Beckwith cancels season, will return in 2021

DOWAGIAC — Despite the old adage, “the show must go on,” the curtain will remain closed at Dowagiac’s Beckwith Theatre for the remainder of the year.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing restrictions on indoor gatherings, the Beckwith Theatre Company board has decided to cancel the 2020 show season, which would have begun in April and run through the fall. Instead, the theater will move all shows planned for 2020 to the 2021 season. Those shows include “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” a summer youth show, “Outgoing Tide,” “Deathtrap,” “Make it Home,” and “Jeeves at Sea.”

“As you can imagine, this was a very difficult decision,” said Jack Gannon, president of the board. “It was a decision that was made with a great deal of sadness, but we do feel it is very much the right decision.”

Gannon said the decision was made due to safety and health concerns in the wake of COVID-19 and the inability to properly social distance in a theater that holds little more than 100 seats at capacity. Gannon also cited the uncertainty of when the theater would be allowed to reopen under continuing executive orders that require theaters to remain closed.

“We thought about waiting until the fall to see how things would go, but there was inevitable uncertainty in how we would be able to put on productions,” he said. “Ultimately, it came down to a risk-reward question. The risks were potentially enormous, and the rewards were modest. We just felt the best thing we could do for ourselves, our audiences and our season is to couch it in next year’s season.”

Though in-person productions will not take place for the foreseeable future, Gannon said the board is looking at other ways to bring theater to the people of southwest Michigan. He said the board is considering opting for a play similar to a table read, which could be hosted via virtual, online or radio platforms. Ultimately, Gannon would like to see such a production hosted during the holiday season but said nothing has yet been planned.

“That’s very blue sky,” he said. “We would love to be able to do it, but we are not clear yet.”

Though he said he understands longtime fans of the Beckwith may be disappointed to see the 2020 season canceled, Gannon hopes they will still be excited to join the theater in 2021 when it reopens. He said the lineup already set for the next season combines comedy and drama and will have something for everyone.

“I think our message to [the community] is we love what we do, and we love our audience, and we are profoundly grateful that they allow us to do what we love,” Gannon said. “Everything we have done is with them in mind. We sincerely hope we can all get together and celebrate next year.”

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