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The Muny Eyes A Shortened Season In Forest Park If Coronavirus Fears Ease

The Muny is looking to extend its lease to 2071, and free up some funds earmarked for parking lot upkeep. A city fund for that purpose has a surplus of approximately $180,000. 6/14/18
The Muny
The Muny seats up to 11,000 patrons at its outdoor theater in Forest Park. Theater leaders are planning for an abridged season if they're convinced that large gatherings like this will be safe by midsummer.

The Muny announced a plan today for a shortened summer season, if St. Louis officials deem it safe to produce events.

Leaders of the outdoor theater in Forest Park would push the opening of “Chicago” from June 15 to July 20 and reschedule all performances of “Mary Poppins” and “Sweeney Todd” to next season. 

The theater will announce a final decision on the season by June 8. 

If summer shows are not possible,the Muny will postpone its entire season to next year, Managing Director Kwofe Coleman said. 

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson declared a prohibition on public gatherings of more than 10 people in March, followed by a stay-at-home order that she has extended indefinitely. Coleman said the Muny will move forward if Krewson lifts those orders and theater leaders are convinced it will be safe for audiences and staff to return.

“The top thing we’re looking at is the guidance from health officials on the local and national level. Once that has been made, you can look at some of those intangibles,” Coleman said. “There are those things you can’t really put a number on, which is the community’s sensitivity to what is being deemed OK at that point. Do they want to still go out?”

Coleman said the new season plans display cautious optimism. “This is what we can do, if the situation allows it,” he said.

Muny employees are working on plans to ensure the show-going experience is safe for audiences and staff, and have not yet settled on specific steps to achieve that. The theater has not restricted ticket sales for the 11,000-seat venue. 

When considering the safety of theater-goers, the Muny is focusing on how they will arrive and move about the theater’s extensive grounds.

“Seating, in truth, is not the most complicated part of creating social distance in a theater or any environment like that. There are so many other steps that a person has,” Coleman said, “from the time they get off the bus or park their vehicle or walk up, to get into their seat. And those are the [things] it’s really important to focus on.”

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis also has announced plans to perform in Forest Park this summer, moving the opening date of its production of “Much Ado About Nothing” from May to August. 

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

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Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
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