SHREVEPORT, La -- It is said in the theater, the show must go on. But due to COVID-19, scheduled events will go on much later than planned.
“'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,' then the fundraiser, then 'Bring it On,' then 'Charlotte’s Web,' then '9-to-5'… all of it is having to be rescheduled,” said Laura Beeman Nugent, Shreveport Little Theatre’s academy director.
Shreveport Little Theatre, scheduled to embark on its 99th continuous season, is a non-profit organization dependent on ticket sales to stay open. But with COVID-19, directors are having to weigh cash flow against safety, considering whether it is cost effective to rehearse or produce a show with masks and social distancing.
“When we create a show, we work as one unit, and when you have to think about the safety of the unit, … you have to say, is that a feasible option?” said Nugent. “When you sing, you’re projecting. And there is no telling if you’re asymptomatic, if there’s something in the air.”
Not only has the pandemic prevented the theatre from making money – it has no income coming in -- but also, with the uncertainty of when Louisiana’s economy will fully open, Shreveport Little Theatre’s summer musical, which is the largest grossing show each year, is a big question mark.
“It may not be a full-scale musical,” said Nugent. “It may look different. But it’s still the idea that the community both inside and outside the theatre are going to be able to celebrate some passionate storytelling together.”
Jennifer Carsillo, an actress and violinist for the Shreveport Symphony, and Heather Hooper, an actress and theatre instructor for Captain Shreve High School, were two of the stars of the theatre’s very successful 2019 summer musical, “Mamma Mia.”
“Everything was done at such a high level at Shreveport Little Theatre,” said Carsillo. “You had professional singers and people who had never been in a musical before.”
“I had been in a musical before. I’d just always been mute!” joked Hooper.
“So many people said it was light fluff,” Hooper continued. “And it was light fluff. But it was mirroring one of the most important, beautiful, sometimes fragile events in our lives, and that is unconditional love and supporting friendship.”
And it is that love and friendship that performers miss when not on the stage, doing what they love.
“Let’s be honest, at the end of the day, we mean to bring joy into people’s lives,” said Nugent. “And we mean to celebrate with them and tell stories that are beautiful and have meaning. And when you can’t do that, the spirit gets down a little bit."
“We want to be responsible with our choices going forward,” said Hooper. “And it’s a new world.”
Along with producing the shows, theater companies like Shreveport Little Theatre must hold auditions and then go through weeks, sometimes months of rehearsals, set building, and costume and prop design. The shows can be a massive undertaking. And the summer musical, which is scheduled to be “9-to-5 the Musical” this year, is the biggest production of each season.