The Stockton Civic Theater (SCT) is gearing up for its 70th season, albeit with the same delays and modifications that are now a feature of the pandemic.
Indoor shows have been postponed since the March 2020 lockdown. SCT is finding ways of creating content, generating revenue, and is expecting to begin outdoor shows this spring.
Artist Director Dennis Beasley said the theater has been coping with the pandemic and planning for the future.
SCT moved to working online, but the theater isn’t something that is made for a screen, Beasley said.
“The thing that hasn’t gone so well is ticket sales,” said Beasley. “Most people are not interested in watching theater online, it turns out, they want to come to the theater.”
According to SCT’s website the next event is a lineup of singers performing comedy songs from “Broadway and beyond.” The event will stream online March 19 through April 4 and tickets are being sold per device.
“Our fundraising efforts have worked very well for us,” said Beasley when asked what has gone well during the pandemic. “Our members have been very generous.” Beasley said that a combination of individual donations and grants from the federal and county governments have kept the theater going.
The play August Osage County now set to run in May was in rehearsal when it was postponed during the first lockdown, and it will be the first show to be performed in person and outdoors since the pandemic.
Beasley said SCT is using the patio behind the theater for outdoors shows.
“We won’t be able to build a three-story set outside, but we’re going to do as much staging as we can and we have enough room to socially distance the audience,” he said.
The transition back to in person shows will be a relief to the SCT staff.
“When you put content online you’re competing with things like movies and television, which are meant to be seen on a screen,” said Beasley. “Part of what theater is about is the exchange of energy between the performers and the audience … as an online content person, we’re one in a million.”
As to when indoor shows can resume?
“We’re thinking the fall, we’re getting to announce our first show will be Something Rotten, which was supposed to be the opening show of last year,” said Beasley. “We’re hoping that in September we’ll have audiences in the building.”
Despite a tough year there was a silver lining in the pandemic for SCT: “The outdoors performances have been pretty wonderful,” said Beasley. “When we finish building the stage on our patio outside…it’s a contained area, we’re right on the lake…what we’re hoping to do is a couple projects out there this summer, and when weather allows, do different events… from now on.”
Beasley also said, “We converted our rehearsal room into a small black box theater, so that will be another space to do different kinds of shows, once we have an audience…we’re going to have lots of stuff for people to come do at SCT.”