Regional Spotlight: How Florida Repertory Theatre is Working Through The Global Health Crisis
Now more than ever it is important to support theater and do our part to keep the art form that we love so much alive and as thriving as it can be during these unprecedented times. While the global health crisis has temporarily put the theater world on hold, pausing all live performances and large gatherings to help stop the spread of COVID-19, theaters around the country have taken a hit. During this time of adjusting to our temporary new normal, theaters are figuring out how to take care of their team, and discovering the best ways to virtually bring theater to audiences.
Through our regional theater interview series, we are checking in with theaters all around the country, talking to them about how they are handling these difficult circumstances, learning what they are doing to move forward, and discovering the best way for people to help regional theaters during this time.
First of all, I want to check in on the health and well-being of everyone at Florida Repertory Theatre. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?
This is a trying time, no doubt. We are all trying to keep busy and do what we can to keep the Rep alive as we navigate closing two productions early and canceling another entirely. This is unprecedented, and while it would be easy to get mired down, we are all trying to do our part to keep us moving forward. Many of us have been working from home for weeks - planning our virtual gala and getting the video streaming off the ground, so keeping busy helps us to keep morale up. I think we are all scared about the next few months, but we have strong leadership and we all feel that we will make it through this and be stronger on the other side of it.
What do the days look like right now for those who work at Florida Repertory Theatre?
Most of the administrative staff is quite busy planning and strategizing. We're all having more Zoom meetings, but it feels like we are in the War Room planning and making decisions to keep the theatre moving forward into the summer and fall. I haven't been to my office since the 16th [of March], but I have a makeshift office set up in my apartment where I can access the network remotely and do anything I need to right from home. I am also watching a lot of theatre from other theatre companies - I watched the Asolo Rep's production of Into the Breeches last night and have even one of the National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere productions of Alabaster from Know Theatre of Cincinnati - among others. I'm so glad that AEA and the licensing agencies have made this possible for theatres during this shutdown.
How much planning is going on both short term and long term for the theater? I would like to hear about the immediate plans for the theater, it's upcoming productions, etc., and what the theater is hoping/planning for in future months.
We are all in planning mode. We spent two weeks planning the virtual gala - which was broadcast live on the 28th. The virtual gala includes a spectacular evening of performances sent in from all over the country.
We hope to proceed with the 2020-2021 Season as planned, so there is a lot of work to do to get that off the ground, and because of the cancellation of the current season, we'll be able to get a jump on that planning.
We are in talks with the union to perhaps do virtual auditions rather than in-person for some of our normal May and June auditions. The Education Dept. is in the process of teaching some of their class programming into virtual offerings, and we are looking at changing schedules for some of the summer education programming - like the Conservatory production of Batboy - which is being moved to August. Our season was to have ended in May, so the COVID-19 closure interrupted the latter third of the season, and the ticket revenue lost is significant. This will be difficult to manage, but we will.
Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?
Actors' Equity Association and Dramatists Play Service moved mountains to allow theatres to stream canceled productions, and we are eternally grateful that we are able to offer "A Doll's House, Part 2" to our ticket-buying patrons through April 21.
One of the most exciting new developments is that Florida Rep got a Wall Street Journal review from Terry Teachout. We are deeply grateful to Terry for his continued support and advocacy of the work we do and the work regional theatres are doing across the country. It means so much to be able to share our artists' hard work with an audience, and that it resonated with Terry makes it all the more meaningful. We cannot thank him and the Journal enough.
At the moment, there are no plans to stream past professional productions - and there is no current permission from the union or licensing agencies to make past productions available. But we are talking about producing other streamed content as the months' progress. Now that the virtual gala is done and the streaming productions are up and running, we will be able to look at other options. We ask all patrons and supporters to stay tuned to our social media platforms, their email inboxes, and our website for programming announcements.
Also, do the same for the education department. They are already hosting online classes and planning other content to reach students.
Personally, I have spoken as a guest via Zoom for a directing class at Eastern Carolina University where a friend is a professor planning virtual curriculum, and on April 15 I participated in a Zoom virtual class for The Growing Studio in NYC. It is heartening to see our colleagues across this industry adapting to the times.
If you haven't checked it out, two Florida Rep ensemble members, Rachel Burttram & Brendan Powers, are reading plays on their Facebook page. Look up Tiny Theatre and join them live every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9PM. They're also available to watch in "A Doll's House, Part 2" by buying a virtual ticket to our streaming production.
What is the best way for people to help Florida Repertory Theatre right now?
Make a donation, buy a subscription to next season, purchase a $39 digital ticket to see "A Doll's House, Part 2,", and tell your friends and family to do the same. You can buy a digital ticket at www.FloridaRep.org or by calling the box office at 239-332-4488. You can donate online, through the box office, or by texting your name and amount to 727-314-2993.
Florida Rep will lose over $350,000 in single ticket revenue for the season - and that doesn't include any interruptions to the educational programming revenue. Florida Rep is in a dire situation, and we need the community to help us through this time. So many have already done so and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts. We will only survive if everyone pitches in, and if you think Florida Rep is an asset to our community and to the cultural and economic health of Southwest Florida, then please pitch in. We need you now more than ever before.
For more information on Florida Repertory Theatre: https://www.floridarep.org/. Buy tickets to stream "A Doll's House, Part 2" HERE. Check out Rachel Burttram & Brendan Powers' Tiny Theatre HERE. Donate to Florida Repertory Theatre HERE. Buy a season subscription HERE.
*This interview has been edited for clarity