Saturday, July 2, 2022

Williamsburg Players returns to the stage with outdoor performances

The Williamsburg Players are returning in the spring with a series of outdoor shows. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Williamsburg Players)

YORK COUNTY — The Williamsburg Players will soon take the stage again, though performances will look a little different. 

After a year in the dark, the Williamsburg Players will return for their 64th season with a series of outdoor shows. 

Williamsburg Players President Neil Hollands said that the program will offer outdoor events throughout the spring and summer, starting on May 8.

“12 Characters in Search of an Audience: An Actor’s Showcase,” is a series of monologues, sketches, poems, and more based on a theme from the Anne Frank quote, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

The show will run on May 8 and 9 outside the Williamsburg Players theater located at 200 Hubbard Lane

Hollands also said that after a “mostly quiet year,” the Players are dedicated to bringing back live entertainment. 

The community theatre program was in the middle of their rehearsals for their spring production of “The Scarlet Pimpernel” last year when they found out that they would have to cancel the rest of their spring schedule. 

“One of the hardest things I’ve done as president is walk into the rehearsal for ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ and say ‘Sorry, we have to shut this down,’” Hollands said.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused community there to come to a standstill with no end in sight.(WYDaily/Williamsburg Players Facebook)
The Williamsburg Players had to cancel their spring performances last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.(WYDaily/WYDaily file)

The Williamsburg Players first experimented with outdoor shows last fall, first with a single-performer show and then a cabaret show. 

“Normally when you do a cabaret show, there’s a little bit of competition between the singers,” Hollands said. “But with this one, there was just this collective happiness that they were able to do their thing on stage again.” 

Hollands said that the success of these shows allowed them to start slowly working their way back.

“It’s been an agonizing decision all along,” he said. “We kept talking about if there are ways we can do theater with the audience socially distanced. Our 300-seat house goes down to about 65 to 70 seats under a full six-foot distanced regiment.” 

Among other factors considered was intermission, as they couldn’t have audience members congregating and going to the restroom at the same time. 

“How do you stage the show so the performers aren’t in each other’s face but at the same time not look completely ridiculous?” he said. “In the end, we couldn’t come up with a way.”

With residents starting to get their vaccines, however, the members of the Williamsburg Players felt better about coming back.

“Frankly, we also realized we can’t go on forever not making some money,” he said. “We still have a mortgage to pay on the building, whether or not we’re putting on shows.”

While the Williamsburg Players have received help from donors, many of the grants available for performing arts spaces are mostly aimed at places that have employees.

An all-volunteer group like the Williamsburg Players doesn’t qualify for a lot of those same grants, so Hollands said that it was financially time to come back. 

The Williamsburg Players will follow “12 Characters” with the show, “Songs from the Golden Age of Broadway,” scheduled to run June 5, 6, and 12.

They will also hold a two-week long Broadway Summer Camp for kids ages 8-18, culminating in shows August 7-8. 

Rehearsals for upcoming shows have been nothing short of interesting.

“We have a few group numbers in the musical show, and they have to be rehearsed on Zoom, which is a tough place to rehearse,” Hollands said. “But at least they can hear how it sounds while they sing up against the other parts.” 

“We’re doing shows that are quite compartmentalized,” he added. “They don’t have to have more than a director and a pianist for the musical one, and a stage manager and the person rehearsing. Everybody spreads out, the person on stage is the only one who can take their mask off.” 

Hollands said that the first time the whole cast comes together will be at the dress rehearsal, which will be held outside. 

The big news for Williamsburg Players is that it will announce the 2021-2022 season, which will start in September.

While Hollands can’t yet disclose what the shows will be, he did reveal that they will likely close the season with the musical, “Aida.”  

What was originally going to be part of their 2021 season, “Aida” has quite a large cast, so Hollands said that it will need to be their last show for the upcoming season.

“We’re starting with some shows that are smaller scale so we can socially distance audiences and maintain more safety in rehearsals,“ he said. 

While season ticket holders will likely be given more priority for their seating, Hollands said that he can’t predict how fast audiences will be willing to come back.

“Our audiences tend to be over the 75 age group,” he said. “Even in an outdoor setting, the last thing we want to do is host some kind of spreader event.”

For now, however, the show must go on. And it will when the Williamsburg Players return for their spring and summer season on May 8. 

For more information, visit the website for the Williamsburg Players by clicking here.

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