Early Wednesday evening, New Haven Register theater critic E. Kyle Minor was getting ready to send in his Sunday preview of the new Yale Rep production of A Raisin in the Sun, having talked with principals in the show. That is, until we texted him the news that Yale Rep, like so many other arts and entertainment entities in the past two weeks, had decided to cancel its remaining shows this late winter and spring.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been putting a squeeze on entertainment, arts and dining venues unseen in generations, from the St. Patrick’s Day parades to NBA, NHL, MLB games and high school games to cruise trips to Adam Sandler’s gig at Mohegan Sun Arena. All canceled, which means there are fewer people ready to spend money on food at venues or at restaurants near those venues.
“Social distancing” means staying home, pretty much. And the arts and food service industries are typically tightly funded or low-margin operations in the first place. One media personality suggested buying gift cards to restaurants in a show of support (online preferably).
Changes rolled in rapidly by midweek. At 6:27 p.m. Wednesday, a Yale Rep release said that in response to Yale University’s recommendation that all campus events of more than 100 people be postponed, canceled or adjusted, Yale Rep had implemented a strict new audience capacity of 100 people for Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. An hour later came a new release, stating that artistic director James Bundy was canceling the final two productions of the season, Raisin and Testmatch by Kate Attwell.
Bundy said the decisions were not made lightly, and it hurts.
“It is absolutely heartbreaking that the company of A Raisin in the Sun, which has done some of the most remarkable work I have seen in my 18 years in this job, will not have the opportunity to perform Lorraine Hansberry’s majestic play for New Haven audiences this season,” he is quoted in the release.
In a few places Thursday, officials clung to hope that the show could go on. Over at Long Wharf Theatre, officials were presenting Jacob Padrón’s first full schedule for 2020-21 in an upbeat but guarded atmosphere in the theater lobby. They also said the theater’s spring production of The Chinese Lady would go on as scheduled starting March 19. But on Friday morning, Long Wharf also gave in to the once-in-a-century disruption of public gatherings and canceled the show.
A 9 a.m. Friday release read in part, “As a nonprofit arts organization, weighing whether to cancel performances has been a challenging experience — but your safety is our top priority. We will offer free ticket exchanges into our final show of the 2019-20 season, The Great Leap (May 6-31), or you may donate the value of your tickets back to Long Wharf Theatre as a tax-deductible donation.”
At the Long Wharf announcement Wednesday, Dexter Singleton of Collective Consciousness Theatre in New Haven, currently running Skeleton Crew at its Erector Square theater, said that play will be performed this weekend. But Singleton said Friday morning that the rest of the run would be canceled and “We hope to bring the show back this fall.”
And early Friday morning, Oakdale Theatre’s website was still taking ticket purchases for the planned March 19-22 run of “Riverdance 25th Anniversary Tour”; but given Gov. Ned Lamont’s order prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people, that engagement was also unlikely. (A Live Nation release was expected Friday.)
The week also brought news that the sizable Northeast Fishing & Hunting Show at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford was canceled for March 20-22 over concerns about COVID-19. The same is true with another expo, CT Gamer Con, at Mohegan Sun March 21-22 (postponed).
In East Haddam, Goodspeed canceled its Elvis My Way performances this weekend, it was announced Thursday. Also, LiveNation said Brit Floyd at Oakdale scheduled for March 14 has been postponed until August.
Likewise, the Stamford and Hartford symphonies canceled concerts in the next two weeks for the same reason. Nationally came the news that entertainment icons Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have contracted the virus. And some local fans of the Coachella, Stagecoach and (Miami) Ultra Music festivals were left with nonrefundable airline tickets when those were canceled.
Last week, just before the scheduled start of a weeklong series of “English Musical Splendor” concerts featuring the Yale Philharmonia, Yale Schola Cantorum and the Bach Choir, London, from New Haven to Washington, D.C., the tour was canceled. Soon after that, the Yale School of Music canceled a dozen other public concert events through April 19, including the Oneppo Chamber Music Series concert with Pamela Frank and Emanuel Ax, out of virus concerns.
College campus closings are threatening a promising new choral event scheduled for March 27 in Bridgeport called “A Cappellooza,” a representative said Thursday. In Middletown, Wesleyan University said Thursday that all events and exhibitions have been canceled until further notice.
Yale University Art Gallery announced Thursday it was closing from Friday until April 15. The Yale Center for British Art closed, as well, until further notice. Kidcity children’s museum in Middletown said it was closing temporarily.
Silk ‘n’ Sounds chorus canceled its March 15 concert. The New Haven Symphony Orchestra postponed its Family Concerts about Puerto Rico March 14-15 in New Haven and Shelton.
In Waterbury, the Palace Theater canceled its March 20-21 run of Finding Neverland.
The Shubert Theatre, meanwhile, lucked out with its most recent Broadway Series show Cats last weekend, getting in all of the scheduled shows for “thousands of people,” said Shubert official Anthony Lupinacci. The rest of March is lightly scheduled, he said, since the planned engagement of the show Once was canceled early in the season for other reasons and left a void, fortunately as it turns out.
Area venues no doubt were keeping an eye on Broadway theaters, which were hurting a bit in ticket sales already this month. Then it was announced late Thursday that Broadway performances would be shut down through at least April 12. Closings could be devastating to many of the shows and to the industry at large, say observers.
Also late Thursday, The Kate theater in Old Saybrook said it would postpone performances through April 30.
At Foxwoods, the Tony Bennett concert Friday was canceled as well as “Straight Up with Stassi” Friday and the Shamrocked Pub Crawl Sunday. Mohegan Sun’s list of cancellations was growing Friday, including Bellator MMA Friday, Cedric the Entertainer Saturday and the Southern New England RV & Camping Show Sunday.
Arts and entertainment events listed in Hearst Connecticut Media publications and its online calendars are subject to postponement or cancellation, of course, so readers are urged to check with a venue to make sure an event is still being held.