John Moore never thought he would miss the sound of audiences coughing and sneezing. But after over a year spent watching shows be limited to online broadcasts — or just not happen at all — …
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John Moore never thought he would miss the sound of audiences coughing and sneezing.
But after over a year spent watching shows be limited to online broadcasts — or just not happen at all — he’s been increasingly looking forward to exactly that.
“After this year, I really do miss that feeling that you have a common pulse with the people in the audience and just that feeling that you are all experiencing something together,” he said. “And so I can’t wait to get back to being in a room full of people who are doing something that will never be repeated every night.”
He won’t be waiting much longer as Moore, the Denver Post’s former theater critic, is directing “The Treasurer,” which is slated to be the first show at Golden’s Miners Alley Playhouse in front of a live audience since the pandemic began.
After more than a year of facing restrictions spent facing restrictions that made staging performances for a live audience either illegal or just untenable (the theater was long subject to rule requiring that unmasked performers be 25 feet from spectators, a major impediment for small theater like Miners Alley), the return to something approaching normalcy came quite suddenly for local theaters.
So suddenly, in fact, that Miners Alley owner and artistic director Len Matheo said the theater is still feeling out the best way to resume operations in this brave new world.
“Up until two weeks ago, we were only allowed to have like 35 people in the theater,” he said. “And now we can have more and we’re still trying to figure out what that number looks like based on what makes everybody feel safe.”
What is known, Matheo said, is that the return of in-person audiences won’t mean the end of virtual audience opportunities, at least not right away.
Miners Alley is currently planning to give people who don’t yet feel comfortable attending shows in-person the option to purchase access to what he is calling “the highest quality filmed version of the play that can be produced at this level.”
But even as Matheo said he hopes to be providing “the best of both worlds” as people adjust at their own pace, he acknowledges that no filmed version of the show could ever compete with the real thing.
“I actually don’t mind that,” he said. “I want to give what I’ll call a satisfying experience for the people at home, enough so that they’ll say `I really want to get back to the theater and when I feel comfortable I’m going back.’”
Meanwhile, even those who are returning to the theater will find that not everything is quite as it was before the pandemic.
Moore said one of the biggest changes on the production side, has been the addition of a COVID compliance officer, a new position mandated by the actors union with the responsibility of ensuring the production is following all COVID-19-related rules and safety practices.
“It is another person in the room that is going to be making sure that any moment when anybody comes within six feet of each other has to be directed not only from my point of view as a director but also from the COVID compliance officer’s point of view,” he said. “So I’m glad ours is a play that has no kissing in it.”
To the contrary, the show, which was written by Denver native Max Posner and follows a man dealing with the burden of an inheritance from the mother who abandoned him at age 13, is in many ways a study of distance and isolation.
“I think a lot of these things are going to resonate with this particular audience going back to live theater,” Moore said. “And I think a lot of people are going to be process a lot of their grief and unresolved emotions about this past year by being able to see this play, which is really about universal issues that they’ve experienced this year, but not going to hit them over the head with the pandemic because it’s not about that.”
While “The Treasurer” will be the first show to take place at Miner’s Alley since all restrictions on indoor performances were removed, the theater actually was able to stage four performances of another show “Zen and the Art of Profit” in April after originally planning to distribute that show only online.
Moore said those performances allowed the theater to start to figure out many of the logistics that will be important going forward with starting with “The Treasurer.”
But perhaps most important, it provided a reminder of and testament to the joy that will come with being back in a theater - even one that was allowed to be filled only to a fraction of its capacity.
“To be back in that room just felt incredible,” said Moore. “And our audiences are really craving it.”
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