daily Princetonian.

"In these challenging and difficult times, we have confidence in the power of art and the resilience of the human spirit,” wrote Mann, Rosenberg, and Special Programming Director William Lockwood in a joint statement. “We are excited to share the collective talents of the artists, artisans, producers, educators, administrators, audiences and community partners who sustain us.”

On April 6, McCarter announced a new online project, McCarter@Home. It features channels for Education and Engagement, Performance, and Behind the Curtain.

They will be sharing archived footage from their Theater and Presented Series, University collaborations, and their education programs.

“Our goal is to be a source of light and human connection during these times,” Rosenberg wrote. “We hope that you will join us online as we celebrate art and artists, keep an open dialogue with our community, and inspire you to embark on your own creative projects as we weather this storm together.”

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