Everyone is a stage, we are told. But the Gainesville stages were closed and darkened for a year or more. And it’s only now that there are signs the show may finally be ready to go on with some degree of predictability.
At the Hippodrome, life will be a cabaret. At least at the beginning.
But The Actors Warehouse – having had to give up its lease – envisions a future of ephemeral productions here and there. The first, by chance, pops up at Hipp.
After seeing its 40th anniversary gala rain down by pandemic, the Acrosstown Repertory Theater returns to its roots with The Bard.
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And while the Gainesville Community Playhouse has handled a few live performances already, it’s under restrictive conditions that should hopefully start to loosen.
“We’re starting out nice and small, a singer and a pianist,” says Stephanie Lynge, artistic director of The Hipp, of the upcoming production of “By the Light of the Silvery Screen”.
With Hipp regular Bryan Mercer tickling ivories and Laura Hodos on vocals, Hipp’s first live performance is less of a play than a nightclub number … a little song, a little dancing.
“We’re excited to be able to get started,” Lynge says of production scheduled for June 4-6 on The Hipp’s main stage. “Everyone will be fully vaccinated. We can accommodate up to 89 people while doing social distancing.
“People right now just want to smile and enjoy the experience,” she said. “We asked ourselves how we can bring people some joy at the exit of” the year COVID-19.
Oh, and while they’re in the cabaret mood, the Hipp is planning a series of touring cabaret-style shows in May and June at various venues including Oak Hammock, Bo Diddley Plaza, 4th Avenue Food Park, Curia and elsewhere. . (For more details see https://thehipp.org).
And, she added, the Hippodrome intends to return to business-as-usual mode, with a full season of theatrical offerings starting in September.
“Hopefully there will be less social distancing needed by then,” she said. “But we’re going to do whatever we can to keep people safe.”
Obviously a victim of the COVID-19 shutdown, the Actors Warehouse had to give up its lease on a former church it had converted into a theater on Southeast First Street.
“We’re out of physical space, but it was actually for the best,” director Stephen H. Butler said. “It frees us. Our overheads are gone. And we decided to do pop-up performances in various places.
“It could be fun,” he said to himself. “Where will we be next?”
Well, for starters, the Actors’ Warehouse has reserved the Hippodrome cinema space to present August Wilson’s “How I Learned What I Learned”. And coincidentally, this one-man show will take place at the same time as The Hipp does their cabaret thing right upstairs, June 4-6.
Wilson was the African-American playwright behind “Fences” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”. The play is described as’ a journey through his days as a young poet: his first jobs, a stint in prison, the support of his lifelong friends, and his encounters with racism, music and love as struggling writer in Pittsburgh’s Hill. District.”
And having to forgo the usual round of open hearings, Butler himself chose to play Wilson. (For more details, see https://www.actorswarehouse.org).
After having its 1920-21 season roughly cut short by a virus, Acrosstown Theater also plans to start small, with a three-actor production of “The Complete Works Of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”.
This comedic play promises to wrap 37 Shakespeare plays into a 97-minute marathon performance and will run from July 23 through August. 8.
“This last season was meant to be our 40th anniversary,” says ART president Carolyne Salt. “We were going to make a big deal out of it … We ended up doing a lot of Zoom performances and trying to have fun with it.”
With “Short Shakespeare,” said Salt, “we try again to dip our toes in the water. We are going to err on the side of precaution. I suspect we’ll have mask requirements, maybe temperature controls, and social distancing. ”
ART also plans to announce regular season lineup starting in September. “Right now we’re basically trying to figure out how to protect our audience, our players and the people behind the scenes,” she said. (https://www.acrosstown.org).
Due to the spacious dimensions of its auditorium, the Gainesville Community Playhouse was able to start the theater last December, with the play “Cedar Key” by Michael Presley Bobbitt. Building on this momentum, GCP will present Neil Simon’s classic comedy “The Odd Couple” from June 10-27.
“It certainly helped us to have an auditorium of about 210 seats,” says Joe Keena, president of GCP. “We could bring that down to less than 25 percent capacity while still giving everyone social distancing.
“All the shows we’ve done so far have been one-act, with all the online ticket sales, no intermission, and none of the social gathering activities that we normally have. We want to think of our patrons for their support and participation and invite everyone to come back when they feel comfortable.
“We’re still here, and we’re still going to do live theater.”