Local theater groups continue during pandemic

Local theater groups continue during pandemic

As a way to be able to still have performances during the pandemic, area theater groups have done more things online and outside.

Meriden Youth Theatre

Before the pandemic, Meriden Youth Theatre at the Meriden YMCA was putting on eight to nine musical productions every year, both indoors and outdoors.

“So we had some experience both rehearsing and performing outdoors and when the pandemic hit in March, we were about a month away from our spring production and we had to put that on pause, we switched to virtual rehearsals on Zoom,” said Joe Oblon, the group’s technical director. “Once things opened up in the summertime and we were able to get some small groups together, we filmed that production and we streamed it for our families.”

Oblon said they did the same thing for three summer productions. In the fall, the youth theater company usually does a production for elementary, middle and high school students, but with having to film and stream shows, Oblon said they did one musical, “Shrek,” and filmed outdoors.

“I guess for 2020 we turned into a movie production studio,” Oblon said. “It was an exciting change for our students and the directors as we had to figure out how best to perform for a camera and not a live audience.”

Meriden Youth Theatre works with students in kindergarten through high school. Registration is now open for the group’s summer camp and Oblon is hopeful that they can return to in person performances this summer following all guidelines. Virtual classes are currently offered. The program is about to start a design class and an audition workshop.

Oblon said that they made it a priority to continue to offer programming amid the pandemics.

“It’s a safe space for them, it’s a place where they have some of their best friends and you get to get together with people that don’t go to your school or that aren’t in the same grade as you,” Oblon said. “Those connections are so important.”

Southington Community Theatre

Southington Community Theatre usually puts on two to three shows a year — a musical in the spring, a play in the fall and a holiday show in December. The volunteer group does not have its own theater, so performances take place at local schools, churches or community centers.

When the pandemic hit, the group had just completed auditions for “Seussical the Musical.”

“We didn’t even cast the show, we just put a pause on it thinking that we would be able to produce it in the late summer or fall instead of June,” said Amanda Savio, president of the theater group’s board of directors. “We’ve pretty much been on pause since.”

Savio said they have done some virtual events, including a series of Facebook Live performances in the spring.

“I want to say there were a total of 50 of them, close to 50 performances, so every night someone would get on our Facebook page and perform a song or two,” Savio said. “Usually Broadway related, theater related songs … It was very well received.”

Around Christmas the group put on a show called “(Still at) Home for the Holidays.”

“It was pre-recorded, just people singing holiday songs in their homes,” Savio said. “It’s all stitched together like a really nicely produced holiday show. That was free.”

Savio said that because the group does not have a building of its own, they do not have to worry about paying rent and other expenses.

“Because we don’t have our own theater, we’re a little bit luckier than other groups because we don’t have to pay rent on a space we’re not using,” Savio said. “We don’t have a ton of bills to pay.”

Castle Craig Players

Each year, Castle Craig Players puts on two or three musicals and a couple of plays, with its season beginning in September and running until July or August. The group has a small theater in downtown Meriden.

When the pandemic began, the group was in the midst of preparing for a performance of “Next to Normal” and had to close it down.

“It of course meant lost revenue immediately from that show and it canceled two more shows after that, so it wiped out the rest of that season and for the next year,” said Pam Amodio, executive board member. “Even when we’re not doing a show and all the expenses that come with that, we have regular expenses that need to be met regardless of what we’re doing. We needed to continue to make money, we needed to continue to keep our name out there and be relevant in the theater community.”

Amodio, who chairs the fundraising committee, said that they have done different things throughout the year to help the group raise money and continue to offer performers the opportunity to perform.

“We’ve done some fundraisers, we’ve done some radio dramas, we did a couple of concerts live streamed, we’ve done some game nights,” Amodio said. “We feel as if we’ve done a good job in offering up opportunities to our audience to enjoy theater, to have a break from the stress of the pandemic and to help us continue to stay alive and vibrant.”

jsimms@record-journal.com203-317-2208Twitter: @jessica_simms99

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