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Stageworks Theatre: Creating a Comeback!

It seems that throughout history, most epochs are defined as “before” and “after.” Our modern calendar is split between BC (or “BCE” to modern audiences) and AD. Every time travel story ever seems to mark the assassination of JFK as a reality-splitting event. Many of us remember a world before the Cold War until that fateful day when Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” and the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain both came tumbling down. And no one can deny that this is a different world than it was pre-9/11.

No matter the significance or lack thereof of a world-changing turning point, we can pinpoint it to a specific moment even years after the fact. Whether it’s personally important but cosmically innocuous – such as the day we get married – or universally profound – such as the invention of The Pill, the realization of HIV and AIDS, or the accidental discovery of penicillin, we can look back and say, This… is when it happened.

This time around, our generational before/after is COVID-19. For reasons that will be debated for years to come, this particular virus affected the entire world to an extent not seen since the global storm of the Bubonic Plague of centuries ago. Think back in wistful fondness of the days when we eagerly awaited 2020 to be over because of a dearth of celebrity deaths. Little did we know what awaited us mere weeks after we sang Auld Lang Syne and ushered in 2021. This pandemic definitely counts as one of those life-changing “before/after” events. Personally, for me it was the day they officially canceled the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. I distinctly remember hearing that news and saying to myself, “Uh-oh.”

No one was not impacted by the issues of COVID. Individuals, families, small businesses, international corporations, and nonprofit entities such as theatres were – and continue to be – profoundly affected. And (unsurprisingly), it’s theatre I want to concentrate on here – specifically, Stageworks Theatre.

Before this coronavirus hit, Stageworks was in full swing. We were definitely in the “before” part of things as we were wrapping up our successful production of She Loves Me and preparing to storm the stage with Monty Python’s Spamalot. Then the fevers started, and the murmurings in the media began, and we immediately set about planning for a short hiatus in these early days of “fifteen days to flatten the curve.” Our shows – current and future – were put on hold for what we hoped would be a matter of days only.

Days turned to weeks turned to months. With no shows, we had no audiences. Naturally, income and revenue plummeted, and as a result we decided to consolidate our working space for performances, rehearsals, and storage – something you’ll note when you enter our lobby or take a guided tour backstage.

Despite the sacrifices to our season and square footage, we were determined to continue to provide quality entertainment in any way we could. In June, we held our inaugural STAGE-a-Thon, a three-plus hour long live-streamed extravaganza with a cavalcade of acts both live and prerecorded. After much deliberation and with as much safety as possible, we opted to run two presentations over the holidays – one for the adults and one for the kids – and two subsequent mainstage productions and academy presentations. Today, we are just enjoying the closing of our drama Mama’s Boy and preparing to present Handbagged for the grown-ups and Peter and the Starcatcher for the younger and family audiences. And we’re on the dawn of announcing our newly revamped 2021-’22 season. We’ve even hired a new, full-time Theatre Administrator, Eric Dunlap, to handle our increased activities. Our hiatus is nearing an end.

What does the pandemic mean for the future of Stageworks and local theatre in general? Like with all businesses that faced struggles over this past year, any future successes are largely dependent on the dedication and determination of the theatre in question. While we at Stageworks may have shut our doors for a couple of months in the height of COVID, we never closed. Our own determination to continue to present shows as safely as possible in turn inspired our audiences, patrons, and angels (along with our casts and crews) to show their own support for our theatre. With cautious optimism, we eagerly look forward to seeing you in our upcoming productions.

Before and after. Before COVID, we were preparing multiple productions designed to entertain and educate our audiences. And now, coming out of the immediacy of COVID… well, we’re doing the same. Only a little older, wiser, and safer. We know that this pandemic isn’t the end of the world, but we also know the world has changed. We’ve proven once again that theatre can adapt to, improvise for, and overcome anything nature throws at it. And Stageworks strives to lead by example. Much like those old middle-school dances where the girls were on one side of the room and the boys firmly entrenched on the other side, and no one danced until the first brave person crossed the floor. We hope that, leading by example, the dance floor will soon be filled with other productions in other locations.

We can’t wait to see you in our lobby or on our stage.

Sean K. Thompson President, Stageworks Board of Directors

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