On March 12, 2020, Broadway theatres closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic that not only affected the United States, but the entire world. Theatre is meant to be performed live, and in the current climate of the United States, it has been a challenge for theatres to produce performances. However, artists and creatives have adapted and while Broadway theatres remain closed until at least the end of May 2021, theatres in the Midwest are changing their rules and protocols to allow for theatre to persevere.
The Des Moines Community Playhouse had just opened their Spring production of Singin’ In The Rain when the pandemic hit Iowa. David Kilpatrick, who is the current Executive Director of the DMCPH, explained that the show was cancelled as soon as the pandemic hit in March. For a couple of months, everything at the Playhouse was shut down, but then Kilpatrick and the rest of the team at the DMCPH began planning and hosting the “Outdoor Drive-In Theatre.”
Des Moines Community Playhouse
Aside from these outdoor performances, the Des Moines Community Playhouse is also producing two shows this fall. They have implemented safety precautions such as temperature checks and reduced capacity in the theatres. Kilpatrick hopes that people will attend, and that they will have faith in the Playhouse to produce a safe show.
No Way Theatre
No Way Theatre is a Minneapolis-based theatre company that formed in 2017. Ruby Carlson, Artistic Director, is currently a Master of Fine Arts student at Minnesota State University in Mankato. When the pandemic hit, the theatre decided to focus their energy and time on producing virtual theatre and, specifically, virtual cabarets. Carlson reached out to friends and peers and had people submit videos from home.
People recorded themselves and sent in videos by a certain deadline, and then Carlson and her team compiled the videos and aired them on Facebook Live.
These cabarets are generally themed, and No Way Theatre has some exciting ideas for upcoming events. These include a Spooky Cabaret, in the spirit of Halloween, and a Roulette Cabaret, in which No Way Theatre chooses what songs people sing.
youth actors academy of lincoln
Educational theatre has also had to adapt during the pandemic. Christina Docter is the Artistic Director at the Youth Actors Academy of Lincoln, or YAAL for short, in Lincoln, Nebraska. When the pandemic hit Nebraska, they originally put together a series in which kids could ask questions and speak with theatre professionals. However, when summer classes were supposed to start, Doctor and her team began to pivot to a virtual format.
They taught virtual classes on topics such as stage makeup, virtual comedy and singing virtually. In addition to classes, YAAL also produced virtual shows that are written for students.
As fall approached, Docter began to figure out the plan for classes, but they had to adapt as students wanted to take in-person classes.
Due to this, YAAL switched to a hybrid class schedule for the fall where students can choose whether they want to take in-person or online classes.
Drake university theatre dept.
While the Youth Actors Academy of Lincoln is a theatre for younger children, collegiate level theatre has also changed. At Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, many changes have been made to ensure that students are still able to produce shows. John Pomeroy, the chair of the theatre department, worked with faculty members to come up with a plan for the fall season.
This semester, shows will be filmed and recorded, and then put on a YouTube channel for a two-week period where audiences can watch the performance. However some plays, such as the first show of the year, The Cut, do not have a copyright available for virtual performances.
For The Cut, the audience watched the play on a screen in the larger Performing Arts Hall while students performed the play, in masks, in the smaller black box theatre. This allowed for greater social distancing.
As theatres across the country remain closed, many are doing their best to survive and to create art in any way that they can. John Pomeroy encourages theatre artists and technicians to stay positive and to have trust in the industry.