Regional Spotlight: How International City 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.
Today we shine a spotlight on International City Theatre with Artistic Director/Producer caryn desai.
First of all, I want to check in on the health and well-being of everyone at the theater. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?
International City Theatre (ICT) continues to plan with the knowledge at hand. We have kept our staff working, although remotely for the most part. Our small staff will be needed once productions resume. Hardest hit are the artists for our mainstage productions and our artist-educators who provide instruction for our six education programs because productions and programs are on hold at present. Additionally, vendors who depend on ICT for work (printing, building materials for sets, etc.) have lost business.
What do the days look like right now for those who work at the theater?
Although we do not have productions or programs running, we feel busier than ever. It may be the stress of continual changes in plans based on what we are learning and keeping the board and patrons informed. Depending on which area you cover, the work varies. Obviously, development is looking for funding sources and an approach for our annual fund drive appeal. The box office is updating mailing lists and data and answering patrons' questions as to our production schedule. Others are creating e-blasts and social media content to stay connected with our patrons and supporters. We are also negotiating and planning for our 36th anniversary season in 2021. ICT works on a calendar year.
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.
International City Theatre opened its 35th Anniversary Season in February and was lucky enough to finish the run before the world turned upside down. We moved our April/May show, the California premiere of DAISY (which was already cast with rehearsals slated to begin April 7) to the June slot and bumped the June show. Now we have had to move DAISY to the August/September slot. So we have lost two of our five productions this season to date. We hope to open DAISY at the end of August and complete the season with our October/November show, LEND ME A TENOR. However, the full impact of how this 2020 season is negatively affected is yet to be determined. We are also in planning stages for our annual fundraiser October 7 and questioning whether that event can happen live or whether we may have to do something virtually. We are going to plan for both our traditional event as well as a virtual event so we are prepared. This requires new ways of thinking and the ability to adjust in order to succeed and assure our future.
Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?
Live streaming of archival productions or readings is cost prohibitive by the union. It is an idea that patrons and board members have suggested, but when inquiring with the union, it became apparent that we could not afford to do it. We are in talks with some of our teachers about their experience with virtual teaching to see if there are ways to stay engaged with our youth and others. We are also looking at other ways to engage artists without having them "perform" so we can keep our patrons involved. However, given the power of what theatre provides when people come together under one roof for a shared experience, these attempts to connect feel inadequate, but will have to suffice for now.
What is the best way for people to help the theater right now?
The best way to help International City Theatre is to stay engaged with us as much as possible, to understand the limitations we face due to this virus in providing our productions, hopefully donating back their tickets for the shows they miss this season, renewing their subscriptions for 2021, and finally, knowing that ticket sales cannot cover our costs for productions and programs, and making an additional gift of support. Of course, not knowing the situation of what our patrons may be facing as well, we hope they stay connected at whatever level is possible and they tell their friends about ICT.