Local performing arts organizations are struggling to keep up with the new circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rocky Mountain School of the Arts and the Cody Center for the Performing Arts have both gone virtual with their classes, but several upcoming performances have been canceled or postponed out of concern for public health.
On April 2, RMSA directors decided to cancel the annual RMSA Masterpieces of Ballet and Spring Productions scheduled in May, with the hope of doing something more informal at a later date.
“It was a very hard decision as so much work has already been put into the performances,” said Jennifer Kaelberer, RMSA marketing and communications director. “Students and teachers look forward to the end-of-year performances, which celebrate all they’ve accomplished, but with so much time away from ‘in the studio rehearsals,’ it is difficult to produce the same quality production we’ve all come to expect.”
CCPA was able to host one performance before the quarantine was enacted, allowing the children to do a dress rehearsal of “Springtime on Mars.” Bethany Sandvik, CCPA theater director, said it might be possible to do the show at a later date.
CCPA dance director Angie McKenzie has been creating Google classrooms for each class and, along with other instructors, has been making videos and planning at-home activities to help the children stay involved. McKenzie has also been teaching via Zoom and Facebook Live, one of which was a combination class with studios from Bozeman, Mont., and Buffalo.
RMSA has recorded more than 90 videos and provided 10 livestream classes over the past several weeks, and the only classes put on complete hold were the spring sessions for preschool and kindergarten group music. Both organizations are still open for registration to future events and offer information online.
Both have also been able to make progress on summer performances amid the outbreak, planning tentatively for the time being.
The fifth annual season of “Wild West Spectacular the Musical,” put on by the Rocky Mountain Dance Theatre, is still on for the summer and has already had over 75 individuals audition from across the country for the 2020 shows.
“We hope the fifth annual season will move along as planned, but we realize there are many factors to consider,” Kaelberer said. “We were to announce the cast March 30, but that has been delayed due to the virus.”
CCPA’s and Studio Theatre’s fifth anniversary season of the Cody Monologues has been cast for the 2020 season. A celebration Zoom meeting was held for past and present cast members on April 3.
Since the only home performances were planned for August, and the minimalist nature of the show, organizers are optimistic Cody Monologues will not be seriously affected by the outbreak, but there have been concerns about the show’s first planned tour.
“We have a small tour planned with stops in Rock Springs, Pinedale and Red Lodge,” Sandvik said. “Those begin in June, so we will see.”
While these two organizations have been able to continue their work in different formats for the time being, that does not mean others have the same luxury.
Cody High School Drama has had to cancel its performance of “The Little Mermaid,” originally planned to open March 26, and Cody Community Theatre has cancelled their summer performance of “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka,” which was slated for late June and early July.
Annamarie Victor, the director of CHS’s “The Little Mermaid,” said it was such a difficult decision to make, because many of the leads were seniors, meaning even if the quarantine ends, there wouldn’t be enough time to do the show and they’ll be too busy in the summer to push a postponed performance on them.
What makes the quarantine worse for her right now though is also what makes her hopeful for the future, and that is the convictions of those who want to participate in the arts are a family that will always support one another.
“It’s heartbreaking, because theatre is an outlet for stress and escape from a hectic world,” Victor said. “It’s a family, and now those students don’t have it. Cancelling the show was my worst nightmare and I cried when I wrote the announcement. I can only hope that this experience makes my students stronger and that when we all see each other again we can remember to cherish every moment and tell everyone how glad we are that they are here with us.”
Director Kathie McIsaac and the CCT board members came to the difficult decision to cancel the performance completely for the summer season.
“The reason we can’t guarantee anything this summer is kind of complicated,” McIsaac said. “For one, in order to get ready for the date we had originally planned would be strenuous for everyone. The actors, the set designers, the costume makers, it would all take time to get ready and there’s no guarantee we’d get that time. As for the question of ‘Why couldn’t we just change the date for a few weeks after?’, our lighting designer, Brad Thyng, also works for Cody Nite Rodeo, so the logistics of making that work would get more difficult.
“There’s so much planning, months and months of planning for a show, especially if you want it to be a good one, and at this state most of it was only on my computer. So, it was easier to put it on hold now rather than try and go further. You don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a flying rig unless you are absolutely going to use it.”
McIsaac also said CCT was going to continue its plans for a fall show, and due to now having the rights to “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka,” will very likely do the show sometime in the future.
“I’d love to do the show in January, but as of right now, we have no idea what CCT is going to do that far ahead,” McIsaac said. “We have the rights to do the show in the future, and I really want to do it, so we will at some yet undetermined time.”