Maine State Music Theater closes show early after cast members test positive for COVID-19

“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” was staged through July 16 at the Maine State Music Theater in Brunswick, with Jordan Alexander, left, as Joseph and Jeff Max played Pharaoh. Production halted due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the cast. Contribution / Jared Morneau Photography

After a series of sold-out shows at Brunswick’s Maine State Music Theater, ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ was forced to end its run a week early after five cast members tested positive for COVID. -19, the latest financial blow to the theater company.

The Maine State Music Theater never opened in 2020, due to the pandemic.

In 2021, the theater company attempted a truncated season. Due to scheduling issues caused by the end of the season, the main stage performances were moved from the usual venue of Bowdoin College’s Pickard Theater to the Westbrook Performing Arts Center.

Poor ticket sales led the company to cancel its fall 2021 shows, which artistic director Curt Dale Clark at the time attributed to controversy over a policy requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for ticket holders, as well as general concerns about the virus. Hundreds of tickets have been refunded,

The biggest loss the theater suffered in 2021 was money spent on the Rogers and Hammerstein show “Cinderella,” the theater’s most expensive production, Clark said. Unable to secure the rights to the show this year or next, Clark said the elaborate costumes and sets would remain in storage for the time being.

Clark didn’t provide an exact figure as to how much the company lost, but said the theater saved nearly $2 million in potential losses by shortening its 2021 season.

The Maine State Music Theater opened for its 2022 season on June 8 in hopes of avoiding COVID closures.

“It will be a devastating loss of revenue,” Clark said this week.

Clark declined to comment on the exact dollar amount the theater expects to lose.

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported low levels of COVID in southern Maine on its website, the Actors’ Equity Union has strict rules to prevent outbreaks and will shut down any show with too many positive cases in the cast, according to Clark.

Clark said all employees are being tested for COVID every day, costing the theater $120,000 in testing supplies for the season. He said most artists who are infected show no symptoms other than a runny nose.

The community COVID tracker on the CDC’s federal website reported a weekly average of 113.56 COVID cases per 100,000 people in Cumberland County and 136.66 in Sagadahoc County, leaving Clark oblivious to the obligation. masks for the public. He does not believe that the public will transmit the virus to artists.

“We won’t be going back to a mask mandate for the public because it has nothing to do with what’s going on here,” Clark said.

According to the Actors’ Equity website, “The employer will not require or request any in-person interaction between actors or stage managers and clients. No visitors will be permitted backstage and the Employer will post signs backstage to this effect.

Even with daily testing, Clark said he couldn’t control what his employees were doing outside of the theater. He said that with 24 cast members working nearby during dance numbers and in the locker room, it had to happen.

He said the theater has many loyal subscribers, but fears that non-subscribers who only come to a few shows a year may not return after that.

“Every time you cancel your show, you damage your relationship with the audience,” Clark said.

For those who purchased tickets for canceled performances of “Joseph and the Incredible Technicolor Dreamcoat,” the state of Maine is offering patrons one of five options. Clark said customers can redeem their ticket for another show this season, donate the value of their ticket to the theater, gain access to a virtual performance of the show, receive store credit for a show in a future Maine state season or request a refund. .

“It really breaks my heart,” Clark said. “Our goal was for Joseph to continue to remind people why they need us and why they want us.”

Clark said the first season show “The Sound of Music” had a few cast members test positive for COVID, but not enough to close the show. He said they worked with the help of stunt doubles and swing performers.

The third show of the season, “The Color Purple,” is still in rehearsal and will premiere on July 20 as scheduled.


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