In the wake of COVID-19, many theaters around the City of Brotherly Love and beyond have decided to move programming to the virtual front. That pivot was necessary with social distancing regulations, but also offered some time to get prepared and excited for seasons to come when in-person shows are allowed once more.
Like most organizations, Quintessence Theatre Group’s plans are still up in the air, but for now, Philly’s own classic repertory theatre is planning to open in November 2020 with their seven-year tradition of family holiday classics, “The Little Princess,” a beloved Frances Hodgson Burnett coming of age drama. The theater will then resume their season with a slew of comedies and dramas that will keep audiences entertained from the time the curtain rises to curtain call.
“There are many ideas circulating about how the theatre must evolve in the aftermath of COVID-19,” said Artistic Director Alexander Burns in a release. “Quintessence is sticking to its belief that the theatre is a necessary civic space, essential for our community to gather and ask the impossible questions of what it is to be human. We have curated a season of “must-see” classics, which will resonate louder than ever as we work to process, heal and move forward as a better, stronger society. We believe that if we all work together, we can gather as artists and audiences in a safe and responsible way.”
Opening Nov. 25 for pre-shows is ‘The Little Princess,’ and the classic story will unfold on stage at Quintessence until Jan. 3, 2021 (official opening night is Dec. 4). The story follows Sara Crewe, who leaves to attend a boarding school and lives in lavish style while there—until her father is killed overseas and her family’s fortune is gone. Once the school finds out, Sara’s possessions are immediately taken away and the attic becomes her new home as she becomes Miss Minchin’s servant. Through this time, Sara learns just what is actually important in life and also figures out how to survive with her imagination, inner-strength and friends.
Next up is an American classic. ‘The Skin of our Teeth’ by Thorton Wilder will play at the theatre from Feb. 3-28 (opening night is Feb. 12). The story follows George and Maggie Antrobus who seem to be living a picture-perfect life in suburban Excelsior, New Jersey, with two beautiful children. With 5,000 years of marriage under their belts, the family hasn’t let anything—including the Ice Age, the plague, a dozen wars, and depressions—get in their way. ‘The Skin of our Teeth’ won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1943 and is said in the release to be a “boundary-breaking allegorical comedy” and “a tribute to the disarming optimism, resilience and indestructibility of the American spirit, while also confronting the paradoxical ideals on which our country was founded.”
The next show will be Euripides’ “Bakkhai,” known as one of the greatest tragedies ever written. The show will play on stage from March 30- May 9, 2021 (opening night is April 9.) According to the release, the show follows the women of Thebes who are stirred into a religious frenzy and disappear into the mountains to perform bacchanalian rituals to the god Dionysus. Pentheus, the King of Thebes, bans worship of the new god, denying Dionysus’ divinity and paternity as the son of Zeus. But when a mysterious stranger arrives in Thebes, Pentheus confesses a desire to witness his people’s new religious ecstasy and is drawn into Dionysus’ web of revenge, one that threatens to plunge all of Thebes into hot madness and destruction.
Lastly, to close out the season will be ‘The Chairs’ by Eugene Ionesco, adapted by Martin Crimp. The show will run from March 31- May 9, 2021 (opening night is April 10). The emotional show follows an older couple who are nearing the end of their lives and decide to invite an audience of important individuals to gather for an announcement. The result provides a journey of reflection, a look back on their marriage and a reason to ponder the meaning of life.
Philadelphians interested in purchasing Season XI subscriptions for Quintessence Theatre Group have a few different options. The general purchases include fee-free exchanges and free admission to Quintessence’s signature Elemental Recitations play-reading series. The release states that social distancing requirements may require the theatre to decrease their audience capacity by over 50%, so purchasing a subscription is the only way theatre-goers can guarantee they will be able to attend the performance they want. The 10-Trip Ticket for Season XI is another option. The 10-Trip Ticket provides theatre-goers with 10 tickets that can be redeemed in any combination for any production. 10-Trip Tickets cannot be redeemed for sold out performances and expire at the end of the season.
“Our commitment, our tenacity and our audacity has gotten us through our first ten years,” says Burns in the release. “We will work tirelessly in order to reopen the Sedgwick as a safe space for our community to gather and find inspiration in the classics. By joining us now, you are taking a leap of faith with us. We guarantee that we will honor our commitments to you and our supporters.”
To learn more about Quintessence Theatre Group, visit quintessencetheatre.org