Our Fallow Year
Fallow /ˈfalō/ noun: land for crops allowed to lie idle during a growing season in order to enrich the soil
What a year it has been! I hope you and yours are safe and that the consequences of this pandemic have been manageable. It’s been a difficult time for everyone, including those of us in the theatre world, where almost every stage has been dark these past seven months.
Given that we haven’t been able to welcome you at a performance in so long, Ian and I wanted to let you know what’s going on with Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. So many of you have reached out with encouraging messages of support, and we appreciate them all. We miss performing; we miss welcoming folks into our beautiful theatre; we miss you.
Our education program is doing everything it can to provide Shakespeare education virtually—supporting both youth and adults with energetic and thoughtful classes online and providing teachers with supplemental digital Shakespeare activities.
Thanks to a PPP loan and many generous donors who continued to fund us despite our dormancy, we were able to end our fiscal year without carrying much additional debt. Nonetheless, the board took a very hard, very pragmatic look at the world, and recognized that we were unlikely to have audiences—or to earn much income—before spring or summer 2021.
Consequently, in July, we were forced to make the difficult call to lay off half of our full-time staff; and our remaining team members are now only being paid at half-salary.
Sadly, as you might expect, other members of our CSC family are also suffering profoundly. From our talented company members (actors, designers, directors, and other artists) to our incredible part-time theatre staff, including house managers and bartenders, many are struggling without the guarantee of employment from a full season of performances.
It goes without saying that even though our decisions were all fiscally sound, they were also devastatingly painful to make. Thanks to crucial commitments from our board, the Maryland State Arts Council, and our generous donors, we believe that we can survive for at least the next twelve months—until we expect we will again be able to mount live performances—under this scenario.
OUR FALLOW YEAR
Our remaining staff are poised to leap into action as soon as you—and the world—feel ready to return to the theatre. This dedicated group, who have always been multitalented, are doing even more. Technical Director Dan O’Brien has proved to be a fabulous grant writer. Information Systems Manager Michael Lonegro is rapidly learning double entry accounting, supported by bookkeeping from Costumer Kristina Lambdin. Ian has even developed a podcast—sound engineering and all! Everyone is pitching in.
So, what do you do when you can’t do what you used to do? You plan for a “Fallow Season.” Like a field resting for a time, regenerating the soil, Chesapeake Shakespeare can enrich our organizational foundation by letting our theatre stay dark and by thoughtfully investing in all the things we have often put off because we were too busy performing, educating, and “outreaching.” Over the course of a few weeks, our intrepid staff came together to reflect and discuss our goals, and from this, created a list of all the things we would like to achieve in this Fallow Year. These include:
- A spiffy new website, easier to navigate, cleaner in format, with lots of new content. You can check it out now!
- Replacing our two-decades-old HVAC system while in the process installing sophisticated anti-virus technology
- Creating and updating a broad variety of handbooks and manuals to document how we do things and ensure both accountability and transparency in our processes
- Mounting our extensive Ira Aldridge exhibit (showcasing the career of the Black, 19th-century Shakespearean superstar actor featured in our 2018 production of Red Velvet) on the second mezzanine (there’s a picture!). It’s been in boxes since 2018.
- Finding new partners in the business, philanthropic, educational, and nonprofit communities and city neighborhoods so that we can broaden and diversify our audiences and deepen our support while finding new ways of serving our neighbors and local institutions.
- Thoughtfully examining issues of Equity, Access, and Inclusion at CSC and crafting an EAI action plan to chart out ways in which to make our organization and our work anti-racist, and to democratize Shakespeare—because we believe that Shakespeare is for everyone!
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?
We hope you’ll invest in our long-term survival by donating to our annual appeal this fall. If you’re a do it now kind of person, we’d love it if you just go ahead right now and make a donation by clicking here.
In addition, if you are able, it would be notably helpful if you could donate the cost of your spring or summer tickets back to us to help sustain us this difficult year (we’re also happy to keep your money on account for when we return.) Just click here to send us an email with your instructions.
We hope that, if you aren’t Zoomxhausted, you’ll join us for the informal play readings we are occasionally offering; check out Ian’s interviews with Shakespeareans from across the globe on his Planet Shakespeare podcast series; and consider joining one of our online classes for students or adults.
We can’t wait to come back to our theatre, and we can’t wait to see you again. Our company is working hard to fulfill the opportunity of this quiet season to strengthen the organization for the future and plan for an abundant and joyful return to the stage. I know you’ll be there. Thank you for sticking with us!
Lesley Malin, Managing Director