Delaware Shakespeare has postponed its fall community tour, but will have additional new programming, thanks in part to the four new associate artists it’s been able to hire with federal COVID bucks.
The postponement was a blow, because the company was planning a world premiere bilingual musical adaptation of “Twelfth Night.” It will now be rescheduled in the fall of 2021, when the world hopes its economy will not still be shipwrecked by a virus.
“While we’re disappointed not to be able to bring a full production to our Community Tour partners in 2020, this was the only decision that made sense given the vulnerable nature of many of our audiences,” said David Stradley, producing artistic director.
“The tour producing model is defined by an up-close and personal connection between actor and audience. We bring eight-10 artists and 40-100 audience members into small spaces, where the actor is only a few feet away from the audience. This sort of performance style is not possible at the moment.”
Like so many others faced with the shocks created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts organization will drown its sorrows in food. And you’re welcome to join them for “Three Artists, Four Humors & Food!” The online Shakespeare Cooking Event will take place Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are pay-what-you-decide. For more info, go to www.delshakes.org
The new hires
Delaware Shakespeare was able to hire the four associates thanks to a $5o,000 grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, via the National Endowment for the Arts.
The money was specifically designed to support staff salaries, fees for artists or contractual personnel, as well as facilities cost.
Newton Buchanan, Bi Jean Ngo and Emily Schuman, three theater artists with a combined 10 Del Shakes productions between them, will work with Stradley to develop new online and, potentially, small-scale, in-person programming for Del Shakes to offer to the community.
Wilmington writer Gail Obenreder will join Del Shakes as an arts journalist-in-residence, documenting Del Shakes programming efforts in the time of COVID-19.
Bi, Emil and Newton will share their love of food, Shakespeare and Elizabethan history by sharing recipes that connect to various Shakespeare characters during the online cooking event.
The community tour
The community tour brings professional Shakespeare to audiences who may not have easy access to professional arts experiences. The productions travel throughout the state and play in non-theatrical settings such as multipurpose rooms, cafeterias and gymnasiums and are scaled for those spaces, with live music, minimal sets and whatever lighting is available.
The company can tell hilarious stories about audience members who aren’t used to theater talking back to them and commenting on the action. The actors loved it.
The writing team of the new musical will use the additional year to further refine the script and score, which reimagines Shakespeare’s characters of Viola and Sebastian as Latinx immigrants whose shipwreck brings them ashore in Illyria.
“The postponement of this production due to COVID-19 allows us more time to write music and finesse the adaptation,” said a statement issued by authors Liz Filios, Tanaquil Márquez and Robi Hager. “Because actors have already been cast, we will be able to write specifically for the performers who will play the roles.
“The result, we hope, will be a powerful performance for audiences from across the state of Delaware that unites arts and activism in the name of social justice.”
The Del Shakes associate artists will work to develop virtual programming to connect with audiences at many long-standing Community Tour partners to build on a four-year history of increasing access to high-quality arts experiences.