Old Globe announces plan to return to its outdoor stage as early as June

The Old Globe Theatre may reopen its outdoor stage for performances in June 2021.
The Old Globe Theatre may reopen its outdoor stage for performances in June 2021, if the pandemic continues to show signs of easing in California.
(Courtesy of the Old Globe)

Balboa Park theater’s announcement follows governor’s plan to reopen the state by mid-June


Two days after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a conditional plan to begin reopening the state to “business as usual” by June 15, the Old Globe theater in Balboa Park on Thursday, April 8 said it hopes to return to its outdoor stage with live entertainment as soon as early June.

With California vaccination levels high and COVID-19 hospitalizations declining, the state could be cleared of its tiered restrictions program by mid-June. In anticipation of that, Old Globe artistic director Barry Edelstein and managing director Timothy Shields sent an email to the theater’s 50,000-person database on Thursday morning, April 8, with some brief reopening plans for the summer.

Edelstein and Shields wrote that they were already working on a plan to reopen the Globe’s 620-seat outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in June under the rules unveiled last week for outdoor live performances. But the governor’s announcement Tuesday, April 6, led them to scrap that plan and start over.

“We find ourselves pivoting for the umpteenth time to a new approach,” they wrote on Thursday, April 8. “We have begun to ramp up toward in-person events in our outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre and hope to schedule events as early as the first week of June.”

The last performance the Globe hosted before an audience on its outdoor stage was the closing night of “Romeo and Juliet” on Sept. 15, 2019. It takes the Globe about six weeks every spring to prep the festival theater for its summer season, so that process will begin soon. But the first show on the festival stage this summer may not be a full-scale Shakespeare production.

In an interview with the Union-Tribune late last month, Edelstein said that depending on any seating restrictions or safety protocols required for performers onstage, it’s possible the first shows the Globe produces outdoors might feature a small cast of just a few actors.

One of the biggest obstacles that remained to producing outdoors, he said, was restrictions on seating capacity that could make it prohibitively expensive to produce a show for a fraction of the regular audience. But if the tiered system that now restricts seating capacity is eliminated by June, that will make a big difference in what the Globe can present.

Because the situation is changing weekly, Edelstein and Shields said in the email that the best strategy is to have lots of different reopening strategies so they’re prepared for any scenario.

“We’ve all grown used to uncertainty. But here’s something solid,” Edelstein and Shields wrote. “The recovery phase of the crisis is upon us, and that’s exhilarating. That we have reached this point is a cause for celebration.”

— Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune