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Old Courthouse Theatre finds way to reopen in midst of pandemic

Old Courthouse Theatre finds way to reopen in midst of pandemic

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CONCORD — The Old Courthouse Theatre opened for its 45th season Oct. 16 after having been closed since March.

According to the Metrolina Theatre Association, the Concord theater is also the only one in the surrounding area to currently host live performances indoors, said Herchelle Smith with the Old Courthouse Theatre.

“We are the only theater, to our knowledge, that have been able to perform in our home space,” she said.

But while the theater is in its 45th season, there was fear that it wouldn’t open its doors again after it closed in March.

The theater is fully volunteer-run and operates on ticket sales, patron donations and grants. The mandated closing, Smith said, hit the theater hard financially, like so many other businesses and organizations in the arts community.

When the state locked down, the theater had to cancel its showings of “Mama Mia!,” which was going to be a large fundraiser. The theater potentially could have raised about $32,000 from those showings.

“Not having that show open, there was some uncertainty,” Smith said. “Fundraising was hard for everyone because everyone was going through tough times. There was a financial aspect to not knowing if we would survive being closed down.”

The theater also is still financially recovering from an annex building fire in February 2018 that destroyed set pieces, wardrobe and furniture.

Once the theater was able to open its doors after Gov. Roy Cooper moved the state into Phase 3 this month, the theater started its production of “CLUE: On Stage.”

The cast performed Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in its opening week, with the Sunday matinee sold out. There are still showings scheduled for this week.

The audience was opened with limited capacity and socially distanced. The theater has a capacity for over 200 audience members, but will now seat about 50.

The front row is also blocked off to distance the audience from the stage. Everyone in the theater is required to wear a mask properly, and all concession stands are closed to limit any gatherings. Temperature checks are required at the doors, and no outside food or drink is allowed.

All actors performed in clear masks. But due to sound issues, the actors did not wear mics. Instead, they projected their voices. This was a choice the theater was concerned about, Smith said. But, thankfully, there have been no complaints about the lack of mics

“A lot of our patrons are senior citizens, and so that was a concern when we called and said we would reopen,” Smith said. “We had a great number turn out, more than I thought were going to, and we have not received any complaints about not being able to hear or understand.”

For patrons who still can’t make it to a live showing, the theater is offering tickets to a livestream option through Broadway on Demand.

The theater held opening auditions for its December show, “ELF the Musical” on Oct. 26 and 27, but this year auditions will be held virtually. The logistics, Smith said, are a work in progress.

“This is all new territory,” Smith said. “We are just going to have to try it out and see what works.”

The theater dabbled in virtual events, with a few virtual fundraisers during the summer. But there still will be a transition to holding auditions over Zoom. Smith said as everyone gets used to it, like everyone became used to the masks on stage, things will get better.

Old Courthouse Theatre 45th season showing dates:

• “ELF the Musical”: Dec. 3-13.

• “The Miracle Worker”: March 11-21, 2021.

• “Mamma Mia!”: May 6-16, 2021.

In-person tickets can be purchased at https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=114962.

Livestream tickets can be purchased online at https://www.broadwayondemand.com/channels/details/old-courthouse-theatre.

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