I chuckled with shock at the matter-of-fact severity of the analogy. The paralyzing global spread of COVID-19 has been compared to zombie movies, the Great Depression, World War II, and the so called “Spanish” flu of 1918 (which in fact originated in Kansas). (See p. 38.) But the Olympus-high stakes of Sophocles or Euripides? Sure. It sounded grimly apt for a pandemic whose body count climbs toward an uncharted peak as I write, and whose effects on our social and economic, not to mention our artistic and spiritual lives, will be felt for at least a generation.

Yew, outgoing artistic director of Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater, is among a group of artistic directors, producers, and playwrights I spoke to in the weeks just after the metastasizing coronavirus outbreak forced theatres from Broadway on down to join most public businesses in the U.S. in closing their doors until further notice. It was alternately harrowing and heartening to talk with the makers and movers of an art form at the very moment that art form faces an existential crisis the likes of which could barely have been imagined even a month before, and is still hard for many of us to get our heads around. Shanta Thake, senior director of artistic programs at the Public Theater in New York City, put the dilemma succinctly: “If we’re not gathering, who are we?” Choreographer Bill T. Jones, who leads both an eponymous dance company and New York Live Arts, put it more personally: “Sweat and breath in real time—is that a dimension I have to give up as an artist? That shakes me to my core.” And Robert Falls, artistic director of Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, compared the crisis to “an arrow that has been shot in the heart of artists who are all about gathering and sharing in a room.”

Indeed. It was Barry Edelstein who, later on the same day I spoke to Yew, stopped me in my tracks again. The artistic director of San Diego’s Old Globe, Edelstein was describing a season that

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