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Edgewater’s Raven Theatre Cancels 2021 Season As Pandemic’s Impact On Performing Arts Rages On

Despite a new stimulus package and vaccination campaign, venues like Raven Theatre aren't betting on a quick return to business as normal.

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EDGEWATER — The Raven Theatre has canceled most of its 2021 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, but management hope to make a return to in-person performances in the fall.

The theater at 6157 N. Clark St. said last week three production runs it had scheduled for this year will be canceled. Those productions include “Beautiful Thing” by Nathan Harvey (set for February-March), “Eden Prairie, 1971” by Mat Smart (May-June) and “The Luckiest” by Melissa Ross (June-August).

Canceling the majority of Raven Theatre’s 2021 plans will help it remain viable when patrons are more willing to return to in-person shows, theater management said in a statement.

“We continue to miss having artists and patrons in our” theater, Raven Theatre’s Artistic Director Cody Estle and Managing Director Markie Gray said in a joint statement. “Please know that this is simply a pause, one that will ensure another show will play on our stages. We are hopeful we can safely return to programming this fall.”

The cancellations come despite the $15 billion Save Our Stages bill that is sending stimulus funds to community theaters and concert venues, and the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

Those developments might lead to a quicker end to the pandemic. But because of its reliance on in-person business, the live entertainment industry has said it was the first to close and will be the last to reopen after the pandemic.

Even when restrictions on theaters and concert halls were eased in the summer, most venues remained closed.

Most theater companies in Chicago are staying dark or sticking with virtual programing to start 2021. Another local company, The Neo-Futurists, is sticking with a virtual-only lineup for the majority of this year, said Managing Director Jorge Silva.

Remaining on Raven’s schedule is Joshua Allen’s “The Last Pair of Earlies,” which tells the story of a South Side couple chasing a “sweet Southern dream,” according to a press release. The production does not have a scheduled date, but Raven is hopeful it will take place in the fall.

The pandemic has been extremely hard on Chicago’s performing arts industry, which cannot easily pivot to takeout or virtual services. And reopening will not be as easy as just turning on the lights, industry experts told Block Club. Producing shows and booking acts takes time and resources — and many business won’t take on that expense until they know people will return to venues.

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