COVID spike cancels Theatre Lab’s New Play Festival, delays RomaDrama event in WPB

The recent spike of coronavirus cases in the Sunshine State has taken a toll on the planned January openings of two major Palm Beach County performing arts festivals, according to social media postings from the sponsoring organizations.

RomaDrama Live! West Palm Beach, originally slated to run Jan. 7-9 and which had already instituted several COVID protection measures, has been delayed five months, says a posting from the co-founders, Gabrielle Graf Palmer and Sara Linzy Lunsford. 

RomaDrama co-founders, Gabrielle Graf Palmer, rear, and Sara Linzy Lunsford, have announced the event scheduled to begin this month in West Palm Beach has been postponed to June due to the spike in coronavirus cases. (Photo courtesy of RomaDrama).

“After many conversations with our medical director and based on the current spread of both the Omicron and Delta variants, we’ve made the responsible decision to postpone our January event to June 24-26,” they said online.

Also, Theatre Lab, the professional resident acting company at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, has apparently called off its New Play Festival, also scheduled for Jan.7-9. 

Shown is an online advertisement for the New Play Festival at the Theatre Lab at Florida Atlantic University. The event appears to have been canceled due to the recent rise in coronavirus incidents. (Photo courtesy of Theatre Lab).

“We will begin to examine the calendar for another possible date to host the festival later this spring,” said Matt Stabile, producing artistic director at Theatre Lab. 

In a message posted Dec. 29, he said the annual gathering of playwrights would have to be called off because COVID cases are increasing dramatically. He noted that conducting the festival is normally a logistical challenge because nearly 100 actors and technicians come to FAU for the week.

This year’s event would have featured new works by E.M. Lewis, Steve McMahon, Adrienne Dawes, Johnny G. Lloyd and Enrique Urueta.

“Unfortunately, I believe the circumstances surrounding the festival have drastically changed in the past couple of weeks,” Stabile said online. “A highly contagious variant causing massive spikes in caseloads and more frequent ‘breakthrough’ infections makes this year’s festival a risky proposition — one that could not only jeopardize the festival, but the remainder of our MainStage Season — particularly because we begin rehearsals for our next show, a world premiere — three days after the festival ends.”

“I was very much looking forward to sharing this year’s slate of plays with you and I promise that we will do just that in the very near future,” he said. “Now is just not the right time to take on this project.”

“This was not an easy decision to make,” he added, “but it is one that I feel best protects the people that work with and for us and the company itself.”

He said patrons who have already purchased tickets will receive refunds.

In the meantime, after a successful launch last July in Memphis, RomaDrama Live was slated to hit West Palm Beach this month, featuring actors best known for their roles in romantic dramas and seasonal programming, among them, Trevor Donovan (90210, USS Christmas, Marry Me at Christmas), Ryan Paevey (General Hospital, Marrying Mr. Darcy, Timeless Christmas), Andrew Walker (Christmas On My Mind, Bottled with Love, My Secret Valentine), Jen Lilley (USS Christmas, Days of Our Lives, GAC Family’s upcoming Royally Wrapped For Christmas) and Gregory Harrison (Trapper John, M.D., Signed, Sealed, Delivered).

The event was also scheduled to bring award-winning authors and screenwriters to participate in panels, discussions, meet and greets and other activities.

Palmer and Lunsford did emphasize that “we will offer virtual and IG live events during the weekend of Jan. 7-9. We will also move forward with the Walk-on Role giveaway,” which awards a couple of winning ticket holders an opportunity to do a walk-on in an upcoming film.

“On the bright side,” the founders said, “we will be announcing exciting new talent, additional special events and we will have extra time to add fun, new elements to our show.”

To get in touch with planners, visit romadrama.com/contact-us/.

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