The 87-year-old professional theater, Peterborough Players, is canceling its summer season after already canceling the spring performances that had been scheduled — the first time the theater has gone dark in 45 years.
“The more we look at it, the clearer it is for all kinds of reasons that it was prudent and safe to take an intermission this summer,” said Keith Stevens, managing director for Peterborough Players.
Stevens said that given the state of emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a good chance the Players’ theater won’t reopen until next summer.
“Anyone who says they know for sure what’s next, they don’t. We don’t know,” Stevens said.
The Players’ summer season includes performances by professional cast members as well as the intern cast and crew. Stevens said at any given time there are 45 to 50 people at the Hadley Road campus.
“Our staff and our interns all live on campus in small cabins,” he said. “The work we do does not lend itself to staying six feet apart.”
Apart from the cast and crew, Stevens said there are concerns about putting the audience in fairly close quarters in the 250-seat theater.
“We absolutely are concerned for our audiences and how we can keep them socially distanced,” he said.
As the state begins to look at possibly reopening some parts of the economy, Stevens said it is not realistic to think theaters will be among the first businesses to reopen. It will be some time, he thinks, before large public gatherings are approved.
“The last thing that can be reopened is large gatherings — we depend on large gatherings,” he said.
The Peterborough Players has been in operation since 1933, though it has gone dark a few times before. Stevens said the theater shut down for three years during World War II, and it went dark twice in the 1970s for various reasons. The last season the Players missed was in 1975, he said.
“It is the cards we have to play,” he said.
There is hope the theater can reopen for the winter season, though that is still uncertain, he said. He hopes the theater can reopen next summer, though he’s not sure what the production slate will look like.
Stevens does know that whatever happens, the Peterborough Players will be back thanks to the support of its patrons.
“The positive response from our patrons has been overwhelming (and) has really been uplifting for us,” he said. “We’re gonna come through this.”