As COVID-19 continues, the Pumphouse Players troupe decided not to reopen The Legion Theatre to the public this fall.
“While we initially hoped to welcome live audiences this fall, we have had to shift gears very quickly,” PHP President Laurel Ann Lowe said. “Summer is typically a time of transition for our board, too, so making big decisions while bringing new members up to speed has been an interesting experience.”
For fall, she shared the PHP will be implementing a “hybrid plan.”
“Our intimate theater offers a special experience for seeing shows up close and personal, but that presents a challenge when we're physically distancing,” Lowe said. “For that reason, we won't be hosting live audiences this fall.
“We will be offering full-length and short play festival events, as well as special events and new play readings for online audiences. Some of our events will be recorded and directed 100% online, while other small cast events will be ‘live captured’ in-person to be broadcast at a later date.”
Due to COVID-19 concerns, the PHP closed its home venue to the public in mid-March. The 70-seat Legion Theatre is situated at 114 W. Main St. in downtown Cartersville.
“We know that we are all anxious to be back together, enjoying creating shows and experiencing the special kind of energy that comes with live shows,” stated Pumphouse Players’ board of directors on the group’s website. “We are ready to get back to the boards as regularly scheduled, just as soon as it’s safe, responsible and allowable to do so.
“For now, we’re committed to finding ways to keep creating together and trying new things. We’re maintaining strict cleaning and disinfecting standards, limited group sizes for any rehearsals/recording sessions and scheduling use of space with physical distancing in mind.”
The PHP’s decision to bolster its virtual offerings is underscored by its marquee message — “The show must go on - line.”
“Our board members all agree that we'd much rather be creating art together, in person, but we are also all committed to reach toward our mission of providing performing arts and artistic opportunities to our community,” Lowe said. “I have been very proud of the way that our board, our local writers and our membership have responded to this crisis with an outpouring of love and support.
“During the fall, we're excited to be hosting small group workshops for Pumphouse Junior that will culminate in an online broadcast, three Local Playwright development readings and five online short play festivals from local and international writers. Still in the works, we are preparing special events in honor of Halloween and Christmas, as well as two surprise musical events in November and early 2021. We hope to present our March, May and June shows as planned, if supported by current public health recommendations at that time.”
This month, the PHP will present a variety of online offerings. The virtual lineup will include encores of “Confessions” Aug. 14 at 7 p.m. and Aug. 15 at 3 p.m.; encores of “Universally Funny” Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. and Aug. 16 at 3 p.m.; “On the Couch” short plays Aug. 21 at 7 p.m., Aug. 22 at 3 and 7 p.m. and Aug. 23 at 3 p.m.; and “Paradise, Stayed” by Emily McClain Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.
“So far, we've had to learn a lot in a little bit of time,” Lowe said about PHP’s online content. “Each event has its own hurdles and its own rewards. Our creative teams have pulled together in a very inspiring way, and through the magic of the internet we've been able to reconnect with performers who live in other states, connect with new performers and artists that live in surrounding counties, and have beginners and amateurs work alongside industry professionals.
“Personally, I've learned a lot of new skills related to video editing, organizing recording sessions and setting up various streaming platforms. I am excited to have these skills, and I think they will make Pumphouse stronger moving forward.”
For more information about the PHP’s virtual productions, visit the theater group’s Facebook page or website, pumphouseplayers.com.
“Audiences so far have responded very well to our streaming events, and our talkbacks for our new plays have been lively and engaging,” Lowe said. “While we know that online theater isn't for everyone, we truly appreciate everyone who has been willing to give it a try. Because of the popularity, we are now even offering on-demand replays for some of our events via ShowTix4u.”