NORTH METRO ATLANTA — The pandemic lockdown has forced many theaters to shut down, often in mid-production. There were tickets to refund, postponements made, which shifted into cancellations. Seasons had to be reworked, and show licenses adjusted or adjusted.
Most professional theatre companies in the Atlanta area have postponed seasons until 2021, including the Atlanta Lyric Theatre and Georgia Ensemble Theatre. At least one theater, New Dawn Theater Company in Duluth, has permanently closed. Theatres are struggling to find ways to stay in business. Many actors were doubly impacted because many work in the hospitality industry or in a gig economy.
Several local theatres have developed creative ways to stay productive during the shutdown. Many are posting online livestreaming or recorded video subscription shows. Elm Street Cultural Arts Village in Woodstock wrapped up a digital offering of “She Kills Monsters” on Aug. 23. Companies are reassessing offerings to reduce cast sizes and find creative ways to rehearse. Drawing inspiration from the citizens of Italy in the worst of the lockdown, ACT1 Theater in Alpharetta staged a “Virtual Balcony” on its Facebook page. ACT1 alumni posted videos of themselves performing numbers from Broadway musicals from their living rooms in order to entertain, but also to keep doing what they love.
Local theatres, in conjunction with the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing at Emory University, are developing plans and protocols for safe theater experiences as the economy reopens and there is a return to a more normal way of life.
ACT1 Theater is still planning to offer free Shakespeare in the Park, but has adjusted content to a collection of well-loved monologues and dialogues. These can easily be rehearsed remotely and performed with minimal sets in an outdoor setting in Wills Park.
Managing Director Melody Cookson noted “as they say, the show must go on. Theatres must be nimble and find ways to continue to do our craft. We postponed a big holiday musical to 2021 and have replaced it with “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Show.” A cast of only five actors and crew can be socially distanced without impacting the show. And if we can’t welcome audiences, we plan to stream the show so the efforts of the cast and crew can still be appreciated.”
Cookson said that ACT1 Theater is lucky to have financial support. The theater is hosted by and is an outreach of Alpharetta Presbyterian Church and is all-volunteer, so the company doesn’t worry about how to keep the lights on. In the meantime, she pointed out that the arts still need support. She identified several area companies in need of help: Lionheart Theater, Norcross; Center Stage North, Marietta; Elm Street Cultural Arts, Woodstock; ACT3 Productions, Sandy Springs; and Cherokee Theater Company, Canton.
Support can also come by letting legislators know you support arts relief and funding.