Actors’ Theatre of Columbus preparing for return to Schiller Park

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group

Actors’ Theatre of Columbus will enter its 40th performance season with hope and some trepidation. 

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the German Village-based troupe was forced to cancel its 2020 season. 

But as infection rates fall, government restrictions continue to loosen and vaccinations become more widely distributed, the likelihood increases for an Actors’ Theatre comeback at the amphitheater in Schiller Park. 

Actors' Theatre of Columbus logo

“We’re planning to return to the park,” said Scott Vezdos, the company’s director of marketing. “What it looks like, we’ll wait and see.” 

“Anything can still happen,” said Philip J. Hickman, Actors’ Theatre artistic director. “I still believe we’re going to happen.” 

The schedule, with the theme “Changes,” starts with “Much Ado About Nothing” (May 27 through June 20), followed by Carlyle Brown's “The African Company Presents Richard III” (June 24 through July 18). Sarah Ruhl's “Eurydice” will be formed July 22 through Aug. 8. The season will conclude with Frances Hodgson Burnett's “The Secret Garden” (Aug. 12 through Sept. 5), its first collaboration with Columbus Children's Theatre. 

Safety is paramount for the actors, stage crew and audience, Vezdos said. 

At this point, several options are being considered, such as cordoning off part of the park to ensure social distancing and having patrons wear masks, he said. Restrooms at the park will remain closed. 

Vezdos said the troupe is considering electronic swiping technology for credit-card donations but not passing around a collection plate during performances. No printed programs will be available either, he said. 

Other measures could apply – for example, a couple not being able to share a blanket during a performance, he said. 

“There’s still a lot,” he said. “We need some guidance right now.” 

Hickman said he chose this year’s theme based on how the world was forced to address the coronavirus: canceled weddings, travel bans, employees forced to work from home and lives lost. 

“We as a society have an opportunity of reckoning with our own history of injustice,” Hickman said. “With the idea of ‘Changes,’ what I wanted was to look at this through the lens of theater. (It) is that we can understand what has gone before, but what we can do is learn and go forward with what we know now,” he said. “All of these plays are about expectations that are lost in some terms and what it means to find life and move forward after that.” 

Hickman said the planned season has “comedy, tragedy and romance and everything we want from theater.” 

Hickman said he chose plays that require eight or fewer actors and a reduced stage crew to ensure better social distancing. 

“I think every day right now, the goal has been to do everything as safely as possible and understand things could change, so we’re taking things one step at time right now,” said Cat McAlpine, who is directing “Much Ado About Nothing” with Hickman. 

Actors’ Theatre attracts 15,000 to 18,000 spectators per season, Vezdos said. 

Vezdos said on a good Friday or Saturday night, 500 or more people attend individual plays. Some productions bring in upward of 1,500 spectators, he said. 

“That’s something we’re not going to be able to do right now,” he said.

For more information about Actors' Theatre, go to theactorstheatre.org.

gseman@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekGary