American Conservatory Theater Cancels Shows, Offers Video Alternative

Is streaming the future of theater with the coronavirus outbreak?

Toni Stone’s opening night might have been its closing.

The American Conservatory Theater is the latest San Francisco arts venue to cancel their ongoing productions amid the coronavirus outbreak.

But even though patrons may not be able to see its current shows, Gloria and Toni Stone, live, the A.C.T. is offering another alternative to experiencing the play: video.

“Patrons will be provided exclusive access to a recording of the performance through a partner that will also allow them access to their extensive library of productions, ranging from Shakespearean classics to modern musicals and dramas,” said the A.C.T. press release. “We are still working on bringing this all together, but ticket holders will receive an email from A.C.T. with directions on how to access the recording sometime next week.”

It’s a little antithetical to the idea of live theater, but there aren’t really many options as recommendations for social distancing ramp up. On Wednesday night — about an hour after Toni Stone wrapped up its opening night show — Governor Gavin Newsom ordered California to postpone its gatherings of 250 or more people.

The A.C.T. hopes that they’ll still be able to continue its last two shows in the current season, The Rocky Horror Show and Poor Yella Rednecks: Vietgone Part 2, which are slated to premiere in late April and early June respectively.

It’s a precarious time as arts organizations deal with an unprecedented situation. Just a few days before A.C.T. decided to cancel its current shows, its executive director, Jennifer Bielstein, expressed concern over financials for the theater.

“There’s already increased expense and loss in revenue,” Bielstein had said to the Weekly.

“As a non-profit arts organization, A.C.T. relies heavily on the support of donors, subscribers, and single ticket buyers,” said the press release. “The individual support is crucial to the organization’s existence and A.C.T. and other arts organizations are realizing significant losses due to the impact of COVID-19.”

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