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The Return of Live Theater

As vaccinations and an announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have caused many to reduce their mask use, live performances are slowly returning. While Broadway’s official return is not until September, Radio City Music Hall will reopen on June 19 to host the final night of the Tribeca Film Festival (guests must be vaccinated). And across the New York, venues like the Park Avenue Armory and St. Ann’s Warehouse are already experimenting with socially distanced outdoor performances to resuscitate live theater with caution.

Last year saw a blanket cancellation of summer stock theater festivals, but this season they’re coming back, albeit with some adjustments. The Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts will stage all its shows outdoors, while the Utah Shakespeare Festival will require masks and offer concessions outside only. So while the summer arts season won’t look quite like 2019, theater lovers are about to have a welcome awakening.

‘Ring of Fire’ at the Rocky Mountain Repertory Theater

This theater in Grand Lake, Colo., is holding its 2021 season indoors, and will open with the Johnny Cash jukebox musical, “Ring of Fire,” which debuted on Broadway in 2006. The musical, which will feature Cash classics like “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues,” begins a season that runs through September and will include “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” Starts June 4, $45; rockymountainrep.com.

“Outside on Main: Nine Solo Plays by Black Playwrights” at the Williamstown Theater Festival
This esteemed Berkshires festival has minted many a future star and premiered Broadway-bound shows like the Bradley Cooper-headlined production of “The Elephant Man.” When it returns for an in-person season, the debut show will be the world premiere of “Outside on Main,” which is directed by Wardell Julius Clark, Awoye Timpo and Candis C. Jones, and guest curated by the playwright Robert O’Hara. Each performance will consist of three 30-minute plays, all written by Black writers for actors of color. Season starts July 6, festival tickets are $100 each and will go on sale June 22; wtfestival.org/shows-events/.

“Pericles” at the Utah Shakespeare Festival

This Shakespeare festival, part of Southern Utah University in Cedar City, will open its 60th-anniversary season with “Pericles.” Also featured this season, which runs from June until October, will be Shakespearean classics like “Richard III” and “The Comedy of Errors,” as well as a few ventures off theme with “Pirates of Penzance” and “Ragtime.” Season starts June 21, tickets start at $9; bard.org.

“The Magic Flute” at Glimmerglass Festival

This opera institution in Cooperstown, N.Y., will move shows from its traditional theater to a newly designed outdoor space. The season begins with a new take on “The Magic Flute,” but what looks to be the gem of the festival is “The Passion of Mary Cardwell Dawson,” a world premiere starring Denyce Graves about the life of the founder of the National Negro Opera Company in 1941. Season starts July 15, tickets start at $80 for a socially distanced square accommodating up to four; glimmerglass.org.

“A Thousand Ways (Part Two): An Encounter” at the Public Theater

In December, New York’s Public Theater debuted the socially distanced piece “A Thousand Ways (Part One): An Encounter,” which connected the audience via telephone line. Created by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone of the Brooklyn theater company 600 Highwaymen, “Part One” was the first of a trilogy, and now in-person participants can experience “A Thousand Ways (Part Two).” In this experimental work, attendees will be paired together and follow directions to create a private work. June 8-Aug. 15, $15; publictheater.org.

“What to Send Up When It Goes Down” from BAM

The playwright Aleshea Harris’s monumental work, which debuted Off Broadway in 2018, bears witness to the epidemic of Black death from racist violence. With a permeable border between the audience and the actors, the play will allow for an emotional experience of discussion and healing. The production is being presented by BAM and Playwrights Horizons, in association with the Movement Theater Company.Check the website for the opening date in June; bam.org.

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