By Bill Hirschman
Joining dozens of companies locally and across the country hoping a delay will outlast the worst of the Omicron surge, Theatre Lab has postponed its upcoming world premiere of Last Night in Inwood slated for Feb. 2-27.
Aggravating matters, the resident professional company based at Florida Atlantic University also announced two weeks ago that it had postponed its annual New Play Festival from January to an undisclosed date in the spring.
Rehearsals for Inwood were slated to begin this week, but “last week, however, a series of unfortunate and unexpected developments derailed those efforts. It became clear that we would not be able to start rehearsals as scheduled,” Producing Artistic Director Matt Stabile wrote in a letter to patrons.
Although not necessarily tied directly to positive tests, “those developments and those setbacks were made more difficult to overcome because of Omicron,” Stabile said in an interview Friday.
“As a company dedicated to new work, it is our responsibility to provide a playwright with our most focused and full effort—particularly when we are given the privilege of breathing the first life into a play with a world premiere production. Every rehearsal process involves a complex grid of scheduling with multiple moving pieces that must come together at the right time in order to make the production possible. Any disruption or delay in the process creates not only a significant financial risk, but, more importantly, a risk to the artistic integrity of the production. And that risk is an unacceptable one,” Stabile wrote.
“It is, for this reason, that we have decided to postpone our upcoming production and reschedule for a time when we can give the play the attention, care, and artistry it deserves.”
The steps are precautions to ensure quality, he stressed. The company has skills in actually producing a show in the midst of the Delta variant when it mounted The Impracticality of Modern-Day Mastodons last September.
No date has been set for re-mounting Inwood. The box office will begin processing refunds for all advance ticket sales, including a partial refund to season ticket subscriptions
Despite the changes, the company plans to stay with previously announced dates for another world premiere, Overactive Letdown by Gina Montét, set for previews March 24 and 25, and a run March 26 – April 10.
The delay was doubly difficult because the New Play Festival had been postponed “to provide us time, space, and some extra protection prior to the start of our rehearsals for the upcoming world premiere,” Stabile wrote.
“We knew that, even with cautious mitigation strategies in place, there was always a chance that the process or production could be disrupted due to surging case numbers around the country. We were prepared to take that risk and to adapt and respond to whatever came our way. We hoped that by keeping our production ‘bubble,’ we could navigate the next few weeks of rehearsal and that, as many scientists believe, the case numbers would begin to decline during that time – allowing us to open the show in early February.”
Covid-related problems from positive tests to delays in delivery on materials has caused numerous companies to delay productions a week, a month, even a year. Government scientists have seen signs that the variant is beginning to crest on spots around the country and could crest at the end of January or sometime in February.