Williamstown Theatre Festival performances moved to Audible

Lily Goldberg

In a statement issued yesterday, Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) announced the cancellation of all live performances for the 2020 summer season. The seven plays set to perform this year at WTF — including a Robert O’Hara-directed revival of A Streetcar Named Desire and five world premiere works — will instead be released as readings on Audible, the popular platform for audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment. The suspension of the 2020 season marks the first ever cancellation of the festival since its inauguration in 1955. 

“The stellar group of artists who planned to spend the summer in Williamstown, will deliver — with fearlessness and redoubled passion — on the promise they made to create this work for you,” Artistic Director Mandy Greenfield said in a press release. “This virus might get to tell us what we cannot do but it does not get to dictate what we can do. The voices of these artists will be heard.” 

The cancellation follows last week’s announcement that the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Mass, will also be canceled this summer. 

Over the summer months, WTF typically uses Greylock Quad as its administrative headquarters, and presents plays on the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance Mainstage and in the Adams Memorial Theatre (renamed the Nikos stage for the Festival after Nikos Psacharopoulos, the Festival’s innovative first director). The Festival draws throngs of tourists and big celebrity names. Last year’s festival featured Jesse Tyler Ferguson of Modern Family and Uma Thurman. This year’s festival would have brought Tony-winner Audra McDonald and Emmy-winner Bobby Cannavale to Spring Street. 

Besides the celebrities, WTF also brings more than 200 young artists to Williamstown as festival interns, Directing Corps, Non-Equity Acting Company and the 70-actor Apprentice Company, which is made up of college students who study acting and directing and who were slated to live in the Greylock dorms. Whether the apprentice program will continue remotely is not known at present — however, many apprentice duties concern technical aspects of festival production, such as set-building and ushering, which will not translate to the Festival’s revised format. WTF also puts on Community Works, an annual show that challenges diverse residents across greater Berkshire county, many of whom have never acted before, to put on an original play in collaboration with the Festival’s artistic staff. Community Works will be offering an acting workshop over Facebook Live one week from today, but it is unclear whether or not the program will continue over the summer. The closure of the Festival will no doubt affect local businesses and hotels, which make considerable income from Festival-related tourism in the summer. 

This is a developing story and will be updated in the coming days.