Update: Shakespeare Theatre Company delays ‘Blindness’ due to DC rules

New restrictions on entertainment venues announced by Mayor Muriel Bowser mean the onstage sound installation is postponed till further notice.

Shakespeare Theatre Company is postponing the sound installation Blindness, originally  scheduled to run at Sidney Harman Hall December 8 to 27, 2020. STC was recently granted a waiver from DC Government’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency to produce Blindness for a live, socially distanced audience. But in a press conference held November 23, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced adjustments to Phase 2 of the ReOpen DC plan, including additional restrictions on entertainment venues.

“The health and safety of our patrons, staff, and artists remain of the utmost importance,” Executive Director Chris Jennings said. “We worked with the Mayor’s office to safely bring Blindness to our audiences and, when the time and conditions are right, we look forward to sharing this timely immersive experience with everyone.”

The Company will announce new dates as soon as possible. Ticketholders will be contacted by the Box Office shortly. For more information, click here.

In ‘Blindness’ at STC, the audience is live, with not an actor in sight

This prophetic play about a pandemic will happen entirely between the ears.
(News story as originally published November 20, 2020.)  

The immersive sound installation Blindness, originally produced to great acclaim at London’s Donmar Warehouse, makes its U.S. premiere at Shakespeare Theatre Company December 8, 2020. For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown, patrons will be welcomed back into the Sidney Harman Hall. There the audience will be onstage—but actors will not.

In Blindness there are in fact no live actors at all. Just one prerecorded voice.

From The Donmar Warehouse 2020 production of ‘Blindness.’ Photo by Helen Maybanks.

Shakespeare Theatre Company got a waiver from the DC Government’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency to mount this unique theatrical experience. “We have spent months preparing and planning to welcome audiences back to STC,” explains Artistic Director Simon Godwin. “With a safety plan in place that has been approved by the city, we feel we can provide a thrilling time in our theater, while at the same time protecting the health and well-being of our audience and our staff members.” Complete information about STC’s Safety Guidelines is available here.

This “brilliant production” (The New York Times) will have patrons on the edge of their seats engrossed in a story about a pandemic of blindness narrated by Olivier Award nominee Juliet Stevenson (Truly, Madly, Deeply). “Blindness is prophetic,” Godwin states. “It is about a pandemic, social unrest, government control. But it’s also about hope and what we gain after we think all is lost. Blindness is a remarkable piece of art for our times.”

During the program, patrons are seated in a socially distanced manner and wear headphones that allow them to hear an immersive, binaural recording, which plunges them into the dystopic world of Blindness.

After selling out the Donmar Warehouse in London this summer, Blindness will also have installations at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto and Off-Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre. “Blindness will now be seen by audiences around the world, which makes me very proud and grateful,” Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Michael Longhurst shares. “COVID-19 has dramatically changed the world and I do hope that our production can contribute to theaters opening their doors again in the future for live performances.”

From The Donmar Warehouse 2020 production of ‘Blindness.’ Photo by Helen Maybanks.

Patrons will be seated onstage at Sidney Harman Hall, in pairs, and will never be seated next to someone outside their own party. All patrons and staff will wear masks at all times while in the building, and must stay home if they are feeling ill or experiencing any symptoms of illness. To stay within the guidelines of DC’s ReOpenDC plan, the seating capacity is strictly limited to 40 guests and there will never be more than 50 people in the building.

POSTPONED: Blindness begins December 8 and runs until December 27 with viewing times at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Sundays, with additional showings at noon on Saturdays and Sundays. All seats are $49 and general admission. Tickets for Blindness may also be purchased at a discount along with a subscription package to STC’s 2020–21 Season. Tickets for Blindness are available for purchase online

From The Donmar Warehouse 2020 production of ‘Blindness.’ Photo by Helen Maybanks.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

THE DONMAR WAREHOUSE is a 251-seat, not-for-profit theater in Covent Garden, London, led by Artistic Director Michael Longhurst and Executive Director Henny Finch. Their mission is to bring together a wide variety of people in their intimate warehouse space and elsewhere to create, witness, and participate in thrilling, world-class theater. The Donmar has won more than 100 awards in its 28-year history, with highlights of the program including founder artistic director Sam Mendes’ productions of Cabaret (with Alan Cumming) and The Blue Room (with Nicole Kidman). Michael Grandage (Artistic Director 2002-2012) brought notable productions of Othello with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Ewan McGregor, and Red with Alfred Molina and Eddie Redmayne. Josie Rourke (AD 2012-2019) brought Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus, and a trilogy of all-female Shakespeare plays directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Current Artistic Director Michael Longhurst’s inaugural 2019-20 season focused on important stories, thrillingly told, and included new plays by leading writers including Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Alice Birch, and Mike Lew.

