As good as theater on television is, people can watch only so long before they start itching to see a production live. For too long, though, that has been impossible because of the novel coronavirus that has shut down most events in this country since mid-March.
A couple of weeks ago, Brazos Valley TROUPE opened its doors for a one-weekend show.
Now, StageCenter, the area’s oldest community theater, reopens Thursday for a three-weekend run of The 39 Steps, based on the 1935 British film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which was based on a 1915 novel of the same name by John Buchan.
The StageCenter version is directed by Jennifer Hargis. It will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 15. Audience size will be reduced as a precaution against the spread of the virus. So, 2 p.m. Saturday matinees have been added on Aug. 8 and Aug. 15.
All tickets for Thursday nights and the Saturday matinees are $10. For Friday and Saturday nights, tickets are $15, with senior and student tickets at $12. For this production, no tickets will be sold at the door. All tickets must be ordered and paid for online at stagecenter.net. Patrons with season tickets should notify the theater to say which performance they wish to attend.
Although COVID-19 still is surging across Texas, StageCenter is taking precautions to keep the actors, crew and audience safe. To start with, the theater is cutting its already-limited seating in half. Chairs will be grouped in pairs, with six feet between each pair. If groups or more than two patrons attend, they will have to split up to maintain the two-person grouping. Seating for the production will be assigned.
All patrons will be required to wear a mask throughout their time inside the theater. There will be no exceptions.
A giant plexiglass screen has been installed to prevent the spread of the virus through droplets. The shield will allow the actors to appear on stage without a mask.
There will be no reception line after each performance to eliminate shaking hands or hugging.
Hargis said, “We ask that people not come to the show if a) they know they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, b) they are not feeling well themself, c) if they have been tested and are awaiting the results, d) they know they are carrying COVID-19, and finally e) if they are in a high-risk group.”
No volunteers will be used during this production. No food or beverages will be for sale. Programs will be on each seat when patrons arrive. Members of the audience are asked not to turn in programs for others to use. Instead, they should throw their program out at the theater or take it with them.
Restrooms will be cleaned thoroughly three times a performance: after the show begins, after intermission and after the audience has left the building.
Hargis said, “We are doing everything we can to make this the safest possible experience for all involved. We understand that there are those who will not be in attendance during this time and we look forward to seeing them on the other side of the pandemic.
“We will be happy when this is all behind us and we are ready to get back to a normal theater experience. Of course, nothing will ever be the same as it was before, and I really feel like some of the practices that people have taken on will remain in place for years to come.”
The 39 Steps is a comedy spoof of the Hitchcock film adapted by Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon.
Actors Mark Bendiksen, Kassandra Maduzia, Tim Scott and Lucien Stavenhagen will portray almost 50 characters throughout the play.
In addition to Hargis, the crew includes Robin Sutton as assistant director and Katy Sutton as stage manager.
The 39 Steps, with intermission, lasts about 2 hours and 5 minutes.
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