Whitefish Theatre Co. gets creative during coronavirus pandemic

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 20:38:06-04

WHITEFISH — Jen Asebrook, Executive Director of Whitefish Theatre Company, said that since the beginning of the pandemic the company lost around $80,000. She explained that the virus canceled shows and their biggest fundraiser in May.

"And we talked about, oh we might have to cancel one show. Mostly Kosher was supposed to come in March, they were from California which was being hit really hard," said Asebrook. "They called us and canceled and we were like oh well, we're going to have to cancel one show. And then, of course things spiraled and we ended up canceling five shows which was a third of our season."

With all of the revenue loss they applied for a handful of federal funding. Whitefish Theatre company received a PPP loan and a social service non-profit grant.

That money from the PPP loan kept all staff employed throughout the pandemic.

Because of the virus, Asebrook says the company got creative. The company now offers in-house and virtual tickets for streaming the company's productions.

"We would have two kinds of shows," she said. "Film a play as it was happening. So, it's not a film, it's not a post-production film, it's just people with multiple cameras filming a live play."

The play "Seminar" debuted via YouTube and ran June 27-28. Audience members who wanted to stream the production were provided an "unlisted" YouTube link. Asebrook explained that the link would only be able to be viewed once.

She said that streaming Seminar was successful, having around the same number of people viewing at home and in the theater.

However, legally streaming a play presents its challenges.

"We were supposed to do Lost in Yonkers in October. We knew we had the theater rights for them, but we had to go back and ask for digital rights and they said no," she said. "No Neil Simon plays are going to be filmed."

Operations Manager Gayle MacClaren added that they're being extremely careful, socially distancing audience members, sanitizing frequently, encouraging masks as well as participating in contact tracing.

Masks are not mandatory, but encouraged. However at Seminar every audience member in attendance wore a mask.

"If someone were to test positive and were to tell the health department where they had been, it would be easier for the health department if I gave them the phone numbers of everyone that was here. So far, that hasn't happened," explained MacClaren.

So they're remaining flexible during these uncertain times.

"We will do what we can," MacClaren said. "If we can't have people inside the building for a rehearsal we will pick a smaller show."

Asebrook encourages people to support their local arts. Whether that's donating or buying tickets to their shows.

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