Directors miss tussling over ideas and emotions in a rehearsal room. Actors crave the applause of live audiences. Theatergoers long for the communal magic that happens when a show moves, inspires and transports us.
The burning question in Twin Cities theater has been: When will we have shows again?
“Things can’t just go back to normal, because normal wasn’t good for so many of us,” said Penumbra Theatre artistic director Sarah Bellamy. “COVID-19 and the George Floyd uprising have laid bare the deep inequities that literally is life and death for Black folks and folks of color.”
Many theaters have plays planned for early 2021. The Guthrie’s mini-season is slated to kick off in March with Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat.” At the Children’s Theatre, “Seedfolks” leads the roster. But theaters have to remain flexible.
“I don’t feel the rush to get back to shows,” said Frank Theatre founder Wendy Knox. “This virus is so smart. We think it’s almost over but we’re only in the second inning.”
Theaters are using the downtime to connect in ways that are safe. They are also addressing issues that get swept under the rug, including the inequities in the field.
“The world is heavy these days but it’s also good to have the time and space to realign one’s priorities,” said Theater Latté Da artistic director Peter Rothstein.
Children’s Theatre Company had planned to do “Urinetown” this summer. Instead, its students composed their very first musical — “Covidtown,” coming soon to the Zoom app.
Penumbra, which is expanding its mission to include racial equity and healing, doesn’t have plans until next fall, although it might do something earlier if conditions permit.
“We’re staying nimble and really vigilant about how and when we reopen,” Bellamy said. “Our community is in triage right now and we’re taking care so that when we come back, it will be safe to tend to their hearts, spirits and nervous systems.”
Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, which halted “The Music Man,” is doing concerts and comedy, despite losing money at 25% capacity.
Said choreographer and co-owner Tamara Kangas Erickson, “It’s providing some activity and energy in the building while the set of ‘Music Man,’ lit so beautifully, waits for actors and singers and dancers to come back.”