Had this been the 2020 everyone was looking forward to at midnight on January 1, audiences would be gathering at The Little Theatre this weekend for performances of 12 Angry Jurors by Town Players of Newtown.
That, of course, all went out the window during the spring, when the coronavirus arrived in the area. By mid-April, Town Players — in line with many other groups, businesses, and organizations also adhering to new health and safety measures — announced that their 2020 season “is now our 2021 season.” All four shows planned for this season will instead be produced next year.
While the theater company has been relatively quiet and its theater on Orchard Hill Road has been dark, behind the scenes work has continued. Town Players President Brian DeToma spoke with The Newtown Bee about recent storm damage to the company’s theater building, a new fundraiser, and going virtual for 2020.
DeToma is in his fifth year as president of the board of Town Players of Newtown. His duties usually include general oversight of any production, making sure the everyday running of the theater building is up to date, and coordinating that all other board members are doing their responsibilities.
He works with 11 other board members, and is grateful for each of them.
“Luckily everybody on the board is very good, and willing to step in and do everything that’s necessary,” he said earlier this month. “That’s a nice plus. It’s not always that way when you have a board, but I’ve been very lucky since I’ve been president. I have a very hard-working board.”
Although live productions are not happening this year, the board has launched Virtual Theater.
In May, the company began posting video snippets on its website. Each month since, the public has been treated to a scene from a previous production. The series opened with the homicide scene of last year’s Prescription: Murder, A Columbo Mystery. For September, audiences are enjoying a scene from the 2015 production of Wanted For Dinner, an original plat writen by Newtown resident (and Newtown Bee Theater Reviewer) Elizabeth Young.
Most years, DeToma and/or Town Players Vice President Nick Kaye do a monthly building check, “just to make sure there’s nothing that needs to be maintained,” DeToma said.
In early August the Orchard Hill theater was damaged slightly when trees fell during a tropical storm. Five trees fell on August 4, with one striking some gutter and the back deck and three destroying a recently renovated courtyard. The fifth tree was cradled between the trunks of two others. The trunks prevented the tree from taking out the building’s power lines, but the large damaged tree was still leaning over the already-damaged courtyard.
While the damage to the building was “minimal,” according to DeToma, the trees still need to be removed before the grounds can be safely accessed and then cleaned.
“The back courtyard is pretty much gone now,” the theater president said. “In order to get that back up and running we need to get the trees cut down and cleared again, and unfortunately we don’t have the money to do that right now.”
Ticket sales generally help cover the costs of producing a show. With a hope to see some income this year, season passes are already being offered for 2021.
“The impact of COVID-19 on small, community organizations has been unprecedented,” the theater said in April when announcing the decision to postpone this year’s productions.
Town Players also rely on donations to keep the 501(c)(3) organization’s building heated in the winter, air-conditioned in the summer, and running smoothly year-round.
“We have people who pay membership dues as well,” DeToma said. “Mostly it’s the revenue from the shows that helps keep the theater running, though.”
Upgrades to the theater’s sound and lighting system have been put “on the back burner” until further notice, according to DeToma.
One thing still at the forefront of the board’s plans is the upgrading of the theater’s ticket system.
“That’s something we will be able to do once the theater opens,” he said. “It will make it easier for people to purchase tickets, and easier for us to keep track of everything. Box office personnel and patrons will both benefit.”
Virtual Holiday Fundraiser
Auditions closed last weekend for another new undertaking by Town Players: a virtual holiday fundraiser. With the help of three actors and up to 12 singers, the theater is planning an online event for the afternoon of Sunday, December 20.
Three actors will perform Michele Leigh’s one-act play Always, Anastasia at 2 pm. The dozen carolers will then lead the audience in singing at least five holiday songs.
Auditions, table read, tech week, and then the performance will all be done virtually.
The public can participate through a minimum donation of $10. Reservations are already being accepted for that event.
To donate to The Town Players of Newtown and/or make a reservation to view its Virtual Holiday Fundraiser, visit newtownplayers.org.
The Little Theater, shown in June, has been quiet for months, after its board of directors decided to play things safe in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Behind-the-scenes work of the community theater continues, however. —Bee Photo, Hicks
Town Players of Newtown Board President Brian DeToma said life for the community theater is “going well, considering everything we’re going through with the pandemic.” —photo courtesy Brian DeToma
One of the trees that fell during the August tropical storm blocked access to and damaged the rear deck at The Little Theatre. The tree also damaged part of the building’s gutter system. Removing the tree — one of five that need to be removed from the property — and repairing the gutter will have to come from coffers that are already low this year for the local theater company. —Bee Photo, Hicks
The courtyard to the west of The Little Theatre on Orchard Hill Road was destroyed in August when multiple trees fell onto furniture and the surrounding grounds. —Bee Photo, Hicks