Regional Spotlight: How Southern Rep 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 New Orleans' Southern Rep Theatre.
First of all, I want to check in on the health and well-being of everyone at Southern Rep Theatre. How is everyone doing during this difficult time?
We are all healthy and keeping appropriate stay-at-home protocols, except for going to the theatre a few times a week to print checks, sign grant documents and government paperwork, and feed the trio of feral theatre cats we co-care for in our Bayou Road neighborhood. Thanks for asking! We hope you are all doing well too!
What do the days look like right now for those who work at Southern Rep Theatre?
We have staff meetings three days a week with strict agendas, then we check in on each other. Some of us have lost friends and colleagues, some have ill friends, family, and colleagues. We are gentle with ourselves and each other. Some days we are all up, some days it is not so good. Definitely one day at a time.
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 constantly in planning mode, and then scrapping whatever that plan was and starting over. This is what it feels like, but actually, we have about 3-5 contingency plans at all times. We adjust as the news and updates from government and health organizations shift. Our last play of the season, CHEMIN DU BAYOU by Pamela Davis-Noland has three "what if" plans - it has been moved once, and we are now shooting for early Fall - with the strong caveat that it could be January 2021 or jump full ahead to next spring 2021.
We also think if we can move to limited outdoor performances for work, audiences would feel safer- still in masks with social distancing - but able to step out and off if need be. I think a lot about how this will change us as human beings- will we return to hugging, handshaking, backslapping, mosh pitting (do people still do that? It's been a minute), and can actors act with each other? New Orleans is a festival city. We love to be outdoors rain or shine, grooving in unison, marching as one, and singing choruses to the skies. I am really not clear on how to be a New Orleanian for real with distance- we do wear masks all the time anyway, so that part is a little easier. But- we gotta do what we gotta do. To keep people safe, we will do whatever it takes. Fun means nothing if people can be harmed. Full stop.
Also, our local theatre producers are meeting weekly to share info, commiserate, think about what we can do to help each other, make each other laugh, and generally chat through particular challenges that New Orleans faces. I am sure these leaders will come up with some spectacular ideas about the way back. It is a privilege to be a part of such a dynamic group of thinkers and makers.
Do you have plans to bring any previously filmed productions/upcoming events/classes etc. online?
We have moved our arts ed workshops online and are exploring what that looks like more comprehensively over a semester or for a summer camp. Could be exciting?! Could students from wherever in the world, join up? What could that look like?
Our nine years and still running soap opera, DEBAUCHERY!, opened with a remote monologue version which was edited together. As you can imagine, DEBAUCHERY! fans are loyal and so supportive (they have kept this monthly show going for NINE years!) They happily embraced the new format to catch up on how their favorite characters were doing during the stay-at-home orders. We may be doing a more interactive version next month.
What is the best way for people to help Southern Rep Theatre right now?
Ask yourself, When will I be ready to get back into seeing live theatre? What will make me feel safe in order to do that? What do I miss about live theatre? And then, let us know. We are ready to try all sorts of ways to see theatre- whether it is taping off every three seats, only doing plays that limit audience attendance (this is not my favorite option!), or is there something no one has thought of that could make theatre-going as fun and as exciting as it has been for 2000 years that also makes you feel safe?
You can help support Southern Rep by making a monthly donation of $35 dollars in honor of our 35th season coming up in 2021-22; plan your safe-physical-distance wedding or party at our gorgeous venue; book your fabulous band, improv troupe, hip new play, drag show at our space; and /or donate to funds that support individual artists-they need your help!