The actors are ready. The whole is there.
Sadly, coronavirus restrictions have left Jane Anderson’s “Quality of Life” on hold indefinitely at the Cloverdale Playhouse. It was originally scheduled to open on April 23.
âIt’s heartbreaking,â said Sarah Thornton, artistic director of the Montgomery playhouse, who is also the director of the play. âOur building is never silent. It’s very strange and sad to go there and see a set built, ready to go, and no bodies.
At first, they focused all of their efforts on preparing for the reopening of the theater, being ready to begin almost immediately. They even planned to reschedule May 14-24. That date couldn’t come either.
Other theaters were probably doing the same. As the days, weeks and months go by, we are still a long way from the performances in person.
âIt was a strange adjustment in the world of theater,â Thornton said.
All theaters face the daunting task of waiting not only to reopen, but to make it economically feasible once they can. Social distancing requirements aren’t going away anytime soon. How do you get enough audiences to make live theater worthwhile while ensuring the safety of everyone in the audience and on stage?
âIt’s not easy to do theater with social distancing,â Thornton said. âThe point is, a whole bunch of people come together in one space. The theaters will be the last to come back, I think. ”
Cloverdale Playhouse isn’t the only one playing the waiting game. In addition to the nationally recognized Montgomery Alabama Shakespeare Festival, other community theaters in the River Area watch and wait.
âWe’re all doing our best to keep treading water,â Thornton said.
Prattville Way Off Broadway Theater
“Little Shop of Horrors” has been postponed indefinitely at the Way Off Broadway Theater in Prattville. It is the same for all camps and all productions.
They post activities and information online, including a weekly challenge. This week, wear an outfit that represents the character from a production you love, then share a photo of it on WOBT’s Facebook page @prattvillewobt.
Millbrook Community Players
John Collier, executive director of the Millbrook Community Players, said they are delaying their production of “Steel Magnolias” until September 10, and “The Glass Menagerie” is rescheduled for February 2021.
In the meantime, they do not stand still.
On Friday at 7pm, players will present a Facebook Live production called “Pets in Quarantine”. It is a piece that is definitely for our time. Humans are staying at home during coronavirus restrictions, and their pets are facing it.
Collier recently announced the cast: Vicki Moses will play Paige Turner; Rae Ann Collier as Nefertiti the Siamese Cat; John Chain as Rex the Old Bassett Hound; Tammy Arvidson as Annabelle the Goldfish; Lavonne Hart as Claudette the Poodle; Eric Arvidson as Hans the German Shepherd; Shea Jackson as Oreo the smoking cat; Sarah Olguin as Ruby the Yorkshire Terrier; Brady Walker as Tad the Lizard.
Watch “Pets in Quarantine” online on their Facebook group page at Millbrook Community Players Inc. Be sure to join the group.
âIt’s free to watch for any member of our page,â Collier said. âIf people like it, we’ll probably do a bit more. Hopefully we can get back on stage in September, but we just didn’t want to take any chances then. The safety of our patrons and actors will always be the priority. “
Follow them online at millbrooktheater.com.
Wetumpka Depot players are focusing on next year.
âAfter giving a lot of thought to the safety of our community of patrons, volunteers and artists, we plan to postpone the remainder of our 2020 40th anniversary season until 2021,â said Kristy Meanor, Artistic Director of Wetumpka Depot Players. âWe look forward to presenting to our audiences next year ‘Don’t Dress for Dinner’, ‘Spamalot’ and ‘The Sugar Bean Sisters’.
Additionally, Wetumpka Depot has also postponed its Penguin Project util 2021 special needs theater program.
“They were rehearsing for ‘High School Musical, Jr.’ Of all the programs we had to postpone this year, this one hurt the most, “said Meanor.” This program has brought so much joy to our programs here at The Depot. We will be delighted to see them return when we come back. will know that it is a safe environment for this vulnerable group to repeat. â
Wetumpka Depot’s senior theater outreach program, Encore Players, is also on hiatus.
