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Millennial Theatre Company scraps 2020 season

The Millennial Theatre Company will wait until 2021 to make its Robins Theatre debut.

The troupe announced this week it is canceling its 2020 season because of the uncertainty surrounding public gatherings in the wake of the COVID-19 virus.

MTC was a day away from opening “Shrek the Musical” in March at the restored downtown Warren theater when Gov. Mike DeWine issued a stay-at-home directive and limited the size of public gatherings. The group juggled its initial schedule, dropping one show and moving “Shrek” to the May 29-31 slot.

Founder Joe Asente said, “We’d been waiting for the governor to give further guidance. Once we realized it would be pushed back even further from when we first rescheduled, we hit our point of no return as far as the logistics of this season.”

Even if the prognosis on the virus improves, Asente doesn’t see indoor theatrical performances happening in the foreseeable future.

“If there’s some miracle cure to come out that allows us to reopen, we would revise our plans, and obviously ‘Shrek’ would be our first priority,” he said. “It’s possible there could be a show before the end of 2020, but it definitely won’t be a full season, and the shows won’t be in the order they were originally supposed to be presented in.”

Asente said the company explored the idea of finding an outdoor performance space and picking a different show that might work at that kind of a venue, but ultimately decided against it.

“I don’t want to end up in the same situation we’re in now with another $20,000, $30,000 tied up into a show that can’t be produced,” he said.

Ken Haidaris of Sunrise Entertainment, which books acts for the Robins, said, “I don’t blame them for canceling the season. Who knows what’s going to happen?”

The Robins automatically will refund tickets already purchased for MTC shows. The theater group has set up a GoFundMe page and is asking ticketholders to consider donating the money from those tickets to the company.

With MTC scrapping “Shrek” in May and “Heathers the Musical” in July, there’s only one show on the Robins schedule between now and August (a lineup of acts from the ’70s on June 19), and Haidaris said it will be rescheduled.

The theater is equipped to show movies, and there was talk of scheduling films to ease back into operation and gauge audience interest in returning to public gatherings. However, even that wouldn’t be possible if state restrictions allow the 1,350-seat theater to sell only 200 or 300 tickets under social distancing guidelines.

“The numbers don’t work,” Haidaris said.

Sunrise Entertainment also books the River Rock at the Amp concert season at the Warren Community Amphitheatre. The May 30 opening concert is unlikely, but Haidaris said he is waiting for more information from the state before deciding what to do about the rest of the summer.

Asente said some tears were shed earlier this week when cast members were informed of the decision to cancel the season, but the actors scheduled to appear in “Shrek” are committed to being a part of the production whenever it can be staged.

“The one thing that has kept everyone’s spirits up is, at some point, the show will go on,” he said. “In the theater community, we keep saying, ‘This is only an intermission.’ It might be a full calendar year before we can resume, but at some point we will get back together.”

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