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Live theaters can reopen, but shows are still in early stages

Reopening to live audiences will be a gradual process for local theater companies.|

Local theater both live and online

Many theater companies still are finalizing their plans. Here is what we know so far:

The Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts department will close its spring season with the actor-created virtual performance, “Overcome.” 7 p.m. April 23, 24 and 30 and May 1; 2 p.m. May 2. Tickets for online performances will be sold as donations at theatrearts.santarosa.edu.

The Cloverdale Performing Arts Center and the Heroines, Harpies and Harlots theater company will produce its second annual “In Their Own Voice” theater festival, online, seeking to give all those who identify as women a platform, May 8-16. $12-$25. For details, visit Cloverdaleperformingarts.com.

The Left Edge Theatre company at Luther Burbank Center will present “Slow Food,” a comedy by Wendy McCleod, June 4-13 to a live audience, with masks required and limited seating capacity. $45 in person; $30 livestreaming online. Also available online on demand June 15-25. $15. 50 Mark West Springs Road, leftedgetheatre.com

The Transcendence Theatre Company will present outdoor drive-in productions of “My Hero” June 4-6 at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma, June 11-13 at the BR Cohn Winery in Sonoma Valley and June 18-20 at Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa. Watch for updates and details at transcendencetheatre.org.

The Raven Players in Healdsburg will perform “The Complete Works of William of William Shakespeare (abridged),” by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, Aug. 12-29 outdoors in West Plaza Park in Healdsburg. raventheater.org

On paper, it looks simple enough. With the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions, after more than a year in the dark, local live theater companies can reopen their venues for limited audiences, starting Thursday, April 15.

But while bars and restaurants are able to bring patrons back indoors rather quickly, mounting a full stage production is a different story. Some stage companies plan to welcome small live audiences indoors as early as next month, but others are looking to reopen next fall, when theater seasons typically begin.

“We are in discussion about doing a show in May,” said Jared Sakren, artistic director at the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa. “This news came up very quickly, and while we have been planning for months to reopen, we didn’t realize it would come this soon.”

Shows must be cast and rehearsed before live theaters can open new productions. Pandemic safety precautions will make the process even more complex. Proof of vaccination will be required for both theater personnel and audiences for theaters that want to open 35% of their seating. Otherwise, the cap is 25%.

“It takes five weeks to put together a production. A full musical would take six to seven weeks,” Sakren said. “Normally, you have to start marketing months in advance. And even with reopening allowed, you can’t pack the theater. If you’re talking about 25% capacity, opening is great but when does it make business sense to do it?”

Gradual restart

At 6th Street Playhouse, the earliest performances will be by students of its theater classes. They’ll present four different shows, starting April 23 and running through mid-May, but these will not be open to the general public.

“We are offering the students’ parents a chance to come and watch the shows, if they can provide proof of vaccination and negative COVID test results,” said Anne Clark, managing director at 6th Street.

In the meantime, 6th Street is presenting “Applause,” its online fundraising performance and gala, on April 24.

One of the first local theaters to welcome live audiences again will be the Left Edge Theatre company at Santa Rosa’s Burbank Center for the Arts.

“We are planning to present ‘Slow Food,’ a comedy by Wendy McCleod, the first two weeks of June,” said Argo Thompson, artistic director of company.

“Following all safety ordinances in place at this time, that means 35% capacity. Audience members must verify they are vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID test. Our entire team producing the show is or will be fully vaccinated by that point,” he added.

The theater has installed ultraviolet lights in its heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, as well as touchless hand sanitizers and cleaning systems. Thompson cited the CDC, which has said ultraviolet irradiation may help with decontamination.

“The audience needs to be masked,” Thompson said. “Actors will never be closer than 6 feet to the audience. Tickets will be available to our subscribers first and then, if seats remain, to the general public. We are still rehearsing in Zoom.”

After “Slow Food,” Left Edge will move quickly to its next production.

“We are still working out the details of our outdoor summer show, ‘Beautiful Monsters,’ written by local playwright and award-winning author Kelly Gray,” Thompson said. “It will be performed at Horse and Plow Winery in August, (with) dates and times to be decided.”

Online and indoor/outdoor shows

The Cloverdale Performing Arts Center and the Heroines, Harpies and Harlots theater company will produce its second annual “In Their Own Voice” theater festival, online, seeking to give all those who identify as women a platform, May 8-16. $12-$25. For details, visit Cloverdaleperformingarts.com.

At the Imaginists theater collective in Santa Rosa, the company continues to work with visiting artists to develop new productions, including some to be performed inside its A Street arts district building but visible to audiences outside.

“We will host Allie Hankins, a Portland-based dancer, performer and performance maker, and Rachael Dichter, a San Francisco-based dancer, performer, choreographer and curator, in late April through May. We hope to schedule a work-in-process showing of their work in May,” said Brent Lindsay, Imaginists executive director.

