Williamsburg Players Debut New Shows While Facing Volunteer Shortage

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The coronavirus pandemic has caused community there to come to a standstill with no end in sight.(WYDaily/Williamsburg Players Facebook)
For nonprofit organizations like the Williamsburg Players, the need for volunteers is crucial. (WYDaily file)

WILLIAMSBURG — As the Williamsburg Players are now two shows into their 64th season, concerns over not having enough volunteers have arisen.

While the pandemic forced an early end to the Players’ 2020-2021 season, the community theatre reopened to the public for its 2021-2022 season in September with the play “Lilies on the Land.”

The Players’ second show, “Squabbles,” directed by Julie King and adapted from playwright Marshall Karp, is currently running Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays through Nov. 20 at the Williamsburg Players theatre, 200 Hubbard Ln.

The comedy follows a young husband and wife who are expecting their first child. However, the wife’s curmudgeonly father, who lives with the couple, is not so happy with the situation. When the husband’s mother loses her house in a fire, she must also move in with the three.

Hilarity ensues as the two in-laws are pitted against each other, thus the play’s title.

“It’s a play that hasn’t been put on a lot,” Williamsburg Players President Neil Hollands said. “It’s a very funny piece, and audiences seem to be liking it so far. It’s very easy to like.”

While audience turnouts for the first two shows have been good, Hollands said, the theatre is seeing a shift in attendance compared to pre-pandemic performances, particularly at the evening shows.

“I think people have really gotten out of the habit of going out in the evenings,” Hollands said. “Our matinees are packed, but our evening performances are a little lower than in the past.”

They are seeing this same pattern in their volunteers.

While it’s no secret that there’s a staffing shortage around the country since the pandemic, nonprofit organizations like the Williamsburg Players that rely on volunteers are also struggling.

Since the start of its new season, the Williamsburg Players have even struggled to find volunteers for ushers and concessions.

“We really had to scramble at the last minute or we were going to have to leave concessions closed for this current show when we opened because we didn’t have enough sign-ups,” Hollands said.

The theatre is also in need of backstage help, such as lighting and sound.

The organization relies on roughly 100 people for a show, including a cast of about 10 to 20 volunteer actors, the set department, costume department, box office, ushers and concessions.

“A lot of us have gotten in the habit in the last year-and-a-half of spending a lot more time at home, and not having schedules that are crazy busy,” Hollands said. “I’m not just seeing it at our theatre, I’m hearing it other theatres too.”

The Generic Theatre in Norfolk recently had to halt performances due to similar challenges and hold a volunteer fair in an attempt to bring more people in.

For the Williamsburg Players, and theatres like it, these volunteers are crucial.

Shortly after “Squabbles” ends its run, the theatre will premiere its adaptation of the iconic holiday show, “A Christmas Carol,” which will run from Dec. 8-18.

With a bigger cast and more music this year than ever before, Hollands wants the theatre’s version of the show to become a staple for Williamsburg families during the holidays.

“The values in “A Christmas Carol” – things like being generous to other people and valuing your family – those are things that kind of became attached to Christmas through this story,” he said. “So I think it’s a great one for families to share, even if they’ve seen it a thousand times. Our idea with doing this every year is we want to be part of people’s holiday tradition here in Williamsburg.”

Amid a busy time of year for the theatre, Hollands said that they are searching for volunteers of all ages.

W”e’ve got a current show on for people to sign up as ushers and concessions, and that doesn’t need advanced training,” he said. “And if anyone wants to get involved with box office or anything theatrically we can get them the training. It’s a great place for people to be.”

Those interested in volunteering for the Williamsburg Players can visit here to fill out a volunteer form.

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