George Street Playhouse starts its new season online via a streaming service in February to bring theater back while following coronavirus (COVID-19) safety protocol. 

Managing director Kelly Ryman said, “We did a lot of listening and learning to prepare ourselves for this … Learning about how to share the productions on a virtual platform and how to make viewing the shows easy for our patrons. Learning about safety precautions and testing protocols and listening to epidemiologists about how to make the rehearsal environment safe.”

According to the website, George Street Playhouse (GSP) will be producing four shows instead of five on their Main Stage.

Ryman said, “It was really a timing decision. Since we shut down performances back in March of 2020 because of the spread of COVID-19, we’ve been making plans for how we would best be able to produce the 20-21 season, with the safety of our artists, audiences and staff being the most important factor. We decided not to perform in the fall or before the new year knowing that that was in the best interest of keeping everyone safe. Typically, we produce three productions between January and June, this year we’ll be producing four [during this time].”

Christa Cillaroto, assistant director of education, said the education department has also made the transition to online programming through their residency program. 

“GSP offers arts integration residencies … Meaning that we partner with schools and after-school programs to teach students content, using theater art practices and skills, and help teachers better understand how to engage in the practice during their own instruction time. [We] shifted all of [our] programming to virtual immediately following the mid-March closure of school and public buildings in 2020,” said Cillaroto. 

Ryman said it’s unclear at the moment if a hybrid season would be necessary.

“There is a lot of excitement now that the vaccine is starting to be widely distributed and a lot of hope that it will be safe for audiences to attend live theater again in the fall, however, there may be reasons to offer a combination of streaming and in-person performances at first,” Ryman said, “We already know that we are seeing audiences from out of state sign up for the streaming productions.”

Ryman said the theater has been receiving positive feedback from their patrons.

She said they are excited to see theater again.

Middlesex College student Megan Cherry said, “I think and hope that a year into the pandemic, theater in all forms, but especially virtual, will be welcomed with open arms. I think transitioning to a virtual platform, while different, can still serve many of the same purposes ... to bring us joy, to make us think, feel, and love. I hope that audiences will be able to understand that, I even have to remind myself of that in these times. I am excited to watch, and to experience, theater in a new medium. To see theaters creating something completely new is exciting, and I want to support that.”

Ryman said she’s excited about this season, but also about being in the theater again.

 “I think I’m looking forward to all [four productions] for different reasons: “Bad Dates” and “Fully Committed” because they are comedies, and we all need a good laugh right now. “Tiny Beautiful Things” is about our need for connection and empathy, which really resonates with me. For “It’s Only a Play,” we plan to shoot the production on stage at New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (NBPAC) so it will be great to be back in the theater again,” said Ryman.

“We’ve heard so many people say how much they miss going to the theater and how important it is that our arts and cultural organizations survive so that they can continue to enrich our lives and our communities. This is a really great time to support your local arts organizations with a contribution of any size and to make a priority of purchasing a streaming ticket for a virtual performance. Every ticket that is purchased or dollar that is donated matters right now and is so very, very appreciated,” said Ryman.

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