For York County theaters, the show goes online during COVID-19 times

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Cast members from Theatre Arts For Everyone perform the original show "An Isolated Incident."

Weary Arts Group's production of "Fame" opened March 12 and was shut down a day later.

Like most York County theater and performing arts organizations, WAG spent months rehearsing shows and building sets, only to cancel their performances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving organization leaders to wonder how they would continue their seasons without crowds and in-person gatherings. 

Diane Crews, the artistic director of Theatre Arts For Everyone, said while she was devastated by the cancellations of several shows, the theater organization improvised with the next best thing — theater  in an online space.

"Virtual theater isn't like live theater, except for one crucial element. It brings people together," Crews said. 

After TAFE was forced to cancel its live performances for the remainder of the year, theater organizers went back to the drawing board to see how they could continue producing shows virtually.

"I call it theater reimagined," Crews said. "We are constantly figuring out how we can do this the best we can."

Calvin Weary, the CEO of Weary Arts Group, said he's taken a similar approach to bring virtual shows to people.

"We've been trying to make as much content as we can," Weary said.

Cal Weary, the newly named board president of the Parliament Arts Organization.

TAFE will be presenting four shows, "An Isolated Incident," "After the End," "Talent in the Time of Covid" and "Always in December." Two of the three episodes of "An Isolated Incident" are available now, with the third premiering on Friday.  

All four productions are  performed through Zoom and prerecorded. All auditions and rehearsals were also held via Zoom. 

Each actor performs from their own home, Crews said. While most choreography is limited since actors aren't on a stage, each production has been written to accommodate the Zoom format and play to the advantages of the virtual platform.

For example, "After the End"  tells the stories of what happened to fairy tale villains after the stories ended. Each actor will play a different villain confined to their jail cell telling their story, Crews said.

The actors will have a matching Zoom backgrounds to help complete the overall tone of the show.

TAFE also will be partnering with Weary Arts Group to put on "The Water Gun Song" and "#Matter." 

"The Water Gun Song" and "#Matter" will be available at WAG's website at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The following day, a forum will be made available for people to discuss the contents of both shows, Weary said, adding that WAG has several shows in the works that will be prerecorded and posted to its website

Bob Haag, left, and Jack Hartman rehearse their original comedy play "Stethoscope" that will be shown on The Belmont Theatre website, Saturday, August 8.
The concert is the first production to happen at the Belmont since pandemic restrictions were set in place in March.
John A. Pavoncello photo

At The Belmont Theatre, organizers have plans to put on a second virtual concert after its first one, hosted  in August, was a success, said Lyn Bergdoll, the executive director.

"People enjoyed watching it, and the performers who sent us videos really enjoyed performing those numbers," Bergdoll said.

The Belmont Theatre's  virtual concert last month consisted of over 40 prerecorded performances featuring songs previously performed at the theater, in addition to an original play. 

Organizers have plans to release the winter virtual concert on Dec. 4. All featured songs will be holiday classics, in addition to another original play, Bergdoll said.

"It's us bringing the performing arts to them in a safe way where they can enjoy it," she said. 

In addition to a holiday virtual concert, Bergdoll said theater officials are hoping to organize a Halloween event featuring live readings of ghost stories.

"Everything is a learning opportunity, and it really makes you think about how you can do things well," Bergdoll said. "Everything we do here, we want to do really well." 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.