Dell’Arte’s Mad River Festival canceled

2020 Mad River Festival Cancelled

Dell’Arte Producing Artistic Director Michael Fields Pens Letter to Community

BLUE LAKE, CA – The 2020 Mad River Festival, Dell’Arte’s annual summertime backyard extravaganza, featuring five weeks of theatre, music, cabaret, dance, mashups and description-defying experiments “from around the world and down the block,” is being cancelled due to the impact of Covid-19.

A message from Dell’Arte Producing Artistic Director Michael Fields

“For the past 30 years we have gathered in the summer on the lawn of Dell’Arte’s amphitheatre to come together as a community to laugh, listen, sing, celebrate, and see things from around the world and down the block that we've never seen before anywhere. It is an experience that we hope engenders solidarity, empathy, understanding, and provides new windows and apertures for us to see into who we are as a community.

The cast of Turning Gray Skies Blue: The Music of Timmy Gray during the grand finale at the 2019 Mad River Festival. KLH | Union

But this year will be different. It is with great sadness that we need to cancel the Mad River Festival 2020. Initially, we thought it would be possible to move the festival to September, but given the County and State health directives, it is clear that will not be possible, certainly not in a manner where groups of people can gather en masse, in a way that the word ‘festival’ embodies.

So this year will be different. This year we must make sure to keep our community and each other safe.

It has been said that live theatre has been dying for 2,500 years. Not true. If anything, our desire to come together to experience the powerful stories of our times has increased, not diminished. Once again, we will survive and thrive. While many good things can happen online and technology continues to evolve what is possible in new and interesting ways, theatre, by its very nature, is LIVE.

So while our stages will be empty this summer, we make a promise to you. 2021 will be filled with glorious work, amazing artists, and unique experiences. 2021 will be, in the current political vernacular… Yuge!!! Most of the programming intended for this summer will be back in 2021 and we are exploring the expansion of the festival next summer to include new works and opportunities. And we continue to work tirelessly for you, our community and for our students.

Please continue to follow us on line at as we will be posting online performance opportunities throughout the summer. (You can also sign up to receive our monthly online newsletter via our website). Take care of yourselves and each other. And thank you for being a part of Dell’Arte.

All the best,


It should also be noted that the following productions slated for the 2020 Mad River Festival, “Things You Know But Cannot Explain,” The Bartow Project in collaboration with the Wiyot Tribe, “Bird of the Inner Eye,” a new opera by Joan Schirle based on the life and work of Morris Graves, and the Humboldt Folklife Festival, have been rescheduled for summer 2021.

The Mad River Festival was hatched as the brainchild of Dell’Arte’s co-founder Jane Hill, who in 1989 staged Barry Manilow’s “The Drunkard” on the then-new outdoor stage. In 1991 Jane Hill figured, “If one melodrama was popular, maybe more would be merrier,” and proposed a festival of original melodramas based on regional history. The festival has since brought original performances to its stages such as “Korbel,” a Humboldt soap opera, “Mary Jane: The Musical,” and “Blue Lake: The Opera,” along with many others that embody the “theatre of place” approach unique to Dell’Arte.

The Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre offers the only accredited MFA in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre in the world. Its training programs attract students from across the globe, with more than 1,000 graduates from 41 countries since the formation of the school in 1975. It is one of three institutions of higher education in Humboldt County, along with Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods.



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