The Collegian
Thursday, June 13, 2024

Second play disrupted after cast, crew test positive for COVID-19

<p>Improvathon was this year held on Westhampton Green, across from the Modlin Center for the Arts.</p>

Improvathon was this year held on Westhampton Green, across from the Modlin Center for the Arts.

The University of Richmond's Department of Theater and Dance's first mainstage production of the year, "Smart People," was canceled on Sept. 30 because of cast and crew members testing positive for COVID-19.

The decision to cancel the show came after two members of the cast and crew tested positive for COVID-19 two days apart, Walter Schoen, chair of the department, wrote in an email to The Collegian. 

When the first positive COVID-19 test result was reported on Sept. 26, members of the production team decided to continue rehearsals with additional safety precautions and under the condition that the show would be canceled if anyone else tested positive, said senior Joan Zhao, who played one of the show’s four main character. But when a second member of the cast and crew tested positive on opening night, they decided to cancel the show. 

"Smart People" was originally scheduled to take the stage from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. UR faculty, staff and students were notified of the show’s cancellation via a Sept. 30 Spiderbytes announcement

The way in which actors interact with the audience in "Smart People," and its location in the Cousins Studio Theater, raised safety concerns for everyone involved because actors often had to perform within six feet of the audience, Schoen wrote.

“This was a verbally intense play and to have people performing in masks would have made it a difficult experience for our audience,” Schoen wrote. “In the end, canceling the show seemed the prudent decision for the health and safety of everyone: cast, crew and audience.”

The show will not be rescheduled because a time could not be found when the theater was free and the cast and crew were available, Schoen wrote.

Zhao said she was heartbroken after learning her hard work to play Ginny Yang, an Asian-American psychologist, would not come to fruition.

“It was a very crucial role for me and it meant a lot because there aren't a lot of Asian American roles in the theater world,” Zhao said.

The cancellation of "Smart People" came after another show, "New Faces," was postponed indefinitely. It is the second theater performance at UR affected by COVID-19 this year, said Emma Sloane, senior and stage manager of "Smart People.” 

“It felt scarier for ‘New Faces,’ but again this is a reiteration of COVID getting in the way of a performance,” Sloane said.

"Smart People" is the first production shut down because of COVID-19 for junior Liam Keenan who assisted with the show’s props and dramaturgy. 

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“It’s a disappointing and tough process not just for me, but everyone involved to have it come so close to opening then to have to shut down the show,” Keenan said.

More than anything, the show’s cancellation is a wake-up call that COVID-19 is still impacting daily life, Keenan said.

“I did not think that at this point of the pandemic it would still be a concern,” Keenan said. “But even if the overall mindset has shifted that we are out of the pandemic, it’s still unpredictable.”

Contact news writer Katie Castellani at

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