While COVID has a lot of venues figuring out how to move forward, one local community theatre is venturing with cautious determination into the “new normal.” The Vero Beach Theatre Guild is moving ahead with its 63rd season beginning this month.
The pandemic forced an early curtain call on one the most ambitious musical productions ever to grace its stage. After only a few performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which was a stunner, the cast, crew and hard-working volunteers and staff at the Guild had to call it quits and close the doors.
“It’s been a long intermission” said Lisa McNamee, current Board President. “But we decided to use the time and opportunity to complete some long overdue projects and enhancements to the building, including making it safe to welcome back our patrons.”
The improvements are impressive. From floor restoration to fresh paint and beyond, most of the building is looking shiny and new inside. The restrooms have been refreshed and the entire has been completely renovated, more than doubling the space. The box office has also been completely redesigned with new windows and touch-free payment systems. The esthetics are remarkable but most impressive is how the auditorium has been reconfigured to ensure physical distancing.
“We removed every other row of seats which created a little over six feet of distancing between rows and now, when seats are sold, the seat or seats between them become unavailable” said McNamee. “We’ve also taken out the old carpet and added a brand-new air filtration system” she added. Other theatres and concert venues around the country are following similar strategies. The Guild will no longer issue paper tickets and will not have ticket takers. Hand sanitizer will be readily available, and all staff and patrons will be required to wear masks at all times inside the building. For now, the outdoor bar, which is part of the newly and permanently covered patio, will remain closed and they will forgo concession sales, but they will provide patrons with bottled water.
It seems like a well thought out plan and might just give theatre lovers what they miss as safely as possible. The Guild will open its doors to the public starting November 13th with the hilarious “Things You Shouldn’t Say Past Midnight” by Peter Ackerman and directed by Jon Putzke. This performance was a limited Apron Series offering last year that was an uproarious crowd pleaser. This year there will be six performances of “Midnight” over two weekends in November. In December, Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” will follow in a similar schedule. Both productions will be staged in front of the drape and the fully staged productions will begin in January.
The Vero Beach Theatre Guild is primarily volunteer-driven so they are able to offer performances to far less than 50 percent capacity and still manage to bring wonderful entertainment to our community. For additional information about safety precautions at The Guild you can visit the Things To Know Before You Go of the VBTG website.