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Regional Spotlight: How Signature Theatre is Working Through The Global Health Crisis

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Regional Spotlight: How Signature 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're checking in with Arlington, Virginia's Signature Theatre, with co-founder and artistic director, Eric Schaeffer.


First of all, I want to check in on the health and wellbeing of everyone at Signature Theatre. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?

We're all okay and taking it one day at a time. I have to say that our staff has really been heroic in dealing with everything that is being thrown at them during this uncertain time. I'm really proud of them and their commitment to the Signature family.

What do the days look like right now for those who work at Signature Theatre?

Our days look at our computers a lot - either on Zoom meetings or emails. I guess the one good thing is that people are working in every attire possible from shorts to pajamas but they're still getting it done. I think we all miss seeing each other in the office in real time and look forward to when we can return.

How much planning is going on both short term and long term for the theater? What are the theater's immediate plans, upcoming productions, and hopes/plans for the future months?

Well, as far as planning - it's changing every day. As the reports change, so do our plans. So we are working on 3 different versions of the plan right now, depending on when restrictions are lifted. Currently in Virginia, we're in place till June 10th. So we definitely know we won't be doing anything till after that.

Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?

We currently have our last show that closed 2 weeks early available for digital streaming until April 12 - Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes. What I have loved is seeing that people from 18 different states along with 7 other countries viewed the show. I think that is fantastic for writer Dani Stoller. Her voice is being heard throughout the country and beyond and I hope that people will do future productions as a result of that. Every four days, we are also releasing a new Signature memory from one of our past productions. That's proved to be very popular with our audiences. And we also launched a live weekly on-line show called Signature Strong Live!. It airs on Facebook Live every Tuesday at 8PM. We have artists on the show, trivia and performances. We're just continuing to reach out to our audiences and donors to connected with them. It's been great fun planning the shows and the response has been great.

What is the best way for people to help Signature Theatre right now?

Honestly, just hearing from people about how they miss going to Signature brings a smile to all our faces. That's a big help. We need donations as we're doing everything we can so we don't need to furlough our full-time staff. And it's always helpful to donate any ticket purchases to theaters during this time. Every one of us could use that extra help. What has been wonderful is that all of my colleagues at other theaters in Washington - we are all working together and supporting each other. That doesn't happen in many cities, but Washington is a very special theatre town. Together, we will all get through this.


For more information about Signature Theatre, visit sigtheatre.org. Stream their production of Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes here.

Donate to the theater HERE!


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From This Author Stephi Wild