“The Imaginists will continue to experiment with our own interdisciplinary, collaborative performances. We plan to open an all-new window/garage door performance early summer 2021, dates to be decided,” he said.

The Transcendence Theatre Company, belatedly marking its 10th anniversary season, plans to present drive-in productions of “My Hero” in June at various Sonoma County locations, followed by shows at the company’s traditional venue, Jack London State Historic Park, in August and September.

The drive-in shows are scheduled for June 4-6 at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma, June 11-13 at the BR Cohn Winery in Sonoma Valley and June 18-20 at Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa. Watch for updates and details at transcendencetheatre.org.

The Raven Players in Healdsburg will perform “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged),” by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, Aug. 12-29 outdoors in West Plaza Park in Healdsburg. Go to raventheater.org for more information.

Waiting until fall

Even though Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a full reopening for all businesses on June 15, several theater companies still don’t expect to get back to normal until late summer or early fall, the traditional opening time for many theater seasons.

“As of now, we are planning to present a full 2021-2022 season beginning in late August,” said Keith Baker, producing artistic director at Main Stage West in Sebastopol.

“Many people who want vaccines have still not received them. We have no plans to reopen now, especially with caps on capacity,” Baker added. “It seems that trying to stage anything in the next couple months will not actually be financially viable, especially when weighed against the risks that still exist for our staff and volunteers.”

Other local theater companies also embraced a cautious approach, planning to take the summer to prepare for a full season later on.

“We plan to open our season in September. However, we are reviewing guidelines as to the percentage of the house that we can have, vaccination requirements, distancing on seating, air filtration system, sanitation and more,” said Diane Dragone, executive director of the Cinnabar in Petaluma.

“This is all a big mystery at the moment and until we have clarity from local and state agencies for guidelines, we will not announce the opening to the public,” she said. “Safety is our No. 1 concern — for actors, audience, staff and volunteers.”

At Rohnert Park’s Spreckels Perfoming Arts Center, Artistic Director Sheri Lee Miller also is looking ahead to the 2021-2022 season.

“Spreckels is currently planning to open in September. This is tentative until we know what the capacity restrictions will be,” she said.

Online to continue, too

In the meantime, as theaters transition back to hosting live audiences, the online theatrical productions that have proliferated during the pandemic will continue. Theaters hope to continue having both in-person and virtual shows into the foreseeable future, although even that is subject to change.

At the Santa Rosa Junior College, the closing show of the spring season will be presented online only. The Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts department will close its spring season with the actor-created virtual performance, “overcome,” opening April 21. It centers on the local community’s determination to overcome obstacles like fires, floods and COVID-19.

After that, there will be a hiatus for theatrical performances, following the college’s announcement that it will operate mostly by remote in the fall, with some in-person instruction.

“Because the college has decided that there will not be any mass gatherings for fall 2021, we have decided to cancel our production program for fall 2021 only, meaning we will not be mounting virtual productions this fall,” said Leslie McCauley, chairwoman and artistic director at the college’s department of theater and fashion.

“We feel that the best way to transition to a full in-person opening for spring 2022 is to put our collective energies to offering additional skills-based classes, establishing protocol for spring’s live productions and fully testing our sound, lighting and rigging equipment in our tech classes,” she added.

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5243. On Twitter @danarts

Local theater both live and online

Many theater companies still are finalizing their plans. Here is what we know so far:

The Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts department will close its spring season with the actor-created virtual performance, “Overcome.” 7 p.m. April 23, 24 and 30 and May 1; 2 p.m. May 2. Tickets for online performances will be sold as donations at theatrearts.santarosa.edu.

The Cloverdale Performing Arts Center and the Heroines, Harpies and Harlots theater company will produce its second annual “In Their Own Voice” theater festival, online, seeking to give all those who identify as women a platform, May 8-16. $12-$25. For details, visit Cloverdaleperformingarts.com.

The Left Edge Theatre company at Luther Burbank Center will present “Slow Food,” a comedy by Wendy McCleod, June 4-13 to a live audience, with masks required and limited seating capacity. $45 in person; $30 livestreaming online. Also available online on demand June 15-25. $15. 50 Mark West Springs Road, leftedgetheatre.com

The Transcendence Theatre Company will present outdoor drive-in productions of “My Hero” June 4-6 at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma, June 11-13 at the BR Cohn Winery in Sonoma Valley and June 18-20 at Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa. Watch for updates and details at transcendencetheatre.org.

The Raven Players in Healdsburg will perform “The Complete Works of William of William Shakespeare (abridged),” by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, Aug. 12-29 outdoors in West Plaza Park in Healdsburg. raventheater.org

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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