Asolo Repertory Theatre cancels opening night of ‘Hair’ due to illnesses

Jonathan Fleites as Woof in the Asolo Repertory Theatre production of “Hair.”
Jonathan Fleites as Woof in the Asolo Repertory Theatre production of “Hair.”

After canceling two preview performances of its season-opening production of the classic musical “Hair” because a company member tested positive for COVID-19, Asolo Repertory Theatre on Saturday canceled Saturday’s opening night due to unrelated illnesses.

In an industry that follows the motto “the show must go on,” it is the first time in at least 30 years that the theater was forced to cancel an opening night performance.

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The theater canceled the Thursday preview after the positive test result. Asolo Rep has not indicated if the person is an actor, musician or part of the production staff. Safety protocols agreed to by Asolo Rep and other union theaters with Actors’ Equity Association require that all company members be retested in such situations.

Because the test results would not be known in time to notify patrons, the theater also canceled the Friday preview while expressing hope that opening night would go on as planned Saturday.

Before noon Saturday, however, Asolo Rep sent emails to ticketholders that said, “while the rest of the company tested negative, there are additional non-COVID related illnesses that prevent this performance from moving forward as planned.”

Late Saturday the theater also announced that it would cancel the Sunday matinee for the same reasons.

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The production was to mark the return of indoor performances for Asolo Rep, which shut down all its shows beginning in mid-March 2020 because of the pandemic. Late last year, the staff built an outdoor space it called the Terrace Stage on the front steps of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, where it presented a holiday program, concerts with actresses Laura Osnes and Ana Isabelle, a concert-style production of “Camelot” and “Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer.”

There have been other COVID-related cancellations at theaters across the country because of positive tests. The Broadway production of “Aladdin,” for example was forced to shut down for two weeks one day after reopening on Broadway in October after a breakthrough COVID case was detected. And the Broadway play “Chicken & Biscuits” had to cancel more than a week of performances after members of its company tested positive.

Theaters that hire Equity actors had to agree to specific safety protocols before productions could resume this year. The protocols require regular testing and other safety measures, and all company members, staff and volunteers must be vaccinated.

Asolo Rep also is among more than 30 local arts groups following the #SafeArtsSarasota protocols, requiring that all patrons show a negative COVID-19 test (or show proof of vaccination) and wear masks indoors.

For more information about “Hair”: 941-351-8000;

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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota’s Asolo Rep cancels opening night of ‘Hair’ due to illnesses