This is a difficult time for all of us, and we are all trying to adjust and adapt to a “new normal” that is anything but normal. I have always said that theatre is unique in the arts because it is, but definition, a collaborative artform. You cannot do it alone, which makes social distancing and isolation that much more challenging to the work we do and love.
But we also know the amount of collaborative time and energy that go into creating and polishing a theatre production. I don’t need to remind you of the countless hours spent building sets and lights, designing and creating costumes, and rehearsing scenes. Theatre performance lasts a couple of hours, but we all know that for every moment in front of an audience, there are dozens of people spending hundreds of hours to make that moment possible.
Poudre High School is officially closed until April 17, but with the county and state shelter-in-place orders that just came out yesterday, and the dramatic and frightening rise of infections and deaths locally and globally, I am skeptical on that date. Indeed, I wonder if we will be back on campus at all this semester. And even if we do return to school, this pandemic won’t be gone completely from our daily lives. The thought of students crammed together in our dressing rooms or scene shops, not to mention the idea of filling the 650 seats in our auditorium with parents, siblings and classmates, gives me much pause.
It is for all of these reasons, and with consultation with the other directors and others in the community, and with the support, advice, and approval of the PHS administration, that we will be postponing our spring production of “Eurydice” until next year.
This was not a decision that I made alone, nor was it one I made lightly. I have agonized about this for the last three weeks. I have looked at all the possibilities and scenarios, have gone over the calendar a hundred times, have looked at a variety of modifications, alternatives, and options to make it work in some capacity. I have considered the entire company, and how different options might affect costumers, technicians, stage managers, and cast members. I have looked at the possible ramifications on 9th grade students and, of course, on our seniors, who are struggling with a senior year no one could have predicted. But the bottom line is the safety and well-being of our students and community. And unless that can be assured, there is no other option but to postpone.
“Eurydice” will be part of our 20-21 season. I am not sure yet where in the year it will fall (nor do I know what the other shows will be: don’t ask!). The current cast and crew will be the cast and crew for the show when it happens; we will only audition or select for positions left open by graduated seniors and those who choose not to participate. So you do not need to audition for your part again, or come to crew selection: you are already in the show, if you want to continue.
I know there will be some who say we should just keep working on it, in case we go back. There are some who will argue to do it during the summer, or at another location. We could do a “reader’s theatre”-type of performance, or we could do it without a set or lights. Trust me that we have worked through all of those options. I am not asking you to like this plan (I don’t like it one bit!), but know that we have considered all possibilities and this is the only plan that ensures a quality theatre experience that is safe and prudent and beneficial to students and the community.
So what will we be doing instead? Since this is a class, and many of you have signed up for FRCC college credit as well as PHS credit, we will be working on independent theatre projects. Each of you will have a number of options in performance or design/technology, to explore and area of theatre that appeals to you, to create a piece of theatre for yourself, and to present that piece of theatre to an audience. Details on the assignments and requirements will be coming next week, but there will be options for everyone. Over the next 7-8 weeks, we will work with each of you to learn, explore, and expand your theatre knowledge. We are basing this on the Thespian Individual Events model, but there will be some options outside of the traditional IE format for you to choose. Some of you may even decide to take your piece to State in December as your IE!
All Individual theatre pieces will be presented or performed at the Spring Theatre Showcase, currently scheduled on May 19. Of course, we will be adjusting that date as necessary, but I don’t want to speculate or create false hopes. We are working with the facts we have and will adjust as the facts change. It is counter-productive to play guessing games with our current situation, nor it is useful to constantly be searching for possible alternatives when we don’t know what the future will hold. I need you to trust that we are making the best possible choices given the circumstances and accept that even if we don’t like those choices, we at least acknowledge that they are in our best interests.
I am actually excited about this new opportunity. So often we don’t have time while working on a production to teach fundamental skills or enrich our learning. Often we wish we only had more time, so that we could actually train students in important and marketable skills, rather than just trying to get everything done as fast as possible for a show. For those students who really want to know how to design lights for a script, or learn to drape, or build sound cues, or develop character, or create a scenic design, this is your chance to explore that without the pressure of a performance deadline. I hope that this will give you skills that you can implement into our shows at PHS in the future, or in college, community, or professional theatre down the road.
I anticipate that there will be a lot of different reactions to this: sadness, relief, anger, surprise. Also, probably a lot of questions. We are here for you. Ms. Kari and I are available, as are your Drama Club officers. Please let me know what questions you have, and I will answer them as well as I can. Please also try not to accept whatever rumors will no doubt start flying around (they may be flying already!); ask me, I’ll be straight with you!
A final note for the Class of 2020: I’m sure this feels like one more thing that’s being stolen from you, and, honestly, it is. Know that I was thinking about you the whole time we were working on this. Know that my heart breaks for you. But also know that your company (and it is yours: you have trained these under-classmen, you have shown them what it means to be part of Poudre Theatre, you have made this company what it is, just like the Class of 2017 did for you) is not about the shows you have done, or the parts you have played, but rather the acceptance and love and passion you have brought to it. This is not what anyone wanted for your final show here, but you have much to be proud of, much you have brought to the rest of us, and much more than one production could ever give you. I am so sorry, but also so proud of you and so honored to be part of your company.