Brent Tubbs, co-founder and -owner of The Spotlight Theatre in Moline, discusses the venue's operations during this period of social distancing. We spoke on Wednesday, March 25.
Status of the Musical Oliver! (scheduled to run April 17 through 26)
Once everything kind of broke out and we were just unsure of what was happening, we said, “Let's give it the two weeks of shutdown and see where we're at,” which we're coming up on this Friday. In the best-case scenario, we could hopefully just push it back two weeks if everything was free and open again. But obviously, it doesn't look like that's the case. So my gut instinct is we'll probably end up having to cancel it. [Author's note: The show's run was officially canceled on March 28. But ... ] And if that is the case, we're looking at just moving it to the spring of next year with the same cast, same crew, everything – basically saying, “Whoever's available, you're in.” We're not recasting anything unless we have to, if people can't do it.
We were about two weeks into rehearsals when we shut down – not super-far into it. All the music was taught, but that was as far as we got. There wasn't anything that was blocked, no choreography was taught yet – it was still pretty early in the process. That's why we were kind of hoping we could just push it back, because we still had quite a bit of time – and we still do at this point, too. But it's three weeks away now, and it doesn't look like much is changing … beyond our commander in chief just wanting to open everything up. (Laughs.)
For the most part, though, the Oliver! set was pretty close to being done. There was still some building that needed to happen and then a lot of painting. But the structure of it is all there – there's a bunch of different levels, there's a thrust built out onto the floor. It's just so neat. So we're actually kind of reworking some of our ideas for Tarzan [scheduled to run June 5 through 14] in order to utilize that set. 'Cause it's so cool. I'm like, “Aw, man, this is just too cool not to use!”
Status of the Student Musical Seussical Jr. (scheduled to run May 15 and 16)
As of right now, we're going to have some sort of performance of it, whether it's the entire show or just however much the kids can learn up to that point. We just sent an e-mail to all of the families yesterday saying that whatever they've learned so far, have them keep working on that, because at the very least we'll do some sort of performance.
It's one of those things where back in the day, the holders of the show rights would probably be like, “No, you can't do that, you're contracted to do it this way.” But all of those companies are being pretty lenient on all that stuff right now, so that's a plus. These are extremely extenuating circumstances, and they understand that. But at the very least they'll be doing something. Even if the dates have to change on that, we have a little wiggle room for that show, too, so we're kind of playing that one by ear, as well.
Steph DeLacy teaches a lot of dance classes for us, and she's been posting a ton of stuff for her students and, I believe, sending out some choreography for the kids to kind work on and have fun with while they're at home. So she's definitely staying connected with them. But the only other class we have right now would be the S.K.I.T. [Spotlight Kids in Training] class for Seussical, and we thought that might be a little too much to try online, teaching the blocking and stuff. Especially with 24 kids.
Starting tomorrow, we're launching some online Q&A sessions. So far, I have two people confirmed. I'll be doing a Q&A with Austin Tichenor from the comedy troupe Reduced Shakespeare Company tomorrow [Thursday at 11 a.m.]. And then on Friday, we'll be doing one with Hal Lublin [1:30 p.m.], who's from The Thrilling Adventure Hour and Morning from Night Vale podcast, and he's done a bunch of voice-over work for cartoons on TV, as well. It'll be on Facebook Live, so people can actually watch and send in questions for them. We've reached out to a couple other people, as well, who we're hoping to hear back from. I'm really hoping they're able to do it. It should be a lot of fun.
How to Support the Spotlight Theatre … and Each Other
We have a gift-certificate page set up so people can get gift certificates to any show. But people can help by buying a ticket to a future show that they know they wanted to see, but were waiting until later – now is as good a time as any to purchase those tickets. We also have Venmo and PayPal accounts set up for anyone who wanted to make a gift to the theatre, and those will be on our page when we do all these live Q&As. They're not there in terms of “You have to pay in order to get in to see this!” (Laughs.) But they're there if they wanna support the theatre.
We just need to hang in there, and it does kind of feel like everyone's banding together. With the live Q&A thing, I just got off the phone with Greg Hipskind from QC Rock Academy, because he did one yesterday with Kent Slucher, a drummer for Luke Bryan. I was watching it and I'm like, “Oh, man, that's excellent.” So Greg kind of talked me thru the process, and then I got in contact with Austin and a couple other people … . It all moved pretty quick.
So stuff like that is important – where people are just really helping each other out. We're all in the same boat. We're all struggling. You don't open a theatre with the thought of the government telling you that you can't hold events, which is where your main source of income comes from. So it's definitely uncharted territory. But we're all figuring it out.