Intermission Is Over!

Intermission Is Over!

T2 returns with hybrid theater plan


Like every arts organization in every community, when TheatreSquared made its updated season announcement last week, it had good news and bad news.

The bad news — which, of course, isn’t all bad — is that the first fall production, “Ann,” will happen online, not on stage.

“Ann,” the first production in the new post-covid season for TheatreSquared, will star Texas-based actor Sally Edmundson as Texas politician Ann Richards in a high-tech online offering.
(Courtesy Photo/Wesley Hitt)

“We’re committed to creating the safest environment for our patrons to experience live theater during this crisis,” says T2 spokeswoman Joanna Sheehan Bell. “Fayetteville has seen a jump in positive cases, and our health experts and representatives from the actors’ union advised that we’d need to wait to safely resume in-person performances.”

Then there’s the good news.

“The numbers have started to move in the right direction,” Bell adds, “and we’re on track to resume safely distanced seating in person in time for our November performance dates. In the meantime, we’re fortunately able to use our new high-definition, multi-camera broadcast setup to offer an intimate, filmed experience of ‘Ann’ for our patrons directly from the Spring Theatre.”

T2 Executive Director Martin Miller thinks audiences will find that new technology impressive.

“Anyone who’s experienced the Met Opera’s Live in HD performances — or who tuned in for our live concert by Larry Mitchell in August — will know what to expect from our new broadcast-quality setup,” Miller says. “Patrons will be sent a special link to a password-protected site, which they can watch on their laptops, tablets, mobile devices, or mirrored to their smart TV.

“TheatreSquared has been one of the first theaters in the country to live-edit and live-stream a Zoom production replete with top-to-bottom special effects; to install a broadcast-quality four-camera setup and film a live performance on a contract with the film actors’ union, SAG-AFTRA; and to be on the verge of offering a ‘hybrid’ live performance model with socially distanced seating and concurrent viewing by audiences at home,” Miller goes on. “We’re not resting, we’re innovating, and it’s all thanks to the remarkable and diverse group of artists and professionals who make up TheatreSquared. The best decision we’ve made to date in this crisis is continuing to invest in this hardworking team, and our region and field are benefiting from their agility and dedication.”

Texas-based actor Sally Edmundson portrays Texas politician Ann Richards in TheatreSquared’s production of “Ann,” which will show off the company’s new high-definition, high-tech online offerings.
(Courtesy Photo/Wesley Hitt)

Miller says he’s been on the phone every week with leaders of theaters from across the country, “and the experiences and protocols TheatreSquared has piloted are being shared and carried back to communities from Florida to Oregon. We’re benefiting as well from this fieldwide community and their own experiments as we all seek to adapt during this challenging time.”

In addition to the digital option, TheatreSquared has spent time and effort on making the live theater experience — when it happens — feel safe.

“The most important parts of any effective safety plan for covid-19 are masks and outside air,” says Bell. “Our patrons and staff are all being asked to adhere to a sensible mask policy, and we benefit from our brand-new building, which has a state-of-the-art HVAC system supplying a much higher level of outside air than you’ll find at a grocery store, shop or office. We’ve also added electrostatic disinfection, regular cleaning of all high-contact surfaces, and a weekly testing protocol for our performers — all of which has been cleared by a team of medical experts and the actors’ union.”

Executive Director Martin Miller (left) and Robert Ford, artistic director for TheatreSquared, announced the 2020 season March 1 — and then the coronavirus swept into town and changed everything.
(File Photo/J.T. Wampler)

“Patrons are asked to wear a mask at the theater and stay home if they’re feeling sick or may have been exposed,” adds Miller. “We’ll waive all exchange fees or offer a livestream to anyone who can’t make it. We’ll also be preserving social distance in the theater to meet state and CDC recommendations, so there are several layers of protection.”

In August, The Commons at TheatreSquared “tried out some new food and beverage options that were a hit for outdoor dining,” says Bell, and “we’re taking what we’ve learned and we’ve temporarily paused service to retool for a new schedule that will include evening hours, beginning in mid-October.

“Stay tuned for the reopening,” she adds enthusiastically. “If you haven’t had the breakfast pizza with one of our new daytime ORA cocktails on a Saturday morning, you’re missing out!”

Even those who choose to see their theater in their own homes can enjoy that part of the ambiance, Miller adds.

“Nothing can fully match the experience of joining in at the theater, but we’ve got some fun plans to make it special at home. We’ll be offering café takeaway packages — including selected wines and gourmet snacks — for patrons to enjoy while they watch the stream. We’ll have talkbacks with artists that patrons can join in, just as we normally do.

“Sharing remarkable stories with equally remarkable food and drink is still a huge part of the experience we want our patrons to enjoy during this time.”

All in all, says Shannon Jones, T2’s associate general manager, “the pandemic has really given us a chance as theatermakers to adjust and examine the way we do things as an artform. We — and many theaters across the country — have taken this pause to reevaluate ways to make theater a more accessible artform. Being able to explore this digital format has really widened our scope of accessibility, so we’re reaching people not just in our area, but across the country and beyond.

“Theater is incredibly resilient and adaptive, and it’s important for TheatreSquared as an organization to adapt with the times,” Jones adds. “We’ve been sharing a quote [from Toni Morrison] to help remind us of why what we do is important: ‘This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity, no need for silence, no room for fear.’ In a time when so much of the world is collectively trying to find our new normal, the arts and artists are here to rise to the challenge and create bold new work.”

