As the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic began to settle by mid-March, local theater company Enter Stage Right was able to squeeze in the last few performances of their production of Steel Magnolias.
Their next scheduled production, The Three Musketeers, wasn’t so lucky.
"That was the hardest thing, to cancel The Three Musketeers. We were ready to go and people had spent months preparing and practicing, rehearsing the combat scenes," says Regina Spain, executive director for Enter Stage Right.
The company’s next scheduled production of King Lear is still scheduled to open this August, and rehearsals are currently being held via the videoconferencing app Zoom.
In the meantime, Enter Stage Right is preparing itself for their eventual re-opening, playing with seating configurations at its home, the Citadel Stage. They’re also applying for grants, looking for ways to stick around. Even when they do re-open, Spain expects that they’ll have to run shows with limited seating.
But despite the difficulties a theater company faces in the days of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, Enter Stage Right isn’t resting on its laurels. The company is currently rehearsing for its first ever online-only production, a performance of the classic tale The Jungle Book.
"Part of being in the theater, part of being an artist, is that the theater is such a sanctuary. It’s part of what normalizes them. It’s their outlet in life," Spain says.
"How can we keep our artists engaged when they’re isolated? And to keep the community engaged, as well."
One of the reasons that The Jungle Book was selected is that the script is allowed to be performed via online streaming. Spain and her husband Brian purchased the rights to do so. There is a caveat, however, in that the script is allowed to be performed via online streaming, but not allowed to be recorded and then broadcast. This means that the production will be a one-time performance, streaming live over YouTube.
For Spain, one of the bright spots in this whole endeavor is that she’s been able to cast actors that no longer live in the Blue Water area, including actors that have performed in Enter Stage Right productions before but now live in Florida, Georgia, and California.
"In times like these, it’s easy to push the arts aside. But theater has been around for thousands of years and has been there through plagues and wars," Spain says.
"This shows that art is something we need, that producers and audiences have a reason to come together."
The Enter Stage Right production of The Jungle Book is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 9. A link to the performance will be posted on the company’s Facebook page.