I've written this column every week for more than two years, and I would be surprised if I went more than two entries during this tenure without mentioning some kind of theatrical production. There's a good reason for that - the metro area's theatrical scene is full of small, independent companies and stages that tell vital, transporting and completely human stories.
Like so many other industries, the theater world has been rocked by the spread of COVID-19, especially with the temporary shuttering of most stages and arts centers until the situation is safer for the health of everyone.
In the spirit of amplifying the voices of people working in the creative fields whose jobs are gone for the foreseeable future, I'm turning the rest of my column over to local theater workers, so they can share how they're feeling and how residents can help (messages have been edited for clarity and brevity):
“My biggest concern is that some of the smaller theaters in town operate on really tight budgets. They need help from anyone who has the means to donate directly to the theater companies that operates on shoestring budgets.
I'm hoping that some of the ideas for online performances can be pulled together. If people would donate to support any of that content, that would help, too. I'd love to see that come together, as it would be good for both the performing artists and the audiences.”
-Erin Bell, cast member of “Ada and the Engine” at Denver's Firehouse Theater Company
“Now, more than ever, we need to commune. Anxiety and uncertainty meets hope and optimism. I work and create in a community where the primary currency is connection. And that currency is being severely challenged.
The Vintage Theatre's production of `The Scottsboro Boys,' was to have its triumphant closing last weekend. For the cast, creative and production teams to have been stripped of the final punctuation mark on what has been a wholly amazing journey, it is a loss that I'm still trying to comprehend. And this is just the beginning.
It will hurt but we — as a community — will persevere.”
-Abner Genece, assistant-director of “The Scottsboro Boys”
“It is my belief that theater is going to need charitable donations to stay afloat. Encouraging those that love and that can give to support their favorite local theater.
It is going to sting. Most of us lost most of our jobs. Sending support to the Denver Actor's Fund would also help us all.”
-Geoffrey Kent, director and actor in Arvada Center's 2020 Black Box Repertory Season
“Since we sent our letter to patrons canceling the show (the production of `Moon Over Buffalo'), we have received nothing but supportive emails from patrons. At the writing of this message, more than 75 emails. And no one has asked for a refund. What a wonderful supportive community.”
-Len Matheo, executive/artistic director at Golden's Miners Alley Playhouse
“Here I was doing what I loved in this most beautiful place, surrounded by the nicest, most talented artists from my acting partner to the prop designer. There was a feeling we were living on borrowed time. And sure enough, the day of our opening, we were told that the situation had worsened and that we were going to have to shut down. Transmission has to be stopped.
There are many out there whose souls are crushed because their shows have shut down. And then there are those whose very livelihood has been threatened. It's horrible and necessary, and we just have to hope it will be short lived.”
-Emma Messenger, cast member of “The Roommate” at the Lake Dillon Theatre Company
“What an incredible outpouring of love I've seen amongst our community. People trying to employ other people to help subsidize their income, people whose shows have closed coming to see our final shows just to share their support. The beautiful things that are coming from this are extraordinary.
I'm trying to brainstorm the ways in which I can create community support for the major actors' funds so that those who depend on their theater salaries to pay all of their bills are able to pay them.”
-Emily Tuckman, actor and producer of Misfit Theater's off-Broadway, all-female and non-binary production of “Macbeth”
“My heart goes out to the freelance theatre folks with no other sources of income, and the theatre couples I know where both partners rely on piecing together as many freelance gigs as they can only to live paycheck to paycheck as it is. People can help by reaching out to their artist friends and offering to pay them for voice lessons or audition coaching - I've coached private voice and been coached very successfully via Skype and Zoom.
A donation of the cost of your ticket is a small and effective way to minimize (the potential impact) if budgets are tight. And the Denver Actor's Fund will need a lot of help in the coming weeks as they begin to distribute funds to artist folks who are in need of medical help. And when all this blows over, we're all going to need help bouncing back. The best thing individuals can do when the storm subsides is to get out there and see as much theatre and live performance as possible.”
-Emily Van Fleet, director and actor in Arvada Center's 2020 Black Box Repertory Season
Clarke Reader's column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.
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