Pandemic Forces Some Local Theatres to go Virtual Temporarily

PHL17 News

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the live theatre industry. Pandemic safety regulations has caused some theatres to shut their doors to audiences and cancel performances. 

Alice Yorke is an actress and wondered whether theatre could survive the pandemic. Yorke said that several performers had to find other ways to make a salary. 

“It was scary to see everything fall away and to feel like everything wouldn’t come back,” said Yorke. 

She recently found work as the lone star of “How to Be Brave” of Inis Nua Theatre. It is a play about a Welsh woman who goes on a journey and discovers she’s braver than she thought. 

Thomas Reing is the founder and artistic director of Inis Nua Theatre. He directed “How to Be Brave” virtually and it premiered virtually. 

“I think it’s a great thing that my designers and tech people were able to role with it. Everybody was safe,” said Reing. 

Theatres all over the country have pivoted from offering live shows to virtual shows during the pandemic. 

Paige Price with the Philadelphia Theatre Company says it started offering 10-minute virtual plays in September. 

One of its cancelled play’s called “The Wolves” was a virtual success. 

Right now, it is producing a documentary about making musical during a pandemic. Price says that virtual helps, but it comes with some issues. 

“It’s an emotional boost, but a financial disaster,” said Price. 

Price also thinks it opens the door to a whole new way to bring art to people. 

“Digital delivery of theatre is also delivery of art and you can deliver it to people that previously had barriers to coming,” said Price. 

At the Bristol Riverside Theatre in Bucks County, the set still stands from the last performance of “Cabaret”. It only held two shows before the COVID lockdowns. 

“It felt like a piece of all of us died,” said Ken Kaissar. 

Ken and Amy Kaissar are the co-producing directors. They said pivoting from the stage to the web was feat. In some cases, they even sent the set to the actors. 

“We sent them a set, props, we sent them costumes and they eventually turned their bedroom into a set and then we would stream into their house and do a show from there, so it’s kind of a wild experience,” said Amy Kaissar. 

In June, it plans to hold its annual William Penn Bank Summer Music Fest at the Bristol’s new amphitheater. They said it is a chance for the community to come together around a stage again.  

Yorke thinks the seats inside theatres will eventually be filled again, but she hopes the industry find a way to mix virtual and live performances. 

“Doing theatre online has made it more accessible in many ways for lots of different people for lots of different reasons and I think there’s something beautiful about that,” said Yorke. 

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