On or about January 2020, the world stood still and terrified—A new coronavirus, called COVID-19 struck. In one fell swoop, the world froze in the uncertainty while no cure or preventive measure was at hand. Performance arts productions were canceled. Directors and actors as well as whole production crews are hit with directives to socially distance from one another. Theaters went dark. It will be very risky for anyone to be with others in a closed space. What does a theater company do?
The Theater Company of Lafayette (TCL) is not exempt. After casting for our production of Always a Bridesmaid (AABM) and after our first reading at the Mary Miller Theater, rehearsals were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Not to be dissuaded, the AABM director Hannah Richards and cast decided to rehearse virtually via Zoom. During the first rehearsals, the cast did table work, going in deep into their characters but as the weeks went by, our 2020 season is halted until the pandemic is under control and the government has directed for the theaters to be open.
Then the TCL Board conceived an alternative way of bringing theater to our audience via a virtual play festival.
In the words of Madge Montgomery, TCL’s Artistic Director:
“Resilience, it is the ability to adapt or recover from difficult circumstances. Resilience has taken on a new meaning for our theater company in the current crisis. TCL has always been known for bouncing back from unexpected challenges, for making-do with limited resources, and for figuring things out. The sudden lockdown in mid-March was unique and unexpected, and certainly tested our resolve. However, our theater artists wanted to keep creating and so, almost overnight, we hatched a plan to do theater remotely.”
TCL has built solid relationships with talented playwrights and actors. It reached out to them and out came the following plays:
Work Ethic by Katherine Dubois – Directed by Don Thurmin, featuring Hannah Richards as Stephanie, Samantha Bolte-Woods as Good Angel, Munam Goodwyn as Bad Angel, and Madge Montgomery as Future Stephanie.
Dead-X by Deborah Finkelstein – Directed by Emily Wright, featuring Shelby Beer, Evan Bracy, Heather Frost, and Chris Pash.
You Know What’s Really Handy by C.P. Stancich – Directed by Madge Montgomery and featuring Preston Adams, Don Thurmin, Judy Carlson, and Paul Wells.
What Would Abe Do? Written and Directed by Nora Douglass, Technical Direction by Tom Priestley and featuring Madge Montgomery and Evan Bracy.
In recent weeks, TCL has interpreted Treasure Island via Zoom involving cast and crew from PA, WA, CO. It had 3 acts –featuring interesting pirates with Young Jim Hawkins and Older Jim played by Hannah Richards and Doug Smith respectively; supporting them in different roles are Judy Carlson as Squire Trelawney; Munam Goodwyn played Captain Billy Bones, Ben Gunn, Israel Hans and other pirates; Don Thurmin played Old Pew, George Merry, and Dr. Livesey; Nora Douglass played “other pirates” and the lovable Capt Silver’s parrot named Mr. Flint; Paul Wells played Capt John Silver, and Dean Espitallier played Blackdog/Captain Smollett. The sets were prepared by Nora Douglass and Elizabeth Hart.
Under the able directorship of Madge and the notable technical direction of Tom Priestley, the TI cast had their Zoom rehearsals where they had to change their appearances and costumes on camera, hidden behind a virtual wall, with only their Tech Director bearing witness to wigs that are adjusted, make-up that ran and retouched, moustaches that don’t stay, and the manic actions of the actors “on quick change,” waiting for their cues to go “on camera.” As a group, the Theater Company of Lafayette at its heart considers its productions labors of love and their desire to be playing with friends, enjoying their camaraderie while creating– and they succeed over and over again. In Treasure Island, they acted with friends from Pennsylvania and Washington.
Organizing and promoting our Socially Distanced Play Festival was led TCL’s Hannah Richards. Madge Montgomery acted, directed and provided dramaturgy to one of the new plays. Emily Wright took on the direction of Dead-X while TCL Board Chairman Don Thurmin directed Work Ethic. Tom Priestley, TCL’s Technical Director did the recording and editing of all the plays.
TCL has built a strong relationship with its community of talents and almost overnight, actors, directors, playwrights come together to write, direct, act and do the technical job to virtually get together to rehearse and record the plays.
Our community of actors heeded the call to action—the response was very enthusiastic and we expected no less!
We are looking forward to be onstage again at our little theater in East Simpson Road in Lafayette, Colorado. While we wait for those auspicious days, we will continue to bring to life plays via Zoom on our Youtube link. We invite you to regularly check TCL’s website and its Facebook Page. Our virtual plays are also on our FB Page.
We will also deeply appreciate any donation you can make to TCL by writing a check to Theater Company of Lafayette, POB 42, Lafayette CO 80026 Thank you so much for your continued support of the Theater Company of Colorado.
Update: TCL’s Always A Bridesmaid is scheduled to be on stage at the Mary Miller October 7 to October 23, 2021!