Theater may not look the same or sound the same to its patrons, or feel the same to its actors, at least for now. Many stages have gone dark, and the effects of Covid-19 are threatening the very existence of live theater.
Yet, there are supporters who are working to keep the performing arts alive in unique, smaller ways, including volunteers with Encore Theatrical Company. The results hearken back to the beginnings of theater in towns across the country. Sets were sparse, costumes were minimal and the talented folk who spoke, or danced or sang - those who represented the heart of the community- were what really lit up the stages.
“Love, Loss and What I Wore,” opening July 10 in a new theater space in downtown Morristown, is billed as a fundraiser for Encore, but its goal is theatre - theater with an ‘re’ - the act of performing one’s art in the most basic, most intimate, most gratifying element: practically face to face (at a safe distance) with an audience.
And the show must go on, for the performers as much as the audiences.
“With Broadway not opening until 2021, and a lot of theaters shutting down, we wanted to do what we could,” the show’s director, Kathy Jones-Terry Litz, said. “We wanted to offer the community a socially responsible, safe way to enjoy a quality show. And we ‘crazy’ actors, we become a big family bunch and we miss our family. We’re not going to go away.”
Seating at ETC Main Street Theatre will be at a minimum, just 20-25 tickets will be sold to each of the 11 performances. Reservations are required and are available online at www.encorethearicalcompany.com. Ticket prices are $25 for the evening shows and $20 for matinee shows. Shows are at 8 p.m. on July 10, 11, 17, 18, 24 and 25; 6 p.m. July 11, 18 and 25; 2 p.m. on July 12 and 19.
The new theater space is located at the corner of West Main and North Henry streets, in the 1925 Hamilton Bank building (188 W. Main) that has over the past decades housed a variety of businesses and most recently a church. The modified worship center on the first floor will provide a suitable area for intimate Encore performances
Litz serves as treasurer for the Encore Board of Trustees. “We had talked about doing “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” earlier in this year, as a fundraiser,” she said. “So, when we got this new space, it was perfect.”
The Encore offices have been located on the third floor of the building for several years and when The Fire House church outgrew the space, the theater company was given the opportunity to occupy it.
“We are moving our office downstairs to the street level,” Litz said. “The entrance is off West Main Street and the theater space is just past the lobby. Farther back, past the bank vault, is the backstage room, where there is an area for actors to hang out when they are not on stage.”
The actors taking part in “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” will not be utilizing the backstage area, however; they will remain in places for the entire hour and a half show – a fast-paced, humorous production comprised of a collection of stories written by sisters Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, based on the best-selling book by Ilene Beckerman along with recollections of the sisters and their friends.
Linda High, Michele Green, Cindi Husk, Jackie Murray, Paige Munroe Mattocks, Kara Van Veghel and Yolanda Treece are the players who will use clothing and accessories – and the memories they trigger – to tell funny and often poignant stories that all women can relate to. Encore Technical Director James Templin also be working on the production, along with David Arnold and Chelsea Horton.
The show was first produced by Encore in 2013, with rousing success. In addition to smaller audience sizes, changes from the original run will include updated technology to highlight the various fashion trends featured throughout.
Jersey Girl Diner, located just down West Main Street from the new theater space, is joining in on the fun by partnering with Encore to offer a dining package for the show.
The “Dinner & Show” package is available Saturday, July 11 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Friday, July 17 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, July 18 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Friday, July 24 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, July 25 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. This package will be offered at $40 per person.
Jersey Girl Diner’s special “Dinner & Show” menu: Baby Field Greens topped with Craisins, Crumbled Herb Goats Cheese & Honey Roasted Pecans served with Basil Vinaigrette; Wood Grilled Chicken Breast over Steamed Basmati Rice Pilaf topped with Refreshing Tropical Fruit Salsa; Sautéed Haystack Summer Vegetable Medley and Triple Chocolate Torte with Melba Sauce and Fresh Berries.
Audience members should be prepared to have their temperature measured when entering the performance space and each attendee will be provided a mask. Social distancing will be practiced during each show and the theater space will undergo a sanitizing process between shows. Jersey Girl Diner will also be taking safety precautions with regard to their dining guests.
The Encore Theatrical 2020 Main Stage Season is presented by Litz Turf Farms, Tarr Chevrolet/Hyundai, Lakeway Dermatology Associates, Aaron’s, Ashley Lodge Photography, Freddy Cat Productions, The Citizen Tribune, Hampton Inn & Suites, Q100.7 & 106.5 WJDT & Walters State Community College.
“Love, Loss & What I Wore” is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service.