Syracuse Stage engaging audiences despite going virtual for the 2020/2021 season

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Syracuse Stage’s season was cut short in March due to COVID-19, and the virus is still forcing the theater to adapt. With months to plan and Gov. Andrew Cuomo not allowing theaters to open, Syracuse Stage is going online for their 2020/2021 season, but they plan to connect with fans and provide a more engaging experience than ever before.

Lights, camera, action! It’s almost time for the Syracuse Stage’s 2020/2021 season, but this year no one will be in the seats, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“So we have repositioned and reconfigured our plays, to select plays that can be captured really well on video,” Syracuse Stage Artistic Director Bob Hupp said. “Fully realized productions that people can enjoy from the safety of their homes until the governor or other officials tell us it’s safe for people to gather back in theater again.”

If you decide to purchase a ticket to a show, you will get access to that play for about three weeks and will be able to watch it on demand at any time while it’s available. 

Hupp said, “We’re going to be adding some extras too that we couldn’t add in a normal season. We’ll do behind the scenes interviews with the cast and really give folks that behind the scenes look at how these plays come to life.”

Actors and actresses are going to have to adapt, not being able to feed off the audience’s energy, but Hupp believes the virtual experience will give fans a new, more engaging, look at a Syracuse Stage show.

“Our audiences can experience close-ups that they would never get in the theater itself, and yes, I think it’s a different challenge for the actors, actors are very versatile people, very adaptable folk, so I think everyone is up for the challenge,” Hupp said.

On top of the challenges of performing a show in front of empty seats, rehearsals are going to look different this year as well.

“It will begin with virtual rehearsals, online rehearsals, some of that work we can do online. Then we have to go through approvals of all the different labor unions that work with actors, that control the design and direction of our plays. Make sure we are following all of the appropriate protocols, so we can keep our artists safe,” Hupp said. “That’s job one. We gotta tell great stories, but we gotta do it safely.”

Syracuse Stage’s first play of the season is scheduled for November with a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama in “Talley’s Folly.”

However, before the season gets going, a mini-series called “Syracuse Stories” will continue in October.

“We’re partnering with 100 Black men to do conversations that are important to our community,” Hupp said. “We’re talking to the mayor, we’re talking to the chief of police, we’re going to do a reunion of one of the plays that really was a milestone in Syracuse Stage history, called “Tales of the Salt City.” So, we are really looking at these stories and the people of Central New York that we think we can lift up.”

It’s going to be a unique season for Syracuse Stage that will present its own challenges, but it has the potential to be one of the most engaging.

For a look at the full schedule for the upcoming Syracuse Stage season, visit their website at

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