Olney Theatre furloughs 50% of staff

The pandemic just dealt a crushing blow to Olney Theatre Center in Olney, Maryland.

The acclaimed regional theater said Monday that it is furloughing over 50% of its full-time staff and will not resume full production until April 2021.

“The failure to prioritize live entertainment in government safety planning has effectively stigmatized live performance for the foreseeable future,” artistic director Jason Loewith said.

“While federal and local governments worked so aggressively, and so quickly, to figure out how every other industry could open slowly and safely, ours was ignored. And if that doesn’t change soon, we’re going to be in deep trouble.”

Administrative offices will be closed Friday through Mondays, while remote box-office hours will be open from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday.

“When the pandemic hit in March, we were in the middle of the best season in OTC’s 83-year-old history,” managing director Debbie Ellinghaus said. “This week, we received national recognition from the New York Times for our virtual production of ‘The Humans,’ but our stages remain dark, ticket sales are on hold, and we’ve made the painful decision to furlough more than half of our staff and reduce the hours and compensation of others.”

In the meantime, Olney Theatre will present online programs, including the critically acclaimed production of “The Humans” which is currently streaming through Oct. 4.

“Just Arts: A Celebration of Arts and Activism” will stream on Fridays starting Oct. 9.

November brings the launch of “Signal Boost,” which will include weekly online concerts, a podcast and live-streamed entertainment.

The theatre is applying to Montgomery County to produce Paul Morella’s annual solo mounting of “A Christmas Carol” to be performed in December to a maximum of 25% audience capacity in the 428-seat Mainstage theatre.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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