APT’s The Road Back : Department check-in

American Players Theatre

Photo via American Players Theatre

A Status Check, And Some News

We thought we’d start this entry with a bit of exciting news: We are going to announce the 2021 Summer Season in next week’s Diversions, on March 24! Unless, that is, something very unexpected happens before then. The caveat comes from the fact that we have not yet received final approval from the unions.

The good news is that we’ve had enough feedback from them that we believe we will eventually get that approval, and be able to begin rehearsal. In light of this summer season tease, let’s take a look at what the different departments at APT are doing to prepare for the ever-more-likely APT season.

Safety Committee: Led by our Production Manager, Michael Broh, the team has submitted safety applications for the first four plays of the season to the unions with which we work. As we’ve talked about in a previous post, Actors’ Equity Association has the most stringent safety protocols. Last week, they responded to one of our applications and had a number of questions and areas of concern. Michael and his team believe these can feasibly be addressed, and they have already responded to the questions from the union. So for the time being, it’s back to waiting.

This group is also organizing testing plans for the season. All actors, and the staff who come into contact with them need to have frequent COVID tests. So the team is vetting companies that can do it consistently and economically.

Artistic Staff: Flexibility is the name of the game right now. A few unexpected personnel changes have kept them busy over the last couple of weeks. These kinds of changes are not new – they literally happen every single year. Perhaps a prior commitment gets rescheduled, creating a conflict. Or someone has to drop out for family reasons. But this year the season planning timeline is compressed, so the changes are coming later in the game, and closer to the season. Brenda DeVita and company are rising to the occasion as they always do, and there is no doubt the 2021 company will be exquisite.

Also on the artistic agenda: the 2022 season! Usually the next season is roughed in before the current one begins, which is a little more of a challenge this year than in a normal year. But it’s exciting be working on both seasons, and to think about coming together with a little more normalcy in 2022.

Costume Shop: Costume Director Scott Rött is ticking through his usual pre-season list – ordering supplies, getting all the sewing machines serviced and the thousands of moving pieces that go into running the shop during a pandemic. For example, Scott is currently working on instituting extra safety protocols, such as rearranging the costume shop so staff members can work socially distanced from each other. Also, he’s in the process of converting a small rehearsal hall into a fitting room, as the fitting rooms that are part of the costume shop are too small to accommodate the actor and two costume staff members safely. The costume department has already cut the number of people involved down to the bare minimum. In a normal year, there could be up to eight people participating in a fitting; this year, most of them, including the costume designer, will join via Zoom.

Scene Shop: Technical Director Bill Duwell reports that in many ways it is business as usual right now. He’s doing his annual rite of spring – repairing the Hill Theatre stage. Even though it’s only a few years old, and wasn’t laden with scenery last year, annual maintenance is always needed to prolong its life. Bill and Assistant Technical Director Doug Dion are also working on planning for scenery construction, as the scenic designs arrive and they get a first look at them. And, similar to the costume shop, they’re organizing their COVID safety protocols. Construction will begin on the 2021 sets in just a few weeks!

Prop Shop: Shipping is a concern for Prop Master Nathan Stuber. He notes that the shipping industry is a mess from the pandemic, and that anything that comes from overseas will take twice as long as usual – if it shows up at all. That can be a problem for someone who needs to buy the kind of unique and unusual items that are often required for our plays, so he’s starting as early as he can.

Company Management: Company Manager Nicole Tilford, who we talked to for the February 10 TRB has brought the first of her two assistants on board to lighten the load. Together, they are meeting virtually with each company member about their housing. They are also starting to move furniture into apartments and to deep clean in preparation for the arrival of the company.

Stage Management: Evelyn Matten, the Production Stage Manager, is working on the schedule. This is usually tied up by the beginning of January, but it’s more (and in some regards, less) complicated this year.

Though the one-play-at-a-time-in-each-space model is simpler in a way, there are new considerations. For instance: can an actor do eight performances a week in the heat of summer in our Hill Theatre? Or is it too much of a strain on body and voice? But even with these new considerations, we expect to release the schedule in the next week or so.

Finance: Our Controller, Jon Novak, has been busy assessing federal funding opportunities that may be available to APT. There is a second round of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP), as well as the Shuttered Venue Organization Grant (SVOG). We may qualify for one or both, and it’s up to Jon to figure out the details.

Business Manager, Emily Beck, is gearing up to handle payroll once the seasonal staff starts arriving in a few weeks. The usual payroll for about 25 people will more than triple during the season (much less than a normal season, when it increases fivefold).

Marketing: The marketing staff is being comforted by a bit of normalcy this week, as they proof the season brochure before sending it off to print. This year, rather than its usual moniker, The Book of Summer, it’s called The Book of Hope. Because each day we have a little more hope that this season will actually become a reality. Continuing with that theme, they hope to have that book in your hands sometime in April.