Elizabeth Kensek uses a WaterTower Theater 25th anniversary season advertising poster to count how many shows were canceled during the pandemic. Now the theatre’s associate producer is eager to welcome audiences indoors for theatrical performances of one of the shows listed on this poster: Simon Stephen’s The curious incident of the dog during the night, now playing through July 25 in Addison.
The curious incident of the dog during the night is one of two shows that the Addison Theater Company has managed to save from its milestone season. The theater will produce the play by Lorraine Hansberry A raisin in the sun From September 1 to 11.
Shane Peterman, the theatre’s artistic director of production, and Kensek wanted to return to live performances with shows that are more than just entertainment. “These two have an important message, they have something to say. It’s not just good art; these are also good messages, ”Kensek said.
Unlike other local theaters, the WaterTower Theater has decided not to perform outdoors. “Doing theater outside was not an option for us because the town of Addison, at the time we were planning, did not have all the staff or was not able to help us facilitate this. . So we worked with Actor’s Equity [Actor’s Equity Association, the union for professional actors and stage managers] to make sure we were one of the first to come back to the interior of the country and we are, ”said Peterman.
Actor’s Equity Association has different levels of security protocols for theater companies. WaterTower Theater follows union protocols for a fully vaccinated cast. “Their safety standards for interior businesses are very high and we are happy to meet them because the number one priority this year has been to protect everyone,” Kensek said.
The theater has tested and balanced its HVAC and ventilation system to ensure that there is increased airflow and outside air mixing in the facility. Masks are strongly encouraged for the public, hand sanitizing stations will be available and a digital program will be provided instead of a hard copy.
The actors and the team are regularly tested. Kensek and Delynda Johnson Moravec, the theater’s director of finance and administration, are certified to administer COVID-19 tests. “If I have a castmate come over and say, ‘Hey, I think I feel like I’m having a snort,’ I say, ‘Okay, let’s test you. Let’s go. Don’t even go into space. Let’s go to the testing area and make sure you’re okay. I’d rather spend the money getting someone tested quickly every day rather than risking anything that could put someone else in danger, ”Kensek said.
The theater filmed a few shows during the pandemic, including that of Doug Wright I am my own woman, and published the shows as video on demand. The theater is thinking about how many shows it will film and how it will release future productions. “For us, it’s all about return on investment, how it makes sense to us,” Peterman said. “How much are we investing in this, what audience are we retaining or what audience are we capturing and growing? “
The curious incident of the dog during the night was filmed. “We were lucky to have the broadcast rights Curious from the start and they let us keep them. But a lot of editors start to say, ‘Well, maybe we don’t need to allow that anymore’ and they start to shut that door, or they start to tighten the restrictions on the set, ”said Kensek.
Controversy erupted when the all-white cast of The curious incident of the dog during the night has been announced. The theater community reacted on social networks by condemning the lack of representation of BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) for a show taking place in today’s London.
“It was just about the perfect storm not having the resources or maybe having a blind spot in my name for not highlighting this like we should have had,” said Peterman. “We are still in what is a good time to learn, I think, for us as a company, but also for me as a leader”,
The WaterTower Theater issued an apology on June 28, committing to change its casting process, develop a community partnership initiative with students, and host a live community forum on Sunday, July 18 at 6:30 p.m. The Theater plans to announce further actions on July 31.
Peterman notes that the theater’s board of directors is more diverse than ever before, the theater works with companies owned and operated by BIPOC, and A raisin in the sun was sunk. He recognizes that there is still work to be done.
“We are excited and keen to do a constructive job and yes, to be held accountable, but the responsibility is also to find the solution and to come to a solution rather than being in the drama of the problem,” said Peterman. “I think the key is to keep talking to each other and to stop talking to each other.”
Peterman participated in a virtual community chat with Denise Lee on July 12. He listened to the experiences of members of the BIPOC theater community, quietly taking several pages of notes.
“The great part of what I took away is that I still have a lot to be open to learning, and I am committed as a leader to taking the information as a white man. privileged one piece at a time and digesting it and working with others in the community to better understand that, ”said Peterman.“ And there are some really amazing leaders and members of the BIPOC community who want to help move forward towards a constructive plan to move towards a solution. “
Peterman hopes to rebuild a more diverse staff for the theater. During the pandemic, the staff went from nine full-time employees to three. A full-time staff member volunteered to work part-time. Peterman and two other full-time staff suffered a pay cut. For Peterman, who came to the theater almost three years ago when he was in financial trouble, this is his second pay cut.
Peterman and Kensek chose to put the theater’s limited funds on the stage, increasing the rate for non-union actors, maintaining allowances for designers, paying all interns, and setting a minimum wage of $ 12. the hour for hourly employees.
“We all know there’s a much bigger goal than us,” Peterman said. “And that’s WaterTower Theater.”
Learn more: https://watertowertheatre.org/