ome people get down when the going gets tough. Others grit their teeth and go to work. Beverly Dahlstrom, President of the Board of Directors, Artistic Director and Director of Public Relations for The Marco Players Theater, has chosen the latter path as she gets the theater ready to re-open in October.
In June, the players did a play reading that was simulcast outside the theatre. Dahlstrom invited some of the attendees inside, provided they followed CDC guidelines. She had already made sure the seating was prepared for social distancing. Temperatures were taken and hand sanitizer was available. She was surprised at the response.
“We filled all of the seats we had available,” Dahlstrom said. “And we haven’t had any problems.”
Dahlstrom will have another play reading before the plays begin in earnest in October.
“We’ll do a play reading again,” she confirms. “If people wear their masks, they can come in. We spray the seats, the restroom, and we sanitize. We’re going to go ahead with six plays—as long as everything goes alright. We’re going to do 18 shows instead of 15. We’ll do one Saturday and a matinee on Sunday. We have no idea who’s coming. We don’t know what people are coming back from up North.
“The reading was really kind of a dry run for opening. So, we know we can fill half a house and be okay. We had no problems; people come in, usually in twos. There’s about 42-43 seats available for people. We’re doing extra shows. People like matinees, so we’re doing that. If we’re full one night, they can still come for a matinee.”
Dahlstrom has stayed busy by conducting interviews.
“What I’ve been doing is interviewing people who are instrumental in keeping this place running,” she said. “Once a month, I do an interview and put them on our website, themarcoplayers.com. And if you want to make a donation, there’s a button you can click on. We send it out on Constant Contact to people who come here from all over. It’s been doing really well. Every little bit of money helps because we have no ticket money. That’s 70% of our costs. We have rent here, locker storage, a small staff, myself.
“During the summer, we’re working on costuming and doing a whole inventory. We’re taking everything out of the locker and photographing it, cataloging it, dry cleaning it or washing it and putting it back. So, we’re really busy functioning. It’s going to be kind of an exciting year because we have no idea who will show up.”
She said the theater business has changed during the pandemic.
“When you look at the playwrights,” she said, “you have these big houses that are going out of business. Broadway is closed, and larger theaters are closed because there’s some liability when you open.
“Playwrights are promoting themselves now. They are calling me and emailing me. Because we do original scripts; we’re kind of a working theater. We work with actors who are brand new. We work with actors who have worked for 40 years. Playwrights who are brand new and playwrights who have been doing it for a long time—and who have been with the big houses—now they’re coming to us. We have a playwright in residence, Joe Simonelli.”
Dahlstrom is holding her head high and persevering during the pandemic. She’s seeing some positives.
“We’re excited. Some of our advertisers are coming back. We’re just doing our playbills in-house. They’re in black and white, so we’re putting things together a little at a time and keeping our fingers crossed. That’s where we are at the moment. Everybody who is in the performing arts is facing this with a lot of hope. Because losing the arts would be awful. Don’t forget the arts on Marco Island. It’s really important that we don’t lose this.
“Theater is magical. Whether you’re an artist, a musician or an actor, there’s magical things that come together when it happens. When it all comes together, you know why you did it. They want to leave here happy and uplifted, and that’s what we give them here. They’re happy when they leave here, and that’s what this business is all about.”