Based upon things I’ve heard over the past few months, I’d like to try to answer your questions and give everyone a better idea of what is going on with Theatre Tallahassee.
I apologize if you have felt in the dark or that we have not communicated enough. It has been a challenging year, not being able to set solid plans because of constantly changing guidance from the experts. Deciding when and how much to communicate was also tricky because we did not want to frustrate you by continuing to tell you we were planning something and then having to say we were changing it yet again.
I encourage you to email me if you ever have a question, comment, or concern about anything Theatre Tallahassee related, but hopefully, the below Q&As will answer many of your concerns.
— Theresa Davis, Executive Director
Like almost all the theaters in this country and around the world, we are stuck in a holding pattern. So much of what we can and can’t do depends on what is happening with vaccinations, variants, and people continuing to be smart and safe for just a bit longer.
We are happy to announce that we plan to do Becky’s New Car on the Mainstage in June, with small audiences. We also plan on reduced capacity audiences for our next season that opens in August (stay tuned for that announcement).
We understand the frustration of not having shows to attend. We are frustrated that we haven’t been able to produce them and be doing what we love. We’ve struggled to find programming that works via virtual showings; however, the reception to virtual theater has been lukewarm at best. While we have had small audiences, the income doesn’t cover the cost of producing the show, which further limits our options.
The first problem is licensing. Theater and the productions we present are 100% controlled by the licensing houses, the authors, their estates, and representatives. If we couldn’t get a license to present the show virtually, we couldn’t do it. Period.
The second problem is trying to find shows that work under the current circumstances. We have looked through show catalogs so many times, trying to find the magic show that fits all the requirements – small cast size, name recognition (something people would like to see), works in our space, and castable (will people audition). The available shows are minimal, and when you narrow the list down, it is almost impossible to find a selection.
We had two shows that we planned where we couldn’t get enough people to cast the show. We promised ourselves that regardless of what COVID did to the theater, we wouldn’t compromise our quality.
When we planned the limited 2020-21 season, we based it on the official predictions of COVID progression at that time. Which is why we said we couldn’t guarantee any of those shows. We are happy we were able to bring you both Lifespan of a Fact and Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged).
Unfortunately, due to circumstances out of our control, we could not bring you all of the shows we hoped. We don’t want to give up on the shows we chose, however with the limitations placed upon us, it simply became impossible to produce all of them. Look for several of the shows chosen for the 2020-21 season to be presented in the 2021-22 season, with the addition of a couple of new surprises.
To finish out this season, we’re pleased to be able to bring back Becky’s New Car, which had been about to open in March of 2020 just before we went into lockdown. And we’re also hoping to add some of the other missed shows from 2019-2020 to upcoming seasons.
This is an excellent example of the difficulty in finding shows that worked for us this season. We did hold open auditions for Lady Day; unfortunately, we could not cast it at that time. Several people were interested but were hesitant because of the virus. It is also a lot to ask of a volunteer to give weeks of rehearsals to create a show that would never have the reward of a live audience. This musical show deserves an audience and will be a better show with the audience interaction. We will be moving Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill to next season and are happy that we will be able to bring it to you live so it can be experienced the way it was intended.
Doing any show during the past year was a concern for our volunteer actors and production teams. Sharing tight spaces with other people can be uncomfortable to some people during normal times; the addition of a seriously contagious virus rightfully made everyone more concerned. All auditions we held had small turn-outs compared to what we usually get. If we said we were considering a live audience, the number of interested people dropped significantly. Our priorities have always been our volunteers’ safety and maintaining the high quality of show our patrons are accustomed to, and that may have limited our season. Still, we are proud of the shows we were able to bring you and are thankful to all the volunteers who shared their talents with us this season.
No one likes to talk about money, but I know people have concerns that maybe we won’t be around for our next season. Trust me, in the past 12 months we have had the same fear. Our productions and special events pay our bills. We don’t have an endowment or large slush fund to tap into for the worst-case scenario, so often, it came down to week-by-week decisions. All of the staff took pay cuts, some up to 75% of their income. Also, we had to make the tough decision to cut our Technical Director position; all options were explored before making that decision, but ultimately it had to be done. The building is still standing, and we are doing what we need to do to survive until we can operate normally again.
Financially we have had a couple of “Angels” that have stepped in to pay our utilities and other large reoccurring bills to ease our financial burden. Donations from our Annual Fund were lower than in previous years, but on a positive note, we had more new people join our Guild to support us.
We have had difficult years happen in the past 72 seasons, and with the support of our loyal patrons, we survived them. This year was definitely the most difficult financially and emotionally difficult, but we are still here and will continue to bring Broadway to your backyard.
Without a doubt, the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) provided by the CARES Act has allowed us to continue to have a staff; without it, there would have been little we could do. The Shuttered Venue Operator’s Grant is still a waiting game. We feel that we will be able to apply successfully and are hopeful we will receive funding to help replace lost income from last season, but until we are approved, and the money is in the bank, we are on pins and needles.
Additionally, thanks to the CARES Acts on a local level, we received grants from the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Leon County Office of Economic Vitality.
The subscriptions were a massive help in keeping us operating this lean season, so thank you to all who purchased them. Unfortunately, we could only produce three shows this season, not the five we hoped for, and we could not make them all live performances. If you purchased a 4-Ticket Promise subscription, you still have an opportunity to redeem those vouchers for our final show of this season: Becky’s New Car. We will be offering live performances of this production in June, as well as a virtual presentation in July.
If you still have tickets left over, and/or do not wish to use them for Becky’s New Car, we will be offering credits for up to two shows in exchange for unused 4-Ticket Promise vouchers to anyone who requests them. Please email me at Theresa@theatretallahassee.org or directly to BoxOffice@theatretallahassee.org to request the credits before June 30, 2021. The credits will be on your account for use during the 2021-2022 season.
When we reopen the 2021-2022 Season in August, we will be doing so with social distancing. We plan to add more seats throughout the season, following CDC guidelines on safety protocols.
Because of social distancing in the auditorium, we will not be able to offer the Reserved Season Subscription that many of you have. We will try our best to get you close to your regular seats if you choose to buy a season subscription. When we fully reopen our auditorium, we will transfer you back to your original reserved seats.
For those who had reserved season tickets before COVID paused our operations in 2020, we will continue to hold those seats for you for the 2022-23 season.