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COVID-19 puts the brakes on San Antonio theatre once again

The Public Theater of San Antonio has also announced changes to its schedule due to the latest surge.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio's theater community is being struck by COVID-19 once again. 

As the highly contagious omicron variant prolongs the pandemic and sends local numbers skyrocketing to start 2022, local companies are pausing operations, including the hotly anticipated return of "Hamilton" on the Majestic stage. 

After announcing via social media Friday evening that last weekend's shows have been postponed, citing "breakthrough positive COVID cases within the company," Majestic officials said this week's shows were postponed as well. On Tuesday, they were rescheduled for the summer of 2023, with the Majestic telling ticket-holders that their passes would be honored once that times comes.  

Meanwhile, Majestic officials told KENS 5 anyone preferring to get a refund has 30 days to do so, and should contact the seller directly. For most, that will be Ticketmaster. 

'It all happened fast and suddenly'

The latest COVID-19 wave, which resulted in more than 25,000 new cases tallied by local health authorities through the first week of the new year, is also affecting plans for the Public Theater of San Antonio, which was set to premiere "35MM: A Musical Exhibition" on Friday. 

That opening has now been postponed, according to the theater. Staff members say they explored all possible scenarios before suspending. 

"Really it all happened fast and suddenly, and there were compounding factors that led us to make the call," said Claudia de Vasco, executive artistic director for The Public, adding that theater cast and staff have been tested on a weekly basis. 

It was when a positive rapid-test result was confirmed as a COVID-19 diagnosis on Sunday that rehearsal for "35MM" ended early. It wasn't long before several other staff members said they had learned of possible exposure to the virus in recent days. 

"To add to that, our testing clinic, who generously provides us with free testing, was unable to send staff to the theater for testing due to being understaffed and inundated at their clinic with citywide testing needs," de Vasco added, making it impossible for The Public to comply with Actors' Equity Association requirements. 

For now, she said, the group has suspended rehearsals "until case numbers start declining." De Vasco and her team hope to provide an update on the status of "35MM" by the end of January. 

The Magik Theatre, San Antonio's downtown children's group, has also announced changes. The production of "The Snowy Day and Other Stories" has been pushed back to Feb. 12 from Jan. 22, while the premiere of the original show "Selena Maria Sings," originally scheduled for March, will now take place sometime this fall. 

A spokesperson said Magik Theatre's box office staff will be contacting ticket-holders for more information on their options. 

"We've just got to take it day by day'

As for Woodlawn, the nonprofit group's main stage season isn't scheduled to kick off until March 4, with "Hairspray." 

But staff there are still shooting to premiere a youth production of "School of Rock" on Jan. 27 while continuing to safeguard cast members, some of whom are as young as 7. Masks have been a must for kids during most Woodlawn operations since returning to in-person activities, according to Executive/Artistic Director Chris Rodriguez, including its most recent shows. 

"We were hoping for 'School of Rock' to have the opportunity for kids to not wear masks," he said. "But right now we're actually in talks with some people on our educational committee to maybe revisit that with the numbers increasing. Certainly not what the kids would ideally like, but with the spike right now it might be the safer bet." 

One thing Rodriguez said Woodlawn will be re-implementing is requiring masks of all visitors who check out "School of Rock" later this month. In the meantime, they'll be keeping an eye on the local COVID situation to determine if another postponement is necessary. 

Meanwhile, rehearsals for "Hairspray" begin this weekend, and while Woodlawn's community-theatre status means it doesn't have to strictly follow AEA requirements like the Public, Rodriguez said they're strongly encouraging vaccination and requiring masks of cast members to start off. 

"We've just got to take it day by day, as best we can." 

Community members can follow the Magik, Woodlawn and Public theatre groups on social media for the latest updates.