Oberon, the second stage of the American Repertory Theater, will not renew its lease at the end of the year, ending 12 years of operation of the popular venue on the outskirts of Harvard Square.
The club has not held any in-person events since the start of the pandemic. The financial cost of the extended shutdown, and lingering uncertainty over the safety of in-person performances, “made it difficult to think of holding another year,” said ART producer Mark Lunsford.
The venue, located in a Harvard-owned building at 2 Arrow Street in Cambridge, functioned as a second stop for Harvard-affiliated ART for nearly two decades, but was renamed Oberon when Diane Paulus began her tenure as as artistic director of ART. in 2009. The club was designed to stage a revival of Paulus’ disco-themed Shakespearean takeoff “The Donkey Show,” and later became a destination for fringe, amateur and experimental theater in the Boston area. It was a beloved home for burlesque and LGBTQ artists, and in recent years a popular place for music. The venue rental model was designed to make high production performances more affordable for independent artists.
Plans are underway for some final performances to be held at the club before its lease ends in December. The public will have to wear masks and the bar will not be open.
Lunsford said ART hoped to bring Oberon-style programming to other venues, including its planned new location on Harvard’s Allston campus – and that the end of the lease meant more resources could be used to pay for the artists. The idea, Lunsford said, was to “put people first.” “Oberon continues,” Lunsford said, “but not in this building.”