GRIFFITH PARK—On Friday, May 1, the Independent Shakespeare Co. (ISC), creators of the annual Griffith Park Free Shakespeare Festival, announced that the 2020 edition of the event would be cancelled.

In a statement to Canyon News, ISC’s Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma noted that “we’d been in discussion with the Department of Recreation and Parks, and in the end, they decided it was best to have no large events in City parks over the summer, which obviously included the Festival.” She added that “we really appreciate their partnership and guidance on this issue.”

A key problem posed was that the Festival attracts large crowds, and ISC doesn’t “have the capacity to limit the number of people that attend.” This was an issue because “it’s clear that large group gatherings are going to present risks to public health for some time.”

However, the 2020 Festival has not been completely abandoned, as it will be going digital instead. Chalsma was “really excited to say that we will be creating a virtual Festival at the end of this summer, where we will live stream performances of an all-new production of The Comedy of Errors,” which is a Shakespearean play. There will also be digital versions of all the usual Festival events, including lectures, workshops, themed activities, and so on.

According to Chalsma, ISC initially assumed that they would still be able to host the festival when they cancelled their indoor Macbeth production on March 10. However, “as weeks passed and it became clear that there were no quick solutions, we began considering the ramifications of cancelling the Festival, financially, of course, but also on our artists and our audiences.” The ISC team had “spent quite a bit of time” debating the merits of a cancellation.

Chalsma ended the interview by saying that “we are staying very busy planning all these things and more. If you have attended ISC performances, I think it’s pretty clear we really love our audience, and love making theatre in Los Angeles.”

“We miss creating live theatre and sharing it with our audience; but we’re so grateful we are finding other ways to do our work, and hope that our audience will find an online ISC experience really fun and rewarding!”