Metro, Arts, Theatre

Huntington Theatre Company to Hold in-Person Performances

After over a year without live performances, the Huntington Theatre Company will be ushering in a new wave of theatre-lovers to Boston this season. The Huntington announced on Thursday that it will be open for in-person, indoor shows during the 2021-2022 season. 

“It is with great joy and deep gratitude that The Huntington announces our 40th season,” said Huntington Managing Director Michael Maso in the announcement. “The reopening of our stages will be a powerfully emotional moment for our city, one that all of us at The Huntington are greatly looking forward to sharing with audiences in person this fall.”

The Huntington arranged a lineup of seven plays that will be performed beginning on Aug. 27, with the last performance of the season on June 26, 2022. The Huntington had committed to the playwrights, directors, and actors involved in all of these titles prior to the COVID-19 pandemic but was unable to follow through with production at that time due to the closing of the theaters in March 2020. 

“We’re planning for indoor theater, and, of course, we will adjust and adapt if things change and the guidelines change, but our hope is that by the fall, we will be able to resume live, in-person performances,” Temple Gill, Director of Public Affairs and Strategic Partnerships of the Huntington, said in an interview with The Heights

The plays address a range of topics, from climate change in Hurricane Diane by Madeleine George to the setbacks women have faced in U.S. history in What the Constitution Means to Me by Heidi Schreck. 

One of the plays, Common Ground Revisited, was adapted by Kirsten Greenidge and inspired by the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by J. Anthony Lukas. The play centers around three diverse families in Boston in the ’60s and ’70s and their experiences with integration and court-mandated busing.

“How integrated or not integrated the Boston public school system is right now is a huge topic of conversation,” Gill said. “And I believe this play will just be really interesting and inspiring and will create a lot of opportunities for important conversations.”

Other productions in the lineup include Our Daughters, Like Pillars by Kirsten Greenidge, Witch by Jen Silverman, Teenage Dick by Mike Lew, and The Bluest Eye, adapted by Lydia R. Diamond based on the novel of the same name by Toni Morrison. 

Our Daughters, Like Pillars was originally set to open the week before the Huntington went dark, according to Gill. This upcoming season will give these plays a new chance to come alive.

“Because we feel committed to those artists and those titles, and they’re all really wonderful projects, we’re so happy to make good on that commitment and have those productions come to fruition,” Gill said. 

The productions will take place primarily at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion, with one production performed at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre while the Huntington Theatre Company mainstage undergoes renovations. The majority of performances usually take place at the Huntington Avenue Theatre on Huntington Ave. 

Recordings of the productions at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre will be available online for those who cannot attend in-person, according to Gill. 

Gill said the decision to hold in person, indoor performances is based on trends in vaccine distribution and the continued decline of positive COVID-19 cases. 

“Our hope is that everyone is getting vaccinated, but the numbers are looking good, and that people will be ready by the end of the summer to come back to the theater and be in the same space, and enjoy live performances once again,” Gill said. “We’re very hopeful about it.”

Because of its optimism about the positive progress of the pandemic, the Huntington does not anticipate that its actors will have to wear masks. Instead, the actors and stage crew will undergo rigorous testing to ensure everyone’s safety, according to Gill. The Huntington does anticipate mandating audience members to wear masks. 

When the Huntington first closed its doors last March, organizing productions and working in person was impossible, according to Gill. It was difficult for the staff to adapt. 

“It has just been a very weird time for us,” Gill said. “Everyone’s working from home. We have had layoffs and furloughs and salary reductions. It has been a challenging time.”

While they were not able to have live shows, the Huntington did host a series of audio plays called Dream Boston. For these plays, ranging from eight to 20 minutes long, the Huntington asked local playwrights to dream about their favorite places in Boston in the post-pandemic future.

“They run the gamut in topic and tone and are these really wonderful, efficient gems of audio plays,” Gill said. 

The Huntington also partnered with GBH, a Boston public radio station, to record a full-length radio broadcast of Tiger Style! by Mike Lew—a play that the Huntington produced in 2016. This recording is available as a podcast online

While these virtual adaptations were successful during the Huntington’s dark period, nothing compares to the experience of viewing a production in person, Gill said. 

“I love the excitement of seeing friends and colleagues in the lobby before the show starts—you know that 10 minutes before curtain where there’s just a great energy in the room,” Gill said. “I think that first performance, when people are able to gather together and applaud at the end of the show, is going to be really powerful and exciting.”

Featured Image Courtesy of Beyond My Ken / Wikimedia Commons

April 18, 2021