T2 commissioned local artist Octavio Logo to create a new work of art in honor of the theater’s 15th season, said the theater’s artistic director, Bob Ford, at a March 1 ceremony announcing the new slate of shows.The 15th season begins again Oct. 7.
(Courtesy Image/TheatreSquared)

“To paraphrase Monty Python, no one expects a global pandemic,” adds Miller. “But we can make choices as to how we respond. The decisions we make right now are magnified in their impact, and we’re all doing what’s best for our company and our community to emerge stronger than ever on the other side of this. To those community members who are renewing their subscriptions, making special gifts, and calling us with words of encouragement: thank you. Your decisions right now really matter.”



2020-21 Season

“We resolved at the outset of the crisis not to cancel any performances,” says Martin Miller, TheatreSquared executive director. “We’ve postponed, rearranged schedules, and even pivoted to film and live streaming — but we are committed to producing every play we’d announced before we had to pause performances in March. We’ve even added a title, the brilliant and timely ‘Pass Over’ by Antoinette Nwandu. Everything else is still very much in the cards, from ‘Designing Women’ to ‘American Mariachi’ and ‘Matilda’ and so much more.

“While preserving and expanding our live theater lineup, we’ve also added a number of exciting, purely digital opportunities to stay engaged with our artists and audiences who’ve remained at home. From the upcoming full-length Zoom production of ‘Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy’ to the brand-new musical, ‘Weightless,’ which we’ll stream in December, there’s even more going on at TheatreSquared than usual this fall and winter!”

Oct. 7-Nov. 1 — “Ann”: Starring the incomparable Sally Edmundson, the “fiery, funny, salty, and brash” former governor of Texas returns after a sold-out engagement in spring. Filmed live at T2 with four high-definition cameras, this performance is available to stream at home.

Oct. 18 — The T2 Season Kickoff: Music, masks, and merriment fill the streets of Spring and West for a one-of-a-kind block party as T2 celebrates the beginning of its 15th (and maybe most) remarkable year.

Oct. 20-Nov. 1 — “Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy”: The full, online production of the play developed last month at the Arkansas New Play Festival.

Nov. 18-Dec. 13 — “The Half-Life of Marie Curie”: Fresh from its New York debut, the newest play from the author of “Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley” — the country’s top produced playwright in 2019 — features science, scandal, comedy and heart as it profiles two rock-star scientists at the heights and depths of their lives and careers. In person and streaming at home.

Dec. 1- Dec. 27 — “A Christmas Carol”: The revival of last season’s new script by Amy Herzberg and Bob Ford. In person and streaming at home.

Dec. 11 — “Weightless”: An online, live musical created by the acclaimed musical duo, The Kilbanes. An Arkansas New Play Festival Premiere, streaming at home.

Jan. 20-Feb. 14 — “School Girls or the African Mean Girls Play”: Paulina, the reigning queen bee at Ghana’s most exclusive boarding school, has her sights set on the Miss Global Universe pageant. But the arrival of Ericka, a new student with undeniable talent and beauty, captures the attention of the pageant recruiter — and Paulina’s hive-minded friends. This buoyant and biting new comedy by Jocelyn Bioh, twice extended in its acclaimed New York debut, is sweeping the nation’s stages and has become a cultural phenomenon. In person and streaming at home.

April 14-May 16 — “Designing Women”: A world premiere by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason brings the megahit television series to life for our current age. In person and streaming at home.

Spring 2021 — “Pass Over” by Antoinette Nwandu: Moses and Kitch stand on the corner — talking smack, passing the time, and hoping that today a miracle will come. Allegorical and immediate, humorous and chilling — a provocative mashup of “Waiting for Godot” and the Exodus saga, “Pass Over” probes the unquestionable human spirit of young Black men who dream about a promised land they’ve yet to find. In person only.

April 28-June 13 — “At the Wedding”: A rough-edged new comedy by Bryna Turner, developed at TheatreSquared and now premiering in Northwest Arkansas immediately following its Lincoln Center debut. Carlo is going to be really well behaved today. She’s not going to get drunk. She’s not going to give any long-winded speeches. And she’s definitely not going to try to steal the bride back. In person and streaming at home.

June 16-July 18 — “Matilda: The Musical”: A riotously acclaimed, five-time Tony Award winner, “Matilda” is an international phenomenon. Fresh from its hit Broadway run, TheatreSquared reimagines for Northwest Arkansas the story of an extraordinary girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny. In person and streaming at home.

Aug. 11-Sept. 5 — “American Mariachi”: A hilarious and heartwarming new music-filled comedy by José Cruz González about the freedom to dream big. It’s the 1970s, and Lucha spends her days caring for her ailing mother, but longs to shake up her life. When a forgotten record album sparks her mother’s memory, Lucha and her cousin strike upon a radical idea: to create an all-female mariachi band. Infused with live music played by a live mariachi band, this “big-hearted, musical tug at the heartstrings” (Denver Post) reminds us how music and love can make just about anything possible.

Fall 2021 — “Twelfth Night”: Shakespeare’s gender-bending comedy of mistaken identities, desperate passion and drunken hijinks is bursting with vitality and romance. When a shipwreck separates Viola and her twin brother, each fears the other dead. On unfriendly shores, Viola disguises herself as a page boy to a mysterious Duke — only to find herself in an unlikely triangle of unrequited love. Overflowing with music and swordplay, TheatreSquared’s reimagining of Shakespeare’s most wonderful romantic comedy is a singular live theatre experience. In person and streaming at home.

Fall 2021 — “Violet”: From the Tony Award-winning composer of “Fun Home” comes a powerhouse Broadway musical — winner of the Lucille Lortel, Obie, and Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and a five-time Tony nominee. It’s 1964. When Violet hops onto a Greyhound bus traveling across Arkansas towards a miracle in Tulsa — the healing touch of a TV evangelist who will make her beautiful — it turns into the journey of a lifetime. In person and streaming at home.


Categories: Theater