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      HOW DO YOU PLAN A SEASON IN A PANDEMIC? By Thomas Putnam

      b2020po20HG has an Artistic Planning Committee that works to create the slate of plays and productions for the following season. We usually have a fairly solid idea of the next season by May of any year; then we tweak it a bit and let it settle in and work through any issues so that by September we have the graphics for each title and dates of performance and venues and directors. This year, of course, May came and went with no slate for the 2021 Season. 

      How could we—can we—plan for 2021 when we had no idea what would happen in the days ahead. Not only did May come and go, but June, July, August, September, October (almost) have come and gone. We usually have a big reception for sponsors wherein we reveal the following season. This happens in early September. Not this year.

      The APC has met a few times in the past few months. We have come up with at least some titles we hope to produce in 2021. But, of course, there are a whole lot more considerations this year. We're looking for ways we can present live theatre safely. Safely; how can we know at this point was is safe?

      So our focus has been on plays that have very small casts so that there are not many people on stage at one time or backstage anytime. Actors are not wearing masks—at least we haven't been having them wear them, though the audience does—so we need as few aerosol-producing mouths unmasked as possible. But there are big drawbacks with producing small-cast plays. With fewer characters, each character will have more lines to memorize. This often means a more seasoned or experienced actor would be considered, thus possibly limiting the opportunities for less-experienced actors. Also, a whole season of small casts simply means there are fewer roles for anyone. Our mission is to provide opportunities, and that mission seems limited now.

      We also seek to include more “guest” directors for some plays. I am the Artistic Director and part of my job description includes directing a number of plays, but we don't want me directing all of them. Finding directors who are willing/interested in directing a production during COVID is proving a challenge. People have lives outside of HG and their own plans are uncertain so how can they commit to the time/energy needed to direct a play. In addition, we usually identify the directors and then choose a play that they connect with. We kind of approached things backwards this year since finding plays that fit our COVID-era requirements came first. 

      And dates. And venues. And camps for kids. And living with the very real possibility that all of our planning may just be thrown out or delayed. We have hundreds of 2020 brochures that haven't been accurate since March. So should we print brochures with our schedule now, realizing we may just have to shred them. And all of this is in the past few weeks when our numbers of C-cases has dramatically risen. 

      Is a tentative plan better than no plan at all? We're hoping.

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