WALTER MEIERJOHANN was Artistic Director of HOME from 2013 to 2018 and International Associate Director at the Young Vic in London. At the Young Vic, his productions included the European premiere of In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell McCraney and Kafka’s Monkey, which toured to Sydney, Melbourne, Athens, Paris, Tokyo, Istanbul, Taipei, and New York. The production, which starred Kathryn Hunter, also showed in HOME’s 2015 opening season, with Hunter reprising her lead role. Walter has worked extensively in Germany and the UK at theaters including: the Barbican; Liverpool Playhouse; Nottingham Playhouse; The Curve, Leicester; Residenztheater, Munich; Staatsschauspiel, Dresden; Schauspiel, Graz; and Arena, Berlin, for Peter Stein’s Faust Ensemble and Impulse Theatre Festival. Prior to joining the Young Vic, Walter was Artistic Director of Neubau at the State Theatre of Dresden. In opera, he has assisted the late Klaus-Michael Grueber in his productions of Aida (Nederlands Opera, Amsterdam) and Don Giovanni (Ruhrfestspiele).

SIMON STEPHENS is an Olivier and Tony award-winning playwright. His theater credits include Fortune (Metropolitan, Tokyo), Maria, Rage (Thalia, Hamburg), The Threepenny Opera (NT), Fatherland (MIF 2017/Lyric Hammersmith/LIFT Festival 2018), Heisenberg (West End), Obsession (Barbican/Toneelgroep, Amsterdam), The Seagull, Herons, Morning, Three Kingdoms, A Thousand Stars that Explode in the Sky, Punk Rock (Lyric Hammersmith); Carmen Disruption (Deutsches Schauspielhaus/Almeida); Nuclear War, Birdland, Country Music, Bluebird (Royal Court); The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time (Olivier and Tony Awards for Best New Play) (NT/West End/Broadway), A Doll’s House (Young Vic/West End); Sea Wall (Bush), Harper Regan, Port (Royal Exchange, Manchester/NT), and On the Shore of the Wide World (Royal Exchange, Manchester). He has also written for film, television, and radio. Simon is a professor at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University and Artistic Associate at the Lyric Hammersmith.

JULIET STEVENSON is one of Britain’s leading actors. Her most recent theater credits include The Doctor, for which she won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Actress and is currently nominated for the Olivier Award for Best Actress, Mary Stuart, Hamlet (Almeida/West End); Wings, and Happy Days (Young Vic). Juliet won the 1991 Olivier Award for Best Actress for her performance in Death and the Maiden, and has been nominated a further five times. Juliet has received five BAFTA nominations for her work on screen. Her films include Truly, Madly, Deeply (Evening Standard Film Award for Best Actress), Bend it like Beckham, When did you last see your Father?, and Being Julia. Juliet’s latest television work includes Riviera and Out of her Mind, a comedy series with Sara Pascoe which will air in September 2020. Her other credits include One of Us and The Enfield Haunting, and she appeared as a series regular in Atlantis and The Village. She was awarded the CBE in 1999.

ABOUT SHAKESPEARE THEATRE COMPANY

Led by Artistic Director Simon Godwin and Executive Director Chris Jennings, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) is the nation’s premier classical theater company. STC has become synonymous with artistic excellence and making classical theater more accessible to audiences in and around the nation’s capital, building on the foundation laid by Founding Artistic Director Michael Kahn.

Recipient of the 2012 Regional Theatre Tony Award, STC’s mission is to create innovative productions that inspire dialogue and connect classic works to the modern human experience. The Company focuses on works with profound ideas, complex characters and poetic language written by Shakespeare and others—ambitious, enduring plays with universal themes—for all audiences. At this time of transition, the Company’s mission evolves with a three-year initiative to produce family-friendly theater during the holidays, and an expansion of the definition of “classic” to include playwrights previously excluded from the canon, with a renewed commitment to high-quality, exhilarating, inclusive theater.

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