Carson and Douglas Counties’ six theater groups collectively announced that they would not stage live performances at least through Labor Day. They are Carson Valley Community Theatre, Brewery Arts Center, Proscenium Players, Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company, Wild Horse Productions, and Youth Theatre Carson City.
“We made the decision based on the fact that there’s no way we can manage the safety of our actors,” said Carol Scott, director of Wild Horse Children’s Theatre. “Social distancing. You can’t wear a mask while you’re singing and acting.” She also figures theatergoers probably won’t feel ready to pack in knee-to-knee for a while yet.
The group decision to keep theaters dark all summer echoes a couple of larger trends. “Theater groups from Broadway to small community groups are looking at maybe not having anything until 2021,” Scott said. And in Reno, Good Luck Macbeth, Reno Little Theater, and Brüka Theatre also grouped together during the pandemic to make decisions collectively. (At first, the Reno group focused on establishing best practices for closures, virtual programming, and reopenings. As of this week, in the wake of protests and riots following George Floyd’s death, the directors have front-burnered fighting systematic racism.)
Like many performing arts leaders, Scott has looked into alternatives, hoping to keep her young actors engaged in theater during a season when gathering has been prohibited and planning has been all but impossible. She considered staging a production with only a partially full house, but it wouldn’t have been financially feasible to have, say, a third of the seats filled when she’d still have to pay the full royalty fee to stage a play. She also applied for rights to stage a virtual children’s play, but it was difficult to imagine covering the $1200 royalty with ticket sales.
But determination and creativity run deep in the theater world. Scott and her peers have been attending workshops on how to do virtual theater, trying to make the most of Zoom, and devising plans to keep bringing performing arts to Carson City and Douglas County audiences.
“We can’t be with our theater kids,” said Tara Burke, Wild Horse’s technical director (who is also Scott’s daughter). “Theater is a superspreader for the virus. We want to keep them active in the arts, so we’ve been developing Zoom and virtual summer camps, plus we have a weekly virtual cabaret.”
Burke is also an assistant producer for Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company, which has been producing virtual choir performances. “We just did ‘One Day More’ from Les Miz,” she said. Up to 40 singers from all over the country recorded their own parts. Burke said it took hundreds of hours to edit them into a cohesive video. But she’s about to do it again. Next up: a number from Rent.
Wild Horse has a few other virtual programs up its sleeve, too. “We’re looking at tapping into our alumni who are in LA and New York right now,” Scott said. “We have a young man in LA who does voiceovers. He’s going to do two sessions, one on voiceovers and one on what the voiceover business is like.” The company is planning workshops for actors on how to master Zoom auditions, and Scott is considering having her teenage actors do a virtual Shakespeare show. “We’re thinking about a 45-minute version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she said. The play is in the public domain, so she won’t have to pay for royalties.
Wild Horse’s sister groups are also planning some summer events that don’t involve packing a theater. “We’ve been closed since March 17, so we’ve been doing all kinds of creative things to generate revenue,” said Gina Lopez, Executive Director of Brewery Arts Center. “The Escape Room. We’ll be doing that in the black box theater. You’ll have to wear a mask.” BAC is also teaming with the Classic Cinema Club of Carson City to host family-friendly drive-in movies in the parking lot, starting with Lion King on July 8. (Admission is free, but reservations are required. RSVP here.)
Lopez plans to announce the lineup soon for the BAC’s Flatbed Concert Series. The plan is for large trucks to carry musicians and bands “at a parade pace” around Carson City. “We think we’re going to hit about two neighborhoods a night, every Saturday night,” she said. “We want to encourage people to come out to their front lawns.”
Most summers, BAC hosts an Art-in-The-Park night, in part an effort to bring art instruction to families that wouldn’t otherwise be likely to access it. Organizers pick a park in Carson City and offer free art classes there. This year, they’ve opted not to gather in a park. Instead they plan to distribute gallon Ziplocs filled with paints, chalk, and paper to anyone who would like them.
To learn more about Carson City and Douglas County theaters’ plans for summer performances and other programs, follow Brewery Arts Center, Wild Horse Productions, Carson Valley Community Theatre, Proscenium Players, Western Nevada Musical Theatre Company, and Youth Theatre Carson City on Facebook.
Kris Vagner is an arts and culture writer who’s earned awards for critical writing, entertainment writing, feature writing, and—somehow—sports writing. She’s also the editor of Double Scoop, Nevada’s visual arts news site. More at www.krisvagner.com. Support her work in The Ally.