Feature: What Kind of Year Has it Been? Looking Back on the 2022 Theater Season

Posted December 30, 2022

River Bride 9

By Gwendolyn Rice

2022 was the year that everything was supposed to go back to normal, and in many places it did — but not for the performing arts. Not yet. Theaters were the first to close when COVID hit the country and they were the last to reopen. And while we’re not wearing masks in our everyday lives much anymore and vaccines are easily available, COVID is still having an enormous effect on theater companies, whose casts submit to mandatory testing while artistic directors and box office staffs hold their breath to see if the full cast can perform in their scheduled shows. And the shadow of the pandemic looms large over subscribers and ticket buyers, who have been reluctant to make long-term plans by subscribing, and hesitant to share a theater space with hundreds of audience members, even if they are masked. This lack of confidence from former theater-goers has been reinforced by last-minute cancellations of big ticket Broadway shows and smaller shows closer to home due to cast illnesses.

So it’s not surprising that 2022 was the year of the understudy. What had traditionally been an afterthought for theater casts suddenly became a necessity, meaning that companies were scrambling to find double the number of actors for their productions, in case the first string cast got COVID. Performers waiting in the wings were called on more than ever before to fill in for sick actors. In a pinch, directors even stepped into onstage roles and substitutes went on at a moment’s notice, some with books in their hands.

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