Live theater has picked up inside, but it’s moving slowly.
We, the People Theater, which produces plays at the Briggs Opera House, have been particularly careful, and for good reason. When the novel coronavirus closed theaters in March 2020, the company was days away from opening an ambitious production of The man of La Mancha.
“It was really hard when The Channel crashed, ”said Hamilton Gillett, who played the reigning man Don Quixote this week. The decor and lighting design was amazing, and the rehearsals had been long and intense, he said.
So the non-profit theater company has planned a simple comeback this weekend in the form of All together now!, a musical review that the publisher Music Theater International grants free to theaters.
“I love the idea,” said Perry Allison, co-founder of We the People. MTI “made getting back on stage as easy as possible”.
The idea proved popular enough that more than 2,500 theater companies around the world presented a version of the show this weekend. MTI is offering the show to theaters for free, as a way to kickstart the ball and give theaters an inexpensive way to put on a show that might not attract a big house.
We the People shows are scheduled at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Briggs Opera House in White River Junction. General admission tickets cost $ 15- $ 22 and are available at wethepeopletheater.com.
Additionally, two of the performances will be broadcast live on CATV’s YouTube channel and streamed for free on CATV.
For All together now!, MTI has made available a menu of 35 songs from a wide range of shows, Wretched at Mom mia. But theater companies are free to create their own context, so the music plays a bit differently.
“The songs that MTI has selected all have new meaning through the lens of having experienced a pandemic,” said Allison.
Among the songs are Back to Before, from Ragtime; Empty chairs at empty tables, from The set; and tomorrow, from Annie. The headlines alone now speak of some sort of loss the writers might not have wanted.
The show’s four directors, Allison, Samantha Davidson Green, Jenn Langhus and Richard Waterhouse have removed several songs from MTI’s list, many of which are typically sung by or intended for children, said Langhus, a Norwich resident. Then they shared the rest.
“If you had a vision for this, it was up to you” to make it happen, she said.
They also looked at who among their theater contacts could lead each issue. Each of the administrators is equally efficient.
And the directors created a screenplay, with Gillett, from Windsor, on stage as the narrator.
The rehearsals took place in small groups and masked. Singers and actors will not wear masks during performances. They were all tested for COVID-19 last week and will also be tested quickly this week. Masks and vaccines will be compulsory for spectators.
And the streaming and broadcast options are aimed at people too infirm or too uncomfortable to attend in person.
The broadcast and sets, which consist primarily of projections provided by MTI and lighting design by Alex Taylor, demonstrate the growing partnership between the Briggs Opera House and CATV, which took over the technical management of the space earlier this year.
“It just opened a few more doors for us that we wouldn’t necessarily have opened,” Langhus said of the use of projections.
When the We the People team decided over the summer to go ahead with All together now!, the number of COVID-19 cases was at a low ebb. Last week, Vermont set a daily record for cases.
With precautions in place, this show looks likely to continue. But even if it didn’t, just rehearsing was a throwback to a cherished pastime.
“If we were to get away from that, I think we would all be disappointed,” said Gillett, but not on the order of The man of La Mancha.
“It’s already a victory that we get to do it, we get to be together,” Langhus said.
For a while now, it has been and will be the history of the arts, in three acts: a dispersion, an exile, then a gathering.
“When it all closed, the lack of performing arts was for so many people, for people in this profession it was so heartbreaking,” Langhus said.
The show, then, is about mending the heart.
“I love the title of this show, All together now!Langhus said. “It’s like a hug. It’s so good to be together.
For information and tickets, visit wethepeopletheater.com.
Alex Hanson can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3207.