BLOOMSBURG — Can the show go on even when the theater is closed and nobody knows when live performances will be allowed again? The answer, with a little creativity and persistence, is yes.
Despite the coronavirus health restrictions that have halted most large gatherings, the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble (BTE) has found ways to perform and share their love of acting, whether virtually, in a classroom experience or through radio.
Last Sunday, BTE broadcast, “A Christmas Carol,” notching their first-ever radio show, on WVIA-FM.
“(Founding BTE member) James Goode adapted it, and our actors performed it,” said Jon White-Spunner, BTE’s managing director. “The response that we have received has been very, very positive. I listened to it yesterday, and it was beautiful.”
The one-hour, 16-minute podcast is now available free of charge for a limited time from www.btepodcast.org on the BTE Podcast.
In October, BTE offered a digital event called the “BTE Oddcast,” featuring members of the ensemble reading scary stories for adults and kids. BTE also performed some socially distanced short theater pieces on a farm at the Blind Pig Kitchen, in Bloomsburg, and even some short shows in people’s backyards.
“People really seemed to enjoy it,” White-Spunner said. “They were all sold out.”
“There have also been some less formal Facebook Live video events such the recent ‘Holiday Story Grab Bag,’ in which ensemble members read various holiday stories,” said Peter Wiley, communications director at BTE, “and those are still available on the BTE Facebook page.”
Some examples of those events are of James Goode reading Christmas compositions on peace, including the diary pages of a 21-year-old English soldier describing the famous “Christmas Truce,” where British and German troops shared food and wine during an impromptu cease-fire, and of longtime BTE member Andrew Hubatsek reading “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”
With live performances canceled indefinitely, BTE has welcomed financial support by the county, individual donors and various foundations.
“The only thing we’ve charged any money for has been the theater school and the restaurant pieces,” White-Spunner said.
For the past 31 years, BTE has hosted the annual TreeFest at the Caldwell Consistory. This year, fewer trees were displayed and admission fees were waived. There was no entertainment, food or vendors, but the event still collected non-perishable food items for local food pantries and unwrapped toys for Toys For Tots.
“It was beautiful,” White-Spunner said, adding that the lighting this year gave the event a magical quality.
The virtual Theatre in the Classroom sessions this fall were well received by those who participated, Wiley said. Registration is now open for two upcoming Theatre Education events:
The annual High School Theatre Workshop Day, which will be via Zoom this year
Winter Theatre School Workshops that will be held via Zoom in late January and early February.
Details for both those events are available from www.btetheatreschool.org.
“I can also say that the ensemble is working on developing a set of digital offerings for the first months of 2021, but the exact form these will take has yet to be determined,” Wiley said. “At the moment we can’t predict when live performances will again be practical and possible.”
In true entertainment fashion, BTE has been posting marquee messages to give people a bit of a lift.
“One fun thing that ensemble members have been doing during the pandemic is to think up messages to post on the marquee of the Alvina Krause Theatre, in Bloomsburg,” Wiley said. “These have been posted to BTE’s Facebook page over the last few weeks, and they have attracted a lot of attention.”
Grateful for the support they’ve received, BTE is looking forward to healthier days ahead and has been happy to give back to the community as much as possible.
“Our artists are being creative, and we’re keeping the creative juices going,” White-Spunner said. “We’re looking for ways to let people know we are here, and we appreciate them and all the support they have given us to help us through this.”