With cases of the highly contagious omicron COVID variant surging throughout the DC metro area, including some breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated cast, Dominion Stage has decided to reschedule their production of the Stone Age musical comedy Firebringer later in 2022 as conditions allow. The show was originally slated to open on January 21, 2022.
“These [breakthrough cases] happened at a critical time in our rehearsal schedule…just weeks from opening night,” says Firebringer director Michael Page. “Some actors are recovering, and with the omicron variant being so easy to catch, the chance of others coming down with it is extremely high. Better to postpone the show than have it run without enough rehearsals or have to cancel performances.”
Firebringer was to be Dominion’s first musical production since Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson in early 2020, just weeks before the first COVID wave closed productions around the world. While live theater has begun to return, the new omicron variant is wreaking havoc on the casts of current productions. “In many professional companies, understudies can step in when an actor in a key role cannot perform,” says Dominion Stage president Matthew Randall. “But understudies are rare in community theater productions and Firebringer is no exception.” Adds director Page: “This is also a show where every actor plays a named character who carries a part of the story. There are no ensemble parts where someone could potentially step into a larger role.”
Dominion Stage has successfully mounted two productions so far in their 72nd season. For The Bluest Eye in August and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress in November, the company followed a strict COVID protocol, requiring proof of vaccination for actors as well as clear face shields worn during rehearsals and performances. Masks have been required for audiences, crew, and front-of-house staff. Both productions were well attended, with no COVID cases reported by anyone associated with them. Starting with Firebringer, proof of vaccination was to be required of audiences as well, which many theater companies — professional and community alike — have instituted as an extra layer of safety.
“It’s incredibly frustrating to have COVID continuing to be a factor just weeks from opening,” says Page. “Rehearsals have been great, the set pieces are almost finished, we were well on our way. At least with a postponement, everyone’s hard work will still have a chance to be seen.”
Dominion Stage is offering refunds for Firebringer tickets already purchased and will reopen sales for the new performance dates once they are determined. For further information and for updates on the Firebringer schedule, go to the Dominion Stage website.