Feature: Too Darn Hot: How Summer Stages Are Threatened by Climate Change

Posted August 11, 2022

Midsummer Crowd Shot Hill

Earlier this summer, Managing Director Sara Young sat down to chat with The New York Times about how APT is fighting the heat this summer onstage and off. Take a look at what APT and several other outdoor theatres across the country are doing to ensure the show can go on.

ASHLAND, Ore. — Smoke from a raging wildfire in California prompted the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to cancel a recent performance of “The Tempest” at its open-air theater. Record flooding in St. Louis forced the cancellation of an outdoor performance of “Legally Blonde.” And after heat and smoke at an outdoor Pearl Jam concert in France damaged the throat of its lead singer, Eddie Vedder, the band canceled several shows.

Around the world, rising temperatures, raging wildfires and extreme weather are imperiling whole communities. This summer, climate change is also endangering a treasured pastime: outdoor performance.

Here in the Rogue Valley, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is seeing an existential threat from ever-more-common wildfires. In 2018 it canceled 25 performances because of wildfire smoke. In 2020, while the theater was shut down by the pandemic, a massive fire destroyed 2,600 local homes, including those of several staffers. When the festival reopened last year with a one-woman show about the civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, wildfire smoke forced it to cancel almost every performance in August.

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