What pandemic? | Culture | Chicago Reader

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What pandemic?

Chicago cultural institutions keep their cool.

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UPDATE Thursday, March 12, 3 PM: Court Theatre canceled all performances of The Lady from the Sea, announcing that it would pay its artists through the scheduled run. Ticket holders are encouraged to either donate the price of their tickets or apply them to future ticket purchases. A Court production of An Iliad at the Oriental Institute has been postponed.



The coronavirus has prompted some unimaginable recent news: NCAA basketball in empty arenas; Harvard University (and numerous other colleges) telling their students not to bother returning after spring break; the entire nation of Italy shutting down.

Today the World Health Organization made it official: Planet Earth is suffering a pandemic.

Here in Chicago, however—in spite of postponement of the St. Patrick’s Day parades—we are mostly chill, for now. Just stocking up on hand sanitizer, bumping elbows, and going about our business. So it was that on Tuesday, League of Chicago Theatres executive director Deb Clapp issued a statement to “reassure our patrons that all of Chicago’s theatres remain open for business.”

Clapp said the League is monitoring developments and is “sharing safeguards and best practices,” while member theaters are increasing cleaning, supplying hand sanitizers, and “encouraging audience members who are sick to stay home.”  

That came after the University of Chicago limited university-sponsored events to no more than 100 people, prompting its resident theater company, Court Theatre, to “cap” audiences for any performance of the production it’s opening this week of Henrik Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea.  According to a statement from artistic director Charles Newell and executive director Angel Ysaguirre, Court is also wiping down “seats and surfaces with disinfectant after every performance” and encouraging ill patrons to stay home. Tickets will be exchanged. 

Chicago Humanities Festival events are continuing as scheduled; so are concerts at Symphony Center, which reported no noticeable drop in attendance or ticket sales, and “no changes of the concert schedule at this time.” An Art Institute spokesperson said that so far, attendance “has been meeting projections”; apart from boosting the museum’s number of sanitizer stations, no changes have been made.

And at Lyric Opera, where years of work and a major investment are due to culminate in an event designed to draw an international audience—three full rounds of Richard Wagner’s mammoth four-opera Ring Cycle, plus related programming—a spokesperson said “everything’s in rehearsal.” It’s scheduled for April 13 to May 3.

On Wednesday, Northwestern University’s Block Museum canceled events between March 13 and April 15, though its galleries will remain open.

On Thursday, the Chicago Flower and Garden show announced that they were canceling this year's event at Navy Pier, scheduled for March 18-22. A message on their website says "We cannot ignore the advice of the city leaders or the global health community. It would be irresponsible and dangerous. The risk to our most vulnerable populations is real." They hope to reschedule an event later in the summer.

Trap Door Theatre also announced on Thursday, March 12, that they are canceling the remaining performances of Lipstick Lobotomy, originally scheduled to run through March 28, and that they would also be postponing their spring production of The Water Hen, scheduled to open May 7. In a press release the company said "We are very sad to have to cancel this performance and hope that patrons might consider donating their ticket purchases to Trap Door; situations like this can take a strong toll on artistic communities, and every ticket purchase and donation can make a huge difference."

The producers of the musical Be More Chill, slated to open April 17 at the Apollo Theater, have announced that they are postponing. As of now, the show is scheduled to begin preview performances on July 7.

The Auditorium Theatre is canceling all performances for the next 30 days. Per a press release sent Thursday, March 12, "If you have tickets to an upcoming performance in the next 30 days, the Auditorium Theatre will contact you in the next few days to discuss ticket options. Please be patient as we navigate the next steps, as we are expecting a high volume of inquiries."

Goodman Theatre announced late Thursday, March 12, that it is suspending its production of School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play, originally scheduled to run through April 12 in the Albert theater. They have also postponed the opening of Molly Sweeney in the Owen theater until April 20. According to a press release, "Options for ticket holders include a credit towards a future Goodman production or a tax deduction for the total value."

Stay tuned.  v

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