There has never been anything like the current pandemic’s influence on the live performing arts. Local and regional disasters have stopped theater before, but nothing has had such an insidious and pervasive impact in bringing this multi-billion dollar creative industry to a screeching halt. This pandemic has affected the youngest in local community theater classes up to the hallowed streets of Broadway and the West End. The cumulative effect has created a huge void in our cultural consumption, the elimination of one of our basic creative food groups.
The reality, after the initial cold-turkey shock, evolves. Greater Des Moines’ resilient creatives are finding ways to feed the masses at least a little bit of cultural manna. A collective of companies is even leading efforts to mount the celebration that has become the annual gathering of patrons, performers and producers: the Cloris Awards.
Glimmers just off stage
While movie theaters are tentatively opening, they are relegated to screening almost only re-released films. The underlying pull is that people want the “experience,” that chance again to sit in a large communal space and share movies. Live theater venues do not have the luxury of pulling some great past production out of moth balls and tossing it back on stage. Each theatrical production relies upon the process of pre-production (selection of show, assembling the production team, casting the show, rehearsal) then the run of the show. This process runs counter to the COVID-19 safeguards. There are glimmers of creative methods of delivery of live performances to safeguarded audiences.
The Des Moines Community Playhouse launched a novel way to safely connect audiences to a live performance with its Live Theatre Drive-In. Launched in June with a trio of two-person casts, they presented “Love Letters,” a compelling story that could be presented without the female and male actors breaking the social distancing protocol. The audience, as implied, is parked appropriately spaced in the parking lot, all facing an elevated stage. There is some room up close for those wishing to use chairs, and the production is amplified and broadcast through a low-FM channel on vehicle radios. This worked marvelously and will likely be a hit through their August show, “The Roommate.”
They even launched a family show presented during the day, “Miss Electricity.” Check out their website for details.
The Playhouse is one of several companies offering virtual classes. Explore what each company offers through their websites.
How will this year’s Cloris Awards look?
A consortium of representatives from each company who qualifies for Cloris Award consideration gathered recently via Zoom. They are guiding this year’s recognition action. They decided to create the “The 2020 (DIY) Cloris Awards.” The ceremony will be Sunday, Aug. 30, online. The purpose is to continue the celebration and promotion of local theater. All theater companies, fans and the general public are encouraged to join. Each company will choose something from their 2019-2020 season for which they would like to be recognized.
This year’s Cloris Awards truly is an inventive way for all to see how theater companies are recognized for their ongoing contributions to the Greater Des Moines community, especially during this challenging season. While the crystal ball doesn’t foretell details of their future, patrons and participants alike know that the best outcomes possible will be pursued. Visit www.clorisawards.org for more information.
OVERHEARD IN THE LOBBY
Check for updates with each company regarding future plans and how to support.
Ankeny Community Theatre – www.ankenycommunitytheatre.com
Carousel Theatre of Indianola – www.carouseltheatre.org
Class Act Productions – www.captheatre.org
Des Moines Community Playhouse/Kate Goldman Theatre – www.dmplayhouse.com
Des Moines Performing Arts – For rescheduled, canceled, postponed events and FAQ https://desmoinesperformingarts.org/covid-19-update/
Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre – www.dmyat.org
Iowa Shakespeare Experience – www.iowashakespeare.org
Iowa Stage Theatre Company – www.iowastage.org
Pyramid Theatre Company – www.pyramidtheatre.org
Tallgrass Theatre Company – www.tallgrasstheatre.org
Urbandale Community Theatre – www.urbandaletheatre.com ♦
John Busbee is a creative project developer, critic, playwright, author, producer and media professional. He has produced his weekly show, The Culture Buzz, on KFMG since 2007.