Regional Spotlight: How Playhouse on Park 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 West Hartford Connecticut's Playhouse on Park, with Co-Founder/Executive Director Tracy Flater.
First of all, I want to check in on the health and well-being of everyone at Playhouse on Park. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?
I think everyone is doing as well as can be expected. It seems everyone has remained healthy, thank goodness. We check in now and again to see how folks are spending their time. We are staying connected in various ways.
What do the days look like right now for those who work at Playhouse on Park?
The entire staff is essentially furloughed, including the leadership. Some of us are volunteering our time to keep things moving. It is very hopeful that we will receive monies from the Payroll Protection Program and can bring some of the staff back one day soon. In the meantime, we are a non-essential business so everyone is home. Those of us volunteering are doing so from home. The co-founders meet regularly, our board and board sub-committees meet regularly. We are doing some virtual programming.
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.
Honestly, this is the most challenging part of our job! Until we know when we can re-open, we aren't sure what to plan or not plan. Once we are able to re-open, will people come? We had postponed stop/time dance theater's DIVA's and cancelled our production of Ugly Lies the Bone. The reasoning: DIVA's was almost ready to open and the cast is local - money has been spent. We need two weeks notice and we can get this show open - it will happen at some point. Ugly Lies the Bone was scheduled for the end of April/early May so there is no way we can produce this show, and since we had not even begun rehearsals we made a difficult decision to cancel it. We have postponed two comedy nights, our season 12 announcement and our May 30th Encore! A Playhouse on Park Fundraising Party in honor of John Kander. We have yet to determine when these can be rescheduled. With the announcement that non-essential businesses will remain closed through May 20th, we will have to make the difficult decision today to cancel or postpone The Amazing Adventures of Dr Wonderful and her Dog. This is very sad because there are 24 performances dedicated to school field trips plus public performances for families. We are unsure if It Shoulda Been You can go on in June/July. It is all just a big question mark. We so hope so - we miss producing work and being at the theatre. We hope our next season can go on as planned. Will there be ongoing social distancing guidelines? Can we operate if there are? Will people come? We are really just starting to think about what may need to change for next season.
Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?
In the normal world, licensing and union rules do not allow for us to air filmed versions of our productions. In light of Covid-19, all of these rules are being relaxed, which is exciting for some. For us, we do film for archival purposes - one camera to capture the work. This is not done for public consumption and would do a disservice to our work. It's unfortunate but why spend so much money if normally you cannot share with the public? We do have some online programming happening. Our co-founder/co-artistic director Darlene Zoller teaches a dance/fitness class on FB Live every day at noon; Our co-founder/co-artistic director Sean Harris has a chat session called "Shoot the Sh*t with Sean" every Saturday at 11am on FB Live, we have a brand new Virtual Open Mic YouTube channel - singers from anywhere can submit, audiences can enjoy, we have a new interview series called "Where are they now" YouTube Channel that is just getting underway. There is online bingo, etc. We are looking to kick off some educational programming soon and more.
Here is where folks can keep up with postponed / cancelled shows, classes and programs: https://playhouseonpark.org/web2/planyourvisit.html
Here is where folks can learn about our online programming: https://playhouseonpark.org/web2/Season11_20192020/VirtualEvents.html
What is the best way for people to help Playhouse on Park right now?
1. Donate! We need monetary support now more than ever. There have been new tax incentives put forth through the CARES Act: https://www.afi.com/news/cares-act-increases-deductions-for-charitable-contributions/ This may help.
2. Donate tickets back! If a show is cancelled, we hope ticket holders will not ask for a refund and will donate their tickets back to the theatre.
4. Stay engaged - enjoy our Virtual Programming, send us a note and let us know how you are doing, etc.
5. Shopping at home using Amazon? Shop via Amazon Smile, choose Playhouse Theatre Group, Inc as your charity of choice and .5% of the cost of your order is donated to us, at no extra cost to the customer! 6. Donate items from our wish list!
There are other ways to support us too. Right now, Sean has a challenge out "Sean Shaves for the Stage": https://playhouseonpark.org/web2/Season11_20192020/specialevents_SeanBdayFundraiser.html
There are t-shirts for sale to benefit local businesses and we are a choice: https://www.fleetfeet.com/s/hartford/shirt
For more information visit: https://playhouseonpark.org/index.html.