Cue the lights: Schoolhouse Arts survives for season 33
After a grueling winter, the Schoolhouse Arts Center returns for its 33rd season.
The non-profit community arts organization in Standish was in danger of closing last winter. The theater lost around 90 to 95 percent of its revenue when it was forced to cancel its 2020 season due to the pandemic, board chair Cristina McBreairty said earlier this year.
The loss, coupled with the cost of heating and maintaining the 100-year-old old high school building, made it difficult for the theater to generate the roughly $ 2,000 per month it needed to stay in business.
Thanks to the work of center directors, dedicated patrons and volunteers, and a grant from the Maine Arts Commission, Schoolhouse Arts is back in business for the 2021 season.
“We are eternally grateful to the people of the Sebago Lake area,” said artistic director Zachariah Stearn. “Without our community, we wouldn’t be here.”
“Schoolhouse has the physical building to take care of,” said Diane Hancock, board member. “I love theater and didn’t want to see community theater go away because it’s so precious. It’s a big part of my daughters life. I wanted to see the theater continue because I want them to have it.
A community fundraising approach that included live events on Facebook, a GoFundMe campaign and a weekly bottle drop generated around $ 9,000, enough to cover Schoolhouse’s overhead and winter costs, Stearn said.
When Schoolhouse closed last March, the center, alongside many other community theaters, switched to live shows and events.
“It allowed artists to perform to a certain extent, allowed directors to be creative, and gave audiences the ability to see something from the safety of their own homes, but the downside is that when thousands of theaters across the country are moving to virtual platforms. , it ages very quickly, ”Stearn said.
“The theater is a lively and different thing every night, so try to connect with the audience. [virtually] is harder, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been put off by these things, ”Stearn said. “We know the theater is a resilient community… We have faced ice storms, being right on Sebago Lake, losing power amidst productions and major cast members falling ill before opening night. , and now we can cross the pandemic off the list. . “
Schoolhouse returned to the stage in person for its 2021 season on May 14 with their show Truly Talented Kids. The cabaret-style event was the theater’s first in-person performance in over a year.
“It struck me on opening night to see people at the theater for the first time in 15 months. Now there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s brighter than it was three months ago, ”Stearn said.
Schoolhouse does not plan to lift its mask requirement for the duration of the 2021 season and will continue to follow all CDC guidelines when performing. Stearn said the theater takes all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of customers, staff, crew and volunteers.
Schoolhouse’s summer 2021 lineup includes “High School Musical JR”, “Elf the Musical !,” “Willy Wonka KIDS” and “Little Mermaid JR”. The staff plan to operate with full audience capacity at each of the shows.
“Everyone is so excited to be back at the theater. It seems like things are getting more and more normal again, and we just need to be flexible with expectations and what we’re able to do, ”said Joellen Lemont, who runs“ Elf the Musical! ”
“Elf the musical!” is part of the Theater Christmas in July, a festive event to mark celebrations families and communities may have missed in the past year of the pandemic.
“We have a great summer program layout for kids this year, and I know the kids can’t wait to get back to the performing arts. Christmas in July seems like a fun way to come home, ”Hancock said.
In addition to the performances, Schoolhouse Arts will host 10 full weeks of educational programming this summer, Stearn said. For many residents and community members of Standish, the Schoolhouse Arts Center is a welcoming community and educational center for families with children and adults of all ages.
“School is a really special place for a lot of people, and I’m so thankful that she survived this season. I am eager to [seeing] where we are going in the future, ”said Lemont.
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