While most theaters in our area remain closed, some for the rest of the year – and some at risk of closing for good – others are looking past Zoom and toward Stage 3 of Massachusetts’ phased reopening, beginning next week, for ways to offer in-person performances. As I was thinking about this tipping point between lockdown and relaunch, I got an unexpected invitation.
It came from another electronic medium – radio. Chris Fournier, host of Valley Free Radio’s “Unscripted,” asked me to come on his show and discuss the state of theater in our area, among other topics. The weekly hour, he says, “focuses on highlighting diverse voices of the Valley whose contributions improve the quality of life in our area.” Surprised and flattered, I accepted. I’ll be his guest on next Monday’s edition (see below for details).
I know Chris from my time as an adjunct at PVPA, the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School, where he is Community Outreach and Alumni Director, and where I staged a baker’s dozen productions, ranging from Shakespeare to Brecht to Neil Simon – the latter an all-staff frolic that Chris was in, which I imagine will also come up in our discussion.
We’ll certainly be talking about this pivot moment, when “indoor and outdoor theater and performance venues of moderate capacity” are expected to be allowed to reopen, with the definition of “moderate” TBA.
At least two live-in-person productions are coming up in the Valley this month. Eggtooth Productions’ Under The Stars takes the drive-in-theater concept to new heights – specifically, the roof of the Greenfield parking garage. Jack Golden’s solo show is scheduled for two weekends, dates to be confirmed.
Double Edge Theatre will present this year’s Summer Spectacle, 6 Feet Apart, All Together, July 22 -August 9. It’s a free-form perambulation of the company’s Ashfield farm that is “inspired by and draws from the rich history and favorite moments of past performances.”
Two Berkshire theaters have productions scheduled next month. Barrington Stage Company will mount the “one-man thriller” Harry Clarke on their Pittsfield mainstage August 5-16. Safety measures for patrons include one-third the usual seating capacity, plus temperature-taking, mask-wearing and sanitizing measures.
Berkshire Theatre Group is planning two musicals on its Stockbridge stages – Godspell is scheduled to open July 30 and They’re Playing Our Song on August 7. Ticket sales are on hold pending detailed directives for Stage 3 openings, expected next week.
While some venues are relaunching, others are struggling to stay afloat. The latest to close its doors is Gateway City Arts, a key dining and entertainment fixture in Holyoke’s cultural scene. Its co-director, Lori Divine, wrote to supporters yesterday, “This pandemic has shaken our world and we have no choice but to go into hibernation until it is safe for everyone to congregate again.” A GoFundMe page is accepting donations.
Meanwhile, other Valley troupes are staying active with online programming. The invaluable Pioneer Valley Theatre newsletter, curated by the priceless Nikki Beck, has comprehensive listings and resources. A few on my own radar at the moment:
Happier Valley Comedy holds an evening of “Improv for Black Lives” on July 11, featuring favorite HVC performers, to benefit the Movement for Black Lives. The Majestic Theater’s Danny Eaton hosts weekly conversations with artists associated with the company, and the Majestic’s children’s theater streams past productions – this week, Treasure Island, with a live talkback on Sunday. And Silverthorne Theater Company continues its series of Zoomed play readings on July 16 with Soldier Poet, a co-production with Chester Theatre Company that takes place in a Syrian warzone.
My “Unscripted” stint will broadcast live on Monday, the 6th, 8-9pm. If you’re in VFR’s listening area, tune in at 103.3 FM, or go to ValleyFreeRadio.org for streaming options.
Besides all things theater – past, present and hoped-for future – I expect we’ll dip into another of my performance-related callings: traveling musician. Stay tuned.
Note: While the Valley Advocate remains on indefinite hiatus, Stagestruck will continue posting occasionally. Write me at Stagestruck@crocker.com if you’d like to receive a notice when new pieces appear.
The Stagestruck archive is at valleyadvocate.com/author/chris-rohmann
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