In keeping with theater tradition, a ghost light still burns at Playhouse on Park at all hours even as the theater stage is empty and the audience seats unfilled since last March.
As the current COVID-19 spikes keep theatergoers home, Playhouse on Park has come up with a way for people to be represented in the audience and financially support the theater in this challenging time.
Introducing the “Pop in a Patron” concept in a video that had theater staffers riffing on “Les Miserable” and “Hello Dolly,” co-founder and co-artistic director Darlene Zoller explains they have missed their fans but want to keep them safe while COVID lasts.
In this fundraiser, people who make a $100 donation can send in a photo of themselves. The Playhouse will print out a life-size cardboard cutout of the photos to pop patrons into the audience.
“Anytime we film something from now until the end of COVID, you will be in the audience,” Zoller says in the video promo.
The West Hartford theater’s current season was supposed to feature the Broadway hit “Chicago” in February, but having such a large cast on stage singing and dancing together during the pandemic was deemed unwise, and a live performance was scrapped.
Show licensing rules forbade the playhouse from taping and livestreaming the show. Instead, it will present a new show, “Elyot And Amanda: All Alone from Noel Coward’s Private Lives,” starring Veanne Cox and Ezra Barnes.
It will be available for online streaming Feb. 10 to 28. For those looking for a creative idea for stay-at-home date night for Valentine’s Day, this show would fit the bill.
Co-founder and Executive Director Tracy Flater said the idea was something they saw being done elsewhere. One of the theater’s volunteers, its new chief ambassador, saw something like this happening at a synagogue in Florida.
“We were so enamored with it, we asked permission to copy it,” she said. “Since then, we’ve seen it happening in sports stadiums and other places.”
With challenges come opportunities, and the pandemic has certainly forced theaters and other arts organizations to think outside the box. They have pivoted and found creative new ways not only to present programs but to find fundraisers to keep afloat and meet budgets while being closed.
“Oh, gosh, it’s been so hard. We’ve been shut down since last March and that’s a long time,” Flater said. “We have worked very hard to pivot and remain fluid, based on the state of the pandemic and the governor’s guidelines.”
In better weather, the Playhouse was able to run outdoor programs with several organizations, including the Hill-Stead, Auerfarm, Dunkin’ Donuts Park and Edmond Town Hall opening their grounds for outdoor performances.
“We’ve tried to be creative and innovative with the ways we are filming our plays in order to provide quality entertainment via ‘streaming at home’,” she said.
“We continue to adjust our plans for the future. We make little to no revenue on what we’ve been producing, therefore we have had to rely more heavily on fundraising.
For information, visit playhouseonpark.org.