Arts and Culture

Louisville Orchestra, Kentucky Opera and Louisville Ballet are among the city’s performing arts organizations that rolled out their new performance season schedules late spring and early summer, excitedly announcing a return to live, in-person shows. 

But, unlike in previous years, Actors Theatre of Louisville decided not to go that route. It’s been tight-lipped about new shows and only recently began to release details about the company’s plans for the upcoming performance season. 

Late last month, the professional theater company released information about an outdoor performance series called “Louisville Sessions Full Jam” and a new membership program, where members get access to a variety of Actors Theatre content and benefits based on their giving level. But a mainstage production lineup was not included in that announcement. 

In emailed responses, Emily Tarquin, artistic producer of Actors Theatre of Louisville, said the company quickly pivoted to virtual programming after the pandemic-related shutdown in mid-March 2020, and they “will be rolling out new work and production information throughout the year.” 

“We are currently offering a full library of digital work to all of our members [and] have six productions streaming on demand,” Tarquin said, also pointing to the Aug. 28 “Louisville Sessions Full Jam” performance as a return to in-person shows. “We are excited to share the full scope of our work, including our Learning and Creative Engagement efforts and community partnerships.”

Pandemic Plans

Actors Theatre of Louisville is an Actors Equity Association organization. The labor union represents live theater artists, and has guidelines to help mitigate the risk of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic, including guidance on ventilation and vaccination. In some cases, like Broadway shows preparing to reopen in New York City soon, the COVID-19 vaccine will be required for eligible crew and cast members who don’t have health-related exemptions. And across the country, the surge in delta variant infections is raising questions about whether live performances will have to be again cancelled

Tarquin said Actors Theater is “being responsive to a global pandemic and the varying local, state, and federal protocols.” The company is working toward bringing back more in-person events “as safely as possible,” and they continue to discuss this with the union, Tarquin said. 

“The navigation of our Collective Bargaining Agreements is fluid, collaborative, and iterative and, therefore, is simply in process and can’t be framed in an antagonistic binary from our experience,” they said. 

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An audition notice was posted on Broadway World in early July, seeking “Equity actors for roles in 2021-22 season.” The listing asked for three- to four-minute video submissions for productions such as “Dracula” and “A Christmas Carol.” 

An Actors Theatre representative did not have an immediate response to WFPL’s follow-ups regarding the audition notice. 

Unclear Future For Professional Training Program 

Actors Theatre also did not announce a roster for its 2021-2022 Professional Training Company (PTC). This company of young artists typically creates an entire season, with the members producing and acting in all or some of the shows. PTC consisted of nearly 20 apprentices for the 2020-2021 performance calendar, according to Actor Theatre’s website. 

Tarquin said, for this year, they’ll have an artistic leadership intern being mentored by executive artistic director Robert Barry Fleming, and supported through a partnership with Ohio University.

Tarquin said the company is working on an early-career support model that would be “sustainable, equitable, and in alignment with our mission and values as an anti-racist and anti-oppressive organization.” 

“Actors Theatre of Louisville remains committed to early-career professional development and is currently in the process of revising how the company supports young practitioners in all areas of our discipline,” Emily Tarquin said in an email responding to a question about PTC. “Recommendations and best practices for organizations and programs such as ours have been evolving for some time and 2020 provided increased clarity and understanding that there is a need for re-evaluation and actionable change.”  

Tarquin said “new funding partners” will be key to creating and “systematically implementing a model that is appropriately funded to hire and fairly compensate the next generation of emerging professionals within a working regional theater.”

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts Reporter.