Cy-Fair community theater groups bounce back from COVID-19 restrictions

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The cast of “Moon Over Buffalo” wore masks during the April performances. (Courtesy Playhouse 1960)

Playhouse 1960 was teeming with dozens of kids enjoying optional mask camps in June – a very different site from last year’s summer camps, which followed strict safety guidelines, said Sammy Green, chairman of the board of theater administration.

“It’s just good to have life here again,” she said.

Profits from the 2020 summer camps were just enough to survive while the shows were suspended, Green said. Playhouse 1960 is run entirely by volunteers and typically presents nine stage shows and four youth shows each season.

But when COVID-19 arrived in Harris County, this season’s remaining shows were either canceled or postponed. A screening of “The Sound of Music” in December could only accommodate about fifty spectators in a hall with 159 seats. These audience members were required to wear masks with the cast, Green said.

As restrictions across the state were gradually eased, Playhouse 1960 followed suit while prioritizing the comfort of their actors.

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine has been available for a few months, the theater no longer needs masks. Green said she felt people were ready to return to the theater to laugh, cry, and empathize with characters who may be different from them.

While she likes to include one or two uplifting shows that challenge audiences each season, Green said she is planning several “feel good” shows for the coming season in order to rekindle people’s enthusiasm for the show. theater.

“I just want people to come back to the arts, whatever it is – dance and music, museums and galleries – where people can just explore art because things have been too ugly for too long,” he said. she declared. “I think the arts are still the area that brings people together in a positive light.”

Stageworks Theater has also closed its curtains for about six months during the pandemic. Artistic director Michael Montgomery said the theater typically hosts 12,000 to 15,000 spectators each year.

The theater has gone from sold-out shows to seeing revenue streams instantly dry up, but rent payments, utility bills, insurance fees, and other operational expenses haven’t gone away.

Montgomery said board members, corporate sponsors, virtual fundraising and a monthly sponsorship program covered some expenses, but Stageworks also took out a federal loan and cut its leased space by 45%.

“What the pandemic has shown us is… we rely so much on the people who attend our shows and buy tickets that we have no margin for error,” he said.

The board consulted with medical and legal advisers to create safety guidelines and reopened in late 2020 with 25% capacity, temperature checks, social distancing and masks.

He also said he believed the theater would eventually expand again, either staying at the current Grant Road site or having officials build their own space.

Although restrictions have eased, Montgomery estimates it will be another six to 12 months before community theaters return to pre-pandemic attendance levels.

“Demand has picked up again, but… I think there are people who have unconsciously changed their ways,” he said. “They don’t think, ‘Oh, let’s go to a play on a Friday night.’ They stay at home and watch movies.


Stage direction

Founded in: 2005

Next production on the main stage: “Handbagged”

10760 Grant Road, Houston. 281-587-6100. www.stageworkshouston.org

Playhouse 1960

Founded in: 1973

Next production on the main stage: “9 to 5: The Musical”

6814 Gant Road, Houston. 281-587-8243. www.playhouse1960.com


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