Positive coronavirus test halts Shakespeare in the Park for 3rd night

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Positive coronavirus test halts Shakespeare in the Park for 3rd night
The cast of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in New York on July 7, 2021. The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of “Merry Wives” announced on Friday that it would cancel its third consecutive performance after learning a production member had tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. Sara Krulwich/The New York Times.

by Sarah Bahr

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- The merriment is still on hiatus.

The Public Theater’s free Shakespeare in the Park production of “Merry Wives,” which had already pushed back its opening night by nearly two weeks after its leading man was injured, announced Friday that it would cancel its third consecutive performance after learning a production member had tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday.

The theater had canceled the Wednesday and Thursday performances at Delacorte Theater in Central Park in accordance with its existing protocols. It announced on Twitter Friday that it would call off Friday’s performance as well “to support the artistic and logistical efforts required to restart performances.”

A spokesperson for the theater, Laura Rigby, said the theater planned to resume performances Saturday. The production is scheduled to run through Sept. 18, with a special gala performance Sept. 20.

The theater noted on Twitter that it practiced “rigorous testing and daily health and safety protocols to ensure everyone’s safety.” It said Wednesday that the cast, crew and staff members would isolate and take additional tests if needed.

Earlier this week the theater postponed the play’s opening night to Aug. 9, from July 27, after Jacob Ming-Trent, who plays Falstaff, sustained an undisclosed injury. (He is recuperating, the theater said, and his understudy Brandon E. Burton will perform the role in his absence.)

The show, a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” has been running in previews since July 6. Written by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Saheem Ali, it is set in South Harlem and represents African immigrant communities not often seen onstage. Bioh and Ali have said they hope the production makes Shakespeare accessible to all audiences, especially people of color who may have been told Shakespeare was not for them.

“We want it to be anti-racist,” Ali told The New York Times this month. “We want it to have opportunities for people of color that didn’t exist before.”

In June, the theater announced that it would fill the Delacorte Theater to 80% capacity after initially saying it would allow only 428 attendees in the 1,800-seat theater for each performance.

People who show proof of vaccination can occupy full-capacity sections, and distanced sections are available for those who are unvaccinated (and those theatergoers do not need to show proof of a negative test to enter). Face masks are required for people in both sections when entering and moving around, although those in the full-capacity sections may remove them while seated.

On Friday, Rigby said the theater was monitoring COVID-19 cases in New York City and would adjust its policies if needed in collaboration with its city, state and union partners.

The cancellations come amid the rise in cases caused by the highly transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus, which has been responsible for the postponement of a number of stage productions and delays in television and film projects in Europe over the past month. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Cinderella” musical recently moved its opening night in London’s West End back about a month after a cast member tested positive, while productions like “Hairspray” at the London Coliseum and “Romeo and Juliet” at Shakespeare’s Globe have also experienced delays following positive tests.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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