Had enough of the quarantine blues? Chatham Drama Guild is cooking up the antidote to all of those quiet nights at home, and when the coast is clear and conditions are safe to avoid transmission of the COVID-19 virus, a welcome night of laughter is on the horizon, perhaps as soon as late July.
Back in January, director Anna Marie Johansen, who was preparing to depart for Europe for the month of February, held auditions for what was intended to be the Drama Guild’s May show, “Leading Ladies” by Ken Ludwig. The show was cast and the script read through with an intended opening night of May 15.
“Well, you know what happened next,” said Pam Banas, the Drama Guild’s president. “That was on March 6. At that point we didn't know that our country would be assaulted by a pandemic.”
Plans to gather at the Guild the following week were scrapped. The board met instead and made the decision to wait and see what would happen. As the virus situation escalated, knowing that all the actors wanted to continue with the project, Johansen suggested Zoom rehearsals. This way the cast would be acquainted and could start learning their lines and developing their characters.
“The zoom rehearsals are more intense,” Banas said. “They require that you be tuned in all the time. We usually do about 45 minutes, but no more than an hour. Some of the actors have less computer experience so there will be someone who hasn't turned on the video or sound but it has gone amazingly well. More importantly, it has kept us connected and it's fun. We are all experts now.”
Thank goodness, Banas notes, the show is a comedy. We could all use a laugh and some lighthearted fun.
“It involves two British actors down on their luck seeing an ad in the paper looking for Max and Steve, lost relatives of the dying Florence, their aunt,” Banas explains. “The men decide they will impersonate Max and Steve to get Florence's millions, only to find out that Max is Maxine and Steve is Stephanie. The chaos begins! The show is funny and fast-paced, so the rehearsals are fun and the audience will appreciate something that provides a laugh.”
The show will go on, if the governor’s guidelines permit, in the third week of July. Banas said that the cast will begin in-person rehearsals at the Crowell Road theater as soon as safety allows. When the show opens, the audience will be limited in accordance with Governor Baker’s Phase Three live entertainment guidelines.
“We can expand or limit as necessary, Banas said. “It is important to protect the actors. That will be the biggest challenge. Masking and good hand hygiene will be important.”
Banas said that seating will be adjusted in accordance with social distancing guidelines, and audience members will be required to wear a mask. A bathroom attendant with hand sanitizer will be on the scene, and traffic flow through the theater will be directed with arrows. Audience members will wait in their cars to be called to the box office, and when they are admitted, their bar orders will be taken along with their tickets. It will be time consuming and extra work, but Banas emphasizes the effort is worthwhile for the health and safety of both audience and actors.
“Live theater is and will continue to be a necessary part of our society,” Banas said. “All of the actors have been happy to invest in the project knowing that eventually they will perform live and on stage. It's been a long winter, and having something to look forward too has been important. The fact that the show is a comedy and we can all laugh during the rehearsals has been wonderful during the long, dark days.”
“Leading Ladies” will grace the Chatham Drama Guild Stage at a date to be announced, featuring director Anna Marie Johansen, producer/costumer Pam Banas, set/light designer Scott Hamilton, sound designer Don Howell, and actors Geof Newton as Leo/Maxine, Bragan Thomas as Jack/Stephanie, Stuard Derrick as Duncan, Susanna Creel as Meg, Mike Guzowski as Doc, Emily Entwistle as Audrey, Cameron Hall as Butch and Karen McPherson as Florence. For tickets call 508-945-0510.