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COVID-19 and Our Production Season

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Message from Henry Bial, Chair of the Department of Theatre & Dance

Dear Community,

As you know, the University has mandated that we immediately discontinue all face-to-face instructional activity and public events involving 50 people or more. Per the Office of the Provost, “We anticipate needing to stay online for several weeks,” though University leaders “will reassess the need to continue remote-only instruction every week, starting March 28."

I met this morning (via teleconference) with Director of Theatre Kathy Pryor, Assistant Director of Theatre Jim Dick, Dance Studies Coordinator James Moreno, Chair of the Theatre and Dance Production Committee (TDPC) Markus Potter, and Costume Shop Manager Jamie Urban to discuss how this situation will effect our upcoming University Theatre and University Dance Company productions. We considered several possibilities, from pressing on with extremely limited audiences, to “rolling postponement” as the situation evolves, to performing for cameras in otherwise empty spaces. Ultimately, however, we felt that the safest course of action — and the one most consistent with our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion — is the following:

Effective immediately, rehearsals for IndecentUrinetown, and UDC Spring Dance are suspended until further notice. If you are involved in one of these productions and you are away from campus, you are NOT required to return for rehearsals at this time.

The University Dance Company Spring Concert will be cancelled. All students who were cast in UDC this semester will be guaranteed casting in the UDC Fall Dance Concert, which will open on or about November 19 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre. Students who are enrolled in UDC for credit will receive that credit this semester based on the rehearsal time already put in. 

Indecent will become the first University Theatre show of the Fall term, opening in the Inge Theatre on or about October 2. All students in the current cast will be given the option of keeping their roles, even if they have graduated by then.

Urinetown will become the second University Theatre show of the Fall term, opening in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre on or about October 23. All students in the current cast will be given the option of keeping their roles, even if they have graduated by then.

Please know that this was an exceedingly difficult decision. “The show must go on” is a core value for theatre and dance, and one that none of us take lightly. In the final analysis, however, we cannot in good conscience ask our students to take additional health risks to themselves, their loved ones, or members of our broader community for the sake of our production season. 

With regard to the Spring Student Dance/Jayhawk Performance Lab, Dance Senior Showcase, THR 560 projects, and other departmental performance projects that are not officially part of the UDC/UT season: these rehearsals are also suspended until further notice. Faculty will be reaching out to the leaders of those projects to determine whether alternative forms of presentation can be adopted safely under these rapidly-evolving conditions.

All students who are depending on face-to-face productions of any kind to earn academic credit this semester (including Practicum credit) will be offered alternative ways to earn that credit.

With regard to Kansas Repertory Theatre’s summer season, no final determination has been made at this time.

This is a challenging and confusing time for all of us. We hope that we can return to normal operations in a few weeks time, but how long this disruption will continue is quite literally impossible to predict right now. Know that your faculty and staff are still on the job, and we are doing everything we can to minimize the impact of this situation on your KU education. We encourage you to keep in touch with us, to keep yourself as safe and healthy as possible, and to do what you can to help the most vulnerable members of your community. 


Henry Bial
Department Chair

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