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West T. Hill has innovative plan to work through pandemic

Livestreamed table reads will be held on Facebook through West T. Hill Community Theatre for the upcoming production of “Babe Dean and the Great Pen-Damn-Ic,” beginning Monday, July 13. Viewers will be able to bid on having a character created for the newest addition to the Random, Kentucky plays, which is planned to go on stage in March of next year. (Graphic by Brandon Long)

Although anything in the future is pretty much an unknown right now due to the virus pandemic, West T. Hill Community Theatre’s managing director said the shows will go on — with a few changes.

“We’ve got the schedule pretty firm, up until maybe after the first of the year, but we just don’t know,” said Karen Logue, referring to the predictions that COVID-19 could return in the fall.

But, she said, “we are going to attempt to be in there, with rules, regulations and guidelines that we’ll send out to our patrons.”

Although no guidelines have been formally sent down for live theater from the governor, Logue said “we’re just going on what they’ve told everyone else, that you can only have 50 or less people at a gathering. And we’re going to social distance them. People who have been distancing can sit together, but then they must be spaced out.”

The theater developed a six-point outline, specifying how they will sanitize, to maintaining social distance to not holding the “meet and greets” after performances, for instance.

West T. Hill will hold Readers Theatres events and radio plays through February, with limited audiences allowed. The first full production is slated to hit the stage hopefully by March.

And that production — ”Babe Dean & the Great Pandemic” — will offer the first ever livestreamed table reads, beginning in July.

Written by local playwright Liz Orndorff, the newest “Hollerwood” production features the zany characters of Random, Kentucky, and will offer a sneak preview via the table reads, which means actors will read excerpts from the play. They will be in full character and costume each week, Logue says, and she hopes people tune in to witness the hilarity and get geared up for the full production on stage to come.

Viewers will also be offered the opportunity to bid on having a character written into the play, and there will be a link for donations during the table reads as well as for bidding.

The livestream table reads will be offered 7 p.m. Mondays for four to five weeks, she says, beginning on July 13.

“This is the first time we’ve ever done this,” Logue says, adding that it’s the theaters that are trying to be innovative that will make it. “Whether you try it and it fails, fine, at least you tried and offered it.”

Logue says she realizes she is not alone.

“I’ve talked to so many businesses and organizations that are trying new things. If we don’t do anything, and we say ‘we’ll be back when we can,’ they’ll forget about us.”

However, Logue says she sent out an informational letter to patrons, “to say we’re still here, it will be a struggle but we’ll do the best we can,” and received about $3,000 in donations back.

“We didn’t even ask … People value the arts and the theater, they really do.”

The theater plans its big yearly fundraiser in September, as always.

“Hopefully, people will give again,” she says.

Logue says Readers Theatres and radio shows are planned until next year because they require fewer actors and crew.

“We’ll only be able to sell 40 tickets, tops,” she says, with about 10 in the cast and technical crew. “But that’s better than nothing.”

Come March, Logue says they are hoping to just go back into what they had planned for the season, with the addition of the “Babe Dean and the Great Pandemic.”

Logue reminds patrons that due to the seating guidelines they are enforcing, all tickets must be purchased in advance.

“The guidelines haven’t been approved by the board, but I anticipate they will be on July 14, the next meeting,” she said.

The theater hopes to resume the popular Shamrock summer camps, which were canceled this year due to the pandemic.

The upcoming season at WTH includes:

  • “Adam and Eve,” Sept. 18-20 — Excerpts from “The Diaries of Adam and Eve” will offer a “wonderful Readers Theatre rendition of this good work,” Logue says.
  • “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” Oct. 16-8 and 23-25 — Logue calls this offering a “wonderful compilation of engaging, comedic and dramatic kits and short one-acts.”

* “It’s a Wonderful life, the Radio Play,” Dec. 4-6 and 11-13 — A fun and innovative radio play, Logue says this offering will be great for the holiday.

  • ”Love Letters,”  Feb. 12-14 and 19-21 — A classic Readers Theatre piece about two young people that meet early on, Logue says, and correspond with each other through boarding schools, college and into adulthood. “It’s a perfecting offering for Valentines Day — a story of love, loss and lasting friendship.”
  • “Babe Dean and the Great Pen-Damn-Ic,” March 18-21 and 25-28 — A pre-cast of original cast members of the infamous Random, Kentucky town, Logue says “it’s hilarious, irreverent” and perfect to lighten up the times surrounding the health pandemic. “A year to date of the start of the ‘real pandemic’ — a reminder that we survived!”
  • “The Savannah Sipping Society,” May 7-9 and 14-16 — From last season’s planned schedule, Logue describes this as a touching and funny exploration of the lives of five women.
  • “Singing in the Rain,” July 9-11 and 16-18 (of 2021) — Logue says this is the most popular musical, also from last season’s schedule. “It’s a romping, toe-tapping, fun story of Hollywood hopefuls.”