CODY ESTLE, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Photo by Michael Brosilow

On Thursday, March 12th I walked into the theatre, poured a cup of coffee, chatted with the general manager, responded to emails, and checked in with the artistic producer – all things pointed to a normal day. In the afternoon, I jumped on a call hosted by The League of Chicago Theatres addressing the virus. Fellow artistic leaders and city officials were on the call. All were suggesting we stop performances but were not willing to say it explicitly. We were instead told to listen to the Governor’s speech later in the day. 

In the evening we were to have a performance of our production of A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Lauren Shouse. The play received good notices and was in the last two weeks of a successful run. The remaining performances were mostly sold out. An ideal position for a producer to be in. 

After hearing the Governor speak, I was uncertain of what the path forward should be for our production. Was I really considering canceling the evening performance and the rest of the run? Quitting is not something we do in theatre. The show must go on! I decided to go against everything I had been taught and believed in. The production would end immediately. The staff jumped on the phones to notify the production team, patrons, and front of house. Signs were posted on the front doors. Everything came to a screeching halt. 

This was not an easy decision to make. Ultimately it was a question of safety: if we continued it would put the artists and patrons in an unsafe setting. I am extremely proud of our production of A Doll’s House and am most saddened by the number of individuals who missed out on seeing it. I had been in the audience for the previous performance – none of us knew it would be the last. The production had not been recorded, therefore a version for home viewing wasn’t in the cards. No proper goodbyes were had. It just ended. 

I find myself reflecting on how theatre is a delicate art form. This is not something I had thought about much. Now that it’s on hold, I realize how lucky we were to have theatre in our lives. In time the audience will return and there will be more plays. I’m looking forward to returning to normal and being able to sit in a dark theatre with strangers again.

A DOLL’S HOUSE
by Henrik Ibsen in a new adaptation by Anne-Charlotte Hanes Harvey & Kirsten Brandt
directed by Lauren Shouse
Raven Theatre, Chicago IL

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