âOur plans for the remainder of 2020 will of course depend on where we are with regards to the rate of transmission of Covid19,â Meanor said. âMuch will also depend on the willingness of our patrons and artists to come together for the process of rehearsals and performances. We hope to offer a series of more intimate shows for the rest of the year. We are preparing an outdoor fall show that will blow everyone’s mind. As soon as the contracts are signed, we can announce it.
Children’s programming is usually a big part of Wetumpka Depot’s summer.
âWe will continue to serve our youth this summer by offering two virtual camp sessions for children of all ages,â said Meanor. âWe recently rehearsed and presented ’10 Ways To Survive In Quarantine’. While a virtual experience in no way replaces the actual experience of performing on stage with a connection to a living audience, it was always a dynamic and educational opportunity for the young artists who participated in this project. .
Another way for the Depot to stay in front of the audience is to stream weekly Waiting in the Wings virtual podcasts, where they discuss the activities of the Theater and the Wetumpka Depot.
âI’m also still working on the stage adaptation of Doug Segrest’s novel ‘A Storm Came Up’,â said Meanor. “We recently read Act 2 and will be meeting soon to read the entire series as we continue to refine the script.”
Like most theaters, Wetumpka Depot will be in major fundraising mode by the time they can reopen.
âAlthough we have received PPA funding, it is just a drop in the bucket to support our operating expenses,â said Meanor. âWe, along with our other local theaters, will be seeking the support of our communities to help us stay afloat during this difficult time. The theatrical scene was vibrant in the river region. Every weekend, theatergoers could check out a classic play at ASF, a new work at the Cloverdale Playhouse, and a musical at The Depot. We all look forward to getting back to theater and enriching the tapestry of the arts in our communities. “
Follow them on Facebook at Wetumpka Depot Players or online at wetumpkadepot.com.
Back to âThe Quality of Lifeâ at the Cloverdale Playhouse: While the actors were rehearsing practically several weeks ago, Scott Grinstead was in the theater all by himself building the set, just to get ready. No one suspected that cinemas would have to stay closed for that long.
âIt’s very sad and a little lonely,â Thornton said. âI love my colleagues. We have a great dynamic. Now we are all working remotely. It’s not the same as the hustle and bustle of being together in the hallways. It’s sad. Hope we will be there to reopen at some point. ”
In addition to the coronavirus restriction delays, Thornton said they need to manage royalties and get permission to use the productions later. If they wanted to live-stream or film plays, they would have to get permission for that as well.
She said many Playhouse productions will likely be postponed until next year.
One option they are exploring is to bring âThe Quality of Lifeâ outside.
âWe have this lovely yard space,â Thornton said. âWe were talking about maybe we can do it there. But it’s summer in Alabama, so it’s awfully hot to be outside. The longer it is pushed back into the summer, the hotter it will be.
They don’t overlook the Playhouse building. This downtime is used to check a list of building repairs.
âSo that when you reopen it’s like a shiny brand new Playhouse,â Thornton said.
They also haven’t given up on providing online theater content for children and adults.
âWe did our guitar draw a few weeks ago virtually, and it went really well,â said Thornton. “We’re trying to find ways to keep creating, but that might not be the plan we had in place at the start of this season.”
As bad as the conditions are, she knows things could be worse.
âI know a lot of people whose theaters have closed for good,â Thornton said. âLots of people who have lost their jobs in the industry. It is a very difficult time to be in the arts.
Any financial assistance that Cloverdale Playhouse and other community theaters receive from the public is welcome.
âWe are so lucky to have such a wonderful and supportive community,â said Thornton. âPeople watched us and listened. “
Follow them on Facebook @cloverdaleplayhouse or online at cloverdaleplayhouse.org.
Join the Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Virtual Call Time, hosted by Artistic Director Rick Dildine. Pour yourself a drink and listen Thursday at 7 p.m. as Dildine chats with Alabama-born theater makers to discuss how the theater can use its best storytelling tool to build community. On Facebook @alabamashakes.
Contact reporter Shannon Heupel of Montgomery Advertiser at [email protected]