The Irish Rep closes out 2020 with a glorious online production of  'Meet Me in St. Louis.'

Since the time of the Greeks, theaters have always shut during a plague. That's why The Irish Rep's remarkable decision to keep on working throughout the pandemic, delivering an entire season online, is so impressive and historic.

“We started on day one,” says the Rep's artistic director Charlotte Moore. “Our staff began to plan the season which kind of startled both the producing director Ciaran O'Reilly and I. We're going to do what? When now? And yet since we began we have not had one minutes break. We kept at it and I'm very proud of us.” 

Exterior of The Irish Repertory Theatre in New York

Exterior of The Irish Repertory Theatre in New York

They really should be. Broadway and off-Broadway have been dark since March and most theaters have no plans to reopen until at least June 2021. Nationally even, the Rep has quietly led the way with production after production which they quickly found innovative new ways to stage and deliver to the public. 

“We've done lots of virtual productions and full productions that are costumed and directed and recorded and we've just plowed ahead and done them,” Moore adds.

Meet Me in St. Louis is their main stage holiday offering, a fully staged full-throated musical broadcast online with costumes, sets, orchestra, and the whole nine yards. Directed by Moore, the show's 13 actors were all filmed separately at home, and then their footage was edited together to create the final full production.

Interior of New York's celebrated Irish Repertory Theatre.

Interior of New York's celebrated Irish Repertory Theatre.

“This is my third time to do a Meet Me in St. Louis at Christmas,” Moore explains. “I did our in house production, the Irish Rep production, in 2006. And I did the Broadway production, the only one that's ever been done, in 1989. This time we have Melissa Errico in the cast, who's just fantastic in the role.”

Plagues that close theaters belong to Shakespeare's time, not to 2020, or at least so we all thought. Moore agrees: “I mean, this is like something out of Elizabethan times you know, when they closed The Globe for God's sake. You don't expect that in 2020 in the United States. It's a huge tragedy for the country and the world. It will go down in history.”

Has it been a reminder of how important storytelling is? People will certainly remember that The Rep was there for us throughout the crisis, I say, still lighting a candle against the dark through the worst of times. 

“There's not so much talk of culture and art right now because everybody's kind of on the edge of disbelief, but you're absolutely right. That's what's going to get us through, beauty and art and belief will all return and we will get us through this thing.”

Meanwhile, Moore's hope for the Rep is her hope for the country: “It's my hope for the country and the world that we overcome the pandemic and get everybody vaccinated to try to get back to the splendiferous normality that we in the theater and beyond all took for granted.”

To watch Meet Me in St. Louis online, visit irishrep.org.

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