Amid a flurry of canceled cultural events going into a historic and undoubtedly strange summer due to the novel coronavirus, Theatre Aspen found a way to pivot and program 30 or so productions into an abridged three-week season.
The organization is expected to announce today details of its new and adjusted summer season — titled “All For One,” in dedication of local front-line workers — that will run July 27 to Aug. 18.
Theatre Aspen’s pre-pandemic summer calendar boasted three shows — Chicago, Rock of Ages and The Sunshine Boys — in a season that would have spanned June 23 to Aug. 22. The three productions will be staged in 2021, as Theatre Aspen this summer will instead present three different types of performances: The Cabaret Series headlined by Broadway actress and former Aspen resident Beth Malone; live radio plays that will recreate classic movie-musicals in radio-play fashion; and the one-person Solo Flights developmental festival.
“It will be kind of a smorgasbord,” Theatre Aspen producing director Jed Bernstein said via phone Tuesday. “We hope it’s a tasting menu that people will want to try multiple parts of.”
This summer, the Hurst Theatre will be converted into a 75- to 100-seat cabaret-style space, in an effort to provide maximum flexibility and social distancing.
While the Cabaret Series, in its third year, was previously set at a partnering restaurant, this summer it will take place on the Hurst stage for the first time. The Solo Flights festival, which launched last September, was rescheduled from the fall to Theatre Aspen’s new summer season. The radio play is a new concept that “we think could become an annual treat,” Bernstein suggested.
“We want the community to feel some ownership over this, because it’s for them,” he said of the new summer programming. “No matter how the summer goes, it isn’t going to be a record-breaking tourist summer. We all know that.”
He estimated that all in all, the three productions would equal 25-35 shows on the Hurst stage this summer. While the Cabaret Series and radio play shows will be scattered throughout the three-week season, the Solo Flights festival will run altogether the week of Aug. 10.
More information about Theatre Aspen’s summer programming — including celebrity headliners, project titles and dates — will be released in the coming weeks.
In addition to the main-stage programming, Theatre Aspen Education will continue with two summertime productions, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Disney’s Frozen Jr., and is planning a full complement of arts education programs in July and August.
“This is going to be a hometown summer and we want the community to feel some sense of connection and ownership,” Bernstein said. “And what better way than to focus on people who have been persevering throughout this whole thing.”
Enter: The Aspen Heroes Program, as part of Theatre Aspen’s adapted summer season, in which the organization will honor a local front-line worker on stage before each performance. Nominations for local heroes — first responders, bus drivers, grocery and pharmacy workers, etc. — will be solicited from the community. Aspen Chapel Minister Nicholas Vesey and Aspen Jewish Community Center director Rabbi Mendel Mintz will serve as co-chairs of the newly created selection committee.
“Theatre Aspen remains committed to our community and to providing as much entertainment as possible for audiences, especially during difficult times,” Bernstein said in a statement from Theatre Aspen. “We are hopeful we will be able to present a season of exciting programming, in new formats, that is safe and enjoyable for both performers and audiences alike.”