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American Shakespeare Theater Takes a Break

By observing public health guidelines, the Blackfriars Theater was able to stage All’s Well that Ends Well, and management hopes that will be its motto when it resumes live performances. Over the months, cast and crew members had left– some unhappy with the company’s creative director. Fifty-two people sent a 15-page letter to the theater’s board, asking that he be fired. They claimed Ethan McSweeny was abusive, insensitive, manipulative and racist. He denied doing anything wrong but resigned, and now Director of Advancement Kelly Burdick Carter says the American Shakespeare Center is rebuilding.

American Shakespeare Center
American Shakespeare Center
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The curtain has come down at the Blackfriars Theater as the American Shakespeare Center rebuilds.

“We are operating with about half the staff as we were before the pandemic, and so we have a lot of people doing jobs that are new to them or doing much more than had been expected of them before, so we’re going to take some time for training and for hiring, but as everyone knows hiring right now is very difficult,” she explains.

When the company returns on December 10th with A Christmas Carol, she adds, the Shakespeare Center will have a different orqanizational chart – one that gives performers more creative control.

“Actor management isn’t a new concept," Burdick Carter says. "Certainly it’s how Shakespeare’s original troupe operated. There weren’t marketers and managers and things like that then. The acting company essentially put on the productions themselves.”

The center continues to present recorded productions and to host programs for students online, and thanks to federal aid for theaters, Burdick Carter says it’s still operating in the black.

Sandy Hausman joined our news team in 2008 after honing her radio skills in Chicago. Since then, she's won several national awards for her reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Radio, Television and Digital News Association and the Public Radio News Directors' Association.