This week, the Times received a press release from the Merced ShakespeareFest with the following news:
“With much sadness and disappointment, the local Shakespeare festival, Merced ShakespeareFest, has canceled this year’s production in Applegate Park.”
When artistic director, Heike Hambley, and the Board of Directors planned the festival last spring, things looked so hopeful, especially for an outdoor show. While the work on the bilingual web episodes of “Don Quixote” was going on, several pods of actors, singers, dancers and musicians, rehearsed for the opening on Sept. 11. But as time progressed, the low vaccination rate in Merced County, climbing COVID case numbers, the Delta Variant, fire season with bad air, the difficulty to control audiences in regards to wearing masks in a public park, etc., seem to make a joyful, successful event less likely.
“The health and safety of the community, performers and audiences alike, must be foremost on our minds,” the release stated.
Merced Shakes is working on a possible filming of these performance pieces. On a general note, the ShakespeareFest Board will look at different dates for the FREE outdoor show. About 10 years ago, the shows were moved from August to September because of the heat; they might need to be rescheduled because of the expanding fire season.
Merced ShakespeareFest’s next event will be a public viewing of the “Don Quixote,” the movie, at the MAC on Nov. 5.