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Fall Theater Is Safety First – Inside The Theater And With Scheduling

The cast of “The Irish and How They Got That Way.”
Capital Rep
The cast of “The Irish and How They Got That Way.”

The positive aspect for theater in the fall of 2021 is that it is happening. Most theater companies have announced their seasons and a few venues have even started offering shows.

Currently, “Almost, Maine” is at Home Made Theater in Saratoga, “Good Night Gracie” is at Curtain Call Theatre in Latham, and the musical ”Ordinary Days” is playing at Schenectady Light Opera. Each show is at a non-professional house and uses a cast that ranges from one performer to six. The venues all have strict COVID protocols that demand proof of vaccination and require a mask be worn inside the theater.

They are the toes in the water tests which will give a feel as to how audiences will respond to indoor theater. These early shows are a way to find out if, after a summer of mostly outdoor performances, whether or not audiences will purchase tickets to attend theater indoors.

To be honest, no one knows for sure what the immediate future will bring in terms of individuals overcoming their fear of the pandemic.

That is why, for me, the most significant date on the fall calendar is November 19. This is the day Capital Repertory Theatre opens “The Irish and How They Got That Way.”

It’s a very symbolic scheduling choice. With the show, artistic-producing director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill is either making a bold and confident statement saying, “We are truly back,” or she is taunting the theater gods.

“The Irish and How They Got That Way” was the last show Capital Rep produced. It opened on March 10, 2020. The state closed all theaters the next day. The theater missed the rest of 2020 and almost all of 2021.

Yes, in August into September, it did produce the Ethel Waters musical biography “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.” But mixing bird metaphors, that was really the canary in the coal mine. The one-woman show, while entertaining, was a shakedown performance for the new theater.

Not only was “The Irish….” the last live show Cap Rep produced in 2020, it was the last show ever offered at its North Pearl Street Market Theatre. They now have a new home at 251 N. Pearl Street.

For my money, “The Irish and How They Got That Way” is the official opening of the new space.

The show, which runs through December 19, will be a true test of how local audiences will accept indoor theater. When it was forced to close, “The Irish …”, which is filled with song, comedy and poignant story-telling, had one of the largest advance sales in the theater’s history. In my review, which never ran, I described it as an energetic, exuberant Irish vaudeville.

If it doesn’t sell well, or because of public safety concerns it doesn’t open, it will signal another bleak winter for all entertainment.

Being optimistic, it is also a bell-weather production as most local theater is essentially opening about the same time. Though the bulk of its touring shows are scheduled for January and later, Proctors Theatre starts its Broadway series with the Donna Summer musical biography “Summer” December 7-12.

Most community theaters have shows opening the same time. And I mean the same time. In a careless example of poor local coordination, three community theaters are producing shows at the same time.

Albany Civic Theatre presents “Art” weekends from November 12-21, Schenectady Civic Players offer the Steven Dietz play “This Random World” on the same dates, as does Schenectady Light Opera Company with their musical offering “The Glorious Ones.” Home Made Theatre waits until December 3 to open its second show, “Moonlight and Magnolias.”

A quick perusal of the titles lets you know area theater is also on the same page philosophically. Don’t look for challenging work with any social significance this year. And expect small cast shows.

It’s not all bland. Some smaller companies like Troy Foundry Theater and Creative License at Cohoes Music Hall are making bold choices.

Nonetheless, the overall theme for the rest of 2021 is safety first. That means conservative scheduling choices and more importantly, safety inside the theater. Every company has a policy of proof of vaccination and patrons must wear face masks inside the theater.

The rest of the year might be bleak but let us be happy if it happens.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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