For this week’s “Coronavirus Edition” of KSMU’s “Arts News,” we checked in with Beth Domann, Executive Director of Springfield Little Theatre, to see how they are dealing with the current shutdown. Of course, as Domann said, it has “put a halt to our entire season—that’s for sure.
“We’re still doing classes online, so the Education program is doing classes online. Lorianne (Dunn, SLT’s Education Director) is busy Zooming all day, every day. There are still meetings happening, with Zoom. But as far as shows…? You know, we thought we might be able to push ‘Matilda The Musical’ back to May—that’s not going to work. Then June? Probably not going to work. So we’re just planning on pushing everything into the summer, and hoping at that point that it will be okay to do things. It’s difficult to plan a new season [the 2020-2021 season was scheduled to open with “Kinky Boots” on September 11] around all this stuff, when you’re constantly having to—nobody knows what the dates will be. So it’s difficult at best, I think, for all the arts organizations just dealing with the unknown. You know, you’re dealing with a lot of people—we run by deadlines. And so it’s not easy to do this because this is just… open. It’s just fluid.”
Obviously, there is a serious impact on ticket sales, Domann said. “We’ll get back to it eventually, and have our season tickets and that kind of stuff. It’s just trying to plan when is the best time, and when we’ll be able to get everybody back into the theater to even be able to do that. It’s difficult to do this stuff at home, that’s for sure!”
Beth Domann reports the online LT Education classes are working out well so far. “The Youth Players and all the Troupes are meeting [virtually] and having a good time. They (the LT Education staff) are still meeting with kids as far as getting monologues and that kind of thing. They also are doing dance classes online—that’s going well.”
I asked Beth to remind us what shows we’re missing out on this spring, as the 2019-2020 season was supposed to be coming to its conclusion before the pandemic struck. “Matilda… Deep In the Heart of Tuna, and we were closing with Kinky Boots. The ‘Matilda’ set is onstage—it’s sitting there, ready and waiting. And it will take us a probably a week and a half to two weeks to get the cast back in shape—but we’re ready to go and chomping at the bit. This happened a week and a half prior to when we were supposed to open. Most of all, we want everybody to be safe and feel comfortable—our cast, our volunteers and our patrons of course. So we’re in a holding pattern, we’re just going to wait and see.”
How has the postponement of the rest of the season affected Little Theatre financially? “It’s never good when your revenue goes from ticket sales to—nothing!” said Domann. “That’s a big drag. But we did apply for loans and stuff, and so we just have to kind of look at it week to week, and see where we’re at.
“Fortunately we have an incredible Board. Tom Everett is our Board President, and he’s just doing an amazing job. And Steve Kelly and Jeff Hammock and Bill Mitchell and Travis Lyles are on our Executive Board, and they’re just strong, good leaders to help with that kind of stuff. So we’re very fortunate.”
LT is working to maintain an online presence through the shutdown. In addition to the main www.springfieldlittletheatre.org, there’s www.facebook.com/SpfldTheatre/, where Beth said they are continuing to add content, including living-room concerts by various performers. “On our website is Charley Wasson, who is our Matilda, doing one of the songs (from the show). We got to do that right before we had to shut down, and that was pretty cool. Now we’re just going back and showing old pictures of old shows and that kind of stuff—so that’s kind of fun, to have a little history lesson.” (You can find pictures from LT season 2012 through 2016 under the “Gallery” tab on the LT website.)
When Little Theatre is able to resume productions, Beth Domann said they would kick off with “Matilda.” “And then we’ll probably try to put ‘Tuna’, squeeze that in somewhere next season, because Mark Gideon, who does that with me, he’s retiring this year. So now I’m just going to have to work around his travel schedule—because now he’s free to go and do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. And then we’ll do ‘Kinky Boots,’ too.”
Domann looks forward to being able to get back on a regular schedule. “You know, you can only do Netflix so much,” she said with a laugh. “My Lord, I just can’t do any more! But everybody, just stay safe so we can get everybody back. It’ll be great.”