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Park Playhouse To Return To Washington Park

After a year-long shutdown forced by the coronavirus pandemic, Playhouse Stage Company will return to Albany’s Washington Park this summer. 

Park Playhouse has been an Albany staple since 1989, and after postponing its 32nd season last year, Producing Artistic Director Owen Smith says he’s thrilled to get back in the swing of things. This summer’s lineup includes the Tony Award-winning classic "Ain’t Misbehavin’" from July 6-24, and "Matilda" from August 5-21.

Owen Smith
Credit Jesse King / WAMC
Producing Artistic Director Owen Smith speaks at a press conference for Park Playhouse on Tuesday.

“'Ain’t Misbehavin',' which explores and celebrates the music and the era of the legendary Thomas ‘Fats’ Waller, will be performed by a dynamite cast of five, including actors from our productions of 'Ragtime,' 'Lady Day,' 'Sweeney Todd,' and more," says Smith. "It’ll be directed by Jean-Remy Monnay, the artistic director of the Black Threatre Troupe of Upstate New York, making his Playhouse debut. 'Matilda,' based on the classic, hilarious book by Roald Dahl, will be brought to life in August by our wonderful cast of Playhouse stage students.”

If the announcement of 'Matilda' sounds familiar to you, that’s because the production was initially slated to run last year. In some ways, Smith says this season will retain a sense of normalcy — patrons will still be able to choose between paid seating up front, or free seating along the amphitheater’s hillside.

But as with all reopenings during the coronavirus pandemic, the overall audience will be limited. New York state guidelines currently allow up to 200 people at outdoor venues without proof of COVID-19 testing or vaccination. Smith says that number may change as the state’s vaccination rate increases, but for now, the amphitheater is masking up and sizing down.  

“We will have 100 paid seats on the ground and our free seats in the amphitheater," Smith explains. "Everyone will have to have a reservation in advance and a digital ticket to be able to visit Park Playhouse. They will not be able to drop blankets on the hillside willy-nilly, you’re gonna have to have a reservation so that we can ensure our social distancing map is adhered to, and that our attendance cap is adhered to.”

Tickets for both shows go on sale May 1, with paid seating offered at tables of up to four people. Reservations for free seating start June 15. Smith says the company will provide additional details on how those reservations will work in the coming weeks.  

"I think that it's important for us to point out that, literally, lives were saved by the decisions that were made by organizations, as heartbreaking and as difficult as they were."

If, by chance, you can’t get in to Park Playhouse this summer, you may have a number of other options, as venues and events slowly start to awaken across the WAMC listening area. Earlier this month, Playhouse Stage Company announced it will host in-person crowds for its production of 'I love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change' at Cohoes Music Hall starting April 30. The Boston Symphony Orchestra launches a shortened, six-week season at Tanglewood starting July 9. And Cooperstown’s Glimmerglass Festival is building an outdoor stage for its summer opera season starting July 15.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan was one of several local officials on hand to celebrate the return of the Playhouse Tuesday. While she’s happy to see venues reopening after “a year interrupted,” the Democrat urges residents not to forget how we got here.

“As I look back on what we have experienced over the last year, I think that it’s important for us to point out that, literally, lives were saved by the decisions that were made by organizations, as heartbreaking and as difficult as they were," says Sheehan. "And I’m really excited that Park Playhouse is going to be back. I’m hopeful that, as we continue to get people vaccinated, as people continue to use social distancing and personal responsibilty — really a lot of awareness around keeping themselves and their families healthy — that we may even be able to see an expansion of the number of people who can enjoy Park Playhouse.”

For more information, check out the Playhouse Stage Company's website

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