Performing during a pandemic

T-R PHOTOS BY THOMAS NELSON — Vanessa Engel, board member, stands on stage at the Marshalltown Community theatre’s Marsha Ellen Tye Playhouse with a variety of props.

The future of theatre depends on creativity.

The Marshalltown Community Theatre board has started to meet twice a month to figure out new ideas to continue offering entertainment, one way or another. Last month the group released a video of board member Pete Grady performing “Unconditional Surrender,” as former President and Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant.

“It was kind of him to volunteer his time,” said Vanessa Engel, board and publicity team member. “We are willing to look at all sorts of creative ideas.”

Providing entertainment through the performing arts has presented a big question to many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The theatre board has been looking for unique solutions.

“Prior to COVID-19 we had been talking about a season of shows, and show dates,” Engel said. “At the moment what we’re discussing is the idea of having a season of shows, but not announcing any dates yet.”

The Marshalltown Community theatre’s Marsha Ellen Tye Playhouse filled a variety of props.

Other groups have attempted to do a “drive through theatre”, while others have turned to the internet for solutions.

“We’re exploring all these different ideas, which is why we’re meeting more often,” Engel said.

On Tuesday, the board met for one of their twice monthly meetings.

Members threw around some ideas and created subcommittees to look into using the internet and technology. The board is made up of about 12 people.

“We’re riding the rollercoaster that is COVID, and taking things as they come,” Engel said.

While the future of 2020 is up in the air, the group looks forward to 2021.

“We at the theatre have the safety and health of our actors, patrons and volunteers as the most important consideration of our future shows,” said Lisa Naig, board president. “We will not do live performances until the risks are minimized and will keep researching other avenues for theatrical endeavors.”

As they try to work out what comes next, the groups have taken to cleaning and sorting through the hundreds of props and costumes they have accumulated through the years.

The collection has layers of Marshalltown history, including the original first row of seats from the Marshalltown Community theatre’s Marsha Ellen Tye Playhouse.

“We’re trying to revamp and reorganize so whenever we’re up and running, we’re ready to go,” Engel said.

The theatre is accepting donations at: https://donorbox.org.

“I’m really excited about this online option,” Engel said.

Previously the group accepted donations through a post office box.

“There’s a lot of things we’re going to have to look at,” Engel said. “We are interested in looking at anything creative and anything to keep the heart of theatre going and pumping here through Marshalltown.”


Contact Thomas Nelson at (641)753-6611

or tnelson@timesrepublican.com


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