The Island Theater Company is utilizing some creative methods to engage with the community in the face of COVID-19.
In early May, the group quite literally brought the prince and princesses from its production of Disney’s “Frozen Jr.” to the public. The teen actors were slowly paraded, waving and in full costume, from the back of convertibles, past the homes of adoring children and their families. The parade route was comprised of families that had requested the appearance, some even decorating garage doors and mailboxes with “Frozen Jr.” as the theme.
“The idea was to do something for the little kids who’ve been stuck in the house, but it turned out to be more emotional than any of us expected,” explained Pat Berry, a founding artistic director for the company, along with Jean Rowles and Pattie Ziesig. “We knew the children would be excited, but the participation from parents was amazing. Parents were just thrilled for their children to have something to do and be happy for a day.”
Inspired by that success, the threesome has concocted their next creation, the upcoming Happy Hearts Art Project. Set for the week of June 10 through June 17, the contest is intended to salute the area’s healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store workers and others who’ve kept us safe and fed during the pandemic.
Happy Hearts invites all-ages to use their artistic talents to show appreciation by drawing heart-themed thanks on their driveways using washable paint or chalk. People without driveways are encouraged to use the sidewalk or employ a unique way of expressing their gratitude.
“We’re calling on the whole island to participate,” said Berry. “You don’t have to be an artist to share your love and appreciation to these folks. We thought this was another thing the kids could do by themselves or with their family. Be as simple or elaborate as you like. It just has to be something from the heart.”
The contest is broken down into five tiers, ranging from children ages 1 through 5, all the way up to family entries, and non-contest participants are also welcome. Once the artwork is completed, entrants and non-entrants can forward their name, address and the tier they may be entering to firstname.lastname@example.org. Someone will then come to photograph the creation.
Marco residents will handle the judging and the top entries will be announced so that islanders can drive around and view them while also practicing social distancing. All submissions will be spotlighted on the company’s website www.theateronmarco.com.
The Coronavirus, not surprisingly, has generated some challenges for the Island Theater Company. For example, this spring’s production of Michael McKeever’s “37 Postcards” had to be postponed until further notice.
“We had an excellent cast,” remarked Berry. “They were so good, and we had to cancel that, which was pretty sad. So, we’re going to reschedule it. I just don’t know when. Right now, it’s hard to schedule.”
However, the company is busy working its annual summer youth program; but making adjustments that conform with pandemic-related requirements. One of them is a free concert for the community at Veterans Park that is now wending its way through the city’s approval process.
Berry said children up to age 18 can audition for the show, which she hopes will take place in September. Auditions will be held one-on-one with individual performers and via the internet for groups.
“We can’t do shows inside anymore and there are so many kids on the island who are hams and what they like to do is performing,” observed Berry.
Dates have also been set for auditions for the company’s production, in November, of “Bye Bye Birdy.” Auditions for actors ages 13 and above will be held at 11 AM on June 6th, and 1 PM on June 7th at a yet to be determined location. For more information, call 239-394-0080.
The theater company’s primary performance space is the Rose History Auditorium, located off S. Heathwood Drive, while shows are occasionally held at Marco Lutheran Church, located off N. Collier Blvd.
Berry said the company is fortunate that it only has to pay rent whenever it’s staging a show, so the pandemic isn’t having the financial impact it’s having on community theater groups that have leases to contend with.
“We’re very lucky and we just keep going,” she added. “We haven’t let this stop us, basically. It’s just changed the way we do things, like everybody else. We’re probably doing more right now than we have any other year.”
Volunteer photographers and judges are needed for the Happy Hearts Art Project. To volunteer or to learn more about the Island Theater Company, visit theateronmarco.com or call 239-394-0080.