Spring Green’s American Players Theatre cancels its Summer 2020 season

    American Players Theatre scene
    A performance of "A Midsummer Nights Dream" at American Players Theatre in Spring Green in 2017. (Photo by Liz Lauren, courtesy APT)

    American Players Theatre is canceling its Summer 2020 season of plays because of continuing concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced Friday.

    “Right now we’d like nothing more than to be together and gather and take care of each other, but the only thing we can really do is stay apart to keep each other safe,” APT Artistic Director Brenda DeVita said in a video posted Friday morning on YouTube and on the ATP website. The video was shot on the grounds of the company’s outdoor stage in Spring Green, west of Madison.

    In an email to advance ticket purchasers, the company stated: “With so much research garnering so few answers, and knowing that venues hosting large public gatherings will be among the last to reopen, we do not see a path to a summer season this year.”

    APT, which marked its 40th anniversary in 2019, has won international renown for a mix of classic and contemporary drama in its summer repertory season. Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout has called it “America’s finest classical theater festival.”

    The 2020 season was to have included productions of plays ranging from “Julius Caesar” and “Love’s Labours Lost” by William Shakespeare to “Rough Crossing” by Tom Stoppard. The theater company plans to move the 2020 season in its entirety to 2021.

    The company also announced it would post a series of play readings weekly on Friday evenings on the Wisconsin Public Television website starting June 5.

    Although unprecedented for the company, the Summer 2020 cancellation was not the first crisis in APT’s history. In 1986, the still-fledgling theater staged a remarkable comeback from the brink of financial collapse aided by enthusiastic local fundraising efforts chronicled in the New York Times.

    The nonprofit theater company, like most regional theaters, depends on philanthropy for its support, and with the cancellation notice on Friday, APT invited prepaid ticket holders to consider donating the amount of their purchases for the 2020 season to the company in lieu of a refund. The company’s board and the board of its fundraising foundation said it would match those donations up to $750,000.

    Erik Gunn
    Senior Reporter Erik Gunn reports and writes on work and the economy, along with related subjects, for the Wisconsin Examiner. He spent 24 years as a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine, Isthmus, The Progressive, BNA Inc., and other publications, winning awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, beat coverage, business writing, and commentary. An East Coast native, he previously covered labor for The Milwaukee Journal after reporting for newspapers in upstate New York and northern Illinois. He's a graduate of Beloit College (English Comp.) and the Columbia School of Journalism. Off hours he is the Examiner's resident Springsteen and Jackson Browne fanboy and model railroad nerd.