.North Bay Theaters Adapt to Covid-19

“Creative people are like the shark that has to keep moving forward to live,” says Barry Martin, managing director of Napa’s Lucky Penny Productions. “If we don’t tell stories, who are we?”

That “show must go on attitude” continues as local theater companies adjust to the pandemic-necessitated limitations on live performances. Some have canceled or significantly postponed their 2020–21 seasons, while others have made substantial investments in streaming technology.

“Our whole world has been turned upside down,” said Left Edge Theatre’s Argo Thompson. “Each of us is attempting to adapt. Left Edge is very fortunate for the support we have received during this time, including a few months of rent forgiveness from the Luther Burbank Center, donations from subscribers and patrons, PPP loans and grants from the Sonoma County Community Foundation and Creative Sonoma. These funding streams provided us the time and resources to create a new business model and invest in remote equipment and infrastructure.”

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They plan to move forward with a complete season of streaming plays starting Sept. 4 with Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Sweat.

“We believe our work and connection with our audience is more important than ever,” Thompson said. “The plays in our 2020–21 season have some amazing things in common. First, they are all written by female playwrights. Secondly, they all have themes that are relevant to this moment. Each play helps to identify broken systems and imagines new ways of being together. Our season is all about elevating the silenced.”

One component of their season will be a “New Works” Festival, something that several other companies plan to mount. Lucky Penny has solicited submissions from Bay Area writers for their October Short “Play-demic” Festival, a collection of stories for the stage about how life has been affected since the pandemic began, how life proceeds in the midst of it and what happens next. 

Cloverdale’s Performing Arts Center plans a streaming Festival in September featuring works by North Bay artists on the theme of injustice.

“We hope that by creating theater that promotes discussion and reflection, we can continue to move forward while also giving back,” said CPAC Artistic Director Yavé Guzman. “20 percent of any donations received through the end of September will be given to the ACLU of Northern California, who work continuously for social justice.”

For audiences looking for more traditional theater, the Santa Rosa Junior College Theatre Arts Department is currently holding video auditions for an October streaming production of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

The heart of theater continues to beat in the North Bay.


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