Des Moines Spotlight Series: Getting to Know Ankeny Community Theatre with Cheryl Clark
If you have been joining us on Broadwayworld the last few weeks, we have been highlighting artists in different productions that have been postponed or cancelled. This week we are starting a new series that talks with members of the boards of local Des Moines Theatres to see the effects of COVID19. We are excited to have spoken with Ankeny Community Theatre President-Elect Cheryl Clark, the difficult decisions they had to make with their productions, as well as an exciting new opportunity they have recently announced.
DC Felton (DC): What would you like people in our community to know about your theatre?
Cheryl Clark (CC): Ankeny Community Theatre's mission is to provide quality live theater entertainment and participation opportunities for Central Iowa community members. We want people to know we are a welcoming, friendly, and supportive environment where people of diverse backgrounds can have fulfilling theater experiences.
(DC): What productions did you have running or in rehearsals when it became necessary to shut down?
(CC): We had two shows in different stages of production. A Piece of My Heart, a drama about a group of women who go to Vietnam during the war, was only two weeks from opening on March 27 when the theater went dark. The Wizard of Oz (our June show) had been cast and was meeting for music and choreography rehearsals.
(DC): Are these productions postponed, or have they been canceled?
(CC): Both shows were initially postponed until summer to produce in June and August, respectively, which meant canceling our August show (Marjorie Prime). We have just made the decision that we will not yet be ready to host shows this summer and so have postponed A Piece of My Heart to October, and Wizard of Oz will be our December show. Our 2020-2021 season starts in October and had already been announced, so these postponements have made it necessary to cancel what we had planned for October (The Beverly Hillbillies) and December (It's a Wonderful Life). These shows might be included in future seasons. We were very disappointed to have to do this, but it seemed most fair to allow the two shows that had already been cast to have the opportunity to see their work to full production.
(DC): How did you let your cast, crew, and audience know about the decision to stop performances/rehearsals?
(CC): Once the Board of Directors had made the decision, directors for the postponed shows notified the casts and crews. We released the postponements on our webpage, Facebook, and emails to our members.
(DC): Besides stopping productions and rehearsals, how else has COVID-19 changed operations for your theatre?
(CC): We have had to cancel our annual 3-week summer camp for youth. We postponed educational workshops that were planned, and the theater is literally dark---no heat, no lights for the duration. The Board of Directors and all committees are meeting virtually.
(DC): While people may not be able to see one of your productions right now, is there anything your company is doing to keep the arts alive in Des Moines?
(CC): We are excited to announce our Readers Virtual Theatre experiences! Our premier event will take place on Sunday, May 17, at 7:30 PM. We will be live-streaming a theatrical reading of the one-act drama, Al Takes a Bride. Registration information will be up on our website (ankenycommunitytheatre.com) very soon. Registration is required to get the link to participate in the viewing, but the event is FREE (but a donation would be very much appreciated!) Familiar ACT faces in the cast include Riley Devick, Dagen Peacock, and Brad Church. Our hope is to produce a virtual theater event every two weeks until fall or whenever the theater is once again open.
(DC): What encouragement would you like to share with the rest of the Des Moines theatre community as we wait for the day we can open our theatres again?
(CC): We may not be able to do theater the way we did before COVID-19, but we can still explore themes, share ideas, and bring hope to the world virtually. Let's never let the lights go out completely!
(DC): What exciting things do you have planned as a theatre once we are allowed to open again
(CC): Our new season includes some well-known titles and some challenging material: Cry It Out, Hands on a Hardbody, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, plus Geezers, Aura, and our children's matinee, Mr. Popper's Penquins. We will be preparing to complete in IowaFest '21, and the AACT National Festival cycle provided the event isn't canceled due to COVID-19.
(DC): Are you doing anything as a company to raise funds during this shutdown?
(CC): Theater-lovers are always welcome to make a donation to ACT through Donor Box on our website. And we'd love for everyone to give our Readers Virtual Theatre events a try!
(DC): Are you aware of what other organizations are doing during this time?
(CC): We are active in our state and national organizations and looking forward to the ICTA bi-annual Convention being rescheduled. We have participated in educational offerings through AACT during this down-time, some very relevant workshops about dealing with the shutdown, working with publishers, and steps to ensure a safe reopening.
(DC): Have you discovered any resources or practices you might adopt going forward?
(CC): We have all learned a lot about disaster planning and will be designing/implementing procedures to ensure a safe environment for our production teams and our patrons.
(DC): Is there anything out there that you want your patrons to be aware of while they are waiting for theatres to open up again?
(CC): We had recently completed a Strategic Plan and are busy working on the goals we set. We are excited for the chance to open, and once again, participate in the outstanding theater world of the Des Moines metro area!
(DC): What ways can people stay connected with what your theatre is doing
(CC): Connect with our webpage: http://www.ankenycommunitytheatre.com and "like us" on Facebook!
Interview by DC Felton
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