COVID-19 cases force cancellation of first Stratford Festival preview in Chicago

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A sixth wave of COVID-19 in Ontario has already impacted this year’s theater season in Stratford.

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An afternoon performance of the musical Chicago, the Stratford Festival’s first preview of the year, was canceled on Wednesday after cast members tested positive for the virus, officials confirmed. Festival.

“We work with the principle that we will proceed with a show if we can do so safely while still delivering a show that respects the intended artistic integrity,” Festival executive director Anita Gaffney said Thursday via email. “Although we have understudy coverage, understudy covers more than one role. The security impact of the show depends on the combination of individuals who are unable to perform.

“As a result, the Festival must weigh the specific circumstances of each show when making a recommendation on whether or not to proceed.”

Ticket holders were notified of the cancellation in an emailed apology letter. The value of the tickets will be held in the holder’s Stratford Festival account and can be used to attend future performances, according to the letter.

“We hope cancellations will be rare, but the current (COVID-19) case surge in Ontario has forced us to cancel on this occasion,” the letter states. “We have a season full of outstanding productions, with performances running through October 30. If you can’t join us at any other time this season, rest assured that your credit will not expire. You will be able to use in a future season.

Starting Thursday afternoon, Chicago premieres scheduled for Friday and Saturday are expected to move forward, Stratford Festival publicity director Ann Swerdfager said.

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COVID-related hospitalizations in Ontario are up 40% week-over-week and sewage monitoring suggests COVID-19 activity is higher than it was at the height of the fifth wave of the pandemic in January. The latest wave of the virus hits Ontario just weeks after the province dropped most of its public health measures in March, leaving private institutions to decide for themselves whether to pursue policies such as mask mandates and proof of vaccination requirements.

After losing an entire season to the pandemic in 2020, the Stratford Festival last year kicked off a scaled-down 2021 season that was mostly held at two outdoor venues covered by large awnings. Despite the significant reduction in capacity, the Festival this month announced a surplus of more than $550,000 in 2021. Last season’s revenue included ticket sales to more than 34,000 spectators who attended a total of 274 in-person performances, $13 million in pledges as part of the Relance du festival fundraising campaign and combined funding of $12.9 million from the federal and provincial governments.

The easing of public health restrictions last month offered some optimism to the pandemic-stricken tourism industry in the Stratford area after two years of provincial shutdowns. Although the Stratford Festival has decided to proceed with caution – guests are still required to show proof of vaccination at ticketed events until at least the end of April – officials are planning a full 70th anniversary season which includes the official opening of the new Tom Patterson Theater, 10 productions on four stages and many other events.

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“We’re in the midst of a multi-year recovery,” Gaffney told the festival’s annual general meeting earlier this month. “Although we have managed to keep the ship afloat for the past two years, our financial situation is still delicate. After posting a shortfall (of $4.3 million) in 2020, we were able to post a slight surplus for 2021, a season we viewed as both an investment in maintaining relationships and a glow of hope for our customers, our public and our community as a whole.

-With files from Galen Simmons, Stratford Beacon Herald and The Canadian Press

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