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American Conservatory Theater says no in-person shows for 10 more months

"Soul Train" musical team of Dominique Morisseau, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Camille A. Brown and Kamilah Forbes
The creative team behind “Soul Train,” from left: playwright Dominique Morisseau, executive producer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, choreographer Camille A. Brown and director Kamilah Forbes.
(Nicola Goode)

The San Francisco theater led by Pam MacKinnon schedules a slate of digital offerings until “The Headlands” can come to the stage in late May.

Live theater, which first pushed the return of traditional in-person performances to fall and later to winter, now is increasingly hoping for a much brighter spring.

San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater offered further proof of the realities of COVID-19 on Wednesday with the announcement of a season lineup that consists of digital offerings for 10 more months. The company said its earliest live, in-person production will be playwright Christopher Chen’s “The Headlands” starting May 27.

A.C.T.'s plans follow Center Theatre Group’s recent disclosure that its three Los Angeles-area theaters would remain dark until April 29 and Los Angeles Opera’s announcement that it aims to return to Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in May. Tourist-driven Broadway theaters said they hoped to reopen in “early 2021,” but that statement was issued on June 29, before coronavirus case counts spiked across the country.

Until it can resume traditional performances, A.C.T. is planning a robust online presence. Virtual programming will be staged through the company’s InterACT at Home initiative. Offerings include an original film of singer-songwriter Heather Christian’s musical “Animal Wisdom”; a radio play rendition of a popular holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol: On Air”; a conversation series with theater industry luminaries called “Virtually Speaking”; an encore virtual performance of Madhuri Shekar’s “In Love and Warcraft”; and a new series of play readings through A.C.T. Out Loud.

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The company announced five in-person productions on the horizon for spring, if health and safety requirements allow. Along with the West Coast premiere of “Headwinds,” the lineup includes “Freestyle Love Supreme,” the collaboration between Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail and Anthony Veneziale; the world premiere of “Soul Train,” written by Dominique Morisseau with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson serving as executive producer; Shakespeare’s indomitable mainstay “The Winter’s Tale”; and the much-anticipated “The Lehman Trilogy.”

“As we imagine a better future, we are reconceiving how to pull forward our best selves, challenge our practices and place artists at the center,” A.C.T. Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon said in the announcement. “This historic moment of disruption brings us to this bold and exciting season, spanning the virtual and the in-person, the celebratory and the reflective.”

Coronavirus may have silenced our symphony halls, taking away the essential communal experience of the concert as we know it.

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