Dramatic twist: Playhouse cancels summer shows

Director promises a strong return when the threat of COVID-19 is over.

8
The M.V. Playhouse has canceled its summer schedule. - Gabrielle Mannino

Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, a staple of Island theater for 38 years, has pulled the plug on its summer season, another entertainment casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision by the Playhouse board members to cancel the season comes on the heels of Tisbury selectmen canceling Beach Road Weekend, a three-day music festival that was planning for its second year.

“We’re doing what we think is the right thing for safety and health reasons,” artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo told The Times. “We thought of a lot of different scenarios that might work. We realized the thing that we’re most proud of about Vineyard Playhouse — our small, intimate theater — is exactly the type of place that people will be wary of going into for a long time.”

The decision was first announced to staff and donors through an email from Munafo. 

“Sadly, but wisely, at our board meeting this past Monday, we decided to keep the Playhouse closed until it is safe on all fronts,” she wrote. “This means for the first time in 38 years, there will be no summer season on our stage, no art exhibits in our gallery, no children’s camp, no outdoor Shakespeare.”

Munafo is working on other ways to entertain.Living through the new normal, we are instead exploring ways to entertain, educate and inspire through creative ideas online. The Playhouse as a community resource has a history of resilience,” she wrote. “We intend, once this Island has been given the ‘all-clear’ signal, to resume our live productions, musical revues, poetry, art exhibits, movies, our children’s camp and programs, and a multitude of dramatic activities and special events. In the meantime, please consider your health, our health and the health of our wonderful Island the utmost priority. You are in our hearts, we miss seeing you at the theater and we hope to be there for you when the danger is passed and it is safe to gather once again.”

In her conversation with The Times, Munafo called it a “heartbreaking decision.”

She vowed a strong return for the program once it’s safe to reopen. “We will be ready to go,” she said. 

“Such surreal and unprecedented times!” she wrote in her email to staff. “Many hard decisions are being made by theaters and artists and boards everywhere in the world. None of us know when we will be able to go ‘live’ again — will it be fall or winter or later than that? It’s a day at a time right now as the situation evolves.”

Then she reflected on the last play to be performed at the theater — ”Our Town.”

“We are in this together,” Munafo wrote. “Please stay safe, stay home, stay healthy. And oh yes, please stay in touch!”